No. 5 – My First Visit to a Health Spa

Editor’s Note – This isn’t the most crunchy of stories, but it’s still something my wife made me do, so it kind of feels the same in the end. Do crunchy people still go to spas? Yes, yes they do.

Crunchy people are still people.

One year my wife wanted to go to a health spa for our anniversary. In particular she had been wanting to go to a certain “hot springs” place in Washington State, so we went. And we got this package deal where they give you some free spa treatments…two mineral baths and hot towel wraps.

Now, right from the start, I wanted nothing to do with the spa treatments.  Not interested. I suggested that maybe she just do everything twice, but she said that she didn’t want to do that as it would take up too much time, I’d be alone all weekend.  Not the most romantic way to spend your anniversary. But then the alternative was that no one would use them, and they would be wasted. This presented a problem to my male mind:

Wasted Free Stuff VS. Spa Treatments

Which was the lesser of two evils? Spa treatments, or wasting free stuff? Because if the free spa treatments didn’t get used, then my hot package deal on the room was diminished! The free stuff was being wasted!  Right?

So finally, after weeks of discussion, I agreed to the spa treatments.

I tried to explain later that I did so under the assumption that we would be doing them together, somehow. It would be like a date thing, “I’m not here for me, I’m with her,” right? I was picturing maybe we’d have a private room or something, and the more I saw it like that, I started thinking that it could be OK. Maybe we could be wrapped into the same hot towel. That could be awesome.

I don’t know why I thought that was the way it was going to be.

So you go to this health spa place, and you’re thinking you’re going somewhere with your wife, but then someone takes her away, to a wonderful sounding place: The girl’s bathhouse. That sounds nice. But then where do they take you? The men’s bathhouse.

That is not a place that sounds interesting to me.

So we were there at the front desk of the spa and next thing I knew, my wife was gone, and this red-headed girl was taking me down a dark hallway. As we walked she asked me if I was excited. I looked her in the eyes and I explained that what I was doing was ‘free’.

I think she understood.

At the end of the dark hallway, she pointed me into an even darker entryway that was draped with fabric. It looked kind of like what I imagine the entrance to a brothel might look like, except the sign indicated that there would only be men inside, men who liked spa treatments.

I was uncomfortable with this.

The girl left. On my own now I went inside, it was super dark, there were glowing, flickering, candle-rock things everywhere, and somewhere a speaker was playing light, jazzy, carnival music. To my right were rooms with big curtains in which were bathtubs (more than one to a room?) and to my left were two rows of what looked like something out of an Egyptian tomb, people wrapped up and lying on a table, not moving. Again it was very dark, and all the flickering candlelight and trickling water sounds only enhanced the sense of being in some kind cavern or crypt.

Also no one seemed to be running the place. I just stood there in my bathrobe and swim trucks, clutching my receipt for like five minutes. Finally the bathhouse attendant materialized. I just held out my slip and he took me into a room with five bathtubs. He started filling one for me and told me he’d bring me some grapes. I was unsure what to do at this point. Eyeing the four other empty tubs I asked him if this was a swim-truck kind of thing or not…he said it was a ‘whatever I wanted it to be’ thing.

I was uncomfortable with this.

So I figured a bath’s a bath, I was pretty sure this was supposed to be a naked thing. And this guy was kind of like my doctor, but a doctor who brings me grapes. And again, it was pretty dark.

So finally I was getting my mineral bath, I was eating my grapes, and I was supposed to be in there for something like thirty minutes in total, although it took me at least twenty of those to actually relax somewhat. I had a towel over my face and just about the time I was starting to forget that I was lying naked in a men’s bathhouse, a set of bright florescent lights snapped on overhead, painfully visible through the towel over my eyes. We’re talking like ‘shopping at Target’ bright. I heard the curtain open and the bathhouse guy came in and started rummaging around the other tubs. He said he was looking for someone’s lost keys.

I was uncomfortable with this.

The icing on the cake was that when he finally left, he forgot to turn out the bright lights or even close the curtain. I was not relaxed anymore.

The problem kind of fixed itself a few minutes later though when the power went out. The music stopped, everything went completely dark. All those noises you don’t notice until they’re gone, went away. I started wondering what kind of situations cause the lights to go out in a big facility like this, a facility which undoubtably has backup generators. I pondered what it might be like to flee a burning building, naked, into the strong arms of a Washington State fireman.

A few more minutes went by and the power kicked back on. Thankfully the lights didn’t come back on at all (not even the dim ones that were on the whole time) but by then I was SO done with my bath. But it seemed like more than a half hour had gone by, and I began to worry. What if I was supposed to tell him when I was done? I didn’t know how these things worked. What if I was in here for hours? What if I have to spend our whole anniversary in bathhouse purgatory?!

Finally I heard the bathhouse guy getting some other guys out of their tubs, guys I was pretty sure got put into tubs just before me, so I was pretty sure that I was on track, and that he was going to come get me soon.

So I was lying there, listening to naked men get out of baths and be wrapped in hot towels. And I could hear them talking, and I heard the bathhouse guy say “Oh, is that a tattoo?”

I was uncomfortable with this.

Finally he got me out. No mention of the random power outage, like it never happened. He then took me over to the hot towel area and origami’ed me in into half a dozen towels. But by this point, my nervous system was on high alert, I could not relax, no matter how hot the towels were or how many he wrapped me in, it just was not working.

I heard other guys with soft voices leaving and thanking the bath attendant for this ‘wonderful experience.’ I tried to imagine myself saying that to him as it came my turn to leave, but I just couldn’t seem to find it. Like trying to read the newspaper in a dream.

Finally it was over, my towels were removed. I think at some point in this process my trunks had been put back on, so at least the naked part was over. Possibly I gave the attendant some kind of tip, and then immediately repressed the memory so I can’t be sure.

Repressing memories is a key life skill.

The rest of the anniversary was, I presume, amazing. Frankly though, I don’t remember anything much past the towels.

Repressing memories isn’t an exact science.


“…as you know, trying to sleep while pregnant usually requires thousands and thousands of pillows.  Five or six months out of every pregnancy, husbands have dreams of cuddling with the Michelin Man…”