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Olympic Spa

No One Told Me About the Black Underwear Ladies

My friend Tammy and I have been trying to plan a day at a Korean spa day since Superbowl. Yes, I recognize that isn’t exactly an eon but you would think that two unemployed women could find a half day with some ease. Not so. Yesterday the long awaited spa day finally arrived.

It was destined to be perfect. We came together from two different ends of the city, each of us dropping kids off to school and then heading right for the spa and arriving at precisely 9am. For anyone living outside of Los Angeles, please understand that an on time arrival is blue moon event. Two women navigating the freeways of Los Angeles stand little chance of well coordinated arrival.

When you enter the Olympic Spa it’s from the parking lot in the rear. There are massive continuously running washers and dryers. Tammy and I both clutched our hearts and admitted to having appliance envy. We jointly swooned and imagined a life where there were two loads of laundry a week. An unusual excitement for two women who were about to get naked.

I knew a little bit about the spa experience, but not much. I knew to keep free half a day and that the food was said to be delicious and inexpensive. I dutifully blocked out a half a day and showed up hungry. Much like other parts of my life, knowing a little bit proved to be the wrong bit and the cafe opened at 11.30. We sipped some tea and nibbled on things from our purses. We would make it, we hoped.

As we walked into the shower area I saw groups of Asian women sitting and talking and pulverizing cucumbers. They were all wearing the same black underwear and bra. Tammy and I were doing the weird thing where you’re getting into your robe and trying to not look self conscious, trying to not look at each other and hoping against hope that you’ve picked the right woman to stroll around naked with so all we could do was look at everyone else. I said to her, “Obviously we didn’t get the panty/bra memo.” And that’s when Tammy said, “Those are the women that are going to work on us.”


Interestingly just a few days before I’d been on Facebook and asked some of you guys which spa we should try. Although everyone had an opinion not one of you said, “Hey, by the way, you might find it strange that women in their underwear are going to scrub you down.” Because I might have appreciated that information.


So Tammy and I went to a room made of salt, sat on mats that were on a floor of salt rocks and a looked up a ceiling of charcoal. We caught up, we chatted, we laughed and then we overheated. We went into the pool room, rinsed off and then went into the world’s hottest jacuzzi, the world’s coldest pool and then a just right jacuzzi full of tea (and probably pee too) where we waited for our numbers to be called.¬†himilayan salt room

When my number was called I was taken to a large shower room by a lady in the black underwear combo. The room had waist high dividers so you could see into the other sections as you walked by. I was grateful to be at the end where no one would walk past me. I laid face down on a table and warm milk was poured all over me. Then the Yu proceeded to scrub my skin with loofahs while summoning the strength of a linebacker. I could swear she was going to make me bleed. After finishing my back she tossed water on me and the process was repeated for my front and each side.

Laying there in a not quite warm room with a woman who is profoundly culturally different than I am as she treated my body like it wasn’t attached to a person was a new experience. When she was scrubbing my stomach and my thighs I was fighting with myself to not hold my stomach in. Ridiculous, this woman sees naked women all day long. She works in her underwear without holding her stomach in. Why should I care what she thinks of me and my bloated belly? And then I realized that she really didn’t care, couldn’t care less in fact and that made me feel like a car going through the carwash and all the people who rub and buff it without ever knowing it.

I treated my body like a car that needed some care and I felt good about it too.

After the tea soak, the warm milk, the loofah scrub, the water splashing and then the shampoo I dried off and went nearly immediately for a massage.

This was unquestionably the best massage of my life. There was acupressure involved and the massage therapist was probably 98 pounds soaking wet but with hands stronger than any man I’ve ever known. Of course with me it’s entirely possible that there was no actual massage. As soon as my body hits a warm massage table (or even a heated car seat) I fall asleep. In addition to falling asleep I snore and I’ve suspected that a smart massage therapist would hear my sleep sounds, grab a magazine and sit in the corner flipping through articles while listening to me saw logs.

Post massage Tammy and I floated into the now open cafe and had Korean food. I don’t know what I ordered. It was some sort of omelet with scallions and seaweed. It was salty and delicious and I wasn’t going to ask questions. Tammy had a bowl of rice and vegetables, few of which we recognized and when she wasn’t looking I picked at her kimchee.

It’s a day later and my skin feels like it went back in time 20 years. I’m still refreshed (but that might be because I’ve done a whole lot of nothing today) and I’m hoping it won’t take three more months before I can take a half day of my life and bring my body in for a tune up.