I didn’t grow up in a naked house.

Sure, I preferred swimming nude in my plastic pool until I was a little too old for that kind of thing, but I grew up in North Dakota – where most people aren’t ever naked because they would freeze to death.

Living in Los Angeles, I have become much more comfortable with nudity. After all, I am a big city lady now.  I have seen a homeless man try to light his own hair on fire. A little casual nudity doesn’t faze me. So when a few of my friends invited me to the Korean Spa, I enthusiastically agreed.

When we arrived I was feeling good. I enjoyed the unisex level of the spa (where clothes were required). The saunas were relaxing and there were warm mats on the floor for nap taking. But when my friends and I headed down to the “Women Only” level I started to feel a bit nervous.

Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I overestimated myself. Maybe if I’m really quiet no one will notice I left. But I forced all of that doubt away, took a deep breath and stripped off my clothes. I quickly reached for the towel the spa provided to cover myself.

It was a hand towel.

I stood there for a second à la Sophie’s Choice trying to decide which piece of naked I most wanted to cover. Well…f**k it, I thought and jauntily threw my towel over my shoulder. I walked those thirty feet to the spa entrance with my head held high. But when I pushed the door open to the hot pool area and every woman in the water turned to look at me I stopped short.


There were a lot of women in that hot tub. I took another breath. I could do this. I hadn’t taken that ‘Women In Theatre’ class in college for nothing. Women’s bodies were glorious and nothing to be ashamed of (is what my teacher had said). These ladies were my sisters – my beautiful, naked sisters. I was proud to be a woman! Proud to be a woman in a hot tub with six naked, elderly Korean ladies and two of their grandchildren.

I splashed into the hot tub and the women nodded their hellos. No big deal. This was a perfectly normal social setting. The woman next to me had areolas the size of dinner plates but NO. BIG. DEAL. I was doing it. Even better, I had decided to sign up for the ‘Body Buff’ which I assumed was a relaxing, moisturizing massage treatment and very soon they called my name. I said goodbye to my new Korean sisters and headed for my massage.

I was feeling good. Confident. This group naked thing wasn’t so bad.

My ‘masseuse’ greeted me and I immediately knew this was not going to be what I expected.  She was wearing lacy black underwear, a lacy black bra and a pearl necklace. She was also about sixty-years old. She led me to a room where multiple massage tables were set up next to each other. My masseuse patted a massage table and took my hand towel. I glanced around the room. It wasn’t the most private setting. There was a nude woman less than a foot from me and my table was closest to the main walkway. But I had come this far. I wouldn’t turn back now. I took another breath and hopped up on to the table. My masseuse pulled on rough looking exfoliating gloves and got to work.

She started with my legs, scraping furiously away at my dead skin. I began to relax until…WHOA. Yep, she was rubbing my inner thigh. I tried to hold in my uncomfortable giggling but finally it was too much for me. As she worked her way around my armpits and directly onto my chest I let out a burst of what can only be described as a yelp-giggle. A yiggle.

She stopped abruptly and stared at me. I smiled sheepishly.

Oh sorry…I’m just really, really ticklish…there.

I felt my face turning red as she gave a grunt of disapproval. She started back in with her sandpaper glove and turned me on my side. Just when I was actually starting to relax she stopped again and spoke firmly.




‘Spread’ is very rarely a word I want to hear, especially when I’m lying naked on a table next to strangers and a pile of my own dead skin. I nervously lifted my leg a half-an-inch hoping that would satisfy her. Taking this as a green light, the masseuse hoisted my thigh over her shoulder like a sack of wet, humiliated potatoes.

I lay there with my eyes squeezed shut. Not only was this position a hard one to pull off for any lady but I was also positioned directly toward the entrance. So when the casual passerby popped in to check on her massage appointment she was greeted by a clear shot of me, naked, sideways and spread eagle on a table.

Perhaps sensing my discomfort, my masseuse stopped for a second and placed a small, white bandana over my eyes. As if that would make me feel less naked. As if me not seeing people meant people couldn’t see me.  But it just made things worse. Now if anyone was unfortunate to glance my way I couldn’t scream at them silently with my eyes, “LOOK AWAY.”

Finally, after my masseuse had scraped every last inch of dead skin from my body she slapped my leg with approval and scooted me off the table. For a second, I stood stunned. But as I walked back through the hot pool area I was suddenly transformed. Gone was the hand towel I had used to cover myself and with it went any hang-ups about being naked. I didn’t care. I strutted through that room like I had just climbed Everest. My own personal (and very naked) Everest. That lingerie-clad masseuse had scraped away any remaining body issues with her sandpaper gloves and her complete disregard for my comfort level.

I was a new woman. And dammit if my skin wasn’t surprisingly soft.

You can read more from Jessica Runk on her blog.

Feature image via Jason Elias.

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