Margaret Cho goes to a Korean-style spa in L.A. and gets a lot of nasty looks due to her tattoos:
“I told them that I really wanted to join, but I felt so weird about how I was treated. I told them that Korean culture is one thing, but this place is in Los Angeles. We are not in Korea right now. This is America. And it’s not like I enjoyed looking at their bodies that much. These were all women of various sizes and shapes and some, like me, bore the marks of a difficult life. My tattoos represent much of the pain and suffering I have endured. They are part of me, just like my scars, my fat, my eternal struggle with gravity. None of our bodies are ‘perfect’. We live in them. They aren’t supposed to be ‘perfect’. We are just us, perceived flaws and all. I am just only myself. I like a good scrub and a sauna, especially when you can watch Tiger Woods while it’s all going down.”
I know very little about Korean-American culture, but I was also struck by this — tattoos are so common in America that I can’t imagine how people, even older ones, would be repulsed by them. Annoyed or bothered maybe, but actually asking for someone to be removed from a spa? Crazy.
That said I’ve never been to a jimjilbang here in South Korea, despite being told many times that I’m missing out. I just don’t see the point. I have a perfectly good shower next to my bedroom.