November 28, 2007

Thoughts While at the Spa

[Posted by Crabby]

Recently, as part of an anniversary celebration, Crabby and the Lobster treated themselves to a massage. Rather than go the to the cheap place down the street as they usually do, the Crustacean Couple decided to splurge and went to the Fancy Schmancy Spa instead.

The exorbitantly priced massage included the use of the spa facilities, plus unlimited cups of weak tea and cucumber water. Even aside from the massage, it was quite a treat. There were hot tubs, and cold tubs, and saunas, and strange showers with water jets at all different heights and angles that pounded the Crab in places she'd never been pounded before!

Relaxing? Well, strangely enough--yes!

Anyway, the spa facilities were segregated by gender. (Supposedly, guys go to the spa too, though Crabby is skeptical about this. Perhaps there are no tubs or saunas behind their doorway, and instead their space is filled with big screen tv's and beer and snack bars and racks of girly magazines and video game kiosks. Just a theory).

But the women's side of the spa does indeed exist, and since it's women-only, it's assumed you won't be wearing a bathing suit. You could--but almost no one does, and if you did you'd still have to put it on in the communal locker room where everyone else is getting dressed too.

So, as is true in many spas and gym locker rooms, you end up sharing space and lounging around with strangers while wearing no clothes at all.

Crabby has to ask: does anyone else find this weird?

Not necessarily bad-weird. Just weird-weird.

Maybe what feels weird about it is that our culture is generally so screwed-up when it comes to nudity. We treat the naked human body as if it is (a) incredibly powerful and dangerous; but simultaneously (b) ridiculous and comic and humiliating. Truly, what's a common Worst Nightmare scenario? To somehow be caught naked out in public. It can't get anymore embarrassing than that!

Yet somehow, if you declare an area "men only" or "women only," all this psychological baggage is supposed to magically disappear. Strangers are only supposed to feel 'strange' if they are of the opposite sex.

Crabby actually doesn't mind being naked in these situations anymore, but as a younger person she hate-hate-hated public locker rooms. At some point in college she got over it, who knows why, and now, in a certain mood, she can even enjoy it. There can be something curiously liberating about not wearing clothes in a semi-public place--like you're getting away with something extremely naughty that would ordinarily land you in jail! (Hmm... actually, come to think of it, you are getting away with something that would normally land you in jail).

However, it seems likely that at least a few people might not feel all that comfortable being naked in front of others. It seems odd that even in the most upscale locker rooms and spas, there often aren't many concessions to privacy. Would it hurt to have a few more curtains, changing rooms, and shower doors that close for people who are shy? Just wondering.

But aside from the weirdness of it, there is also something quite affirming about being around a bunch of women in an entirely natural state. For one, it totally exposes what a Big Fat Lie prime-time television is. Because guess what? Real women may sometimes look desperate, but we don't look at all like Desperate Housewives.

Real women not only have curves, we have wrinkles and scars and cellulite! We have ample bellies and sagging boobs and droopy asses. We have wide hips and knobby knees and hair where we shouldn't. We have pairs of body parts that are not symmetrical; we have birthmarks and warts and stretch marks and all kinds of stuff you never see on TV. (Unless of course it's "reality" TV and then the whole point of the show is to have an expert or a surgeon step in and "fix" it).

It's funny, though, the way so many of us women evaluate our appearance not by looking around at the real women nearby. Instead, we look at the air-brushed pictures of actresses in magazines, with teams of trainers, surgeons, and stylists at their disposal. We look and we sigh--why can't we be like them?

Why can't we? Because those pictures--and those women--they aren't real!

The versions we see are just as fictional as the movies and tv shows that make these people famous.

So here's to real, healthy, three-dimensional women. Naked or not!


  1. The Bag Lady still hate-hate-hates to be naked in front of anyone. Hell, she doesn't even like to be naked in front of herself!! Sheesh. Of course, if she lost about 50 lbs and got into some semblance of shape, she might feel differently. Ha.

  2. I went to a fancy schmancy spa at the Bellagio in Las Vegas a couple months ago and used the sauna and whirlpools. I just couldn't bring myself to take off my swimsuit, even though there were other nekkid bodies around. I, too, might feel differently if I was in better shape...but maybe not...

