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Everybody get naked!

January 5, 2010

I’ve been away from New York for the holidays, and even though I got back right before the new year, I’ve been catching up and away from blogging for a while. Sad face.

I did, however, have the chance to make my first voyage out to the famed Spa Castle in College Point, Queens. I’ve heard many, many stories about this place, yet still didn’t quite know what to expect. I knew that it involved saunas and water jets.  Sounded good to me.

The New York Shock Exchange boys gave me a Spa Castle gift certificate as a thank you for managing their 2009 season. And my derby team, the Bronx Gridlock, arranged a group trip to help celebrate our recently won championship. So we trooped out to College Point on Saturday afternoon. Any and all expectations I had for Spa Castle immediately vanished.

We walked into the locker room, where two ladies at a desk told us to take off our shoes and directed us to the tiny shoe lockers that unlocked with our special numbered watch passes that we picked up in the lobby. A few steps further into the main locker room, hordes of naked women milled about. That’s par for the course in any women’s locker room, but usually on a much smaller scale. There’s always that one brazenly naked woman walking around like she owns the place while everyone else changes as quickly as possible and tries not to eyeball her.

My teammate and I opened our assigned lockers and got into our swimsuits and Spa Castle-issued uniforms (bright orange scrub tops and pink shorts). The rest of our team had arrived earlier and were already in the ladies’ spa room. We walked into the spa room and saw the spas and showers lining the walls of the room. And naked women. Everywhere. Nobody had a stitch of clothing on. We suddenly felt conspicuous in our uniforms. We didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to wear clothes in there. Back to our lockers, we stuffed everything back in and wrestled with the watch passes to lock everything up again. And then back to the humid spa room, where we showered, found our friends, and carried on as if it were any other girl talk session.

I don’t have a problem being naked. It wasn’t ever a huge taboo in my family growing up, and I credit my family for fostering a positive body image no matter what. We’re not nudists, but it’s not a big thing for my mom and I to change in front of each other or anything. The woman pushed me out of her vagina and wiped my butt for 3 years, for Pete’s sake. I think we’re pretty OK with a bit of nudity after that. I do know that not everyone is as OK with it. After settling into a hot water spa, I found it pretty amusing to watch women’s reactions when they came in for the first time. At first, there was the realization that everyone really was naked. Then disbelief, followed by a bit of embarrassment. And then the transformation that happened somewhere between the mandatory shower and slipping into a pool–this was totally OK and natural for all these women to be in one room naked.

Later, we moved on to the coed pools and saunas upstairs, but I liked the “naked room” best of all and returned a few times. I didn’t have to worry if my bikini bottom was riding up or falling down (the massage jets will do things to a bikini that you never would have imagined). There was a sense of unity in our mutual nakedness. We were all female, beautiful no matter what our shape or age. Our makeup and hairstyles melted away along with any indication of class or status. Nudity made for a great equalizer. One might imagine that there would be some bodysnarking going on, but there wasn’t. I never once thought anyone looked bad. Maybe others shared that sentiment, or perhaps it was just politeness that kept any demeaning statements or looks at bay. Either way, there was an overall sense of body positivity and pride, and I loved that. It was more rejuvenating than any massage pool.

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