I recently went to a European Spa. This spa included numerous pools of thermal waters at various temperatures, and... saunas. Yes, those big hot rooms you go inside to sweat all your stress out. And everyone is naked! Yes naked. Very naked. Like I-can-see-your-twig-and-berries-from-across-the-room naked, and Oh-look-she-has-a-cesarian-scar, and Wow-I-guess-she-doesn't-wax, and Dude-she-needs-to.
As an American, I grew up being told you never undress in front of others, you never hang around naked with others, and you never ever (omg is it really even a thing?) hang out naked in a swimming pool or hot box with others! It's just culturally unacceptable. I tried to picture someone like my mother, or even my close American friends joining me in such a place, and it immediately brings me to laughter. They would never get naked in front of others. Not even if their life depended on it.
I went with my best friend who's a local European. She's been going to wellness spas since the age of sixteen. This doesn't surprise me. The space I found myself in was filled with all ages ranging from about four, to wrinkled old, old, lady.
What's the biggest thing I noticed?
No one cared.
Sure, I couldn't help myself comparing my naked body to others, and surely some people compared themselves to me, but overall, it was no big deal. People were naked as the day they were born and the way that nature made them: big, tall, thin, obese, saggy tits, perky nipples, short, hairy, all skin tones, wrinkled or toned.
And it was no big deal.
Although I admit that I had trouble breaking the culturally and socially acceptable American taboo of being naked with and in front of others (yes, bouts of giggles, laughing, and repeatedly saying, holy shit, I'm naked, and he's naked... and you're naked... to which my friend only laughed at me or rolled her eyes), but eventually I settled into a semi comfortable place. Bodies are just bodies, and all the bodies I saw were together in the same place for the same reason: wellness.
I was sweating, they were sweating, we were sweating.
I did a mandarin perfume sauna, a steam sauna, a cool sauna, a 95 degree celsius sauna, and my favorite, the honey sauna. Yes honey. They handed out bottles of honey and instructed us to rub it all over our bodies like a lotion. It immediately began to melt over me faster than ice cream in high summer. I even tasted its sweetness to make sure it was the real deal, and it was. The Sauna Master poured water over hot coals, swished a towel around in the air, and brought down immense heat onto my naked body. It was awesome.
Afterward, sauna goers hop into the shower. There are showers everywhere... and they're doorless, out in the open, and co-ed. Some showers are hot, where others are very cold. I had the option to use a hose, a bucket, or a traditional shower head. I shared these showers next to all sorts of people. I even shared a shower with a waterfall feature with the friend I was with. I splashed her playfully, and she splashed me back. The eroticism of the moment was not lost on me, and with anyone other than my best friend (who is supportive of my erotic writing, but is the most hetero vanilla chick I know), it could have led to some very fun and spontaneous exploration. In the very least, it gave me some new story ideas.
Participating at this wellness center was an eye opening experience. It made me realize how stupid nudity and body imagine is in the negative. It shouldn't be. American media teaches us that we have to be beautiful: thin, flawless, with great hair, groomed genitals, and perfect teeth. (This just isn't rational thinking at all. I doubt that less than 10% of the global population has a model's body.) American society tells us that nudity is wrong and taboo. Europeans (or those who engage in spa wellness activities for their health) have somehow escaped Western thinking and embraced their bodies (and everyone else's). They're free.
I've lived in Europe for over six years now, and I find myself becoming more and more Europeanized. I too want to be free. I too want to embrace and love my body the way it is enough to strut around naked with both men and women and not care if anyone looks. Some look. Most don't. But it doesn't matter. It's beautiful.
I think my soul flew. You can bet my naked ass that I'll go back.