Rules of etiquette for getting naked in a sauna
As the first snow dusted the peaks in mid-September many of us began to consider all things winter. Snowsports, warm sweaters, minivans with Mississippi plates driving half the speed limit on dry roads with chains on the tires.
In addition to all that, I look forward to sweating, like a dyslexic trying to write a letter, in a sauna.
Unlike skiing, and visitors traveling at the speed of a glacier, saunas often involve the human body uncovered; therein lies the problem.
It is not easy being naked among strangers. There are some who contend nudity is the natural state of the human body, and that being the case, we should all revel in the freedom of a natural condition, rather than feel a Philistine excitement or shame.
These are the same people who wear welding goggles and bathrobes to nude beaches. Despite that, after a hard day of skiing, who can pass up the opportunity to bake like a potato in the sauna?
I’m not talking saunas in resorts, health clubs and community centers where clothing is required. I’m speaking of those wonderful wood-burning, cedar-built, human ovens found in private homes and backcountry huts.
I would like to make a few suggestions gathered from countless saunas and surveys I’ve conducted in more than 30 years of getting naked with strangers.
First of all, must of these rules are written with the male animal in mind – because men are louts. Most of us don’t mean to be so; it’s genetic.
The said truth is that men make up the lion’s share of felons, braggarts and sauna chumps. I plead occasional guilt to all charges.
Biff sauna suggestions – I use the word suggestion because the word “rules” sounds too rigid. (Sorry)
1) Clothing: In a word – optional. In Europe, they laugh at the foolish Americans who wear swimsuits in the sauna. They think of it as simmering in your own juices – bacteria basting – if you will. But if you feel more comfortable clothed, go for it.
What do those pompous Euros know? If it weren’t for modest Americans, the entire continent would be eating bratwurst for breakfast, and dancing the polka. In my circle of friends the only clothing ever worn is a Camelbak.
2) Posture: Above all, do not sit in the lotus position unless you’re among consenting Buddhists.
There is nothing worse than trying to digest a meal of beans and franks and have the guy across from you with legs akimbo.
Also, give the sweating stranger next to you some personal space.
I’ll quote the nuns who chaperoned my junior high dances “Save room for the Holy Ghost.”
3) Staring: Don’t. Not even at yourself.
4) Touching: Don’t touch unless asked to. Even if you’re asked to, don’t. If my wife is doing the asking, she probably has been drinking. Never grope while anyone else is there to witness.
5) Privacy: Realize that some people are slightly uptight when it comes to sweating naked, while sober, among strangers. These people are often easy to spot. Look for religious medallions, Christian fish stickers, flannel bathrobes with padlocks on the buttons. Realize these people, and some others, might prefer privacy. If possible, give them 15 or 20 minutes of solitude before you enter, wearing a thong and top hat.
Most of these suggestions are directed to saunas with strangers.
Among willing participants, all bets are off.
Just don’t make the assumption that silence connotes consent. Some people are too shy, polite, or even scared to share their feelings.
One more thing. If you drop something, kick it out the door, then pick it up.
Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA and KYSL radio and read in this and other fine periodicals. This is Mr. America’s last contemporarily written column for the season. He will return in mid-November.
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