THE BLOG
11/25/2013 09:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Korean Spa 101: Therein Lies the Rub

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Welcome to the Korean Spa! As someone who knows the ropes, allow me to walk you through a few important things about your visit (after you pay up front as required):

Most importantly (maybe I should have told you this before you paid): Get naked! At the Korean Spa, there are no covered wagons allowed. If you have any hang-ups about nudity (your own or anyone else's), best to scram. Or, since you've pre-paid, be completely mortified and then make quick peace. After all, there are wagons of all shapes and sizes here. If you're nervous, try that old trick where you pretend everyone else is naked...then realize they are. Constructive tip: look at it as a chance to feel proud about your areola diameter and/or a reminder to schedule that next waxing appointment.

Technically, you won't be completely naked. Please cram all your hair up into this droopy, surgical-blue hair net so you can feel a little more vulnerable. No matter that you look like Naked Rembrandt Smurf; drastic measures must be taken to keep those errant hairs out of the curative waters. Once your puffy bonnet is secure and your self-esteem is at an all-time low, head on in to the pools.

The Korean Spa not only boasts a steam room, sauna and copious fancy treatments; there are pools where an actual mineral hot spring is said to bubble out of the earth. That's right, smack dab in the center of Koreatown, LA. Who are we to question it? Just sit back and soak up the healing properties of all those minerals. Oop, watch out for those orange cones there: some of the tile was ripped up where a festering mold problem was discovered. But relax! Enjoy!

You'll see multiple signs purporting SILENCE IS GOLDEN. For some though, silence is merely bronze, or an even lower-quality metal alloy like pewter. One man's gold is another man's strident, piercing tone that carries all the way into the dry sauna. However irritating this may be, shush with caution. When a vociferous woman is sporting a soggy, polypropylene hair-hammock, her dirty looks can turn downright filthy. Might I suggest a few deep, cleansing breaths? (Except not near the mold spores.)

If you decide on a treatment, head to the main waiting area at your appointed time and enjoy looking at other peoples' pubes until someone yells your name (turns out spa employees don't like that pesky silence either). Raise your hand in compliance and follow immediately. Listen up: your same-sex technician will most likely be in little more than a bra. This is "normal" so try not to stare. She will lead you into a tiled wet-room with several rubber mats atop tables where other spa-goers are being hosed down and/or smacked. THIS IS NOT TORTURE BECAUSE IT IS EXPENSIVE. When you reach your "private" wet-room stall, make no sudden movements and/or eye contact. Just listen carefully. If you do not heed her instructions the first time, you will be yelled at and/or lightly slapped by your Korean Lady. Do not take this personally. Try to unwind! You're at the spa!

With as much naked grace as you can muster, mount the slippery table and make yourself comfy while your Korean Lady covers your whole head with a wet towel and pulls your legs into a froggy position. What follows is a head-to-toe scouring where only your innermost mucus membranes are safe. Who knew that dry, rough skin lurks pretty much everywhere and in the Korean religion MUST BE REMOVED BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. These means include (but are not limited to) salt scrubs, steel wool, belt sanders and a shit-ton of Korean elbow grease. Let her work her magic inside those crevices. (Who else dares to venture there?) You'll feel like a greasy fish-out-of-water as you are instructed to flop to and fro between your dorsal and ventral sides but just give in. It may help to employ a mantra such as "This is my choice!" or "I'm enjoying my Me Time!" or "A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at the office!"

Real talk: your boobs will be felt up. It will not be sexual, at least for your Korean Lady. If it is for you, remember this little known fact: erect nipples are a huge sign of respect in Korea! Oh, also, your crotch will absolutely be grazed. Sometimes said grazing causes jerky flinching. This could lead to back spasm, so you may want to book yourself a subsequent "Swedish" massage. (Be prepared for a Korean/Swedish hybrid that includes a therapist mounting you on all fours. Hey, no one said this was Swedishtown!)

A few translations that will hopefully make your treatment go smoothly:

One quick smack = Turn over
Two quick smacks = I said, turn over/You're bugging me
One swift yank at the back of the neck = TURN OVER, BITCH OR I'LL CUT YOU
Gentle towel-drying and tender swaddling into a side-hug = Come over here, my little dumpling, so I can give you my tip envelope
"My name is Deborah" = This is easier for you to understand/Do not address me as such since I will not answer to this ever

At the end of this wonderful, decadent indulgence (and a thick layer of hydrocortisone cream), you will be so soft and young-feeling that your lover might think he's committing statutory rape (fun!). One thing is certain: you will now understand all the Korean fuss as you are one dermis layer closer to God.

Haeng un!*

*Good luck!