  3. I'm with the bag lady. I'm still not comfortable being naked in a locker room or anything like that, and fortunately all the locker room type places I've been to have had curtains on the showers, etc.
    I agree with the rest of it though - real life people are not perfect, and we should not expect it from ourselves.

  4. Hated it when I was young, hate it now. Just don't like it, not comfortable with it. Get the message? Glad to hear I'm not alone.

    I don't think it has anything to do with being in shape or not for me, I'm just not comfortable with it.

  5. Even though my mom was toting me along with her to club locker rooms when I was as young as three or four, I'm not 100% comfortable around a bunch of nude people. However, I think it helps to see what normal people look like, something America would like to keep a secret! My best friend growing up was Dutch, and her family had a really healthy perspective (in my humble opinion) and the body. They found it ironic that Americans would freak out over nudity on television, but could easily watch lots of violence. Amen.

  6. oooooh how awesome! Sounds just heavenly.

    I had a lovely relaxing Thanksgiving at the beach (we rented a house right on the beach for five days) - hubby did most of the cooking, and the whole family (14 in all) joined us for dinner and stayed overnight.

  7. Being naked in a locker is definitely not on my fun-to-do list. Although, ever since I had kids I don't ever freak out about it anymore. (Giving birth and having doctors and nurses "check" me every 30 minutes took care of it for me.)

    This made me smile, "We have pairs of body parts that are not symmetrical." So true, lol.

  8. I'm still not keen to be naked around strangers, but I can do it. I used to hate it, but I got past it to the point where I can manage.
    Yes, real women have marks and scars and sides that don't match and fat, etc. Celebrate it, don't berate it.

  9. Um. I meant to say, "being naked in a locker room," not "being naked in a locker."

  10. So hooray, I'm not the only one who finds it a bit weird!

    And Leah, a poem! "Celebrate it, don't berate it." Love it.

    Katieo, I didn't even notice the typo the first time, but it's a very cute one. Being naked in a locker is definitely not on my fun-to-do list either!

    (And sorry, it's another half-assed comment reply day, but I'll be back...)

  11. This is a good topic. Sounds like I'm not the only person who doesn't like being naked in front of a mirror. I don't mind other people being naked, whatever they look like. If they're comfortable, it's their body, their decision.

    I did go to a spa in Mendocino where the hot tub was mixed (not segregated by sex) and which was clothing optional. People were irritated that I chose to exercise the option.

    I thought the point of 'clothing optional' meant that it was your own personal choice and people would be more accepting. Huh.

  12. Crabby, I just wanted to thank you for this brilliant blog. I stumbled across you from a Skinny Jeans link and love your take on life. Thanks for taking the time to share your point of view with us all.

  13. I actually agree with everyone! I feel strange walking around naked in front of a bunch of people, and will wrap a towel around me to go to the shower (and wouldn't go to the hot tub nude). But, if I'm alone or with a boyfriend, I'm completely comfortable naked. I think it's the idea of complete strangers looking at me and evaluating me that I don't like. And I'm in shape!

  14. Good post, as always :)

    I don't really have a problem being naked, but I do feel like when I'm naked in those types of places that I'm making other people uncomfortable and I don't like that. If someone is like trying to purposely NOT look at me naked, I realize they are not at the same comfort level with nudity and I try to shield myself. But if other people didn't mind I'd probably go to the grocery store nekkie :)

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  16. Nakedness is a funny subject. I am extremely proud of the way I look (I bust my butt to stay in good shape!) but at the same time I never feel like I've reached the place where I can be so comfortable with myself body that I can prance around naked.

    Plus - my girly bits?! I am all about living in underwear and a bra, but showing off everything I've got is a little... daunting.

    (I typo'd and reposted, sorry!)

  17. I just went to the Korean spa this weekend, which is all-nude and gender separated. The most popular treatment there (which I get) is a full-body exfoliation, in which you lie on the table in a room full of women lying on tables and they scrub you up and down, flipping you over like a sardine on a chopping block. In the trials of public nudity, it's pretty much the gauntlet!

    I was "Broken in" to nude spas after spending a lot of time in Germany. They even have co-ed nude saunas. That was a little weird, because there are men who gawk, pretty obviously. But the range of body types is extremely comforting and I always came out of it feeling more "comfortable" with myself than when I went in.

