If you ever find yourself at a clothing-optional event, particularly one where you are going into a sauna, and you decide to go along with it, here are some tips you may want to jot down. Don’t put them in your pocket though because really, once you take your clothes off, having them in your pocket will cease to be useful to you. So jot them down and memorize them. You can thank me later.
1. Don’t be shy about undressing. If you are going to go for it, do it with relish. No one gives a shit.
2. Don’t undress as if you are in a porno. While no one gives a shit, they may start to if you twirl your shirt in the air or point your toes as you slowly slide your pants off, one leg at a time.
3. Don’t dress up. Seriously. You will look like an idiot. Okay, maybe some people give a shit.
4. Bring a hand towel to sit on once you are in the sauna (if indeed it is a sweat). You’ll see why soon.
5. Do not. I repeat, DO NOT spit your nasty phlegm in an area where people sit.
6. Don’t forget that hand towel!
7. Don’t blow your nose in your hand and then wipe it on yourself.
8. Don’t blow your nose on your hand and then shake the snot off around people.
9. Don’t blow your nose on your hand and then wipe it off where people sit.
10. Never, ever, EVER purposefully watch someone of the opposite sex undress.
It would be a gross understatement to say that I have struggled with self esteem throughout my life. Body image issues plague most women (and yes, many men as well, but I am not a man and they don’t talk to me the way most women do, so back off) and it can follow us through our lives. I’ve worked through a lot of that and for the most part, I think that I am perfect just the way I am, but I still have moments where I want Rhinoplasty and a tummy tuck. I was in the throes of this when I met Thor. It didn’t help that I had bacne so bad that a friend once gently said to me, “Um, you may want to start drinking more water.” It is also possible that I should have been wearing a bra and deodorant more often. Not to mention the fact that I thought I was gigantic and dressed in clothing that was two sizes too big for me. In general, my self esteem and body image were in dire need of Thor.
Welcome back, Thor! (If you are just joining me, please read this post first.)
I am pretty sure that few men read my blog. For the ones that do, try not to perv out on me here. Y’all were born naked, in case you didn’t know and really, if you tried it, you would like nudity too. Here’s an idea! Go get naked. Yes. Right now. I’ll wait. Now read the rest of the blog naked and see how much you like it. Just don’t forget to put a towel down.
Thor was a worshipper of both women and men. He saw no gender, size, or color boundary. It was an adjustment for me to be around, as I was still quite young (22?) and naïve, but I was so wide eyed with him that I mostly just observed, retained, and then tried to act just like him. Thor would walk up to people he had never met before just to tell them that they were beautiful, or that they had beautiful eyes, hair, skin—whatever. He said it without sounding creepy because he genuinely meant it. Now, don’t think that he was going up to every single person that he saw—he wasn’t an idiot, he was just totally authentic. It was how I first met him, really. He gave me a compliment when he first spoke to me, and I needed it so badly that I lived off that one compliment for weeks.
Once we began dating, Thor took me to Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, a beautiful spa in the mountains with two communal baths—basically, a sauna, hot tub, and cold pool. One was co-ed and the other for women only. Both were clothing-optional. (I went to the area that was just for women once I was more comfortable with the idea in general, but women talk too much about dumb shit and it drove me crazy.)
I’m sure that we chatted on the drive up the mountain but I don’t think we spoke of anything specific to what we were about to do. That wasn’t his way (he was all about the raw experience), so I trust my memory here. Once we were there, he told me to get changed—meaning take off my clothes and put on the spa-supplied robe—and meet him at the co-ed bath. As soon as I went into the changing room, I began to realize that once my robe came off in the bath, I would be naked in front of people. I had absolutely no preparation for this moment, and I was paralyzed (so paralyzed that now, years later, when I think of it, I can conjure up the emotion of that moment perfectly). Thor expected me to meet him in only a few minutes, but instead, I put on my robe and sat down in the courtyard, trying desperately to look casual and not freaked out of my fucking mind. Please, trust me when I say that I was freaked out of my mind. I sat there for an hour and a half while Thor had me paged. And paged, and paged, and paged.
I can’t remember if he came and got me or if I just talked myself into going up to the community area, but I eventually did. I. Was. Petrified. He never knew how petrified I was, because it was important to me that he think I was cool. Straight up. (Ah, youth.)
What I realized that first day, once my robe came off, is that no one gave a shit about me or what I looked like. No one was paying attention because, really, in life, no one is thinking about me or you, really. I don’t mean that in a hurtful way. It’s just that, the things you think people are thinking about you? They aren’t. If anything, they are thinking about their own fear of judgment, their own insecurities, their own list of errands to run . . . anything but, “Oh my god! Look at her third nipple!” Jesus. (No! I do not have a third nipple.) I went into the sauna, and everyone had their eyes shut. Most were meditating, some were chanting, others were just relaxing. It was life changing for me. From that moment forward, I have experienced my body differently. I went from feeling shame and a deep sense of imperfectness to feeling human and beautiful. The biggest and only judge in my life was myself, and in that moment, I started to put that judge to rest.
We ended up going there every day for the entire time we lived in the storage unit. When we moved to Tucson, I went right to work trying to find a place that we could go so we could continue to sweat. Thor was uninterested for his own reasons. (I’m pretty sure that at this time, he was carrying a weapon and taking 20 bong hits a day.) But I wanted to keep that feeling that I had found in Santa Fe. I found a place that only allowed you in if you knew the right people. A man that lived near the “hip” (I feel like a tool using that word, and putting it in quotes, but it fits) area of town added a homemade sauna to his large backyard, an outdoor shower—which people majorly needed to use more—and a pool. There was a hole in the ground for a bathroom (I shit you not); a large shaded area, where occasionally someone would be giving a massage; and another large area around the pool to lay in. It was like going from the Ritz Carlton to Motel 6, but it would do.
I had some deep issues with “the sweat” from the start. I hated the exclusiveness. Really, it was a bunch of dirty, aging hippies who thought themselves wise and enlightened. One day a man came into the area drunk after hours and didn’t notice that the pool had been drained. It was dark, so he couldn’t see the notices, and he started up the sauna, had a nice sweat, and then dove headfirst into an empty pool, dying instantly. The sweat began to go downhill after that. Eventually, I’m pretty sure a couple of the guys were accused of being pedophiles.
I left the local sweat permanently years ago, because some creepy guy watched me undress. I still occasionally see people around town who I recognize but am unable to place until it hits me that I have seen them naked. I no longer need the clarity that an environment like that offers me, but I enjoyed the benefits of the sweat. What stopped working for me was that in this particular sweat, the men all blew their freaking noses in their freaking hands and wiped it on the seats. They coughed up their nasty phlegm and spit it on the floor that we walked on. They dumped bucket after bucket after bucket of water on the rocks until, I shit you not, my nipples would get burned. And never once did they ask anyone if it was okay.
So now, at 36, I have a saggy stomach from two C-sections, stretch marks, acne scars and saggy boobs. I probably have IBS. I have two worry lines between my brows, and I am sort of geriatrically achy all the time. I’m sleepy by 9 pm, I’m constantly retaining water, and I need to whiten my teeth. Not to mention the eczema. But you know what? I just don’t care. I am woman. Hear me roar.