May I tell you of my experience in a bath house? Because I just remembered it:
Back when I worked for Del Sol, one of the perks was being able to travel to some fab places, like the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, and Hawaii. Occasionally, we would have to go somewhere less exciting like Gatlinburg, Tenn. or Hot Springs, AK.
But in downtown Hot Springs, there is still a row of old fashioned operating bath houses, and if you’re lucky and brave, which I definitely am, you too can experience the old time baths in all the splendor and technology of the early 1930’s!
Here’s how it played out (warning: nudity will be discussed…my nudity…in front of strangers…if you are not comfortable with this, or with words like pubic, sauna, or toga, stop here and go get a glass of water then return here and Google non-nudity requiring vacation hot spots…):
I made an appointment and showed up along with my insane co-worker, Miss Handstand. They gave me a little dressing room in which to take off all my clothing, and I was instructed to put on a fluffy robe and slippers. With all my stuff locked away, I was led into the bath room. Not the bathroom, the bath room.
Now keep in mind that pretty much the entire building it lined in white tile ala 1905; it gave me a strong sensation of “Return to Oz” type institution or sanitarium/sanatorium. This gives everything the impression that it is clean and sterile, but I still had a really hard time trying not to think about all of the other naked people who had been here before me.
Luckily, there were some fab stained glass ceilings, and the thought that Al Capone would come here all the time back in the 20’s. Luckily, the men are kept separate, because I would HATE to think that I was sitting naked somewhere Al Capone sat naked. Gross!
The attendant (dressed in white) led me into my own bath room where there were hooks on the wall and a HUGE white tub. Nice and deep. The attendant turned on the taps and pure, hot spring water came gushing out.
Now these aren’t sulfur hot springs, this water is clean and tasty mineral water, it is heated by decomposing forest matter and filtered by hundreds of feet of limestone. It is definitely not your run of the mill tap water.
But here’s where it’s time to feel a little awkward. The attendant didn’t leave at first. She just turned her head, averted her eyes, and said, “Step into the tub, please.” And I didn’t allow myself to stop and think: I just did. The attendants are very skilled at “not looking”. You know they have seen the full gamut of pretty to pretty ugly, and they couldn’t care less about your hairy legs and dimply bottom.
But then she got out the loofah. In my mind I was thinking, “You’re going to hand that loofah to me any second, right?” Wrong. It is HER loofah, and you are the loofee. They put some yummy lavender soapy stuff on it and say, “Hold out your arm.” So I did. I followed commands to hold out my other arm, legs and feet, and I ignored the face that my pubic hair is clearly visible to another adult (and a stranger at that), and I complied. Because after all, a good loofa-ing is a good loofah-ing.
Then I was left to soak “for as long as I like”; which was as long as I thought was polite considering it was closing time and people were waiting on me.
What happened next is fuzzy…I know that said attendant was also present to see me raise my almost weightless body IN the water OUT of the water, where it was retuned to full gravitational pull, where I lumbered my tree stumps called gams out of the deep tub, and was wrapped into a huge towel. She took me into some sort of room where I was laying down? Or perhaps being wrapped into a toga-like sheet? In any case, the gist of that whole lost few moments was her being sure to tell me that I was expected to give her a tip when this was all over…
…there was also something called a spitz bath and a neddle shower which sounds awful, but I fuzzily remember it being wonderful…
She then led me into the sauna. I love saunas. In a sauna, you feel lithe, thin, and inexplicably tan. It’s the dim, orangey lights. Much to my dismay, I had to share my sauna with Miss Handstand. I just knew she was going to remove her toga, so I positioned myself with my eyes facing a blank wall and told her I was meditating. She is one of THOSE ladies… you know the type…the one who feels comfy walking around locker rooms nekkid. With her, nudity is about competition; who can be the most naked, the most comfortable with their own bodies. Compared with Miss Handstand, I’m practically a never-nude…
The attendant came and got us and laid us out on lawn chair-like lounges in the middle of the room. She wrapped me from head to toe in clean smelling hot towels. It was just like returning to the womb, I’m sure of it. Words cannot express the feeling of comfort and security I experienced at the hands of some wet cotton.
After the toweling it was massage time. Imagine going INTO the massage already relaxed…it was heavenly. No sore muscles to work through, no lumps and bumps and knots to untie…it was pure icing on the cake…except for the folksy manner with which my masseuse carried on a conversation where she made it quite apparent what she thought of Utah and Mormons in general. Oops, lady, there goes YOUR tip.
And the piece de resistance…cucumbers on my eyes. OK, old-lady-with-really-strong-hands-who-thinks-I’m-a-devil-worshipper, you can have your tip…
And so I had been soaked, scrubbed, needled, spitzed, streamed, rubbed, and lotioned. It definitely wasn’t the fussy pampering of a spa, it was way more primitive, more earthy somehow. But in my perfect world, that would be my personal hygiene routine… except I’d replace all the people with robots… including Miss Handstand.