An American in a Turkish Bath

Maybe I should have done a little more research on Turkish Baths before I booked our appointments. I thought I kinda understood what I was doing {some type of spa thing} but I guess I didn’t fully comprehend. I mean, do you know what a Turkish Bath really is? I guess I didn’t grow up in a way where I would know such a thing. I mean, I read this article here but I guess I still didn’t fully comprehend. Like why on earth would it be normal to sit around 99% naked while some other naked woman rubs you? Even as we were walking up to the Hamam and there were pictures of ladies in towels pouring bowls of water over each other and E asks, “So you’re gonna be doing that?” and I replied, “No, I mean…that’s how they did it in the old days…” Like I had a freaking clue.

Let me start by saying I am NOT a naked person. But I’m not a prude…or never really thought I was before. I’m pretty much the most open and foul mouthed and ridiculously candid of all my friends. Nothing’s off limits in conversation. But I am pretty much as far as you can get from being a naked person…In fact, the whole time I sat naked on cool white marble trying to grip with my toes from sliding off and having any of the bits still kept to myself be exposed to the world, being rubbed down by a strange naked women, I thought, “Oh, if my Fairy God Mother could see me now…” My anti-nudity has been a topic in many sessions with my FGM (or shrink as most people call it) and while we can’t really pinpoint an exact start of my aversion to nudity… I have extreme levels of body shame and regardless of the company, don’t want to be naked. In my defense, most of my friends aren’t really naked people either {perhaps more comfortable than me but we were never run around naked girls} and my friends who are more keen to disrobe are generally from different cultural backgrounds. I digress…the point is, this was the most uncomfortable I had been in my life.

Thank God we went to one of the oldest, nicest, highest ranked hamams in Turkey. Had it been even slightly skeezy I probably would have ran out. E and I entered {of course I made E an appointment. We both needed to experience all that was Turkey} at separate doors on opposite ends of the building. We wouldn’t see each other until we met outside after. I have read that some hamams don’t separate males and females and looking back, there is no way in hell I would have survived if men were around. I have also read that sometime a woman would have a man do the treatment. That would not have been kosher either. Especially as I recently realized I like massages better when a female is my masseuse and have sworn off ever having a man do one again. That nagging concern my bits are out….

Anyway. Right when I walked in I was confused. There room was circular with a very high ceiling in the middle, a pond, lounging cushions/benches set around the perimeter. Also around the perimeter, going up 3 or 4 floors there was wooden doors and little cubbies of rooms. Women in scant purple towels coming in and out of them. Truth be told, I saw one woman bustling in and out in her barely there towel and I just assumed she was an overly confident tourist wanting attention. {I later learned she was one of the employees, my bad.} Finally my eyes located the reception desk, I went and checked in, was shown to a locker and given a disposable thong, flip flops, and scant purple towel {SPT here forward} of my own and told to change. Once changed I walked back into the lounge area, when a buxom Turkish women in her own SPT came out and introduced herself and led me behind a closed door where women sat in the paper thongs on slabs of marbles, getting scrubbed down by hand by other women on their knees or bent over in front of them. Faucets with large marble bowels came out from the wall in rows. And I just kinda stood there in disbelief and in minor mental break down. WTF was this?!ayasofya-hurrem-sultan

I was led to the bathroom to wee and when I came out, led to another room while my woman {let’s call her Sarah because I couldn’t pronounce her name if I tried} motioned to me to go through the door into another great room where she motioned {more or less} for me to wait and then left. This room has a large, maybe octagonal slab of marble in the middle, with little inlets and rooms off the sides. There were naked women being rubbed and covered with bubbles all over the place and I just froze. Another woman shouted something in Turkish to me and motioned over towards one of the inlets. I shuffled over there trying not to fall on my ass on the wet, soapy floor. I took the step up and stood in the little inlet. I stood there for about 2 minutes not knowing where to look. The previous yelling woman yelled something else and motioned for me to sit. I was confused. If I sit, I’ll get my scant purple towel SPT wet. Because EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE is wet. Am I supposed to take it off? I’m not sitting here on a slab of marble by myself in this thong…. so I sat down still wrapped in my SPT. And waited. And waited. I tried to get comfortable but you can’t really lean back without sliding off the little raised bit of marble and onto your ass. And I didn’t know where to look. It appears Turkish woman are much better endowed in the bosom department. And there’s nothing to hold on to. Nakey women surrounded me and I was uncomfortable mentally and physically. It had seemed like 30 minutes and I was beginning to think I was being tested. I saw women lying on their backs covered with mounds (and I mean at least a foot high) of thick, soapy bubbles being rubbed down and I actually calmed down a bit. I thought great, this is that nicer package I signed up for…I won’t have to sit upright, naked in that other room getting rubbed down in front of all those women. I can handle a massage under the coverage of bubbles. I closed my eyes and practiced breathing techniques.

