Bush & Baths

“So…where are you from?” She asks as she scoots closer to me on the bench.

“Ummm…America” I say as I roll my eyes and try to inch further away.

What if I just stared at the wall in front of me..you think she will get the hint?…Maybe if I close my eyes she will go away….yea that’s it…I’ll close my eyes and she’ll leave me alone…

“My son is in America…Boston…do you know him?”

CRAP…she wants to talk…and now I’ll have to turn and look at her…

I slowly turn towards the woman…who obviously wants me to know her son in Boston..and who …clearly is bound and determined to use her English skills when…

I am greeted by none other than her labia…

How can I see her lady parts??

…because she is perched Indian style right next to me…

in a sauna…

… in Gangnam, South Korea (yes that Gangnam)

And so began my foray into the Korean jimjibang lifestlyle.

Just a little bit about jimjibangs…

They are essentially spas…and what we would historically think of as a bathhouse.

There are 2 sides to a jimjibang.

A “wet” part: various baths with different temps and healing properties, divided by gender, and where u are required to be naked

and a “dry” part: basically various saunas and steam rooms..where you have to wear a cult like uniform..and the genders co-mix.

This wasn’t exactly my first time at a jimjibang per se…

In February 2011 I thought it would be a good idea to experience a little bit of Korean culture stateside…

and I thought it would be incredibly funny to take my mom and best friend along..not tell them about the butt naked part…and spring it on them when I got there..

So to King Spa we went..with me snickering to myself about how funny this whole thing was gonna be..

King Spa

…the joke was on me though when I walked in the room and the first thing I saw…

was bush…

…and I’m not talking about George W.

..to say I was not prepared is an understatement….

3 things happened to me that day

1. I saw my mother naked

2. I saw my best friend naked

3. I got molested by an ajumma while she gave me a traditional body scrub…and i liked it…

Long story short my first jimjibang experience was something I will never forget…

but nothing prepared me for what it was like when I actually was in Korea…

In America there were Korean women there as well as American women like myself who were as equally mortified as I was…

we all kinda talked to each other in the locker room…

sheepish smiles and nervous laughter

making sure we kept eye contact…never..never.. looking down

Oh…but in Korea

This was a new breed of woman

They have full conversations…

talk on the phone…

scrub each other down…

do their taxes…

and even do each others hair…

completely naked…

…and not in the lets all wrestle in baby oil kind of naked…

…its the Ohhh..you’ve had kids kind of naked…

let me be clear..

There is nothing sexy about a jimjibang…unless I’m there

and for some odd reason all I can think about  when I go is..

…substitute ears for…well…you know…

As unsexy as it may be sorry fellas …it is very therapeutic

…and liberating

and actually kinda funny when you think about it…

as carefree and liberal  as America is or at least appears to the rest of the world

..as much as we walk out of the house in next to nothing..

..as much as our entertainment always talks about sex

…and our TV shows mirror soft-core pornography

when it comes to nakedness and being naked…

we rival the Amish…

Yet in a culture where its still taboo to show your shoulders in public…

where their TV shows and K-pop stars are the epitome of purity, innocence, and candy coated raindrops…

These women have no problem whatsoever being…as we say in the south…”bucket naked”

and its kinda admirable that they can do all types of lady business…with their lady parts out…in front of other ladies..

However…

I’ve never had the distinct pleasure of  having my homegirl comb my hair…

with her vagina by my earlobe…

and I pride myself on that

But I digress…

So…on  December 31, 2011…

Myself and 3 other sistas

decided that we wanted to end 2011 with a bang…

doing something new and out-of-the-box

…someone mentioned going to a jimjibang

and we were all down…

what better way to end with a bang than by being bare..

So we Naomi Campbell walked into a jimjibang there like the Spice Girls we believed ourselves to be…

only to be punked by every lady over the age of 40

….which is why I was sitting in a sauna trying to hold a conversation like this lady’s vajayjay was not on display next to me like a Van Gogh painting….

Until I had a revelation of sorts

in my mind I thought..

Ok Alana

It’s a vagina…so what..

You have one…she has one…

She obviously is gonna talk to you until she leaves…

so you can sit here and stare at the wall like a nut

or you can talk to her like a human being

MAN UP…

and “man up” I did…

the funny thing about the jimjibang is..

after awhile you forget you’re naked…

then you forget everyone around you is naked…

Then you start to think what’s the big deal

It’s a boob..

and trust me..once you’ve seen one boob..you’ve seen ‘em all….

Next week…I will be taking my 75 year old grandmother, who will be visiting me, to a jimjibang

…if only just to see her look of shock and awe…

that part never gets old…

But I swear I’m not looking down…

the ladies and I at the jimjibang...in our posh cult uniforms

the ladies and I at the jimjibang…in our posh cult uniforms

4 thoughts on “Bush & Baths

  1. This is very good post and I’m glad you are communicating this to people. I’ve enjoyed public saunas many times here, and people who visit should not miss the experience. Being naked in front of strangers is generally what we western people find most remarkable, but there’s a lot of other stuff that is great about it.

    I’m curious where you went in the states that you could find a place like this. Likely a big city like LA, where a lot of Korean people cluster.

  2. When I first started reading this, I thought it was going to be an “ugh koreans are so weird” story, but it was actually really cute and put a smile on my face! Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. Pingback: Korean Gender Reader, Feb. 9-15 | The Grand Narrative

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