Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen The Revenant yet AND if you’ve never experienced a Korean spa scrub* before, then shield your eyes before reading this post. Feel free to peek between your fingers, though.
Last week in the wake of several celebs kicking the bucket way too early (notably Bowie <<still weeping>>), I published a list of 50 things you must do NOW. Not all of the numerical choices were intentional EXCEPT #11 — “Be naked more often.”
Because, you know, things are much better when they go to eleven.
Full disclosure: When I wrote the list, I had just made a plan with a brand, spankin’ new BBF (Best Bitch Forever) to visit a Korean spa, which is something that I’ve been wanting to do as long as I can remember.
That means all the way back to my college daze when I waitressed in a diner/Korean restaurant, and the ladies that did all the cooking and heavy-duty pan washing had hands as soft as a baby’s tush. When I asked what their secret was, they told me that it was all about the scrub.
Cut to today, where I’ve lived in LA for over a decade, and you’d think that I would’ve already ventured out of my comfort zone into K-Town for a naked takedown of my epidermis.
But I’m a New England gal at heart, hailing from a place that usually makes you want to put on more layers of clothing, not take them off. And while I have always enjoyed shock-value nudity (i.e., mooning, boob flashing a truck driver, the occasional streak or skinny dip), secretly I’m pretty shy and modest.
As my scrub/spa date drew closer, I began to contemplate bagging out. After all, I had made a plan with a person I had never even had coffee with, one on one. How would I talk to her in my birthday suit about the normal stuff moms yap about without totally cracking up and/or dying of embarrassment?
Then I went to see The Revenant.
If you’ve not seen it, the short of it is this: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a 19th century frontiersman and fur trapper, Hugh Glass, who gets mauled by a bear during an expedition… and it goes downhill for him from there. Every breath he takes is fueled by vengeance and also by blood (his and others, including humans, bear, bison and fish), sweat (ditto), tears, dirt, spittle and so much more nasty.
All I could think about was that if the film were directed not by Alejandro González Iñárritu but instead by John Waters, it could’ve been done in glorious Odorama. The scratch ‘n sniff for Glass’ beard alone would demand an in-theater vomitorium, no doubt.
Seeing Glass survive, against all odds, made me feel so damn small when I consider all the things I think are hard to get past.
Also, by the time I left the movie, I had a contact feeling of deeply ingrained filth and was now ready to get properly scrubbed if not for myself, then for the memory of both the real Hugh Glass and also Leo, who could probably use as much virtual hygienic support as possible to return himself to Victoria Secret’s model shagging splendor.
The day of the big scrub finally arrived, and as I ran out the door, I had a moment of fear and self-doubt. After all, it is “winter” here in Los Angeles, and 60-degree weather means jeans, long sweaters and boots have been my beard for many moons now — making my hair growth less suitable for a Brazilian summer and more in line with an Argentinian winter (a la — you guessed it — The Revenant).
And so that’s how I found myself in the shower five minutes before I had to leave for the bath of a lifetime, frantically doing the big shave… as if it were a third date with a hot dude vs. a low-key hang with a new friend.
I guess I thought if I could just do this one more thing, I would stop being so nervous and feel totally relaxed about this novel scenario.
But therein lies the rub: everything about plunging into a new situation is uncomfortable.
Of course my new BBF made it A LOT better by being funny, self-deprecating and totally chill when we set off on our spa adventure by dropping into a jacuzzi stew of naked ladies.
The scrub part, on the other hand, was just as unnerving as I’d imagined. After being led into a brightly lit room that was very morgue-meets-nana-chic (several electric orange-padded cadaver tables in a row, each covered with protective thick, clear plastic), I was told by my sweet looking spa lady — who was a foot shorter than me, about 50 pounds lighter than me, and improbably decked out in black granny panties and a sexy black lace bra — to lay on the table, face down, and “relax.”
What happened next could only be described as fifty shades of gray-skin-scaling, as my tiny spa dominatrix proceeded to attack every inch of my body with neon-colored mitts that smelled like flowers but felt like thorns.
In a good way. Truly.
Periodically various fluids were thrown on me to rinse off the debris of, well, a lifetime. First hot water, then lukewarm milk (and if you’ve never felt milk running down your ass, lemme tell you — it’s quite a treat!), and finally hot oil.
As the layers were removed, my mind couldn’t help but wander:
Are my side boobs REALLY that filthy so they need multiple scrub downs?
Why OH WHY did I shave down there before being attacked by a Brillo pad?
Do I have nerve endings between my toes or is that just my imagination?
Can I detach myself from my body and pretend this isn’t the third time my nipples have been vigorously oiled…. in front of 10 strangers?
Did my tiny spa lady leave and Ironman take her place because this massage feels superhuman…in a disturbing and bruising yet excellent way…
At some point, I accidentally agreed to a cucumber facial. Second only to puppets, clowns and carnies, I have a deeply rooted fear of facials. That whole putting a mask on my face makes me feel super claustrophobic. In this case, the cucumbers were chopped and combined with what I think was mint and maybe (hopefully!) egg whites so the goop formed a heavy paste, which was then applied over a layer of suffocating gauze that gives me the shivers just thinking about it.
In my mummified stupor, my spa lady then put the icing on my fear cake by jamming her well-oiled fingers into my ears. I’m not even sure what that was about, but I had to stifle a scream because second only to puppets, clowns, carnies, and facials, I am TERRIFIED of slimy things being placed in my ears — especially without warning.
But then I thought about Hugh Glass and all the indignities he had to endure, up to and including getting butt naked and settling in for the night inside a gutted horse, and I realized that my exposure in this instance was, relatively speaking, pretty minor.
Leaving the spa, I felt lighter and smoother than I have in a long time. And that wasn’t just my baby’s tush-esque skin — that included letting go of my fears and insecurities and allowing them to be washed away like so many dead cells.
In their place, I had a great bonding experience with my new BBF, and the chance to feel reborn and refreshed.
So if you see me streaking by, just know that sometimes taking it all off can help you put on a brand new face. All you have to do is grin… and bare… or, if you’re Hugh Glass, bear it! (Ba dum bah… chahhhhhhh!)
* Days later as I pet my silky smooth skin, I’ll tell you it was all worth it! I went to the Century Day & Night Spa in Los Angeles where their tagline is “It’s time to shut up and sweat.” So what are you waiting for?