Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Turkish Bath...with children

When I was a student in Japan, I distinctly remember one night when all us girls were sleeping in a dormitory-style room with the study abroad director's wife as chaperone. She got changed into her jammies right there in front of us and laughingly tossed off some comment like, "giving birth to five children has destroyed most of my sense of modesty, sorry." At the time, I didn't really understand that. Now, having given birth to two children, I TOTALLY DO.

Outside the Turkish Bath in Goreme.
As manifest by the fact that today, I went to a Turkish Bath, with my kids. The Turkish bath experience requires one to be mostly or entirely naked for vast swaths of time, and there's no point in going at all if you're not down with that. It's not fleeting, discreet nudity, either. You are naked, and there are people scrubbing the heck out of your skin with exfoliaing cloths, and then rubbing you down with strong soap, and then rinsing you off, all in an open, women-only area where other bathers are enjoying the same treatment. Ready to hear more?

I took the girls in with me and although the hammam didn't charge them an admission fee, they were each issued towels and slippers, which they loved. First stop was the facial mask. Magdalena and I opted in; Miriam opted out. Then it was on to the sauna, where I didn't get to spend nearly enough time - the girls' constitutions couldn't handle it, which is fine. So we headed out to rinse off the masks in the shower and get prepped for our scrubbing/washing/massage.

That's where the nakedness comes in. Perhaps if I had insisted, I could have kept a towel on to cover strategic parts of my body, but in those circumstances, it would have been ridiculous. It was so obvious that we were all just women in there, just bodies, and while it was briefly a little sad to be reminded of what pre-childbearing boobs look like, it was also refreshing to just be at ease with my body for once.

Once again, Magdalena and I opted in to the scrubbing and washing and massage. Miriam was content to observe intently. After we were all as clean as the dickens, we headed to a large pool of cool water to relax. A sign at the entrance to the pool gave me pause: "Entering the pool with ironcloth or without bannet or swimming costume is exactly forbidden." Honestly, I couldn't discern what it was trying to tell me, so we went in with our swimming suits on and called it good.

Afterward, we enjoyed some apple tea and then undid most of our relaxation by walking uphill in the noon heat to get back to our hotel. Still, I'm calling this a net positive - it was an awesome experience, and I'm kicking myself for not going to the hammam weekly back when we lived in Syria where it is dirt cheap to do so. Then again, I hadn't given birth to children yet at that time of my life, so my pesky sense of modesty would have kept me from enjoying what would have been a great deal of relaxing fun. What a relief to be free to enjoy it at last, am I right?


Crys said...

I remember when I used to have a sense of modesty, back in the day. Who knew after children I wouldn't even squirm when my four year old jumped in the shower with me and said, "Why do you have hair on your privates?" There are blessing to this...I totally agree with you though, having children has given me a comfort with my body that I never thought possible. How does that even make sense...I mean things are worse then ever, but I've just never been this content :)

Crys said...

PS, your turkish bath sounds totally delightful...lucky girls!

Anna said...

Ha! Pre-child modesty. I remember that. The turkish bath sounds awesome.

Also, inspired by your Briget-cation, I am having an Anna-cation this weekend. I am so excited!

Liz Johnson said...

Ha! That's awesome. What has Miriam said about the whole thing?

Sometimes I wonder when/how/why we develop that sense of modesty. I mean, we don't have it as little kids, and we almost universally lose it after having kids. Is there a purpose for having it in the meantime? Is there a way to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexual vs. non-sexual nudity without modesty? Or is it necessary? This has been in my mind for a while.

Tia said...

Funny that you mentioned this. I was watching Law and Order SVU today and they were questioning this guy who worked at the Turkish Baths. You gave better info/details.

Sounds wonderful.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

My observation while raising 5 kids is that suddenly, around age 6-8 for boys and slightly younger for girls, they don't want to be seen running around in their underwear (or less) anymore. They instinctively become aware of their private selves. Interesting that it's approaching the age of baptism. Parents must take advantage of the natural modest tendency to educate and reinforce it. If parents ridicule a child's modesty they likely won't develop that life-long threshold of respect for their physical selves.

Amanda said...

I know that I'm enforcing it with Lillian. Ever since the whole "Dallin has a penis just like daddy" comment, I've tried to hit home the fact that you don't take off your clothes for the neighbor kids and that our bodies are special and not to be shared with just anyone. I try to bring an element of shame into it and make it more like we don't want to share our bodies because they are totally awesome. We'll see how well I do when she has her first Turkish bath opportunity.

Becky said...

What an interesting experience to hear about! I agree with you about pre-childbirth modesty, I think I would also add pre-marriage modesty (although that might be an LDS thing!).

Eevi said...

Sounds like you would fit in with the Finnish sauna culture just fine. I have two different modesty mind sets. When I am in Finland where the culture towards nudity (non-sexual) is very open, I have no issues undressing in front of people but when I am in the States, I am much more aware of the fact that people don't just get undressed in front of each other.

Susanne said...

How fun! I find it interesting how Miriam likes to observe, but Majd is right there in the middle of everything!

Bridget said...

I forgot to mention in the original post (I am all about that these days) that the girls had their swimsuits on the whole time. They were more comfortable that way, and so was I. :)


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