This story takes place in the not-so-distant past at the Orange County Burke-Williams. Burke-Williams is a day spa I used to go to in West Hollywood when I lived in LA. They have a posh spa area you go hang out in before you get your scheduled massage. The spa room has saunas, hot tubs, showers, a roaring fire and special soaking tubs. They stock it with fluffy towels, bowls of fresh fruit and always-full pitchers of ice water w/ lemon slices in them. They provide you with a thick robe and a pair of terry-cloth slippers. The spa areas are gender-segregated so while you're in the spa, you don't wear clothes. You soak in the tubs, use their fancy moisturizers, etc.. and when they call your name for your massage, you put on your robe, and walk down the hushed (and non-gender segregated) hallway to a private room.
Although I had never been to the Orange County Burke-Williams before, the set-up was familiar. I checked in and got my spa-issued robe. I found my locker, took off my clothes, and put on the robe. I went over to the hot tub, slipped off the robe and stepping into the steaming water. I had lucked out. The spa was completely empty, so I leaned my head back and sort of blissed out in the bubbling water.
I could hear people starting to file in. Some people came in alone, some in groups. One group seemed to be in for a special occasion like a wedding party or Girls’ Day Out. I heard the Girls’ Day Out group coming over to my hot tub and I idly glanced up. Using some keen powers of observation, I noticed something immediately--everyone was wearing bathing suits. If you were reading carefully, you may recall that I most assuredly was not. More alarmed now, I looked behind me and surveyed the rest of the spa. Everyone was in bathing suits. It was then I realized some information that would have been helpful to know a bit earlier--people in LA go naked in spas, people in Orange County do not. I sank lower in the water, hoping the bubbles would obscure the now-shameful fact of my nakedness.
I considered the situation. It did not seem good. Not at all! I was inappropriately naked in public! Holy fuck! It was just like that dream where you're naked at school!
It WAS just like that dream. Which meant that the situation wasn't entirely unfamiliar. I had been in this situation before--at least in my mind--and knew just what to do. I would act like I was NOT naked, and perhaps no one would notice.
I waited for a few minutes on the off chance that everyone would suddenly leave and I could exit the tub in peace. This did not happen. So chanting the silent mantra to myself--"I am a cool European chick who does not share your silly American hang-ups"--I stepped out of the tub, dripping in my unwanted naked glory and made the long long long walk to the safety of my robe. I did not tarry, but I at least tried to exit the pool with some sort of naked dignity. I guess I succeeded, but I don't know for sure. I didn't make eye contact with anyone. I wasn't that fucking brave.