The Bathhouse

I must tell you about something I’ve experienced that seems pretty incredible to me. It’s a ladies bathhouse. Before I forget to tell you, it’s called the Herbal Spa Sauna Salon and it’s in Honolulu. I found it through Groupon (love Groupon – between Groupon and Living Social, I have moved into two completely unfamiliar regions and managed to find goods and services that filled my calendar, took care of grooming, shopping and luxury and made local folks jealous of my “insider knowledge.”).

So… I see this offer for a hot tub, cool pool, meditation room, sauna and steam room for $10 for each 24 hour pass. I buy 5 of them.

I go and this is what happens. Following directions, I strip and put my clothes in a locker. I’m given a tray with a doctor’s office type cloth robe, bath towel and hand towel. I’m shown into a large, open room that is divided in two halves. On half has divided massage, scrub areas. The other half has the hot whirl pool and cool tubs. On the end are a sauna, steam room and open standing and sitting showers.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that on the massage and scrub areas, naked ladies are laying on tables and massage/scrub artist ladies (who are wearing what looks like bras and panties) are massaging and scrubbing with vigor. I mean without trying to look (I’m being purposely modest), I can’t help but notice that sometimes the artists are standing on the same tables the customers are laying on… and they’re using their body weight for pressure. Sometimes I hear slapping and a bit of grunting. The rest is left up to my imagination. I can tell you no one leaves suddenly… the customers paid for the pleasure of having their muscles dominated.

So I remove my robe and shower as directed. The key to my locker is on a little plastic spring I assume belongs on my wrist for safe keeping; I put it there. I set down my basket of towels and my modesty. I shower, then barefooted on an incredible tile floor, I pad over to the hot tub, turn on the jets and climb in. I imagine that – were anyone looking at that moment – I looked graceful doing that much.

Since I set the hot tub timer on 20 minutes, I sink down and resign myself to relaxing for that amount of time. As usual in a hot tub, rather than immediately relaxing, I have about 84000 nerve-ending electrical messages per second… but I tell myself it’s relaxing.

Amidst the sound of ladies’ backsides and frontsides being slapped and smacked and the occasional woman moving from one area of the room to the other, I relax… really quickly and fully.

After what I think is 10 minutes, I “gracefully” flop from the hot tub into the cool one. My sigh is audible, but I don’t give a rat’s butt about it (I privately believe my relaxed sigh fuels the room’s vibe). I wait until my skin acclimates, then move back into the hot tub for what I believe will be another 10 minutes.

All this time I’ve had the tubs to myself and I’ve been moving around a bit (fatty parts float… add bubbles and you have quite a bit of movement, even for the most relaxed average sized woman). I suddenly hear the “I’ve just immersed my body in hot water” sighs of two other women… so I no I’m no longer alone in my hot tub. I open my eyes and look at the two breasts in front of me (because that’s what’s in front of me). I look for exactly 3 milliseconds before it all registers in my mind and I have a chance to move my relaxed gaze up to the woman who owns the breasts. I say a quick apology and something about thinking I had the tub to myself. She smiles at me and says something about the fact that I did for awhile. We both do a really lazy, relaxed laugh.

In those 3 milliseconds, I noticed that those breasts were in some ways quite similar and in other ways dissimilar from my own. It registers with me that our 4 boobs have their similarities and dissimilarities as they relate to the breasts we see scantily clad in any form of media.

I tell myself to relax and stop comparing breasts. I lean back and feel the hot bubbly water. I hear the two ladies who have joined me chatting like old friends. I don’t listen to the content of their conversation, but the cadence and tone of their obvious familiarity is really lovely and I sink deeper into my relaxation.

Now my hot tub timer goes off. I climb out, without caring what I look, and ask my new neighbors how much more time they want. I dial it in for them and sink into the cool tub with another audible sigh.

I continue my hot/cool exploration as I move between the cool tub, sauna and steam rooms and shower. I’m there for about an hour total and all of we ladies there walk by each other on our way to this or that – carefully on the wonderful tile floor and with little concern or formality (to cover yourself here would be odd).

The next time I visit this incredible place, which by the way, is scented with rosemary and lavender, I don’t bother with any attempt at frantic eye aversion. It’s almost like we’re all looking at the lovely garments each woman is wearing, and tacitly approving of them. Only we’re not wearing anything. We just smile and nod as we pass.

I know I’m not describing that accurately, but this is so foreign to me, I’m at a bit of a loss for words…

There’s a nurturing, feminine, beautiful and warm atmosphere in this room where no model body exists and underwear clad workers assume awkward positions in order to slap with efficacy. There’s this… celebration of our need for relaxation and respit here. This lovely release of everything other than that relaxation and respit. Who gives a hoot about the geometric shape or mass of your breasts, bottom, thighs or upper arms here?

I honestly don’t know if all of this wonderful mental relaxation is a product of the heat and cold, scents, sounds or intention. I don’t care. I just know that it relaxes my body and soul.


I bought an ukulele and have begun teaching myself a few cords. I’m also taking a script writing class and continue experimentation with watercolors (as opposed to the acrylic paints, with which I’m much more comfortable). I’m really making a lot of effort to continue learning wherever and whenever possible.

All this on an island where I am constantly surrounded by and do not speak the native language and am trying to absorb and understand a culture that is seemingly entirely separate from my own.

… and it’s working. I’m not putting pressure on myself to learn any of these now. In fact, I’m giving myself permission to be awful at everything I’m attempting to learn. THAT permission to fail is much more foreign to me than the language here and I secretly love it. I love my immature paintings, fumbled strummed cords and garbled language and misunderstandings. Because that permission to fail is so foreign and thrilling… it’s exciting to finish something and say “wow, I really fucked that up – and it’s okay!”


What will I fuck up next? surfing? Well, maybe I won’t go quite that far… but I could try making nice with someone I really don’t like… or perhaps shutting the hell up when every fiber of my being wants to shout about something.

I’ll tell you what – something that’s been really pretty cool is giving myself permission to fail while meditating. Actually, that may just be the key to meditating for me… FAILURE to keep my mind in one place for more than a millisecond!

Okay, so to wrap this up… I’m discovering that my success in any one attempt/field/project does not define me. My ATTEMPT and the honest outcome of it – now that’s the sweet stuff.

Define me? Oh, who the hell cares. I don’t think I really need to do that anymore. Do you?

I know full well that most of these will get better with time. I also know full well that my [perfectionist] nature is also getting better with time. Who knows, a few more awful renditions of Under the Boardwalk on my ukulele, another awful scene written by Donna and another mispronunciation of a really common name here in Hawaii and I just may learn to never again beat myself up for anything less than perfection!