Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Gay Man's First Experience at a Men's Bath House

My first experience with a men's bath house was during the American Bicentennial. It wasn't a gay bath house. Although I was gay, I'd never heard of a gay bath house in my home town and I was a far cry from my home town anyway. I was in London, England at the end of a 6-week European vacation. I guess I had crammed too much activity into my six week sprint across Europe because I was feeling run down, had a scratchy throat, stuffy nose and ached all over. It was April in London and the weather was cold and rainy which only added to my physical discomfort. I had read about the restorative value of steam rooms and saunas. The Romans had them. The Greeks had them. The Russian ones were noted for helping to mitigate the effects of severe hangovers. So, I decided to search out a place to remedy my run down state.

I ended up in a section of London where I had the address for what was called a Turkish bath house. I had no idea what to expect but I screwed up my courage, pushed through the door and went in. Once inside I found myself in a small lobby facing an overly made-up matronly attendant with pink hair and a florid complexion sitting within a small cage against the wall. There was a whiff of chlorine in the air which when mixed with the matron's ample perfume had already begun to clear my stuffy nose. I approached the cage, asked how much, paid my money and was handed a towel and a key to a locker. I had no idea what I was supposed to do after that so I told the attendant that it was my first time and asked her if she could tell me what to do. She smiled politely, told me to go through the curtain area and that she'd be in to show me around. I nodded that I understood but instead of moving from her stool she just started laughing. It was more of a high pitched cackle than a laugh. She finally said in her very precise British accent, "You Americans are so funny. We're not as liberal as you are. I can't go in there with you. It's for men only, luv! You'll see the lockers directly in front of you. Change into your towel, lock your clothes away and have a good look around. You'll get the hang of it in no time."

Well, I did as instructed, still smarting a bit from the matron's teasing and feeling more than a little embarrassed by my massive if not youthful gullibility. Who would have thought that we Americans were all that liberal anyway? She was right about one thing, though. Once I started looking around, it seemed fairly easy to figure things out. There was no gym equipment. The physical fitness craze hadn't made it to England just then but there was a steam room, a dry sauna, a whirlpool, a luxurious swimming pool, showers and a special room for what was called a "soap massage." My "gaydar" told me that there were a few gay guys around but for the most part there was nothing really overtly gay about the place. So, I set off to experience all the amenities that my newly found Turkish bath had to offer.

And sample I did. I tried out all that the bath house had to offer. The only real mistake I made was jumping into what I thought was a regular swimming pool just after coming out of the steam room. What I didn't know was that the swimming pool was filled with water so frigid that it could have come directly from the North Sea. Had I not been so young and with a healthy heart, I might have just succumbed to instant cardiac arrest due to the abrupt temperature change the minute I hit the icy water. I ended my bath house experience with the "soap massage" which was exactly what it sounded like. A big brute of a man soaped me down and gave me the massage of a lifetime. I could have done that a couple more times with him but by then I'd already spent most of the afternoon at the bath house and it was time to go.

Reluctantly I showered, got dressed and bid my rosy matron a fond farewell. I stepped out into London's miserable weather only to discover that I was somehow immune to it. I'd never felt better. My energy was back. I no longer had a scratchy throat and was breathing freely. I was on top of the world and could honestly say that there was a restorative value to my visit. It wasn't to be my last visit to a bath house. My next visit would be to a gay bath house but more about that in my next post. Until then, why not check out our website at for more information on our locations and facilities. We have everything you'll need, minus the pink-haired matron at the door, to give yourself a well deserved lift in spirit and well being.


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