Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 12, 2008 - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

For the past two weeks, Suzy and I have been looking forward to trying the spa treatment for which Bali is famous, the mandi lulur. Javanese brides are said to receive a mandi lulur treatment on each of the forty days leading up to their weddings. We decided that Ubud, with its plethora of spas, would be the perfect place to try it. When Sten realized that we'd be gone for most of the day, he decided that he didn't want to be left out of spa day fun, and signed up for a massage. After some coaxing we convinced him to sign up for a facial and pedicure too (poor guy - what chance did he have against both his wife and mother?). Now this is a guy whose entire beauty routine consists of soap, water, shampoo, shaving cream and a razor. He doesn't use conditioner. He doesn't own a single hair product. He's never bought a moisturizer. Occasionally I can convince him to put on some sunscreen. He keeps his nails short - otherwise it is hard to keep the engine grease out from under them. But he's never had a manicure or pedicure. Getting Sten to agree to a facial and pedicure was a bit like staging our own episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

At the spa, Suzy was ushered into one treatment room, while Sten and I went into another. Our massage therapists guided us into the adjoining bathroom and pointed out the lockers where we were to leave our clothes and the disposable underwear that we were to put on. I've been to a few spas over the years, but never have I been asked to wear disposable panties. Sten held up a pair of the unisex black mesh underwear, which were trimmed with white elastic, and looked more like a shower cap than underwear, and raised an eyebrow at me. In 12 years together, I've never seen Sten wear anything more riskee than boxers and board shorts. No briefs or speedos for this Yankee. He was alternately eyeing the disposable underwear with disgust and giving me the "what have you gotten me into now?" look. Laughing the whole time, I pulled my pair on. They looked like granny panties - high waisted and bunched around the legs. Oh so very attractive. When Sten finally put his on, they fit him like a big, black, baggy diaper. I was having difficulty imagining couples massage as a romantic activity with these things on. We shrugged on our robes and went back out into the treatment room.

While Sten relaxed into his massage, I began the mandi lulur, which includes a massage, exfoliating body scrub and a bath. The massage was nice - strong, firm strokes that were no where near as painful as the massage I had in Gili T. Then the therapist began painting my body with a paste made of turmeric, ginger, ground rice and nuts. By the time she was done basting me with the yellowish paste, I looked an awful lot like the the chicken curry we made at our cooking class the day before. After the paste dried, she rubbed it all off, leaving crumbly yellow piles of the dried paste on the sheet. When I sat up, it looked just like a policeman's outline of a body at a crime scene.

Meanwhile, I had the pleasure of watching the other therapist give Sten a facial. He looked a bit shocked by the whole thing. When my therapist pulled my hair back from my face and wrapped a mint green cloth around my head, Sten asked "is that what I'm wearing?" "Yup. Mint is definitely not your color." After my facial, the therapist coated me in yogurt (the last step of the mandi lulur) and lead me to a flower filled tub. While I enjoyed a cup of strong herbal tea in the beautiful, fragrant bath, Sten and Suzy had pedicures in the next room.

The nail technician took one look at Sten's tired dogs, covered with decades of tough, dry skin, and broke out a fresh razor blade. By the time I arrived, glowing from my bath, there was a mountain of dead skin around his feet, his cuticles were back in the right zip code, and he was debating whether to let her apply clear polish or to keep them natural. In just a few short hours, my grease monkey had turned over a new, metrosexual leaf. Later that afternoon, Suzy and I were a bit worried that we'd gone too far when he started wandering into jewelry stores without us. I'll let you know if he starts sporting one of those man purses we've seen some of the French and Italian tourists carrying.

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