We spend a lot of time at a Korean Spa where women of all ages, sizes, races and comfort levels roam the bath house like relaxed cattle. At peak hours tubs of steaming hot herb-infused water, ice-cold H2O, and bubbling chlorinated agua are packed with ladies with the intention of detoxing.
That detoxification includes sweating, exfoliating and excreting bodily fluids and most of us are completely unaware of the latter. And that's OK – why ruin a pleasant and relaxing bath?
But last night, as we laid in the hot sauna with a wood block propping up our head, a small gaggle of ladies ignoring the “Please Be Quiet” sign on the door began to squawk about a woman in the adjacent jade steam room.
“She's on her period. Her PERIOD. Can you believe her?”
They all gasped in horror as if their waitress had revealed the frozen yogurt they had just devoured was, in fact, full-blown milk fat ice cream.
“You're not supposed to go in the baths with your PERIOD. That's just disgusting.”
And the drones murmured in unison, agreeing that a woman in the midst of her monthly menstrual cycle enjoying a bath house is the equivalent of a leper borrowing your lipstick.
What offended the women the most was the possibility that, if the leper in question sat in the bath too long, she might “leak” and contaminate the pure water.
Well sure, maybe. But besides the fact that tampons do a damn good job preventing that from happening anywhere the leper might be – both in the Korean spa and out in public wearing white pants – menstrual blood is the last thing they need to worry about. (If they feel like worrying unnecessarily.)
Any gyno will tell you that the vagina is self-cleansing, meaning it takes care of sloughing off and exfoliating (in a sense) itself through the month regardless of whether or not your period's started.
Discharge is common and happens regularly, and if you're sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of naked women there's a good chance that everyone's vaginas are secreting some kind of natural fluid. It's simply the normal function of the female body. It's not disgusting.
If you feel uncomfortable with this, any kind of communal bathing, swimming or other water-centric activity – hygiene-related or not – might not be your cup of tea.
But if you still are inclined to attend a Korean spa despite your phobia, keep your comments to yourself. It's taken decades to scrub off the negative connotation associated with the vagina, and we've got a ways to go. The last thing women need is one of our own taking one for the other team – especially when she's wrangling a cheer squad.
Still think vaginas are disgusting? Read about other cultures that not only appreciate them, but also host days-long festivals devoted to their seemingly magical abilities.