If you want to feel normal…
get thee to a clothing optional communal hot spring bath.
There’s a spa outside of Santa Fe so widely recommended you can barely mention the town without someone panting about how great it is. I’m not too far from it here in Taos, so I took the first chance to visit.
Being unemployed and on a taut budget the cheapest service on the menu was the way to go. Twenty something bucks gets you the communal hot spring bath and the free reign of amenities. The tub is clothing optional.
Clothing optional? Which option do people go with, usually? Without. Without? Yes, without.
I don’t mean to sound naive or like someone who hasn’t swanned around in her birthday suit in public, but naked isn’t exactly my comfort zone. I haven’t CHOSEN to hang out with a group of nude women. Ever, really. So, my view of what the regular woman’s body looks like in the buff was a little skewed– like, mine versus what I perceive is the perfection of others. And, I am willing to bet that unless you’re spending a ton of time in the Loehmann’s dressing room, your mind’s eye is a little out of whack too.
Draped in my spa-issued kimono, I approached the tub pretending to be cool with the whole thing, undid my kimono, hung it on its hook, and immediately wrapped a towel around myself. Peaked around the corner and saw an open spot in the tub. There’s just one big tub where everyone soaks. If the woman sitting on the steps scooched over a little I could glide in quickly and submerge. Game plan hatched.
I pigeon-toed my way over to the steps and dropped my towel. Instinctively, I dropped with it hugging my knees. Slowly, I straightened up- my right hand over my top and left over my crotch. Following my plan, I stepped in with my first foot and asked the woman on the steps to excuse me. She didn’t hear, or something. I asked again, cringing at the thought of bringing attention to me and my nakedness. Again, no response.
In order to get in I would’ve had to take a huge step over her— one foot on the step the other kicking high and wide over her head. The game plan had to be re-hatched. Unfortunately, I was too nervous to properly rethink and getting cold, understandably. I decided to go for the empty seat from the side of the bath rather than the steps.
I shimmied to my spot, crouched down on the side, and put my hands down by my feet in egg position. Swung both feet forward at the same time with the hope my bottom swing through and I could lower in my entire body using the strength of my triceps. Like a young gymnast.
Instead, I face planted. Directly into the tub. My whole face. With the entire force of my body weight. I came up gasping for air but my hair was tacked to my face. I caught my breath, dipped in again, slicked back my hair, and found my spot. It wasn’t graceful, but I was in.
The Playboy Mansion this was not. Nobody was pulled or stretched or pumped or enhanced. Just a bunch of normal women– some thin, some not, some super fit, some not, some perky, some young, some not, some freckled, some fair, some golden. These women were beautiful and way more comfortable in their own skin than I. Clearly.
After a while, I forgot about being nervous, embarrassed, or ashamed. I was just hanging out. Even surfacing to just waist deep periodically. My face was pink, glowing as if I had a 50 minute facial- must be the combo of river rock walls and pristine spring water. The vibe is minimalist not crunchy– teak wood deck and clean lines. No dream-catchers or crystals.
We found easy comfortable conversation, the tubbers and me. And pretty soon they were recommending other hot springs, some clothing optional some not, all up and down the west coast.
One can stay in the hot spring only so long before it gets too hot, even at 105 degrees. I was feeling good but not enough so to just perch on the side like some of my liberated tub sisters.
After my hour and a half of this naked utopia it was time to get out. Long gone was the timid Kari from a few hours ago. I exited proudly, using the steps this time, and took long comfortable strides to fetch my kimono.
Ten Thousand Waves: WORK THIS INTO YOUR VISIT TO SANTA FE OR TAOS, NEW MEXICO. All of the services come with complimentary use of the communal tubs. The nightingale facial is the big thing but you have to ask for it when you book– it’s off menu, so to speak. Services, for men and women, range from $100-$200. There’s a mixed company communal bath along with private tubs, if you prefer.
I literally laughed out loud with you at the face plant part. Best blog yet!
Wonderful experience and beautifully written! Thank you for sharing with us.
I am getting so tired of seeing her naked!
As QMI, I feel that Kari now becomes Lady in Waiting I for this courageous step. If fact, she may be should take my place as Q as I would have never done it. So proud and I laughed so hard-esp your thinking about stepping over the woman on the steps.
Amazing post!!! You should submit this piece of writing in some contest…it is fantastic!
What a wonderful tale! Reminds me of my trip to a Turkish bath in Istanbul, no clothing allowed, lay down on an ancient built-up stone, heated floor and allow yourself to be bathed and shampooed. A bucket of water poured over my head in the end. Free, free, free – many professional women coming in on lunch hour and the sense of total relaxation was joyful. When I was drying my hair and getting dressed, a group of giggling American college girls came in – one asked should we leave our underwear on and I couldn’t resist eavesdropping- yes, if you want them to be soaking wet so go for it girls, I advised.
We need to get you on This American Life or your own NPR program – The Stretch!!!!