The Skin I’m In – At the Korean Sauna

The Skin I’m In – At the Korean Sauna

Ms. Food Queen: Cooking Across Difference
November 2014

Christine Gregory

I am lying naked on a padded linoleum table while a heavyset Korean ajumma (middle aged woman) scrubs every inch of my body.  I catch a glimpse of the tiny rolls of dead skin left behind on her pink washrag. I see more bits on the table and all over the floor. Mortified, I shut my eyes.  My mind is racing.  I’m at a Korean sauna in Palisades, New Jersey with my mother and her dear friend.  We have all paid for a body scrub and a massage.  I am supposed to be relaxing, but instead I am silently freaking out. Bits of my brown skin are everywhere and I am worried about being judged.

I’m the only black woman in here.  The bath area is filled with Korean women of all ages and shapes.  It is a beautiful, communal space.  Not so much because of the décor, more because of how lovely it is to bare everything without judgment or shame. And yet I cannot seem to enjoy the moment…

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