Scrubbing a naked stranger: my twist on Tinder's disposable dating culture #Relationships#bathtub#dating February 17 | Ariel Meadow Stallings offbeatbride Get Naked bathroom sign by Etsy seller S4StarSbySiSSy A couple Mondays ago, I went on a Tinder date. He was a hot guy who works in the arts, educated, successful, good looking (dimples! tall! rugged! great hair!). "What's something I should know about you before we meet?" I ask him, and he says, "I'm bi. Is that scary?" And I'm basically all, "No that's awesome! Me too! Yay!" and am very excited to meet him. We meet for drinks, and several things quickly become clear: This guy is about a month out from a devastating breakup. Out of respect for everyone's privacy, I'll leave out details, but they're not stuff like "cheating and heartbreak," they're more like "predatory crime." He is positively dripping with grief, betrayal, and (worst of all) shame. Like, I can practically see it. If my divorce deflated me from the inside out, this one's breakup is oozing out of every pore. There does not seem to be any chemistry. We hang out for a couple hours, drink, smoke a joint, talk about many interesting things (ethics, art, gender, sexual identity, ghosts, emotional residue), kiss to confirm the chemistry (confirmed: no chemistry, captain), and when we say goodnight I say this: "Look: it's Tinder. Who knows if we'll run into each other again, but if you get nothing else from this night, get this: You deserve better than was done to you." He smiles, we say goodnight, and that's that. Related Post Tackle Box Boys: Honoring those who don't make it out In January 1997, I hosted a housewarming at my new place in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood. It was a particularly debaucherous weekend. The house... Read more The next day, he texts, and asks me out again. I'm concerned and circle back with a question: How did the chemistry feel for him? He says he felt really comfortable around me and that I'm hot and smart, and then ups the ante by disclaiming his STIs. (Big huge massive "good human" bonus points for being open! Without chemistry, however, it's kind of a non-issue.) I clarify carefully that the STIs are no big deal ("I intuited," I say), and the real issue is that the chemistry definitely was not point on for me, but that he seems cool. So if he wants to hang out again, knowing that it's not romantic or sexual, I'm down. …In fact, I have an idea. The second date I invited him over to my house, and asked him if he could come in a trusting state. "Things might be intimate," I said. "But not sexual. Think you can handle it?" He said he was in, and that he'd bring his trust. "And bring something you made," I requested. (He's an artist! He makes cool shit!) "I was already planning on it," he says. Friday evening arrives, and he shows up at my front gate. I invite him in, he takes off his boots, sets down his bag, I give him a tour. Pour us glasses of whiskey. He gives me an awesome gift that he made. "Here's what I'm thinking," I say. "We're going to cleanse you." "Awesome," he immediately consents. I draw a bath with lavender bubbles. Get him a second glass of whiskey. Send him into the bathroom to get in. He disrobes, slips into the bath, hides under the bubbles. I knock, and he says I can come in. I sit on the step stool in the bathroom while he soaks, and we drink more whisky and talk amiably about all sorts of things… Honor among thieves, what counts as true friendship, real estate, aging, therapy, selling out, building businesses, etc. "This is the best spa ever," he says, beaming from the bathtub. "I can't believe this is happening." Within half an hour, the bubbles have settled and I have a naked stranger in my bathtub. Within half an hour, the bubbles have settled and I have a naked stranger in my bathtub. No one's uncomfortable, because I'm hosting and I have set the stage that this is completely normal. I have made it clear that this is extremely intimate, but not sexual. I hold the container of trust so firmly that it's totally no big deal. "You need to soak more," I say. "You have to really saturate the skin." I boil water in the tea kettle, pour it into the bath to keep it warm. We smoke a joint, keep chatting. After even more soaking, I pronounce that it's time, pull the shower curtains closed, flip the drain, turn on the shower, have him stand up. I strip down to my bikini (which I had on under my clothes) and climb into the shower with him, holding a scrubbing mitt and wearing a zebra print shower cap. He's very tall and very naked, and looks down at me and starts laughing. "Why are you laughing," I drone, adjusting my shower cap with my mitt-covered hand. "This is very sacred business. We're here to scour the shame off your soul." Then I scrub the shit out of the naked stranger standing in my shower. Anyone who's been to a Korean Spa knows how this goes: if you've