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Valerie Weiss Headshot

Shedding My Modesty at the Korean Spa

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Yesterday, as I was having my first-ever body scrub at a Korean Spa -- a service that is described as "not for any woman who is shy about her body" -- it struck me how having kids has expunged every bit of modesty impressed upon me by my upbringing.

My mom was pretty extreme in that department, making me self-conscious about even something as innocuous as changing in front of the other girls for gym class. Her own mother was an immigrant to this country, and even though she probably went to communal baths in her native Lithuania, she taught her daughter that there are new rules in America. My mom insisted on this modest attitude as well, and you can imagine how shocked I was when I finally saw "The Vagina Monologues" and learned that in more relaxed circles, women were actually communing by using hand mirrors to look at their own vaginas.

So yesterday, as I lay on a pink vinyl table, totally naked in a room mere inches away from a dozen other naked women being scrubbed head-to-toe (and I mean EVERYTHING from head-to-toe), I thought, Wow, if my mom could see me now, because everyone else can, what would she say?"

And it dawned on me that I would not have been able to do this before having children. But the act of completely exposing yourself for the sake of making another human being is a game changer.

After the birth of my first child, who took a full two hours of pushing to expel (which might sound like a nightmare, but was actually an amazing experience largely due to my charismatic OB, who made me laugh the whole time), my one regret was not being able to see her being born.

In my birthing class, I learned that women often use mirrors during birth to see the baby crown and help motivate them when they push, since you really can't tell if you are doing this unfamiliar action correctly -- most people tell you it is like trying to poop, but that is hardly a motivator. So, with my second child, who was ready to slip out after a single push, I crossed my legs and insisted that she wait until the nurse had time to roll a giant mirror to the end of my bed.

Anyway, I tell you this, something that falls under the category of way TMI, long after the actual birth (my youngest is almost 2), because as I was having my Korean scrub yesterday, hearing the sound of children's voices in the baths outside and being surrounded by nude women of all ages and sizes, I felt safe and warm in a totally new way. For the first time, I felt that nakedness was such a beautiful way to connect with others, not just from our own time, but across generations before and after us. Maybe it's because we are all so isolated now by gadgets and technology that I found a true appreciation for the beauty of letting it all hang out. Maybe it was the euphoria of an hour away from my kids to do something for myself, but it certainly felt powerful enough to overcome any modesty to tell you this story.

And as for my mom, I think grand-motherhood has loosened her up, too. Having been in the delivery room and actually witnessing the birth of my two children after having been unconscious for hers, she is a lot more open about talking about sex. Maybe I'll just let her teach my kids about the birds and the bees when the time comes. Or maybe I'll just take them to the Korean spa.