No, let me back up. I want to tell you about how I’m feeling about my body right now. In doing so, I will also tell you about Spa World.
Or perhaps I should just start with Spa World.
So, my friends and I went to Spa World on Saturday. For the uninitiated, Spa World is a Korean day spa, which is a substantially different thing than our typical western conception of a spa. How is it different? There is a whole lot of nudity. And the nudity is not a big deal. Rather, it’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal – which is strongly discouraged.
When you enter the single-gender locker rooms, you immediately confront a whole lot of naked. After the initial “OMG we’re seeing each other naked” moment with my friends, we embraced it and headed into the bade pool, where jets of water bathed every part of our bodies – and the bodies of other women of all shapes and sizes and colors and degrees of hirsuteness. There were young girls and old grandmas. There were athletic builds and the loose skin of recent pregnancies. There were butts and breasts and bellies. And they were all beautifully normal.
Girls and women in this culture are presented with such a fucked up set of ideas of what normal looks like or feels like. I’m sure it’s the same for men, but I feel like it’s more pronounced for women, as we’re consistently told that we should have flat bellies and large breasts. We’re encouraged to buy shapewear to suppress – or enhance – our curves. The “beautiful baby bump” is celebrated, but not the soft skin and stretch marks that remain after birth. I couldn’t get over how empowering it was to encounter all that normal – to be reminded that a healthy body comes in a variety of shapes, including mine.
There are many other things that can be said about Spa World, but this was the most important part of my experience, and directly relates to a second observation about how I’m feeling about my body these days.
A week ago, I stayed out til late at a club we used to occasionally frequent in Champaign. I was all dolled up in my pseudo costume: a perfectly fitted vintage cocktail dress, big hair, and fabulous makeup. The backless gold dress required better posture than usual, and perhaps that’s why an old acquaintance told me that I looked “confidenter” than he remembered.
This was repeated, albeit entirely differently, on the dance floor at the Black Cat this weekend. Maybe it was the residual Spa World glow. Maybe it was the drinks. Maybe it was the company of my favorite chav. Maybe it was the music. Probably it was a bit of all of these that resulted in feeling fucking radiant – a feeling that apparently did not go unnoticed, judging by Jackie’s concern for my well-being (and mine for hers, as she also looked amazing!).
In short: I feel amazing right now. I have accomplished things this year that I never dreamed of doing – and have done so through a lot of hard work and discipline. I would like to see different numbers on the scale, and I would like to be able to push more weight (including mine allllllll the way to the pull up bar). I would like to be faster and stronger and slimmer – but right now I’m really happy with where I am, with my flavor of normal, with what my body is and can do. And I want to remember this.