Jakarta, 7 February 2006
Written under Miss Sassy (13)
As many things I’ve blamed my mother for, I blame her for letting me know, learn, and eventually getting addicted to the pure joy of being pampered by the professionals. I mean, this was the woman who’d bring the little tomboy me to her monthly facials and massages and explained, at great length, how necessary those treatments to her physique, and how crucial they were to her psyche.
She’s probably worried that her daughter was too boyish and wanted me to get in touch more with my feminine side. As soon as I hit mid-teens she’d book me for monthly creambath scalp massages and facials at her trusted beauty salon. Then she had Ibu Lina started working on me.
Ibu Lina was a middle-aged Javanese masseuse that would do house calls for Mom and her friends. A lithe, petite woman; I initially doubted her strength. She came one afternoon, toting her usual flower print canvas bag. I watched curiously as she took out some vials and a sheet of batik cloth. She laid out the batik cloth on a mat, asked me to disrobe and lay face down. The cloth was jasmine scented. Then smartly she wrapped the batik cloth around my exposed body, leaving just one area open for her to massage each time.
And wow, the woman did know how to massage. She used various oils from the small vials, which she claimed to have concocted herself. Maybe she had. I could trace the scent of coconut oil and eucalyptus, but the rest was so embroiled I just couldn’t tell. Not that I had time to care. As she found one aching joint after another, giving it just about the right pressure, the warm oil sunk in; relieved the muscle knots, alleviated tension, flowed blood faster into the circulation.
After 45 minutes, when I got so relaxed I was drowsy, Ibu Lina started applying the lulur. For those not in the know, lulur is exfoliate paste made of rice powder, sandalwood, jasmine, and other herbs I was too incompetent to figure out. It’s left on my body for another 30 minutes, during which I inevitably fell asleep, and then Ibu Lena returned to start scrubbing the lulur off. And oh darlings, the lulur paste, which by then had gotten cakey, lifted off dead skin cells like it’s nobody’s business. My skin turned brighter and so silkily smooth, so velvety soft, mosquitoes would skid off immediately had they tried landing their dirty little feet there. Now I understood why for centuries lulur was a secret reserved for the princesses behind the walls of Javanese palaces. Darlings, oh darlings.
Half asleep, I dragged my rested self into the bathtub of warm water, sprinkled with spices, herbs, jasmine, and rose-petals. I didn’t remember how long I soaked in and how I returned to the bedroom. All I remembered was when I woke up the next morning I felt so refreshed, so calm, so worry-free, though clearly I’d fallen asleep the entire night and didn’t finish the trigonometry homework due that morning. The physique, the psyche, just got all soothed, rejuvenated.
God, I hated it when Mom was right.
Lulur treatment made up the long line of body care addictions I developed later, became intensified after my tomboyish self started to fade into the background in the late teens and gave way to the woman I’d never known I had in me. Facials, creambaths, reflexology, and the underrated, yet sensational pedicure. The joy of getting spring back on your tired legs plus a splash of color—Essie’s neutral Ballet Slippers, L’Oreal’s stark British Redcoat, OPI’s summer staple Pink Paradise, or time-honored Revlon’s va-va-voom Lavendare. Take your pick. Darlings, oh darlings.
In college I found a spa chain that offered Javanese-based treatments with modern touch. The surroundings were cozy, the staffs were friendly. And yes, they got the massage-steam-lulur-bath package plus, note this, darlings, a cup of hot sweet ginger as you’d emerge from your private spa room. The whole she-bang. I soon became a regular and only occasionally strayed as Swedish and Thai massages, shiatsu, the hot stone, the detoxifying tea oil, or other new treatment cross my path.
The only time I had to suppress my addiction was during graduate school overseas. The high dollars were suctioned off by tuition and boarding fees. But I made do, and after the backbreaking finals at the end of each semester I’d have a fancy-free standard facial, body massage, and manicure-pedicure. Then I’d go home to my tiny dorm and slept for 26 hours straight.
Oooh…. Sunday morning! How are ya feeling, people? I just hit the gym to lose those annoying extra 5kgs, and now ready for my reward. The whole she-bang lulur pampering! Yay!
Guess I was right all along. I’d been a royal princess in my previous life. Darlings, oh darlings….