Picture this: Yoga studio locker room filled with a cloud of hairspray and perfume floating off the "perfect" bodies of 20-something women. They're bold. They're beautiful. And they're naked. Then in the far right corner, I'm wobbling on one leg as I rush to slip into my underwear and jeans without falling flat on my face.
After 35 minutes of confidently twisting myself into gravity-defying yoga positions, I had returned to my usual self: Ashamed of my body.
My road to self-acceptance has been a long journey with tons of curves (no pun intended). And even though learning to love my knobby knees and naturally curly hair has helped to steer me in a positive direction, living in an image-obsessed world has set me back a few miles.
Ready to love myself immensely more, I knew I had to strip down and face my tall and lanky frame... and what better place to do this than at a bathhouse?
Before taking the plunge (or a big baby step in becoming completely body confident without getting completely naked) at Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca, my perception of this aspect of spa culture was misguided and filled with images of perverted tub soakers. But I was in for a wide awakening once I stepped inside the Greek and Roman-inspired sanctuary where everyone was surprisingly sporting a swimsuit thanks to a "no nudity" rule while inside the pools. But, that didn't mean I was exempt from any sort of nudity. After all, I still had to face the stumbling block of undressing in the locker room.
I assumed that if I arrived early I would be able to put on my bikini without too many eyes examining my imperfections -- an uneasiness that also surfaces during the summer when I head to the beach with my boyfriend or friends but find it a bit easier to let go because I'm usually surrounded by hundreds of people. However, a friendly new mom and attentive attendee forced me to face my fears and not run into the private changing area. A major feat considering I was overdue for a bikini and leg waxing appointment.
After slipping into my robe, I made my way downstairs to the baths. The textile factory-turned-spa couldn't work any better for my anxieties, as there was no natural light (hundreds of candles dimly lit the gigantic room) and clocks were missing from the open brick walls (forcing me to submerge myself completely).
I was faced with my biggest challenge in body confidence when a young couple with model good looks sauntered into the 16,000 square foot space and headed for the heated bath I had been lounging in. My heart started to race as I contemplated sliding my booty across the stone seat towards a spot where the underwater light didn't magnify the fine hairs on my legs. But something inside of me just couldn't move, and when I turned to look up, the twosome was already making their way to the next pool.
Here I was in a swanky bathhouse, wearing a two-piece in the dead of winter, with a serious need for body hair removal and I made it through two hours without hiding from myself or others. I couldn't help but let out a huge sigh of relief (and laugh), realizing that my biggest opponent in overcoming body image issues was me... and I had given her one hell of a fight worth winning.
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