Last Friday night, I went with my sweetie to the Kabuki Spring and Spa in SF. My body loves the simple beauty of the Asian-themed sitting areas and baths, the warmth of the water and sauna. On your way into the steam room, you can pick up a cup of sea salt to gently exfoliate and massage your skin as you let the hot, moist air open and soothe your pores.
My first experience at the Kabuki was many years ago, when a couple of dear friends surprised me with a visit there to cheer me up after I’d broken my foot a couple months before. As I approached the entrance to the main bath area, I started wishing my towel covered me from head to toe. It’s clothing optional, women only on Fridays, but I hadn’t brought a swimsuit.
I wished a terry cloth burqua would materialize out of thin air.
Hovering at the threshold, I saw a group of three older women seated to my right in a group on low stools in front of a line of bowls and low faucets, whispering quietly and washing one anothers’ backs and hair. Their butts smooshed a little bit over the sides of the stools, their bodies reflecting their ages and lives, but they were reassuringly unconcerned about their appearance---entirely focused on taking affectionate and matter-of-fact care of one another. My eyes inexplicably teared up.
I want to be like that, some part of me whispered. That comfortable, that easy in my body whatever age or size I am.
Pausing to take a deep breath, I wandered further inside. No one spilled their cups of cucumber water, or held their hands over their eyes and ran away screaming at the sight of my stretch marks and cellulite. Everyone was apparently enjoying being in their own bodies too much to worry about mine. Gradually, as I let myself be soothed by the tinkly music and the warm waters, my body began to feel surprisingly normal among all these other bodies. At home. At ease.
At the baths all your fears about what people will think or say or do in response to your body melt away in the face of reality: no one really cares. There’s also a sneaky effect we’re not even consciously aware of: observing women who are comfortable in their differently sized bodies inspires each of us to do the same. This isn’t just wishful thinking: your brain is full of these little nerve cells called mirror neurons whose job is to map onto your body what you see other bodies doing. They are what allow you to pick up new dance moves from watching internet videos, or imitate a pose your yoga teacher demonstrates.
When you see a woman touch her body in a way that shows respect, affection, and enjoyment, your mirror neurons try to map that same behavior onto your body, supporting a positive feedback loop between your brain and your body that can help you move from anxiety in your body to ease and friendship.
My body feels so taken care of at the Kabuki… there are stacks of rolled towels, iced washcloths and cucumbers to put over your eyes (though I like to snack on them too), lounges to nap on, and little stations where you can pour yourself green tea or lemon water. They even have piles of cotton balls and Q-tips in the dressing area. Nothing says “You’re safe here” like a hundred Q-tips in a lacquered box.
Now down to the nitty gritty. How much would you expect to pay for an experience like this… $100 an hour? At least $75, right? No. You can go in and stay all day for $22. The ultimate Love Your Body date costs less than a tube of department store lipstick. Shh. It’s just our little secret, right?
Of course, if you’re headed for the Kabuki one day, call me up… I might just join you. I’ll wash your back if you wash mine.
What's your ultimate Love Your Body Playdate? Would love to hear your ideas and experiences!