  18. you are such a fantastic writer.

    Im an always nekid in the house but am still weirded out by the locker room thing.

    not so much MY nekitude but the ole WHERE TO LOOK dilemma since it's something I encounter so rarely (she writes revealing how often she makes it to the gym now)


  19. Being naked doesn't bother me at all and it's one of the things I miss about using the Y. The ladies' locker room always had a "nudity-okay" vibe about it.

    But at the university rec center, I'm more circumspect. There are a lot of childrens' swim groups (female) who get trooped through and there are also a lot of body-shy women who use the locker room. All of this gives off a strong "cover-up" vibe, so I try to respect that so as not to make other people uncomfortable. I hate it, though, because it makes changing into my workout clothes a real hassle.

    I've never understood why females feel the need to cover up in front of other females. We've all got the same stuff, so what's the big deal?

  20. I was uncomfortable being naked around strangers until I hit the hot springs in Nagoya, Japan. There, not only do you strip down in front of strangers to get into the gender-separate baths (but some more rustic baths are all-gender), you walk around town wrapped in nothing but a flimsy robe!

    It's rather empowering, knowing that everyone is just as damn-near-nekkid as you.

    After that, well...for a while I dated a girl who hated clothes, and without going too much into it, she taught me that lounging nude when you're not supposed to be has its own sense of fun.

    Still think nudists are crazy, though. What do they do in the winter?

  21. more quick & random, sorry...

    Aryn & Carla, thanks so much for the kind words!

    And sara, what a great description of the nudity gaunlet--flipped like a sardine!

    So Jim, it's not just all big screen tv's back in the guys section? And yeah, during the winter I guess nudists just freeze their buns off!

    BTW, loving all the comments everybody, and sorry I'm getting terrible spotty internet coverage while I'm off getting the cat shaved... (long story--and not, by the way, a euphemism for anything!)

  22. so I'm coming out of lurk mode to comment on this. I actually feel like being naked in public locker rooms is one of the best body image things I have ever had happen-even the athletes with "perfect" or at least really hot bodies didn't look nearly so different from me naked as they can clothed. We're all mostly human, but that gets lost sometimes under clothes.

  23. After flashing my boobs for what seems like most of the Dr's and nurses on the south side of the city, I am somewhat more comfortable than I used to be and am I very much lopsided and have scars. Still, I would much rather not be naked in front of a lot of strangers. Although I did just post on radiation treatments and have pictures of my tanned and peeling and breast up, scars & all.

  24. you should post a link to the seinfeld episode about good-naked and bad-naked. the image of jerry using a belt sander while naked is forever etched in my brain. not that there is anything wrong that.

  25. I thought was pretty much over the being naked at spas discomfort thing.

    Until, at an old job, the manager declared for our Christmas party we were going to the local spa. And I realised I really wasn't over it at all.

    Naked in front of strangers - no problem. Naked in front of the female-half of the people I work with. No, no, no and NO.

  26. Hmmm... I have mixed feelings about this. I don't have a locker room nudity phobia - meaning I don't mind if other people let their bits hang out! But I don't necessarily like all my business hangin' out for all to see!
    Maybe if I lost some more weight it wouldn't be such an issue to be nude more often, but it just doesn't feel comfortable at this point. I'm not even talking psychologically comfortable - I need the physical support of clothes to keep my sh*t in place! Ha! Sexy, no? :)

  27. Three dimensional body? Actually at this point I think I have a four or five dimensional bod. *sigh*
    Hope the kitty is OK, Crabby!

  28. I'm not a big fan of public naked. I don't like to see myself naked, so I'm pretty sure others won't want to either!


  29. As I said to a female friend after she joked about walking into the men's locker room, "You may think you want to, but there are things in there you don't want to see." :-)

  30. My sister's gym is full of these uninhibited women. It's both cool and weird; I can't decide which.

    I think it's a matter of what you're used to.

