When you picture date night with your spouse of almost 10 years, what comes to mind? Dinner and a movie? A live show? I decided to shake up date night this week and do something that probably hasn't crossed your mind. An evening out of Chicago, out of our attire, and into a whole new level of relaxation. Where did we go? King Spa & Sauna in Niles.
I had heard about King Spa from my dry cleaner, who for months has been insisting that I join her for what she describes as a Korean oasis of complete and utter relaxation and rejuvenation. Knowing that saunas involve showers and knowing that showers involve a lack of clothing, I begged off, feeling a bit timid.
However, my curiosity about the place lingered, and I finally convinced hubby to go with me. He was skeptical, but the favorable online reviews and a serious weeklong guilt trip (by yours truly) finally did him in. So Saturday night, as the clock struck 6:45 pm, we threw on some sweatpants, hopped in the car, and headed north.
The spa’s lobby seemed pretty quiet and unassuming. We quickly paid for our tickets, put our keychain bracelets on our wrists, and waved goodbye as we headed into our separate lockers rooms. “See you in 10!” I said merrily.
I entered the locker room, where a long corridor awaited me. As I started walking, a woman, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, told me (and not in the gentlest way, I have to say) that I should have already removed my shoes. I glanced behind me and realized there was a spot about 10 paces back with a line on the carpet signifying it was time to remove the kickers. I obediently went back.
After figuring out the shoe situation, I headed into the main locker area and was surprised to see so many women, lots and lots of women. Women of all shapes and sizes, all ages and colors, were chatting, primping, lotioning, chasing after toddlers, giggling, and having what looked to be the time of their lives.
Except for me, that is. I became like the Tin Man in the face of the Wizard, frozen with fear. I managed to wriggle out of my clothes and was given a towel the size of a washcloth and told to go shower. I headed over to what I thought were the showers but what turned out to be the locker room exit into the main — and co-ed — area.
Finally, with the help of the attendants, I got myself showered and changed into the women's uniform, which consisted of a pair of pink shorts and a pink T-shirt top. I headed out into the main area and looked for hubby. After about five minutes, I spotted him in his gray uniform, squinting into the abyss and looking as clueless as me. For some reason, he had decided not to wear his glasses. Not good. We started exploring.
My first thought was, “Wow, this is actually a pretty cool place.” Small sauna rooms, each with different themes and different ways of helping the body, encircled a large main room decorated in a cheery South Florida style. There was the salt room, amethyst room, gold room, and so on, each with its own way of rejuvenating and cleansing.
And, wow, was it social. Kids were running around, and large groups were eating together in a casual Korean bar/restaurant area. The room felt like one big happy community center. No phones and only two iPads could be seen, both being used by people who, at least from where I was sitting, did not look Korean.
Hubby and I headed into one of the rooms and lay down on mats with a few other people. The space was warm but not too hot, and if people were talking, they were doing it softly. Tick tock, tick tock. I started to count in my head the number of seconds before hubby would tell me he wanted to leave. Before I reached 30, I got the nudge. You know, the nudge. It’s the way marrieds tell each other to hand over the toothpaste or move out of the way when the other is blocking the fridge. I can tell by the depth of the nudge that there’s no room to negotiate. We get up.
We then tried the meditation area (after two minutes he got the nudge) and then the movie theater (movie was too scary for me, no nudge needed) and finally settled on foot massages. For 45 minutes, my feet were prodded, coaxed, and slightly mangled by a seemingly nice young man. I love massages, I really do. The problem is that I require pressure no greater than that of a feather skating across my skin. And since I know only enough about reflexology to alarm myself, I asked my masseur after a particularly painful jab in my foot’s arch if he thought I had cancer. He laughed, but didn’t answer.
After that, it was already time to head home. I have to admit that I was pretty bummed about leaving, especially because I wanted to hit the awesome hot baths in the women’s locker room before we left.
Would I go back? Definitely, but without hubby. I’d go back on my own or with some gal pals who are ready to laugh, be silly, and shake off the week’s stresses. What I loved most about the experience was being completely out of my comfort zone. All week, I’m supposed to be an expert, as a mom, wife, and business owner. It felt so good to realize how small my life and my problems actually are and that there are cultures right here, right next to me, that see the world through a similar yet different framework.
The experience was not necessarily the physical rejuvenation I was hoping for — and the Polish buffet afterward was not necessarily the best thing for my thighs — but all in all it was a date night with hubby I’ll never forget. For a few hours, it felt a lot like diving into parenthood together: novel, humbling, and full of surprises.
Got the pic here!