Noteworthy Moments: Two Naked Chicks Just Shooting the Breeze
Human connection is everything to me. Without other people, we'd just be here, on our own, moving through life, and merely existing. That's my opinion anyway. I do think there is a time to be alone for self-reflection, planning, hanging, dancing, you name it. But for the most part, I believe life is meant to be spent with people.
And with that, sometimes people just walk into your life and make you ponder... make you question norms and societal staples... or just make you smile and laugh. In my case, I experienced all three a recent Friday evening at a local sauna here in Changwon. I'd had a serious crick in my left shoulder from only God knows what, and simple stretching wasn't doing it for me. I decided I needed to open those muscles up with a hot bath and some steam. After a short workout in the sauna's seriously outdated but effective gym, I went to the locker room to strip down and prepare to relax. If you don't know about Korean spas/saunas/bathhouses, let me tell you. You will be completely naked if you want to use the hot tubs, pools, or steam rooms. So, release those insecurities and let it all hang out, people. It's no secret that I'm a brown woman - so there's no point in playing the comparison game when it comes to being in a room full of naked women. I just don't look like anyone. On the contrary, though, I find more unity in collective nakedness than dissimilarities. #randomthought.
While I was giving myself a thorough scrub-down before entering the pools (this is imperative), I noticed the only young person in the spa looking and pointing at me. Maybe it was because of my stark differentness, or my tattoos, or piercings, or hair. Who even knows. I was just happy she wasn't one of my students! I have heard stories about that, haha. Either way, I wasn't bothered by the staring or pointing. I made my way to the bath adjacent the girl's and began to relax. Midway through closing my eyes, I noticed the old woman with the girl smiling and nodding at me. " Oh, great. I am accepted," I thought. Honestly, as comfortable with myself as I am, I still like to feel accepted in a group. #justbeingreal.
Old woman pushed little girl over to me, still smiling and nodding like an excited baby. Little girl proceeded to tell me that her name was Julia and that she was eight years old. After I told her my name and age, I was pretty sure there was no going back. She began to tell me about her family, her favorite animal, how her mother is an English teacher. How her teachers at her school are married and one is from Canada while the other from New York (very pertinent information, btw), how she knows how to swim, followed by her promptly doing a forward stroke in the small pool and nearly kicking me in the face - to which I just cheered and said "Good job!" (I'm in the business of encouraging, not tearing down, even if you almost knock my teeth out, haha).
I thought, that's enough appeasement for the day, and decided to move on to the wet sauna to, you know, get this damn crick out of my shoulder! Two minutes into my wet-sauna-session, I see a chubby, small, naked being standing on the other side of the misted door. None other than Julia! I motioned for her to come in. "Ahh..." she said, as she sat to relax "...so hot." I then decided that my shoulder would have to suffer another day and that I would dedicate my time to Julia and whatever she wanted to talk about. So we hopped from room to pool to room as she talked about whatever was on her mind. One of my favorite conversations was:
Julia: "Your skin is black!"
Nkem: "Well, brown, but yep."
Julia: "When you wake up in the morning is it like that?"
Nkem: "Yes, it's always like this. My skin color is random, like yours." (My best way of succinctly trying to explain that we don't choose our color.)
Julia: "Three years ago I went to Egypt and I slept on the sand and it was so hot under the sun and when I woke up my skin wasn't black and I was so surprised!"
Nkem: *stifles serious laughter*
Another funny moment later was when she commented that I have many "pins" on my body. Confused, I touched my hair where I'd just inserted two bobby pins. She clarified that my pins must have been ouchy, while touching her belly button. Ohhhh, piercings! "Yes, very ouchy!" Gotta make sure to emphasize this, because I don't want a later 10-year old Julia telling mommy she wants tattoos and piercings because of one very cool and exotic black lady she met while in the sauna two years back (*wink wink*).
You know, typically, I'd probably be focused on my nakedness, or the crick in my shoulder making me annoyed. But on that visit to the sauna, I was focused on learning about this little human. What made her happy; what she wanted to share with me; how comfortable we felt around each other as two naked chicks just shooting the breeze. It was nice to escape reality and revel in human connection in such a natural way.