Personal Grooming, Indo-Style

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

I learned long ago from the Indonesians to always inspect my face in the mirror. The mirror of a motorbike, that is. No place and no time is inappropriate for a little personal grooming, and with so many motorbikes at rest in parking lots and along streets, there is always a mirror available should you be, God forbid, out for a walk when the urge hits you for a facial inspection. Furthermore, a motorbike provides a seat, just in case you need to bring out your eyebrow tweezers to do some immediate plucking.

It was during one of these motorbike mirror sessions that I realized I had somehow gone from having crow’s feet to having centipede feet. It was time to find out what Bali’s beauty treatments were all about.

I rocked into one of my favorite spas, where I had been many times for other things but never a facial. A facial takes an hour, during which time the eyes must be kept closed. Since you can’t see anything, you have no idea what they are really doing to your skin. Unfortunately, this leaves much to the imagination.

The facial started out with a light face massage. As the spa lady’s fingers danced across my face, I felt the way a guitar must as the musician nimbly strums it. Alas, no music was produced and I rather became worried that she might bring out the plectrum and start picking my nose.

Soon to follow was a strange tickling sensation. I’m pretty sure the spa lady had just released a nest of ants on my face and was letting them crawl all over, zigzagging and meandering about, while their little feet massaged my face. Keep in mind that these are Indonesian ants, so small and cunning they can even get into sealed packages. These are ants that instantly invade an empty soda can and lap up the liquid along the rim.

Just when my face started feeling uncomfortably crawly and itchy, I felt suction on my face. This must have been the frog hired to eat up the ants. I could even hear him smack his lips after each suck. Then I remembered the English menu had read, “Take black spot out by vacuum.” Of course, it wasn’t a frog but a Hoover sucking up the ants. Nothing like a good face vacuuming. I hoped she wouldn’t leave any vacuum strokes in the nap.

Next, she said she’d take out the whiteheads. I didn’t know I had any but she assured me I did — they were just hidden. Her trained eye could see them! Whiteheads of what, I’m not sure, but perhaps from the ants that had been decapitated during the vacuuming. These she dug out with tiny very sharp shovels. “No pain no game,” she assured me in her best English.

When I heard the gentle rolling noise of a cement mixer, I knew it was time for the mask. After she applied this “active mud,” within moments my face became unmovable, like stone. So this is where Rodin statues come from.

After the mask was removed, accompanied by a loud sucking noise that could be heard all the way to Sumatra, I could finally see again. My tender face was definitely ready for the next step, “refresh face with cucumber.” I never thought I’d be so happy to have cold vegetables sitting on my face.

Next was “acne care with herb.”

“But I don’t have acne,” I said. But her trained eye could probably see it anyway.

When I thought we must be finished, she said, “Don’t you want to get rid of your mustache?”

“My what?”

“That mustache on your upper lip.” I had never really considered the silky blonde hairs on my upper lip, but now that her trained eye had noticed them, they seemed embarrassingly hideous.

“Away with the mustache!” I declared.

This required waxing, a euphemism for ripping out hairs with adhesive. She painted on the wax, which looks like molasses, and within seconds pulled it off. “No pain, no game,” she reminded me. I looked at the strip of wax with my hairs adhered to it and thought – molasses looks good with a mustache.

I knew it was time to get out of there when her trained eye noticed my eyebrows needed to be shaped. I passed on the eyelid and lip tattoos also.

I was on my motorbike in Denpasar the other day waiting for the traffic lights to turn green – a perfect opportunity for a facial inspection. In a moment, I had brought out my tweezers and deftly removed one blackhead and two stray eyebrow hairs. How embarrassing that I hadn’t noticed those earlier in the day! Just as I was admiring my newly naked upper lip, I noticed something odd. What was that hideous-looking thing on my chin?

By God, I’ve started growing a beard.

When the lights turned green, I turned my motorbike around and headed straight for the spa.

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The Island

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