Daybook · On Culture & Trends · On Places & Travel

The Dirty Parts of Clean

I really loved this piece by Katherine Ashenburg in Bookforum, about the dirty parts of bathing publicly. I'm not the type to strip right down in front of other people, but nor am I terribly modest in spa or bathing situations. I figure we all have the same parts, essentially.

Still, it takes a moment of adjustment to be down to your all-in-all in front of strangers–and that moment I certainly had this past October, when I experienced a hamam, or Turkish bath, at the Amrita Spa in Izmir.

The bath was described to me as "baby time", and it's basically just like getting scrubbed by your mother –only with a loofah, until you have no loose skin cells left anywhere, and I do mean anywhere on your bod. You lie on a heated stone platform for this procedure, in this case in the center of the room.  But there are… I suppose you'd consider them self-service areas…lining the perimeter of the room, and so as I was splayed, flayed scrub-a-dubbed, a few old Turkish women were hamam-ing themselves while chatting, and monitoring my progress.

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