Monday, June 27, 2011

Spa World

Groupon opened my eyes to whole new experience yesterday. My friend Rachel and I went to Spa World, a traditional Korean spa, in Centreville, VA. It is in a strip mall, but has more than 50,000 square feet of Korean Spa Pleasure. I thought I would enjoy it, but it surpassed my expectations.

Spa World can best be broken up into its wet (single-sex) and dry (co-ed) parts. The most important thing to know about the first part, the wet one, is that nudity is the word of the day. They don't actually just encourage nudity, they actively discourage covering up. It is outright prohibited in the bade pool, and if you had thoughts of hiding your butt in a towel, think again: they only have hand towels! The bade pool, which you can see a diagram of here), is a large jacuzzi tub with different types of sections and jets kept at a perfect 95 degrees. Sounds relaxing? Rachel and I spent an hour schmoozing in this tub along with about 20-30 other women at a time.

I was a little scared about the nudity: I have lost about 116 lbs, and I have lots of hanging skin, stretch marks, and cellulite. Furthermore, I am still about 15-20 lbs overweight. I decided to suck it up, and I'm glad I did. First of all, it was strangely freeing to hang around nude, and for the first time ever I saw what was appealing about nudist colonies. It was even more freeing to realize that a) people didn't seem to be checking other people out, but, when you looked, and don't tell me you wouldn't, b) all women but a few of the very young 20-somethings had wobbly, imperfect bodies. Even people who were at a healthy weight, and look like they've always been a healthy weight, had cellulite, stretched skin, etc. And nobody cares. I was totally impressed by the obese women confident enough to be there, and there were plenty, including one with a tattoo on her ass of Taz holding a whip that read, "Hurts so good." Not going there!

Surrounding the bade pools are smaller hot tubs of differing temperatures, and a cool tub, as well as a sauna and a steam room. There's also a marble slab you can lay on that purportedly had "infrared healing rays," but I laid there and didn't feel anything but cold. Off to the side are these sinks close to the floor with accompanying stools where Korean women washed their hair (or each others') and groomed themselves. There were also showers with no doors. There was a walled-off section of 10 tables with Korean women giving traditional exfoliations and massages. I didn't partake in that this time.

After spending about an hour and a half in the wet area, Rachel and I donned our prison uniforms to head out to the poultice rooms. These were hideous, shapeless, orange, cotton shorts and t-shirts that we had to don when we headed out to the co-ed dry area. There was a massive central room with tatami mats spread on the floor and piles of little plastic-covered pillows. There were loungers, sofas, free wi-fi, and a snack bar in that room. This is also where you can access the Korean restaurant. Apparently, many Koreans use Spa World as a community center, which is probably why there are year-long memberships. If you take a flight of stairs up, there is an arcade, a sleeping room, a salon, gift shop, and more massage rooms.

Off of this main room are six different poultice rooms, which are rooms made of different natural materials that allegedly have healing properties, like an amethyst room and a salt room. All have dry saunas and range from 114-148 degrees, and comfortably accommodate 8-12 adults. There's also a 65 degree ice room where you can cool off. All of the poultice rooms are very quiet, and there are men and women laying down or sitting in them. The most fun, to me, was the clay ball room, which is filled with thousands of clay balls the size of marbles. They felt marvelous to roll around in!

Two surprises lay in store for me in the dry area: first, although I personally don't believe that physical things like rocks or other natural elements have healing properties*, I felt strangely calmed in the amethyst room, on an energetic level. It didn't hurt that the room was gorgeous: the walls were a soothing nature-scene mosaic done in earth-tones, and the ceiling has brilliant amethyst and another red stone for you to gaze up at while the sweat stings your eyes. This room felt so calming to me that I went back to it. The other surprise was how relaxed and cleansed I felt after all this. I was a little tired, but mostly invigorated. My skin felt marvelous, and I could see how Scientologists put so much stock in a good shvitz.

At $35 a day sans Groupon, it's not cheap, but I will definitely go back to Spa World. I can see myself doing it once a season as a pick-me-up, cleansing thing.

*Please note that hope still springs eternal: In spite of my doubts, I deliberately tried a room that claims to up your sex drive, to no avail.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stronger Now

This is the first time I've looked at my blog since May 5, the day my father died, and it's a little surreal. The last seven weeks of my life have in many ways have been the hardest -- and this is coming from someone disabled from Lyme Disease, who at her worst was unable to wash her own hair or write more than scrawling her name. In the last few weeks, I have been tested and pushed in all capacities, most of which I'm unwilling to write about at this point. It is fair to say that my problems started just as my father died, and got worse from there. My therapist, in a moment of candor, said, "The book of Job comes to mind," after I summarized the startling difficulties of the past few weeks.

That said, I'm actually doing ok, much to my surprise. I have my ups and downs. A week ago I thought I was in a deep depression, but it was just a couple of crummy days, and they passed. Many people have reassured me that after the hell I've been through, some dark days are justified. Today is Father's Day; I thought I'd be a basket case, and I'm sad, but not a basket case. Losing my father has sucked, and it felt worse than I thought it would. For the first few days after he died, I felt like I had been turned inside out. The worst part was waking up, in a good mood, thinking, "That must have just been a terrible dream," and then remembering that, no, my dad was dead. For a few days, I woke up to this startling realization each day and promptly burst into tears. Now the grief comes in waves, like when I think, "Oh, I haven't talked to Dad in a long time," and then remember, "And you never will." Over the past few weeks, I've wanted to share with my dad the trials David and I have endured, desperate for his assurance that everything would be ok. I always felt like he had my back. It's cold comfort that I could imagine exactly what he would have said if I was able to converse with him about what is going on.

I don't mean to sound all grim. First of all, I am extremely grateful for the blessings in my life which I celebrate daily -- the first of which is always David, followed closely by abstinence (sobriety) from compulsive overeating. Secondly, I am finding out I have vast reserves of strength that I didn't know I had. It's actually kind of astounding. I don't mean this to sound arrogant; on the contrary, until recently, I think I (wrongly) viewed myself as fragile. But nothing in my demeanor the last seven weeks even hints at fragility.

Strangely, I want to end this post with a homage to Jani Lane, the singer/songwriter of '80s hair metal band, Warrant. I saw a TV clip of Lane where he said he literally would have blown his "[f-ing] brains out" if he had known how writing "Cherry Pie" would've ruined his credibility in the music business. I think of that sad TV clip when I hear Warrant's ballad "Stronger Now," which I find myself humming often nowadays:

"I held you for a moment in my hands
The moment with you slipped away like sand
Through my fingers now
In front of me a choice I have to make
To carry on or simply fade away
I lose you either way
I'd like to say that it was easy, it was hard
To say goodbye, I thought that I would die

Letting go of you, was so hard to do
And I thought that it would kill me but I made
It through somehow, and I'm so much stronger now..."

So, Jani, if you're reading this, I think you are a good singer/songwriter, which is why I identify with your music and lyrics a decade after you wrote them. And I still think you kick ass, which is why I can't bring myself to throw away the framed, autographed napkin you signed for me.