  31. This was a super post! Lots of insightful comments as well.

    When I was younger I had a quite decent body but too many psychological scars from Jr. High bullying to want to be "defenseless" around other people.
    When I started working out and got pretty buff, I didn't mind as much because I felt more "okay" with my form, but if in a gym just got clothes swapped out as quick as possible. When I got older, fatter, and started scaring my own self when I looked in the mirror, I decided to make some peace with my aging human "flaws", so now I'm not too freaked out. I still hate pelvic exams though! :P

    I would howeverlike to get a few more tattoos, they really draw people's eyes away from the more private bits. I HAVE had to semi-strip for strangers who HAD to see the rest of them though, (also with tattoos) it's a long story, you have to know that the Clan of Ink doesn't give too much of a crap about the body itself except for how well the tattoo fits around whatever part of it it's on. For them pretty much it's all just canvas, and it is the quality of the art work and who did that is of consuming interest. Very liberating!

  32. Hi all, and thanks for more great comments.

    kbarquist, welcome to the comments section and thanks for de-lurking! I'm with you--I sort of like the fact that no-one looks perfect.

    And reb, great post over at your place, thanks for sharing that.

    john, somehow I missed that Seinfeld but I must catch it in reruns sometime. Love Seinfeld.

    missicat, the kitty's okay, and she thanks you for your concern!

    and TK, tattoos, what an excellent distractor! I'm too old and chicken for them, however, but admire those braver than i am.

  33. I've lost 40 pounds and I'm still not comfortale with nudity. Could be the 2 kids the stretched my belly and boobs out. But there is the sense, too, of wanting to look--but because they're naked you CANNOT let your eyes drop so you stare with unnatural intensity at their face. It's just very weird and bizarre and well, I do not like it.

  34. Just reading this post about being naked in a locker room gave me the heebie-jeebies! EEK!

  35. Hey. ive been reading crabbys blod for the last coupla days and it thgought id comment cuz i like it so much...and you r so funny...

    being naked in a public place does not appeal to me, but i kno it has to do with seeing perfect bodies everywhere on t.v n mags...i would feel better if i am in shape...and maybe when im older it wont bother me as much...yes it is weird. probably because we r so body conisous no days...


  36. What do nudists do in the winter? We wear enough to keep warm! (Except for the weird crazy Polar Bear Club people who ritually go in the water on New Years. Even if they have to chop holes in the ice. No thank you.)
    The--motto? slogan?--of AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation) is "Nude when possible, clothed when appropriate" and winter is appropriate for clothes.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky. Frost this morning. : )

  37. Thanks for the info Mary Anne!

    Actually, I think it's our culture's weirdness around nudity that makes it a little too easy to poke fun at those who feel comfortable without clothes--when it's a much more sensible attitude in a lot of ways that our adolescent fascination/revulsion attitude towards the naked human body.

    Please accept my apologies for being careless about that!

  38. Hey, I didn't read all of this post but I definitely wanted to comment...

    Do you think too that it's harder to be in those locker room, naked around other women situations because of being a lesbian? I know that it's that (and the fact that I don't tell just anyone) that bothers me a lot.

    I've always been big into dance and I stopped for awhile but because I needed a fitness credit at the college I'm at, I'm currrently taking Ballet. In dance it's so normal I guess to talk about boobs and underwear and bodies and stuff. SAeveral weeks ago this other girl in my class lifted up her skirt to show me her thong and I was like WHOA... And I also knowm that dance is a place it's not a good thing to be the lesbian. I realized I was gay when i fell in love with my dance teacher when I was 10. People found out and things went so bad and ugly. And everyone got so stupidly uncomfortable... And backstage at dance performance or competition people are always changing costumes quickly and there's a lot tlo see...

    So I know that's what screws me over. I am very picky when it comes to women I'm actually attracted to but it is so obnoxious when so many women just assume you're iunterested in them and their bodies, because you're a lesbian...

    That, is so messed up.

  39. Good question Meg!

    It's funny, I'm so NOT attracted to random nude bodies of either gender--it just doesn't work that way for me. But I do wonder if the fact that gay people might be around in locker rooms weirds some straight people out. I wouldn't blame them if they felt that way a little, but I think most people prefer not to think about the possiblity at all. We just go with the convention that single-sex environments means asexual.

