As I was getting ready to tell this story the first time, I realized that I have a weird pattern of being naked with grandmas around the world. (I really don't know of a better way to say that without coming across as a creep, btw.)
It all started a few years ago when I was sent for work to Siberia in the middle of winter and the airlines lost my luggage. Between the fact that I was bouncing around between cities (and the airlines wouldn't deliver my stuff) to my packed schedule for work, I ended up just having to wear the same clothes I flew in for a week before being able to go shopping. My store options were limited being in the middle of nowhere, but at this point I didn't even care. There was a language barrier so the store clerks just started pulling on my clothes and taking things off to find my sizes. I just stood there and let it all happen like "yes, JB, embrace this moment of humility."
Then when I was in Turkey there are the Turkish baths where everyone is naked, grandmas and the young. Same thing while at the baths in Hungary. However, when I was in Thailand with my friend Nicole we decided to get massages and while comparing experiences afterward, we realized that my massage was quite different than hers. "Wait, so I just got felt up by a Thai grandma?!"
Anyways, back to Morocco!
So on my travels I don't buy myself souvenirs or things like that; I'd rather use that money for experiences of the local life. While planning for my trip to Morocco I knew that I wanted to try out a hammam (their version of a Turkish bath/spa). After I booked my stay at Riad L'Etoile D'Orient in Marrakech, I contacted them to make an appointment for a traditional hammam steam, body scrub, and massage (or so I thought).
It was finally the afternoon of my appointment and I excitedly went down to the front desk. The receptionist told me the lady would be ready soon, but to go back to my room and take off all my clothes and just come back with my robe. Have you ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty? You know the scene where he's already God with all of his powers and he's about to get undressed for Jennifer Aniston and in just one swift movement all his clothes came off? That was pretty much me. I was so ready for this.
Fun fact: I normally don't like when strangers (or people in general) touch me, but when it comes to massages I am all for it. Like, "yes, get into those muscles and make them hurt. Go for it."
She finally has the room prepared and motions for me to come closer. Keep in mind that she doesn't speak English and I'm doing my best to keep up with what she's trying to say. The room is downstairs of the riad, and is a closed-in space without windows and made of marble/stone. There is a bench connected to the wall that lines the perimeter, and on the right side of the room is a tub/sink/faucet area.
At this point she proceeds to start undoing my robe and taking it off me. I'm thinking to myself, "oh, wow, she didn't even buy me a drink first and she's already going in for the kill. Alright, let's do this." Now that I'm standing there awkwardly, buck naked and without shame, she then brings me this disposable "underwear." It was really a stretchy piece of string with a two-inch wide swath of fabric, the same kind of fabric as the robes they give you at the doctor's office.
Now it's go time.
The first step is to take her special bowl (see photo above) and just soak me by chucking water my way. Gotta prep that skin! Next comes this jelly/oil substance that she slathers all over your body. I'm now feeling like this is the marinade and I'm dinner. Once she does that, she then leaves the room. I have no idea how long she'll be gone for or what I'm really supposed to be doing while she's gone, so I just sit there. All of a sudden this noise starts coming from the walls that sounds like the depths of hell are opening. Turns out it was the water heating up because ten seconds later steam starts pouring into the room from different vents.
Some time later (I'd give you an estimate, but I'm really not good with time) she comes back into the room and throws more water on me with her bowl. Next she puts on this glove that I assure you can only be made of sand paper, and she starts the body scrub phase. It was as if I've never exfoliated or dry brushed my skin in my life. I'm pretty sure she rubbed off all my epidermal layers of skin and I might just have a layer or two of dermal skin remaining. To watch my skin fall off like that was both disgusting and exciting all at the same time. Like a bad car accident, I couldn't look away and she could tell I was into it.
More bowls! More water! More rinsing!
I was expecting the next step of using a special black soap to clean off from the body scrub. I was not expecting to be fully bathed. From the side of the room she brings over this plastic stool for me to sit on so that I'm closer to the tub/faucet. She starts taking out the elastic from my hair and then washes my (recently dyed, thanks, Portugal!) locks. Now, don't get me wrong, I love going to the salon and having someone else wash my hair. But when you're sitting there completely naked (oh yeah, the disposable skivvies had to come off by this point - don't ask me why), it's a bit intimate and vulnerable to have someone washing your hair. Even more so when they then grab a sponge and then start bathing you like a two-year-old. I'm talking like grabbing my arm and holding it above my head and everything. This shouldn't be happening as an adult?! I embraced my humility and tried to stifle my giggles.
She then grabs me by the wrist and leads me into the room next door because it's massage time. Ohhh man.
She instructs me to lay face down on the massage table and then covers me with a towel. What's the point when she's already seen everything? She starts to massage one leg, covers it, moves on to the next leg, covers it. Then she decides, "ya know what, Imma do both legs at the same time." The towel comes all the way up and she starts simultaneously massaging both legs at once, and then proceeds to stretch my legs up toward my back. At this point, she's just fucking with me, right? Like this can't really be part of the massage, right? Is she trying to see how much I can stretch or does she think this is good for my muscles? So many questions are running through my mind right now, but the biggest thought I'm having is "woman, you are all up in there with the money shot and I just met you like an hour ago."
Apparently stretching my legs like that wasn't good enough. Now she climbs on top of the table to really get into my back muscles while on top of me. I just keep reminding myself that I paid for this. After she's done with the back side of me, she has me flip over and then massages the front side. This includes a head/scalp massage that left me with some crazy hair afterward.
Once the massage is over she puts my robe back on me, ties the band and sends me on the way with a funny look. I so badly wish we could communicate so I can ask her if this is how it goes for everyone or did I just get the Wednesday special?
tl;dr - I have this weird habit of getting naked around the world with grandmas. Might have paid to be semi-molested, might have had a new cultural experience, might have liked it.
I’ve found that life is always better when looking at the bright side. I’m a creative and inspired communicator with experience in marketing, public relations, new media + graphic design.