soaked long enough, the dead skin rolls off you like earth worms. The skin is brown and tubular and fucking disgusting. I show him as I go ("Ewwww…" I say, as the rolls of dead skin wash down the drain), working over his back, shoulders, chest, sides. I'm not as thorough as the ladies at my local Korean spa (holla to the hard workers at Olympus Spa!), but whatever: we get off a lot of dead skin, and (I think, but I'm weird) emotional residue. It's appropriate. I get out of the shower, towel off and put my clothes on. He towels off, and meets me back in the living room where we sit on blankets and talk. He declines soup, but I refuel and pour him more whisky and we chat. Things start to wind down, there's some cuddling on the couch, but not much. I tell him he should get home soon, and he says he's had too much to drink and actually that's legit because I've been pouring him whiskeys for hours, so I tell him he can sleep on the couch and he does. In the morning, we share a cup of tea, hug, say our goodbyes. After the date, or whatever it was After he leaves, I feel the need to clear out the house. I put all the towels and bedding he slept on in the wash, on hot. I open all the windows, let the cold air blow through. I light incense, watch the drifts of smoke literally pour out the windows as the air pressure shifts, feel the energy clear out. I'd kept both bedroom doors closed through the entire evening, so I leave those rooms alone. Then I go to my favorite neighborhood haunt, sit at the bar by myself and order breakfast. I do a little reading (Power of Now, like a fucking midlife divorced lady cliche!) and start crying. I mean, let's be crass here: I was just tryna get laid! I walk home, still crying. I sit and drink tea, still crying. I'm hiding in the warm bedroom with the door closed, letting the rest of the house clear out. I realize I'm not even sure whose tears I'm crying, and how much work I just did. It felt important to pay it forward. I mean, let's be crass here: I was just tryna get laid! But when it became clear that that wasn't going to happen, but that there was a need for something else, it felt important to step up and provide what I could. I mean, people did that for me last year when I was in the depths of my divorce grief. I was given remarkable opportunities to do trust work with unexpected people, and when it became clear that I had an opportunity to provide that for someone else, it felt important to do it. But… fuck! I was exhausted. Beyond exhausted. Still crying my own tears, and now flushing out someone else's too? After a couple hours, a friend swings by. I've warned her that I'm a basket case, leave the door unlocked and tell her to just come up. She finds me in the armchair in my room, crying. I make her take my place so that I can sit on her lap, cry some more. Then we read together for a bit. Reassembled somewhat, we walk through the house together, burning incense and closing the windows. In the bathroom, I realize that the shower smells like cigarettes — odd, because the sweet man I scrubbed doesn't smoke cigarettes. I text him: "Did your ex smoke?" "Yes," he replies. "Marlboros." "Ah," I say. "That's why my shower smells. The good news is that we washed it off! The bad news is now I need to scrub my shower." That's weird. In retrospect, I'm increasingly aware of the times when, while I'm trying to meet my own needs, I'm actually just acting as a catalyst for someone else's needs. Not even just with dating, but just in general. The times when, despite the fact that I want to take it personally because something didn't go my way, it's actually ZERO PERCENT about me and ALL someone else's path. I'm just a bit player in someone else's matinee. This was one of those moments, where it became clear that my needs (Ariel wants to bed attractive person) absolutely were not going to get met, but that I had the opportunity to meet someone else's needs (that they maybe didn't even know they had) — all while being very, VERY clear about what the boundaries were. …It worked, but man I was tired. Has anyone else ever done this — turned a date that wasn't going the way you originally intended, into an epic awesome thing for yourself and/or the other person? Join our community! Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Ariel Meadow Stallings Author of Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, Ariel acts as the publisher of all the Offbeat Empire websites. She lives, loves, and dorks out hard in Seattle, WA. PREVIOUS My gender identity is confused and I'm okay with it NEXT How I got over my fear of losing myself in a relationship Show/Hide comments [ 47 ] Thank you, Ariel, for sharing this. My boyfriend is in the in-between-lives stage that is waiting for your asylum decision in a Western European country. There are ever-present ghosts of his life in a war-torn country, of his flight, of leaving his family behind without getting to say goodbye. Sometimes, in spite of the energy that flows between us, the ghosts are more powerful than the missing each other… So that's what we do. I hold him while he cries. I tell him, in equal measures, that I am here, to feel my arms around him, and that his family are there, and he needs to think about them and remember them. I think that scrubbing him might be a very, very good idea. Thank you. 13 agree Reply Wow. This was powerful and full on gave me chills. I'm so glad you shared this experience. 