The tiny, steamy room held big lessons
The room was no bigger than a New York Starbucks -- only here, Korean grandmothers were unabashedly scrubbing themselves from head to toe. Some chatted with friends, others enjoyed the solace of simply being in the room, but no one looked up. I was naked and they did not care.
In the privacy of this basement bathhouse, these women who I perceived as so concerned with being looked at, being beheld as objects of beauty, weren't aiming for perfection.
I beelined for the first tub I saw, praying I was stepping into a bathing pool instead of the bathhouse's only drinking water supply. I sat fascinated by the freedom of my own nakedness and the obliviousness of the women around me. It didn't shock them to see a naked 26-year-old traveler bouncing from 70-degree to 80-degree water in an attempt to understand the difference. The women only seemed to look up once when they noticed my tattoos -- but soon even my ink failed to hold their interest.
Unable to communicate with anyone around me, I slid deeper into the tub. Floating in the now-simmering tub of tit soup, my freckled forearms took on a sparkling shade of ruby rose. I looked up and admired the parade of boobs, stretch marks, and sagging skin around me. Each body was beautiful in its imperfections.