I Just Cannot Stop Being Awkwardly Naked in Front of Strangers

By Jen Mann - 9:30 AM

One would think that after four-ish decades in this skin I might have learned a few lessons about my ability to handle being naked in front of other people.

You would be wrong.

I mean, I do know that I don't like it. I can just about handle it when medically necessary, but I’ve never been one to comfortably change in front of my girlfriends or skinny dip—no matter how much tequila was involved.

And yet, here I am. At a spa, curled up in my oversized robe, rocking in a corner of the locker room because I thought I’d try to get a body scrub and wrap again.
If you never heard about my first attempt at this “relaxing” procedure, I wrote about it here (opening chapter, because my humiliation is apparently good entertainment). In short: it did not go well. Unless you consider a vagina slapping to be a refreshing way to spend $100.

Anyway. Because I am an eternal optimist with a short memory, I booked myself the Aroma De-Stress scrub and body wrap at an upscale spa with the rationalization that I’ve been working hard and deserved some pampering.
While waiting on the phone to confirm the appointment, I laughed to myself about how “de-stress” sounds a lot like “distress” when you say it out loud. Despite a college education in English literature and career as a writer, I completely missed this blatant red flag of foreshadowing, and happily leapt from the waiting room lounger when my name was called the next day.

A lovely lady with an accent I couldn't quite place led me to a dark room with a table, sink, and discreet shower with a dark curtain in the corner. She closed the door behind me and gestured for me to stand beside the table, as she stood opposite me. I noticed a folded-up plastic-wrapped shower cap on top of the covers, and thought it was nice of her to want to protect my hair from whatever concoction she was about to rub me with.

“Thees ees yer shower cap.”

I nodded.

Then she moved it aside, and picked up two other plastic-wrapped squares so tiny I could not see them beneath the miniscule clear shower cap.

“Thees ees yer modesty bra—one saahz feets ohhl.”

She then proceeded to unwrap a black piece of…well, “fabric” is too generous a word. Something less than fabric and more than air. She held it up in front of her to show me how it goes on. I audibly laughed, but she ignored me and picked up the last of the tiny squares of folded mystery.

“Thees ees yer modesty underpahnts.”

“Oh, I don't need those,” I said as she unfolded the joke before me, “I’m wearing a bikini bottom right now.” I even pointed in the direction of my groinal area to make sure we were on the same page of understanding that I liked sturdy coverage in that region.

“NO. Yah wheel wear dis,” and she looked at me like she was a nanny brought in to control an unruly child.
As our eyes met, all the years of my inability to call people old enough to be my parents by their first names and ingrained respect for my elders to the point of falling over myself to hold doors for them or listen to their endless stories as they feed me butterscotch candies from snap-top purses slammed into me. I would not disrespect this woman’s wishes. I shall remove my swimsuit and wear that…thing she just dropped on the table because she said to do so.

I silently nodded, and she continued to tell me to strip naked, hang my robe by the door, put on the “modesty” undergarments and shower cap, and lay on the table facedown while she stepped out.

As the door clicked behind her, I picked up the bra.

Imagine a black human-sized surgical mask, the kind that has an elastic on each side to go behind your ears. Now try to place that on an elephant with two deflated trunks. This is what it was like for me to try to put this one-size-fits-all thing on. I apparently am not the “all” the label was talking about. The straps couldn’t go over my shoulders, so I pulled them to my upper arms and manually shoved my breasts into the half-a-Hot-Pocket-shaped sling, willing them to stay in there.

Then I took a breath, slid off my bikini bottom, shoved it in my robe pocket with a whimper, and picked up the underwear.

If you’d like to make a pair for your own spa adventures, here’s how to do it:
  1. Grab a white two-ply tissue.
  2. Throw away one ply.
  3. Get scissors and cut it in half the long way.
  4. Glue each end to opposing sides of a piece of longish grey hair shaped as a circle.
Voila! Modesty underpants!

If I am correct, 99.98% of all of humanity has dark crevices and, uh, stuff in places where underwear is to cover. The fact that a spa is calling this white dust barely held together by hope “modesty underwear” is the cruelest kind of joke for us prudes told to wear them in front of a stranger.

Oh—but I put them on anyway.

Please don’t picture it.