12 agree Reply Are you still friends with this person? Because it sounds like you could both use it. 4 agree Reply We keep in touch, yep. If we're lucky, maybe he'll even leave a comment or something. 7 agree Reply wow, this was so powerful and a good example of however much we want it to be, sometimes it just isn't about us…. this may be my favorite post from you ever (ok, maybe second, I still enjoy the Alexa/"a boat?!!" post too)…. ummm, can you now do a post about the process of a good Korean spa/soak/scrub – how long do you soak, what products do you use, do you let the gunk just go down the drain? this sounds like something I would want to try for myself…. 4 agree Reply HA! Megan actually wanted me to write this post like that — 5 ways to do a Korean-style scrub on a naked stranger you met on Tinder because you're trying to heal them — but I felt like it was just too many angles to try to tackle. I love how-to service writing, but I'm focusing a lot more on narrative nonfiction these days. That said, the best way to experience a Korean-style scrub, is to google "korean spa + your city" and go get one done! It's really very simple (soak for an 45 min, scrub as hard as you can, rinse and enjoy) but they have pretty awesome techniques that I could never hope to duplicate. 7 agree Reply *fangirling for a minute because Ariel responded to me* Im just glad you are writing… 🙂 thanks for the instructions…. not sure Im ready for someone else to do it for me yet! (introvert here)… also living in a small, suburban town in the deep south doesn't lend itself too much to any kind of exotic/new experiences, so Ill have to look around and see what I can find… 🙂 3 agree Reply No fangirling! I'm just some nerdy middle-aged divorced white lady in Seattle tryna keep on keepin' on. 😛 That said, if you don't have access to a Korean spa, really all you need to know is buy one of these scrubs, soak in a really hot bathtub for as long as you possibly can, and then start scrubbing your skin as hard as you can. It'll hurt… but growth usually does. 😉 And as for the writing, I'm trying to stay focused on my second book right now… 70% done! But the book is all about the first year after the divorce, and I'm now in the second year and have new experiences to share, so you might see more stuff like this. (If you want to follow along more closely with me, follow @offbeatbride on Instagram and watch Insta Stories! It's my favorite little playground.) 4 agree Reply The secret! These are so going on my wishlist. I am soooo looking forward to this book. This might be my favorite ever post here. Love this so much!! Can I come over for the same treatment? Kidding, but I'm pretty sure this is what I'm doing to myself this weekend. Never been to a Korean spa, but that sounds excellent too. I honestly can't think of a time when I did something like this for someone, but I feel like it's something I have/would do. I love that you gave to this person so compassionately. <3 4 agree Reply I love this story. It sounds like a real-life version of that scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro made a bath for the polluted river spirit. But instead of old bicycles, it was smoke left behind. What you did for him was such a gift. I was struck by how his grief/pain lingered even after he left and how deeply it affected you. That your friend needed to come by to help with round two of cleansing you and your home was so poignant. I'm curious about asking him to bring something he made. Was it part of the ritual? 4 agree Reply Asking him to bring me a gift was my way of trying to balance things out, energetically. I knew I was going above and beyond with what I was offering (I'm weird, but even I was like "Ariel, who the fuck does this?!"), and while having a warm fuzzy sense of caretaking someone is certainly the main reward… I was also wanted something tangible to hold on after the fact to be like "That was a thing I did, and this is a symbol of what I got out it." His gift sits on my altar now. 🙂 (And yes, my divorce has totally brought out all the buddhist/pagan/new age/west coast woo indoctrination my hippie parents raised me with. It took me until my 40s, but I am truly my parents' child.) 5 agree Reply Dude! Divorce has totally brought the witchy interests I had as a 13-yo to the forefront again. It's bizarre. I'm rolling with it though. Reply Yeah, the divorced witch thang is some realness. It's surprised me, but this whole process has been surprising. Reply Also, it's worth noting that the vibe of the evening definitely wasn't ceremonial… we were drinking whiskey from jam jars and cracking jokes half the time. There wasn't a tone of like, "AND NOW YOU LAY YOUR GIFT UPONST MY ALTAR." Everyone's got their own thang, and I have a real knee-jerk reaction against Overly Serious Ceremonies… it just feels too contrived for me, and like it's more about "prayerformance" than just having the experience. I mean, I'm all for taking a deep breath and getting quiet for a minute, but the tone of the evening was FAR from "let's do a ritual, here let's get very spiritual and serious and holy and stuff." 6 agree Reply I just want to thank you for the word "prayerformance." Growing up Christian, the way some people would pray out loud always rubbed me the wrong way, and this is exactly the right word for it. 6 agree Reply DUDE. I love how supposedly-opposite edges of culture loop back and become a circle! Here's what I mean: the term "Prayerformance" was one I was introduced to through the West Coast hippie/raver underground music scene 20 years ago. At hippie raves and music festivals here in my corner of the world, it was not uncommon for the dance floor to be cleared around midnight so that a group of people (almost always slender, beautifully-dressed young women) could come out and do "Prayerformances" involving lighting candles, wiggling fire fingers, holding geodes, etc while everyone else stood around and watched. The goal was to create a sense of focus and intention for what were essentially dance parties… and that sentiment here is lovely! But the whole idea of forcing everyone to stop dancing so that people (…and not just people, but pretty people) can come out and do a performance to demonstrate/enforce their Extreme Spirituality(tm) on everyone else? BLEAH. It always rubbed me the wrong way. If you're spiritual, you don't need to show it off. If you need to show it off, the motivation might not be spiritual. (No shame on social validation as a primary motivator!! Just own it and don't try to pretend it's something else.) Where it loops back around and gets interesting is when this very west coast/new age/opposite-of-mainstream-American-Christian-Culture behavior is so remarkably similar to, say, folks praying loudly to Jesus for all to hear. In both cases, it feels like someone being like, "Lookit how spiritual I am! JUST LOOK! I AM SO ENLIGHTENED!" Home schooling is another place where far-Christian and far-Hippie overlaps. Totally fascinating. 12 agree Reply Yes! Isn't that totally fascinating. There are aspects of my hippie upbringing that are so similar to the ultra-christian world- not just homeschooling. Also – this would make a great short film! 13 agree Reply Being a willing tool of the universe, a catalyst in the life of a stranger, is (to me) the most sacred and holy experience one can have. It comes from a place of instinct and intuition, transcends personal agenda, and reminds everyone about the ductile threads joining us all. It's, yes, also fucking exhausting (and usually unexpectedly healing). Sleep, drink water, eat grounding foods, indulge in self-care (hair brushing and massage are my two favs), and know that you just made a beacon of pure positivity in the universe. And thank you. 3 agree Reply This was the most beautiful post I've read from Offbeat. Your actions were so strong, so thoughtful and loving. <3 11 agree Reply Thank you so much for this compliment. This is the kind of writing I'm doing a LOT of right now, y'all just have to wait for a bit to read it… But this means a ton to me. THANK YOU. Seriously. 4 agree Reply Yep, done that a couple of times. My agenda was wanting to get laid, but theirs ended up not matching mine. In one experience, on our second date he told me he missed his ex and suddenly our time was spent discussing what went wrong, life lessons, and making plans to get them back together. They did get back together and he thanked me for the honest conversation that night a while later. 2 agree Reply Ariel, as shocking as your divorce was to longtime readers like me, I have to say that reading this was so inspiring. I've never read anything like this before, and I feel like we're getting to see a side of you and hear a voice that we never would have otherwise, and it's pretty fucking cool. I can't begin to imagine what you've been going through, and I hope you're doing okay. But if you're able to give your readers a story like this in your new journey, I for one am really grateful and really fucking impressed. 8 agree Reply Thanks for this, Bee. I have like 20 things I want to say at once, and the first thing is just: thank you. This means a ton to me. Then, in no particular order: * I am doing ok! I have an almost unfair amount of support in my life (friends, family, extended community, therapist, etc), so I really am doing fine. I mean, I still cry almost daily (but it's good for me!) and am surprised by flashes of violent rage and existential despondence (which I we sorta all should be!) but generally speaking, I'm pretty good. Especially compared to a year ago, I'm pretty solid! * Longtime readers will know that part of my backstory is five years of infertility. Before divorce, infertility was the worst thing I'd ever been through — and let's just pause and say wow, what a life of privilege I've had that "can't make baby" and "marriage ending" are the worst things that have ever happened to me. I was finally able to make my baby (Tavi is 7 now! He's awesome!), but I've joked that I'm the infertile lady who breeds stories. My body could barrrrely make that one baby, but I have an almost overwhelming amount of creative energy, and so stories have always been my babies. Then, some of those stories grow up and become websites and books and businesses. * A different and slightly darker way of looking at all this is that I'm a business woman of demands a solid return on investment from all my experiences. If I invest time in something or someone, I need to have a sense of getting SOMETHING out of it. If I go on a date, and it's not going to result in what I was originally looking for, I'm compelled to find a value-add to get out of it anyway. (This might make me an emotional entrepreneur?) I could have just written the first date off, but a decade of hustling to grow a small business means that my brain is always looking for a way to get an ROI… and if I can't get what *I* want out of it, then maybe I can make it valuable in a different way. * This obsessive optimization is true of my divorce, too: If I'm going to go through years of emotional anguish and ego death, then I might as well optimize the fuck out of it and turn the experience into an opportunity for growth, health, maturation, and self-improvement. The alternative is just being completely crushed by grief and betrayal and anger and sadness and… THAT IS NOT A SOLID ROI. As an added bonus, if sharing my story helps other people? I feel like I win all the trophies. Helpy selfy, helpy world? That's my mission and my purpose. WHOA THAT GOT BIGGER THAN YOU PROBABLY EXPECTED. 17 agree Reply I don't have much insight to share; just that I LOVED reading this so, so much. Ariel, you made my day. 2 agree Reply this is beautiful, as everyone else has said. and i wanted to mention that specifically, because the straw that tipped this camel to reply was noticing that the url for this article is "/scrubbing" and for some reason that just made me cackle so, from a cold-meds-induced haze here on the east coast, thank you as always for being a grounding and excellent voice <3 2 agree Reply I'm just stoked that someone noticed my nice tidy permalink. I mean, it matters. 4 agree Reply What an amazing gift you have him. I too am sorry to hear of your divorce. I am a long time reader as well. When my relationship ended I felt like it broke a piece of my soul off. I am so glad you have support. I often felt alone and misunderstood like I had worn out my welcome to cry and process with friends . Sending you so much love and getting laid by someone super hot! 1 agrees Reply Same here! The end of my relationship felt like a part of my body was physically ripped from me, and brought the end of many friendships i thought were big and important. So I know what feeling alone means, and how hard it is. I have a cat now. Single! More 40 than 30! No children! And a cat? As stereotypical as it sounds, I think that's part of my "go back to being a witch" path. Plus, she's fluffy and sweet, and useless humans can seriously go fuck themselves. 1 agrees Reply You really had a weird second non-sexual date. Did you see him again afterwards? Reply Nope, but we keep in touch and I'm sure we'll see each other again at some point. In fact, look: he totally just left a comment on this thread! Reply What it was like to get scrubbed by a stranger After being in such a dark place for so long the "disposable dating culture" of Tinder was just the thing. Just matching with someone on the app lifted my spirits. Especially when that match is a successful, intelligent and very intuitive person. She was a fox! Strong features quick wit, I told her my secrets and was rewarded with that warm flood of relief when someone accepts you for who you are. Of course I wanted to see her again! When I found out that this second Tinder date was actually a surprise spa day I was impressed. I'm all for challenging situations and enjoy a good tub. Technically I wasn't really naked, I had a glass of whiskey in my hand the whole time. Her plan worked. She scrubbed right up against my intimacy, vulnerability, and scarcity issues. She exfoliated my grief, betrayal, and