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Korean Spa

{Kim, Katierose, me + Ilana, post-spa ordeal}

Friday night, I went to a Korean spa for the first time with a pack of my girlfriends. It was both the most traumatic experience I’ve ever willingly paid for, as well as one of the best. I knew very little about what I was in for, beyond the fact that all the magazines and Instagram and beauty experts keep telling me Korean beauty treatments and products are the fountain of youth, and also my bestie Katierose is obsessed with these spas and I am obsessed with her, so. Plus, it was $100 for a full-body scrub, a massage, a facial, and a hair wash over the course of 85 minutes. $100 is a lot of money, but as far as spa treatments go, that’s on the very affordable end. However, I should have done a little more homework so I’d be prepared for what I was actually in for…

I’d like to start this right off the bat by saying it’s ill-advised to eat a large pile of Thanksgiving leftovers right before going to a Korean spa, but you live and learn (the hard way). Things to know before you go:

You get naked. Everyone’s naked. (They separate the sexes, so it’s women only. But still. Naked.) No one wears bathing suits. Only the people who scrub you down and massage you wear bras and panties. But, when I went back to tip the girl who scrubbed all the dead skin off my naked body, she had gotten naked in the two minutes it took me to get my purse. I don’t know why. So, NAKED. Get ready.

You’re required to take a shower before you do anything, so you don’t bring your nastiness into the tubs and saunas. It’s sort of like a prison shower, everyone just bathing in the open together.

You’ll probably get yelled at for being too loud. When my friend Ilana arrived and found me naked and afraid in the prison shower, we both died laughing and a woman who worked there approached us with a frown and a finger over her lips, holding a sign of an emoji making the exact same face with the words SHHHHHH written below it. Apparently, you’re supposed to be naked and not laugh about it.

There is a hot tub full of tea. You read that correctly. HOT TUB FULL OF TEA. It’s called Mugwort. Gross name, gross idea pretending you’re a giant teabag, but it was actually luxurious.

There is a salt room. Everything is made of salt chunks – the walls, ceiling, even the floor. It’s intended purpose, from what I understand, is to suck up all the radioactive vibes your cell phone and microwaved Thanksgiving leftovers and TV and Instagram addiction give off. I just lay on a pile of salt and giggled.

You might notice naked women squatting over what appear to be child-training potties aggressively scrubbing their hoo-ha’s near a water trough. I never figured out the meaning behind this, but it seemed really popular. Why the bucket? Why the trough? Can anyone please tell me why we’re not allowed to wear bathing suits, again?

Next to the freezing pool, there is a sign stating that you’re not allowed in if you actively have diarrhea. (Comforting.) After getting waist-deep on the stairs in and having to stifle a scream from how cold it was, I wondered if you’d get in trouble if the ice-water pool gave you diarrhea (see above: Thanksgiving leftovers.) Lucky for everyone, this crisis was avoided. Although, I did stand shivering on the stairs for so long, afraid to take the full plunge, lots of naked ladies just jumped in around me while shooting me passive aggressive looks.

It’s okay to drink wine and eat crap before you go, because then you just go in the sauna and sweat it out and it’s like you never ingested anything bad at all! (I don’t know if there is any scientific truth to this, but my friend said it with authority and I like eating wine and crap, so I’m going to go with it and believe her.)

In the steam room, it will occur to you that you are breathing strangers sweat full of their Thanksgiving leftovers and wine. Breathe anyway, or you’ll die.

You’ll sit in a small hot tub with many, many, many naked strangers. You won’t know whose foot that is. You won’t like it.

You walk around barefoot, and might wonder about athlete’s foot.

When you sit anywhere, you’ll wonder if you can catch herpes.

Your friends will tell you you’re a germaphobic obsessive, and that this place is really clean and sanitary. They’ll be right. BUT WE’LL SEE IN THE END (when we all get athlete’s foot and spa herpes).

When you go in for your scrub, know that you’ll be lying on tables in a shared room. Your table sort of looks like a gurney for dead bodies, or Dexter’s kill table. You’ll feel like a live dead body, or like a killer is prepping you in her murder room. When you notice wet mushy gunk on your gurney halfway through your scrub and freak out that it wasn’t sanitized, relax! It’s just your own dead skin being sloughed off your naked body by a stranger in her panties.

There is nothing more awkward or vulnerable than lying naked on a gurney in a room full of naked strangers on their own gurneys, while you all get plucked and rubbed down like Thanksgiving turkeys by women you’ve never met before.

When your professional in panties massages you, it will feel like she’s trying to work your cellulite out. You will hope this is, in fact, her goal. Because screw relaxation, right? (You’re in a pen full of naked strangers separated only by tiny saloon doors. It’s hard to relax anyway. Bring on the cellulite chop-smoothing.)

After it all, you sit on a jade floor (in robes, thank god) with hot tea, somehow more relaxed than you’ve ever felt despite the trauma, and will quietly gossip.

You will become obesessed and discover you love it. Your skin will feel as smooth as a baby’s. You’ll be pretty sure you can see fewer wrinkles, and will wonder if they got scrubbed off, too. You will be comforted to see that real women, without filters and photoshop, look like you, and you’ll be a little less hard on yourself about all those Thanksgiving leftovers. (Except Kim. In real life, Kim looks like the rest of us try to with filters and photoshop. Oh well.) Somehow, after the nerves wear off, you will actually relax and enjoy yourself. On the jade floor, you’ll find yourself telling your friends, “LET’S GO BACK NEXT WEEK!”