The other week, I went with a friend to a Japanese bath house.
If you’ve never been to one before, it looks a lot like a spa, with massage rooms and soft music and lavender-scented everything. The main space is the communal bath area.
In this particular bath house, there were two large baths—one warm, one cold—a steam room, and a sauna. All around this space, there were showers and sinks to bathe yourself before getting in the baths (yes, a pre-bath bath).
It was a super relaxing experience. But the best part? Everyone is naked. (Okay, optionally naked, but I love being naked, so…no option needed.)
And, oh myyyy gooodnesssss, was it beautiful.
I saw soft bodies. Thin bodies. Fat bodies. Cellulite. Dimples. Stretch marks. Freckles. Wrinkles.
All of it was gorgeous.
I went into this experience feeling excited for a relaxing day with a friend but left with a totally renewed reverence for the female body—not that I needed one, but reinforcement is always welcome.
Being surrounded by women who were walking comfortably and proudly in their gorgeous natural bodies was a pretty spectacular sight to see. And—side note—if this experience sounds at all sexual, it isn’t. It’s low-key.
It definitely got me thinking about how I would’ve reacted in this experience years back.
First of all, I wouldn’t have done something like this in the first place. Spending a day taking care of myself, naked, with other females—definitely not high on my priority list. But let’s pretend that I would’ve gotten myself into this bath house somehow anyway.
I would’ve spent the weeks leading up to it obsessively restricting my food, inevitably binge eating as my body’s way of backfiring and stressing about needing to take my clothes off in front of other people, fearing what others would think of my soft tummy and untoned legs.
I would’ve spent the hours in the bath house staring incessantly, painfully, and enviously at other women’s tummies, “Is she bigger than me? Is my stomach flatter than her tummy? I wish I had a body like that. I bet her life is perfect. And who does this other woman think she is? Her body isn’t even that nice.”
All woman-on-woman hate. I had no room for love, for appreciation, for celebration of other women.
This time around though, all I could think about was how fu*king beautiful each woman around me was. Not just her physical appearance, but how beautiful she was for walking in her natural divinity without hesitation.
I could feel the energy of the room so strongly: no competition, hate, or comparison happening amongst us. Just letting each individual spend her few hours pampering herself in the most natural of environments. Letting each woman be.
What if we went about our lives this way in the world? I don’t mean being naked all the time, though that’d be pretty awesome, but simply expecting nothing from each other beyond the naturalness of what we truly are? What if we celebrated the cellulite, the stretch marks, the weight, the things that show proof that we’ve actually been alive? What if we walked around feeling comfortable and proud about being so radically and honestly ourselves?
There’s something pretty magical about seeing a bunch of women feel so comfortable being stripped down to their bare nothingness.
All of it “out there” for the world to see. What’s even more magical is the powerful knowing that this “nothingness” is actually our everything.
Author: Kyla Sokoll-Ward
Image: Genessa Panainte / Unsplash
Editor: Sara Kärpänen