‘I’ve booked us in for a massage at the sauna deco spa,’ my husband says, typing something into his laptop and then turning it around to show me a luxurious Art Deco building with dark panelling, gold, lines and motifs that even Gatsby would drool over.
‘Yay! I so want to go!’ I clap my hands together. I could definitely use this after the morning we’ve had.
‘There’s just one thing,’ he says to me, winking, ‘it’s a naked spa.’
In the unisex change room, I take off my clothes in front of men and women I’ve never met before. I pretend I am fine and that this is something I do all the time. I wonder if I should have waxed more or should I be waxed less? I scan the room quickly, trying not to look like I’m looking. Nope, there don’t seem to be any rules around hair here, there are all shapes and sizes of bush. There are also more penises than I have ever seen in my life. It’s like a living biology class. I wrap the towel around me and stare at the floor, not really sure where to look. At the desk, we hand back our keys, and walk through into what will be my first communal shower. More penises. I stare ahead, at the shower head, wash myself quickly, and then turn off the shower and wrap the towel back around me.
In the sauna, people are laying about. At first glance they look like romans being fed grapes, without the blatant sexuality of it all. Men and women of all ages and shapes sit or lay on their towels; watermelon breasts sweat it out with odd-shaped mandarine breasts, and long and short and thick and thin penises rest in the hot air. Nothing is hidden, there is no space here for prudishness, nor is there space for leering. This is a quiet, internal experience, except of course, that you are with a bunch of other people.
I take a deep breath, try not to cough when the 90 degree C air hits my throat, and lay my towel out. I sit there, embracing my internal experience, which is not at all relaxing, and is filled mostly with thoughts of whether my thighs look to wibbly, and whether I can just relax my stomach and let it all hang out, as everyone else is seemingly able to do with ease.
I jump into the 14 degree pool and swim about, enjoying the steam rising from my skin as it hits the water. I can see through the arched windows, other people sitting in lounge chairs, reading magazines and drinking fresh mint tea. No one is looking at me. No one cares. It’s strangely refreshing. I feel braver, bolder. I climb out of the pool, feeling free. I don’t care that my towel is a good metre from me, I can just walk to it, naked, in front of all of these people. I’ve got this. And then of course, my foot slips on the wet tiles and I cling ever so gracefully to the wall to stop myself going ass over. So have not got this.
I fill the stone bath with cool water, and let my ankles continue to cool down after the sauna. My husband is completely at ease. It reminds me of the ‘dolphin’ class we did in Hawaii. It was exactly as wacky and hippy as it sounds. We paired up, and one person floated in the water, imagining they were a dolphin dancing in the water with their body, while the other held and supported their head, bringing their face to the surface so they could breathe. Clothing the teacher at the time had said, was optional, and my husband’s trunks were off before the teacher had even finished the sentence. I had taken much, much longer to convince myself that I could swim topless, swimming naked wasn’t even a consideration for me.
‘You’re such a prude,’ my mother would tell me, as she would fling her nightie off and jump into our pool in the backyard. Her aging breasts, rounded belly and cellulite something she had long ago accepted. I was still trying to figure out how to accept my imperfections.
A massage and two sauna’s later, my brain is the consistency of coddled egg, and I no longer care who sees me naked. Endorphin’s flood my system, in a high that is so much better than running, and I swear a life long allegiance to Sauna Deco.
‘You’re so hot,’ my husband says to me, the following weekend as I walk passed him on my way to the pool.
I wink, and then shake my head as he follows the two young blondes who have just come in and are heading to the steam room. He blushes like a sixteen year old and shrugs his shoulders. ‘They’ve got nothing on you,’ he says meaning it.