On goes the shower cap as well—which covered more than the bra and underwear put together—and up I went onto the table. I scootched down into place, and my lady bits immediately fell out of the underwear.

Yeah. I just said that.

Know how a guy’s berries shrink up into the warm comfort of their fleshy sleeping bag when exposed to cold water? Well, my muffin was wishing for that talent when the breeze hit. It’s not like I have IHOP’s finest hanging from my undercarriage. I promise you: everything is perfectly average in my downtown. But these drawers couldn’t keep even the tiniest of sock in place. They were useless.

The therapist gently knocked on the door and I reflexively answered, “Come in” as I adjusted the Kleenex in my crack as well as I could while pulling the sheets up, then prepared myself for a relaxing rubdown.
I know. Adorable, aren’t I?

Here’s how it went:

First I was slapped with hot oil. I paid someone to pour hot oil on my bare, sensitive skin. 

Then she added salt to my flesh with the same delicate touch as a starving huntsman rubbing rough branches together to start a fire in a chilly post-apocalyptic world. It was an odd sensation as she did this to my arms and back, but then she went for my bottom half.

She picked the sheet off my leg, folded it, and tucked it between my cheeks. Now, had I been wearing the full-coverage swimsuit bottom currently crammed into the pocket of the robe hanging by the door, this would have been fine. I’d be protected. But all I had between my most delicate of places and this surprisingly strong woman was 25% of a generic brand tissue.

Now, maybe I’m just an overly sensitive gal. Maybe the fact that I’ve had anal surgery twice makes me a bit more concerned about my back door’s comfort than the average spa patron. Or maybe the thought of salt and hot aromatherapy oils possibly entering a sensitive exit is something the general population wouldn't be too fond of, either. All I can say for sure is that while she manually sandblasted me I had to mentally send comforting thoughts to my taint, which was clenching with terror at the earthquake-like violations and flashes of light it was experiencing.

The next fifteen minutes was spent pigeon-toed and attempting to kegel my way into protecting my bits and pieces from becoming bruschetta at the hands of this sadist-slash-masseuse.

Then she told me to get into the shower and hand over my modesty garments.

I do as I’m told, wash off all the salt, and make like The Flash for the sheets. Again, I find myself totally naked in front of an aggressive stranger in a smock.

Now it’s time for the basting, so that’s ten more minutes of pigeon-toed kegels, then she wraps me up like a burrito.

Which was really quite pleasant.

Until my face betrayed me.

The tickle began by my right nostril. I wiggled my nose to wave off the itch, which only made it worse. 

Unfortunately, my hands were pinned at my sides beneath twenty-seven pounds of gel-saturated sheets, foil, heating pads, and blankets.

So of course my ear started to itch, too.

Not the lobe. Inside my ear. I had an inner ear itch, which I’m pretty sure is not a thing.

Unless, of course, you have a cockroach in your ear.


I unclenched my thighs for the first time in forty minutes and focused on willing the nostril/inner ear itches to cease. I promised to be a good person for the rest of my life or at least a solid week plus holidays if I could be guaranteed that there was no critter infestation of my face.

As I laid there apologizing to my butt and hoping the itches were just cruel nervous system misfires, I felt my cocoon being deftly disassembled, my robe being placed on my chest, and heard the therapist tell me my time was up. Golly, so soon? It was just getting fun! She stepped out, I robed up, dove into my discarded bikini bottom, left the room without a backward glance, and followed her to the locker room, scratching the crap out of my nose and ears.

I thanked her and collapsed onto a bench by myself wondering why the hell I do these things when they just keep turning into embarrassing experiences that metaphorically scar both my naughty bits and emotional well-being.

When will I give up trying these wacko spa treatments each time I'm stressed out and away from my children, thinking that maybe the next one won’t be so bad? Why must I be so damned optimistic that eventually I’ll be able to actually relax while hired hands touch me in places I don't like strangers touching me?

Is it time for me to throw in the towel?


“Excuse me…I’m looking for Kim Bongiorno for the hot stone massage?”

Or maybe I’ll throw that towel in right after my next appointment.

Kim Bongiorno is an authorfreelance writer, and the award-winning blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. She lives in New Jersey with her handsome husband and two charmingly loud kids, who she pretends to listen to while playing on Facebook and Twitter. If she were less tired, she'd totally add something really clever to her bio so you'd never forget this moment.

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