when going to a spa means so much more
what it's like to be genderqueer in a naked space
illustration by liz riccardi
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When our best friend proposed that we visit Olympus, a women's spa just outside Seattle, I knew there wasn't a chance I'd allow myself to go. The Korean-run sanctuary struck me as something specifically for well-adjusted women to be naked, and I felt more like an unemployed person who was nervous being undressed, even alone. That being said, it also occurred to me that maybe the best thing you can do when you've just lost your job and are finally feeling your body heal from serious surgery is go to a spa whose motto is "Let us pamper your mind, body, and spirit" for an afternoon.
Fast-forward to our most recent trip to Seattle, which we took in December. My scar is quieter now and a part of me in a way that makes sense. And I have two jobs that are my callings. I am situated in myself and my life in ways I didn't anticipate, except maybe in fantasies.
My fiancée and I were being hosted by our aforementioned best friend, and two more friends of ours had traveled to Seattle so we could all spend the end of the year together. A trip to Olympus was inevitable. And with a gang of homegirls, not to mention a healed body and brain, I didn't think it was possible for me to be vulnerable.
To my surprise, it was no problem. I checked in, was given a robe and cap and towel identical to everyone else's and sent on my way. I wanted to throw my arms up like I had just sunk a three-point shot to win a playoffs game and was about to be lifted up by my teammates in a moment of true glory. But what came after that glorious moment, naturally, was a trip to the locker room.
I realized I had to go into it. And I realized it was full of women who were naked or in the middle of getting dressed or undressed. And I would have to get undressed too—and then be naked all afternoon.
Perhaps the perfect image of that balance is the Mugworts tea trough. The women I call my sisters (in fact I had just written them all cards which I signed with the words "in my sister I find my second self") and I gathered around the trough and filled bowls with it. We poured the tea on ourselves and each other; a new but also deeply familiar ritual, as rituals tend to feel.