2013-08-01 : A Guide to the Sauna for Shy Americans
A Friendly Guide to Ropecon's After-party Sauna for Shy Americans and Other Shy Persons, with Charts and Illustrations
I just got back from a guest of honor gig at Ropecon in Helsinki. It was great! I'd recommend it to anyone, and I have some things to write about it.
However I'm going to start with this, a guide to the sauna. From the moment you arrive at the convention site, the people you meet are going to tell you that they hope you'll sauna with them. Being a shy American or other shy person, you'll be made anxious and wary! This is okay.
I was anxious and wary, even despite my pagan festival days and my enjoyment of hot tubs. I was so anxious and wary in fact that I didn't sauna during the before-party. I thought I might not sauna during the after-party either, but then I remembered that of course I was going to sauna, or else what, right? I mean, what, I'm going to not sauna? So I did, and it was the best choice.
After I went in the sauna, my gracious and eager hosts asked me to see if I could talk to my fellow shy American guest of honor and get him to sauna too. I knew that he wouldn't, and that's fine, I wasn't about to pressure him. This brings me to chart #1:
I'm not writing this guide to try to talk you into doing something you aren't comfortable with. I'm writing it to try to help you be more comfortable doing something wonderful!
If you have reasons other than shyness for not going in the sauna, like a religious obligation to modesty or something, then obviously you should make your decisions accordingly. But if your reluctance is based on shyness or shame, this guide is for you and I hope it helps.
You'll see early on that as people come out of the sauna, they're very comfortable walking around the party in just their towels. What you don't realize beforehand is that they aren't, like, naturally more comfy than you are. The sauna does that to them! You'll be comfy afterward too:
That decision to yes, sauna, and then when you start to undress, that's the very worst part. By the time you're in the shower before the sauna you're less anxious than when you started. Within 10 seconds of stepping through the sauna door, even the last lingering anxiety you might have will be gone for good forever.
The reason for this is that the sauna teaches us something very important, that we've forgotten. It teaches us that true dignity comes from our shared humanity. Things that we would normally find undignified or even terrifying, like being naked and having to adjust our towel in the middle of a party full of strangers, are based on an artificial and constructed dignity. Our care for this fake dignity simpley can't survive the pure and beautiful truth the sauna reminds us of.
Here's a chart that shows the kinds of things you might be worried about before you sauna, vs the single legitimate worry you should have:
And here's a chart that shows how the sauna changes what you think about, before, during and after:
After you sauna, you can't get dressed again right away. You won't want to! You're all wet. You've been pouring sweat. The night air is so beautiful, and everything is made of bliss. You might want to go jump in the sea (when there's not an algae problem, as there was during my visit). You'll go back in the sauna soon. Dressing again would interfere with everything good.
If you're worried about walking around in just a towel after you sauna, you don't have to worry, everything will be fine and your simple humanity guarantees you a dignity that nothing can take away. But if you're still worried, here's a bonus technique for you. Bring a bathrobe. People will wish they'd thought to bring one too.
Being a shy American, this next bit gives me reluctance to write about. It's the bit about sex.
We shy Americans and perhaps other shy persons, especially we shy feminists, have kind of a prob with nudity. We think that advertising, the patriarchy, and HBO etc have successfully sexualized nudity, fetishized it. We think that the story nudity tells us is fundamentally a sexual one.
But it's not true. What they've really sexualized and fetishized is near-nudity, implied nudity, the anticipation of nudity, non-consensual nudity, glimpsed nudity, coy nudity. It's easy to see this: frank nudity, the universal human nudity with which we are all born and all die, is not the stuff of a vodka billboard or a tits-and-swords HBO drama. Nudity tells different stories in non-sexual circumstances than it tells in sexual ones.
Is the sauna sexy? Kind of! But it's also profoundly sexually disarming. Here's a chart:
Before the sauna, having attractive people walking around in towels is pretty charged, right? It's easy to suppose that in the sauna, where they're all actually naked, even the very most attractive of them, it's super duper charged.
But no. A sauna is like a billion degrees hot! Seriously, when someone throws water on the rocks and that steam hits you, it's close to boiling temperature. Your reptile brain is concerned with surviving in there, not with mating.
Your nakedness to the people in the sauna with you, and theirs to you, tells a different story than the sex story. It tells the story of your and their equal and universal humanity.
This brings me to my last topic. Ropecon's after-party, everyone will be eager to tell you, features two things: the sauna, of course, and a thing called "coed naked seaman wrestling."
Don't be dismayed. Seaman wrestling, even naked and coed, isn't the perilously lewd groping affair you're imagining:
They conduct it on a dirt path above a nettle bed. Practically no contestants get thrown into the nettles, because all you have to do is shift your opponent's feet, not throw them down. A few fall in the dirt and come up muddy.
You don't have to compete. I didn't compete; it's a game of size and skill, and I couldn't possibly win on either.
But it's a great example of the profound and inalienable dignity that your humanity guarantees you, that the sauna reminds us of. Under normal circumstances, coed naked seaman wrestling would be like super undignified. After the sauna, it's fine. It's funny and comfortable.
We're all human here. There's nothing to be ashamed of. It's fine.
1. On 2013-08-01, jbuchert said:
2. On 2013-08-01, Weeks said:
3. On 2013-08-01, Rickard said:
4. On 2013-08-01, E. Torner said:
5. On 2013-08-02, happeningfish said:
6. On 2013-08-02, Arttu said:
7. On 2013-08-02, l984 said:
8. On 2013-08-02, definitelyhuman said:
9. On 2013-08-02, definitelyhuman said:
10. On 2013-08-02, finn said:
11. On 2013-08-02, Jari S. said:
12. On 2013-08-02, aseaemba said:
13. On 2013-08-02, Idle said:
14. On 2013-08-02, Notitle said:
15. On 2013-08-02, Vincent said:
16. On 2013-08-02, Etsu said:
17. On 2013-08-02, greuh said:
18. On 2013-08-02, anotherfinn said:
19. On 2013-08-02, It's vihta, not vasta said:
20. On 2013-08-02, gb steve said:
21. On 2013-08-02, Vincent said:
22. On 2013-08-02, finn said:
23. On 2013-08-02, Erikiwa said:
24. On 2013-08-02, Kultsi said:
25. On 2013-08-02, Hamlet said:
26. On 2013-08-02, Meg said:
27. On 2013-08-02, Duller said:
28. On 2013-08-02, Vincent said:
29. On 2013-08-02, jjohannes said:
30. On 2013-08-02, An another Finn said:
31. On 2013-08-02, Jenni said:
32. On 2013-08-02, Jaakko said:
33. On 2013-08-02, Puuhkaja said:
34. On 2013-08-02, nerdwerds said:
35. On 2013-08-02, GB Steve said:
36. On 2013-08-02, human said:
37. On 2013-08-02, irve said:
38. On 2013-08-02, np said:
39. On 2013-08-02, Ben Lehman said:
40. On 2013-08-03, Gordon said:
41. On 2013-08-03, Mike Pohjola said:
42. On 2013-08-03, yetanotherfinn said:
43. On 2013-08-04, Ile (Finnish, early 30s) said:
44. On 2013-08-05, Greenish said:
45. On 2013-08-07, texrat said:
46. On 2013-08-07, Jerry said:
47. On 2013-08-08, Gordon said:
48. On 2013-08-11, yetanotherfinn said: