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I travel to Portland, Oregon, at least a few times a year. Every time I go, my friend Suma tells me that we “REALLY NEED TO GO to Common Ground this time!!”
And this last trip to Portland, Suma and I finally made it to Common Ground! If you’ve been curious about going to a bathhouse or visiting a bathhouse while being plus size // fat identified, this post is for you!
Because of the nature of the space, I didn’t take pictures or selfies. Instead, I’ve pulled what photos I can find online, and I’ve shared my honest experience below!
What is Common Ground? (Common Ground Wellness Cooperative)
The Common Ground Wellness Cooperative consists of hot tubs, sauna, massage therapists, and other practitioner services. It’s a community-led space where people come together to focus on self-care.
The space has a rich history you can read about here, and I’ve shared some highlights from their website below:
- “Over twenty experienced healers with a longstanding commitment to the heart and soul of CGWC as a 30 year entity.
- Great reputation- decades of visitors feeling comfortable, safe, relaxed, and respected- and telling us so in reviews.
- Our Bathhouse Policies- Creating a culture of respect and consideration to model to our larger community.
- Our eco-friendly space- Using the most natural cleaners, and pool maintenance systems that are good for people and the environment.
- Supporting local businesses in our supplies and gift store.
- Supporting fundraising causes of local organization.
The Cooperative operates by not only providing health and wellness to the community, but also allowing the community to join and have a voice in the direction of the Cooperative. Through the combined effort of staff, volunteers, and patron-members, Common Ground Wellness Cooperative can continue its mission of encouraging health and wellness in the community.”
Quick Heads Up: Dedicated Session Times
Before I get into the review, I wanted to share that Common Ground has dedicated times for men, women, transgender and genderqueer people, and BIPoC.
To learn when these times are, click here.
Plus Size LGBT Bathhouse Experience
Okay, let’s get to it!
Wait, no clothes on? Around Strangers? Are there creepers?
The pools at Common Ground are communal, meaning people get them without clothes and enjoy the waters. It is not sexual, and the “staff at Common Ground set expectations and monitor to make sure everyone is comfortable.”
(You can also wear a swimsuit!)
Body Shaming at a Bathhouse?
Being plus size, I was pretty worried about going. But Suma assured me that it would be fine. They’ve been going to the bathhouse for years, and loved it.
And they were totally right! I didn’t get side glances or sneers, which I was worried about.
Going to a Bathhouse for the First Time
So, if you’re reading this it might be because you’re going to Common Ground (or another LGBTQ+ friendly bathhouse) for the first time. I think a helpful play-by-play on what to expect would be helpful:
We made our reservation online, parked onsite and checked in at the front desk. You can rent a towel for an additional fee.
Suma and I booked our session for “Silent Hour” where there is no talking. We paid $17 each for a 60 minute soak session. (You can see soak prices here.)
I found the staff are very friendly and kind, so don’t hesitate to ask questions!
#2: Lockers & Undress
From there, we went to the lockers where we undressed. We put our clothes/bags in a locker, which locked.
We then showered off with the special soaps offered by Common Ground. Y’all, I was pretty nervous to be around nude people (woo conservative upbringing!!), but it was totally fine. People were walking around, and it was chill. No one raised their eyebrows at my body.
Honestly, people don’t really engage in the space. Folks are were kind/self-aware, there’s not a lot of interaction between people.
From there, Suma and I went to the pool. Not a swimming pool, a spa pool. It was about the size of 5 backyard hot tubs. There are ledges to sit on, as well as jets.
I get pretty bad migraines that are triggered by heat, so I didn’t go into the sauna. But other folks go in between the sauna and pool.
What to Pack for the Bathhouse
You don’t need to bring a lot, but it’s helpful to be prepared! Here’s what I think you should bring:
- Photo ID
- Non-glass water bottle
- Payment method
- 3-4 towels per person
- Flip flops
- Small tote bag to put everything in
Bathhouse Tip: Towels
I say to bring multiple towels, because you’re jumping in and out of various water sources, and it’s nice to have a totally dry towel to use when you’re all done. I’d bring 2 with you while you’re taking the waters, and leave 2 in your locker.
Upon leaving, you’re going to be relaxed – and wrestling with pants and clothes is kind of a pain. I’d recommend just wearing a dress // minimal clothing so you don’t have to argue with your wardrobe.
Common Ground has a really lovely energy (yes, I know how that sounds!), and I encourage you to go.
If you want more LGBTQ+ travel recs, be sure to subscribe to my email list to keep in touch!