    I think it might be more of an issue for guys, in that male sexuality seems a lot more triggered by the visual, and straight guys are used to being the "lookers," not the "looked at." I imagine a lot of them feel pretty uncomfortable thinking someone might be checking them out.

  40. i think i'm the only guy here so i have to speak up for my gender. not all of us are homo-phobic but you are right about us boys being "visual learners". someone up above said they were treating the whole experience as asexual and i agree with that. if i were gay and still a "visual" kind of guy, it seems like the whole environment would be a smorgasbord and i would just hang (no pun intended) out there all day long!

  41. Both my sister and I had two very similar experiences in a women's locker room on two different occasions,only her's was with a celebrity, and mine was with my daughters teacher. I would have prefered to have had my sisters experience instead.

    First my sisters experience...

    My sister lives in L.A, and on occasion a celebrity will workout at her health club. On one occasion she saw Katherine Heigl nude in the locker room, but she did not speak with Heigl or get an autograph because she did not want to interupt her while she was with friends of her's.

    But on another occasion my sister was happy to see one of her favorite actresses, Courtney Thorne-Smith in the locker room. My sister loves Courtney's show "According To Jim," and Courtney had just finished her workout and was starting to undress to shower. Sis figured that if she hurried over and asked for a quick autograph before Courtney had gotten completely undressed it wouldn't be a big deal.

    So she went over and told Courtney what a big fan she is and asked her for an autograph. Courtney was very nice to her and happily signed the autograph. But much to my sisters surprise, Courtney kept undressing while they talked, and next thing she knew Courtney was now standing there completely nude but continuing to talk with her. My sister said that she and Courtney stood there for about 15 minutes while she asked Courtney questions about "Melrose Place," "Ally McBeal" and "According To Jim" with Courtney 100% naked the whole time.

    Now my sister thought that that was so awesome that Courtney was so down to earth that she was willing to carry on a conversation with a fan even though she was nude. So my sister is a Courtney Thorne-Smith fan for life!

    My experience was this...

    One night a few years ago, when my daughter was in the fourth grade, we went to our local Y to go swimming. While we were swimming my daughter and I spotted her current fourth grade teacher also swimming. We swam over and were having a conversation about school related issues. Eventually I told my daughter that it was time to head to the locker room and get changed and go home. Well, at that point the teacher decided that she was going to do the same, so we all headed for the locker room. When we got in the locker room my daughter and I headed straight to the shower room which has those open communal showers, but it didn't matter to us because we were keeping our bathingsuits on. The teacher said that she still wanted to discuss an upcoming school play and that she be right back.

    She went down the row of lockers where she had her stuff stored in a locker. But when she rounded the corner on her way back to the showers I immediately noticed that she was stark naked with the exception of the bottle of body wash that she had in one hand and shampoo she had in the other.
    The showers in the locker room are those kind that have four shower heads comming out of one poll, and the teacher picked the shower that was on the opposite side of the poll from me which meant she was five feet away and facing me while she explained about ticket sales for the school play. I kept noticing my daughter out of the corner of my eye who is staring at her teacher with a child-like smirk on her face.

    Sorry for taking up so much space here on your site! Just thought I'd mention these two experiences that your comments reminded me of.


  42. John, thanks for clearing up the straight guy's perspective! Brave of you to "bare all!"

    And Stacey, wow! Thanks for sharing those stories. There seems like a whole different level of discomfort to be naked when you're known by your viewer, but aren't old pals or anything. Some people must be a lot more comfortable with it than I am! I can't imagine being a celebrity or a teacher and being willing to bare all like that, especially in front of a big fan or a fourth grade student. (Hope your daughter wasn't too freaked!)

    Thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

  43. My sister (who is straight and married with a child of her own)kind of felt priviliged to see Courtney nude, so it was definitely cool with her.

    I think my daughter thought it was just funny with her teacher more than anything. I made sure at the time to tell her to NOT tell any of the other kids at school about it, because I didn't want it to get back to her teacher.


  44. Aaah, a bit hypocritical on the part of America and the promoters of same-sex nudity.

    Its because , the author does hit the nail a bit on this point that somehow if you have men-only or women-only spaces nudity is acceptable, so nude spas and such are acceptable, it used to be oh well its a locker room nudity is accepted even that argument was a fallacy.