Sarah tapped me on the shoulder and I sprang out of relaxation. She grabbed and held my hand, with her other hand around the small of my back {beyond my general level of intimacy with a naked stranger} and gently guided me back into the original room. She pulled my arms up and unwrapped my towel and told me to sit. I did as I was told. And then began filling her shallow gold bowl (really a large dish} and splashing water over me. She asked if I wanted my hair wash and I said yes because it was going to get wet and turn into an afro anyway, might as well get it washed. I sat there, was moved forward and backward, arms raised and lowered, stood up and sat back down, while Sarah scrubbed me all over with a fine mesh cloth bag over her hand. I kept my eyes clothes. Since I kind of have an aversion {i.e. fear} of water, when it came time to rinse my hair I had a minor freak out feeling like I was being water boarded and took a bunch of water up my nose. I tried to open my eyes and my contacts had moved. I was a blind sitting duck about to have a true mental collapse there for a few minutes.ayasofya-hurrem-sultan-2

She alternated between warm and cold water {from what I gathered she was saying, it’s so warm in the other room you need to cool yourself down or something? Anyway, cold water intermittently being tossed on you did not help the water boarding feeling or me catching my breath} until I was done, led me to stand up, put my arms up and she wrapped my towel around me. You kind of feel as if you’re a helpless baby. It’s very strange. She then led me back into the great room and into a side room where she had a big bowl of mud. She had me stand and removed my towel and began covering my body with mud. Every square inch other than what lies under the disposable thong, which isn’t much. The same can be said for the former scrubbing. Every square inch. I was then sat on slippery marble step, whilst covered in mud, in disposable thong {SPT nowhere to be found} for the mud to soak in. She brought me water and then left to do god knows what… And I started trying to focus on my breathing again.

Luckily, I was alone in this room. I don’t know if I would have been able to hang in there if I was surrounded by other naked, mud-clad women. If it was hard to stay upright before…the mud certainly wasn’t making it easier. It was then that I started focusing on all the sounds in the place. All the marble and tiles, high ceilings, women yelling to each other in Turkish, the faucets (I’m talking like 50} pouring out water, women dropping gold bowels, splashing…. it was loud and super surreal. Especially as I’m looking down at my mud covered self, trying to tighten my abs and not slide off the step. I was thinking what steps of my life led me here, naked, alone and waiting to be scrubbed down by a strange naked woman who didn’t speak English.

Sarah came back and started rinsing all the mud off me, with hot and cold water. Until she led me {sans SPT} by holding my hand and another arm around my waist, to the octagonal slab where a woman across the way was laying being scrubbed down. She laid out my good old SPT {where was she hiding that?} on the slab and told me to lay on the back. It should be noted that when I’m saying anyone told me anything it was more or less a Turkish word I didn’t understand, an arm motion, and physically moving me. And then she started the bubbles. I don’t really know how to describe it. E says it was a net-type of bag and it was filled with soap and they’d ring it out over you and cover you with MOUNDS of bubbles. I did like this part. Probably because it was the most covered I’d been since I got there. And then they kinda rub you all over with bubbles. Including my stomach and ta-tas. A place no massage has ever taken me. At one point I was turned over on my stomach, where she would pull down the waist of my undies lower or pull it up higher (because it wasn’t a true thong…it didn’t go in between your cheeks, just over the crack}. After all that, I was led over to a side set of faucets, sat down, rinsed off and my hair washed. Then wrapped in now a larger white towel {again like a child}, and my hair done up in a towel. E later told me his hair {or more so head} was done the same way…. and each of our people told us as they did it, “Like sultan.” I was then led back into the entry lobby/lounge and sat down. I didn’t really know what was happening at this point. Someone else came out with a glass of water, glass of blackberry juice, and a cute little silver dish with a lid that had 2 Turkish delights in it. I enjoyed these treats and watched other people coming in for their appointments…. some with clearly as much confusion as I…some that seemed like regulars.turkish_bath_3

Eventually Sarah came back, dressed in a sort of scrubs outfit and led me up 2 flights of scary wooden stairs {I am still in my wet plastic sandals and feeling like I have nothing let to give after the battle royal with myself to not slide off marble slabs} to one of the little woods rooms along the circumference of the room. {Note: pictures weren’t allowed or obviously I’d have some more than what I could find online} I am still in my wet disposable thong. She unwraps my towel {you’d think at this point I’d get used to it…but nope…here I am in bright sunlight naked with this woman} and has me lay on my back for my massage. She does put a new, dry, SPT over my body while she massages my legs, but it isn’t long until she whips that off to do the stomach and chest massage. I mean, what’s really the point in it anyway. It being SPT. The women has seen and felt all the goods. I then roll over and get a back massage…. and a pretty good butt massage too. And then, scrubbed, cleaned, oiled up and naked…. I am done. She wraps me all up again and wishes me well as I try to navigate down the small, ever more slippery due to the oil, wooden flights of stairs in a daze, my contacts burry, to the changing room to get in some dry knickers and process what the hell just happened.

I came out and found E and I just said, “Tell me everything!” Because as weird as the whole thing was for me…I knew it’d be weird for E. His account is pretty much identical other than he got two cups of blackberry juice {lucky bastard} and his whole encounter was somehow 30 minutes shorter than mine.

It was my only Turkish bath of the trip…but I will say I didn’t learn my lesson, and went for a massage in Antalya. This was the description:IMG_2650 IMG_2651

I wanted a good chakra cleaning and I love the smell of sesame oil. Not wanting to make this another full on tale…I was walked into the room with the woman (I had tried to book the day prior but they only had men, THANK GOD I said I didn’t want a man) where she told me to take off all my clothes and handed me a new old friend of a disposable thong, and had me lay on my back on a table. No towels. No privacy. And then for the next 80 minutes rubbed me all over with sesame oil while this moon like contraption hung over my headed and poured a steady stream of sesame oil on my head {much more pleasant than it sounds} streamed onto my third eye. There was oil everywhere. I had more weird ta-ta and stomach massages. And afterward, was perhaps even more confused on what I had paid for. WHAT. THE. FUCK. I did feel like my chakras were the cleanest they’ve been in awhile…and I think people can notice.

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