addictions. She revealed a new layer in my healing process. A layer I had yet put words to. She correctly identified this feeling I was experiencing as shame. I spent the following day rather dazed, quietly processing the evenings events. I wanted to contact her and tell her everything! I wanted to be near the person who accepted me, cared for me and scrubbed the fuck out of me. But it was clear these feelings are my feelings and part of my process. The shame is there. The realization that my supportive community was low key judging me and my questionable decisions. This experience was a brave gift from a stranger who risked her home to my demons and created a healing space for me. I don't know why she did it, it was really special. – Naked Stranger 14 agree Reply Thank you for chiming in to share your perspective! So neat that we readers got to see both sides of this unique date. 🙂 Reply Best of luck, naked stranger! <3 Reply Ariel, thank you for sharing this. There's something about it that was exactly what I needed to read in this moment. I echo the comments here. The positivity and support in this amazing online community is why I keep coming back, and I look forward to reading more of your own writing. Reply This post made me tired and emotional. We may have a move coming to the PNW and it makes me happy we might be in your orbit. Reply It's being really interesting to hear what emotions this post is evoking for folks. My lit agent was like, "Ug, I was nervous and scared for you the whole time reading this," which was interesting because the experience had zero elements of danger or fear for me. (And those are emotions I'm pretty sensitive to.) Tired and emo, however, are exactly how I felt after the experience… so I'm with you there. Edited to add: and it's EXTRA interesting to see the comments coming on this thread: http://www.metafilter.com/165219/Midlife-Divorced-Lady-Cliche Several commenters there voiced that they found my behavior in this situation to be "creepy" and "unsafe," and that it was an abuse of power on my part. Fascinating food for thought for me. Reply I read the comments on the other site and it was fascinating that people read things very differently. Maybe because I'm a long time reader (and former OBB Tribesmaid), I read this knowing 100% you had only positive intent. As I was reading the piece, I kept thinking "this is such an Ariel thing to do – how beautiful." And of course, wishing I was the Naked Stranger because we all could use a good healing ritual once in a while. Reply I agree with Erika. The "I kept waiting for the part where she cut off his head" made me spit out coffee because it was just so far from how I read it! Reply It's weird to me that they immediately assume 2 glasses of whiskey over an evening = too drunk to consent to a scrubbing. Reply Yeah, there were a lot of misunderstandings in that thread, which is a big indicator to me as a writer that there were some critical pieces of information I left out. Also based on some of the comments in that thread, I had a former Offbeat Empire editor who's big into BDSM read this post, and she was like "Yeah, for folks who are in that culture, this account is full of red flags." I didn't really think of the experience as sexual/BDSM at all, but when you read it through that lens, I get why people would be concerned. The main thing that's not conveyed is that the guy and I talked extensively before and during the experience about trust, expectations, therapy, healing, new age bullshit, etc etc etc. It's not like he was some rando who had no context for some lady cleansing him, being taken advantage of. I held the container, but we were both very active participants. Anyway, mostly the feedback on that thread is really interesting for me as a writer. I know how the experience FELT, and if it didn't read that way to some people, then that's my failure as a writer. Reply I LOOOOVE the Olympus Spa. This story reminds me about those shared journals at the spa. I have met the best naked strangers there, but I can't say I've ever scrubbed any of them. (Is that even permitted?) Reply Awesome instinct, and well narrated. Life generally IS weirder than fiction (sci-fi excluded). Reminds me slightly of Bukowski, but more life-affirming and funny. Keep it up Ariel – that's both the writing and the living … Reply Oh how i love it when the universe lets such things happen. Thanks for sharing, it was truly beautiful. I felt warm and fuzzy and excited the whole time. How lucky can people get, if only for a tinder date. <3 Reply Wow, that was one hell of a story! You should write it…like in a book or something 🙂 Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Participate in this conversation via emailGet only replies to your comment, the best of the rest, as well as a daily recap of all comments on this post. 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