    In USA, you can be labeled a sex offender for urinating in public but not going to a nude spa and showing off. Defenders of same-sex nudity face this problem, what about your child in the nude with his teacher at school is that appropriate, I think not - especially from the above comment with the daughter and the teacher nude in the same communal showering area.

    So defenders of same-sex nudity need to respect those who don't feel comfortable in the nude and be aware that other people will feel uncomfortable.

    So if we are made to feel uncomfortable around the same-sex, then what about gays and lesbians, so the same people against gay rights won't let an opposite heterosexual couple spend quality time in the nude together, but allow the other in Germany coed spa is okay no major problems there, not confusing nudity and sexuality. In hospitals females observe male patients on occasion, or female sports reporters are banned from male locker rooms in sports even though nudity is not hidden, and there seems to be a doubled standard in reversal, I hope you are getting my point.

    We need to stop this somehow you are made/forced to be uncomfortable with the opposite-sex because its hypocritical given those two examples, of course people should have a choice , but it seems that people don't want people to have choices.

    I believe there should be education and more co-ed nude spas, and not confusing sexuality with nudity, of course if one doesn't want to be nude respect that.

    Right now, a lot of these nude spas aka korean, russian, turkish but mostly asian, are not that popular yet although increasing. For instance, most of the signs are in korean or another language(not english) , imagine then the hypocrisy well its not okay to be nude with your girlfriend but okay for your teacher or uncle to be nude with a child, if confusing sex with nudity is not supposed to be for the latter then it shouldn't be for the former.

    Its a learning process but rightfully so , I realize the post is a bit older, but people need to have that thought process.

  45. In Europe most women just strip all their clothes and underwear at their locker and go to the showers completely nude. In the swimming baths in many cities in Scandinavia, everyone must strip fully naked at their locker, and walk naked, carrying their towel and bikini until after they have showered. Showers must be taken nude, with soap, and in front of everyone, before putting on the bikini. In a few swimming halls, it is now allowed for women to swim with their breasts bare if they prefer, as some women do. Of course the sauna and steam bath are taken in the nude for hygiene. In Germany, all saunas are strictly nude only and most are mixed, and sometimes the swimming pool is also nude only by tradition. There are some lady-only days for women who are shy. German women do not have a problem being nude, and women who are not naturist also strip for the sauna without any problem. The rule about being nude is very strict so that a woman can be sure that she will only be seen nude by other nude people so every person is equal. It is a culture shock for American women to strip nude first time for sauna but women who do it find it relaxing once they have locked away their modesty with their bras and had a few minutes in the nude.

  46. When I was in Finland all my friends went naked when we took a sauna. I was invited to private saunas sometimes, in the countryside by a lake, and it was mixed. All the Finnish women took off everything, even their sauna towels, before they went in and we all came out totally naked and we ran naked to the lake to cool down. Sometimes one of the girls invited a boyfriend, so everyone had to get used to seeing naked men and being completely naked in front of them. After one hot sauna, you relax and the inhibitions go and women have no more problems with nudity even talking to a man naked.

  47. Right but your are forgetting the fact that Korean spas are gender segregated, yet many although not all vilify things such as gay marriage , and in korea itself there is a racist attitude towards other folks and there is a stereotype of westerns and nude beaches. Don't take my word for it, Korean friends I've talked to admit it particularly the younger ones, one must also consider the fact that for many folks particularly korean many not consider their spas to be a big deal although probably better than the western concept.

    It may be interesting to try new food and other cultural aspect especially for those in america, but what if koreans themselves don't consider certain aspects to be big deals. Think about it.

  48. I always shower completely naked after gym, and also before swimming, for good hygiene reasons. I am more comfortable if at least some other women are baring all, but even if I am the only nude woman, I will happily strip off my 36C bra and drop my panties or soaking wet onepiece swimsuit to the ground for the freshness of a hot shower and new underwear going home. My towel stays on the hook at my locker as it has since high school and I don't care if other women want to stare at my natural, imperfect curves, bare breasts, and the natural black hair between my legs which is just as good as underwear. I have nothing that they have not seen in their own mirrors at home, just a natural naked female body, which I like to keep fresh and clean. I would be ashamed not to shower completely nude.


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