Zen and the art of sur­viv­ing Ba­li­nese mas­sage mad­ness

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - AN­GELA MOLLARD [email protected] TWIT­TER.COM/ANGELAMOLLARD

Greet­ings from Bali where I’m en­joy­ing my an­nual flir­ta­tion with throw­ing in my or­di­nary life to be­come a yoga-lov­ing, in­cense­burn­ing, chia seed-grow­ing ve­gan. Ev­ery April when big city life has brought me to the point of com­bus­tion I check into a $50-a-night room in Ubud and res­tore my­self with vinyasa, med­i­ta­tion, freshly squeezed wa­ter­melon juice and a daily mas­sage.

It’s idyl­lic: the dawn waft of frangi­pani as I make my way through the rice pad­dies to yoga; the cof­fee steamed with co­conut milk; the laugh­ter of the Ba­li­nese; the way time seems to take you gently by the hand rather than stab you con­stantly in the ribs as it does at home.

And then there’s the late af­ter­noon mas­sage. What is sup­posed to be an hour-long sub­mer­sion in the sen­sual turns into a slide show of my neu­roses. My mind throws up a mil­lion de­mented thoughts that strafe the karma like a ma­chine­gun.

Here’s how my mas­sage mad­ness plays out:

In Bali they of­fer you a cold drink be­fore your mas­sage. Any bev­er­age be­low room tem­per­a­ture has the in­stant ef­fect of mak­ing me need to go to the loo. What if I’m be­ing mas­saged and I sud­denly need to leap up to use the toi­let? Will that ruin my zen? But what if I don’t take a sip? Will they be of­fended? Also, I don’t like waste. Will they throw my drink down the sink? Will they think me en­ti­tled?

Then there are the oils. Which one should I choose? Never frangi­pani be­cause there is no essence that’s ever cap­tured the true scent of the flower. Le­mon­grass? San­dal­wood? Bit blokeish. Def­i­nitely not laven­der since it’ll leave me smelling like the bath­room of a 1970s de­part­ment store. Don’t they have ver­bena? The last place had ver­bena. Why didn’t I go back there? What if this mas­sage isn’t as good as that one? Should I be loyal to one place or share my daily $15 mas­sage al­lowance around? Ac­tu­ally Amisha has a lovely smile. And her toe­nails are nice. There’s noth­ing worse than hav­ing your head pressed into the equiv­a­lent of a toi­let seat and all you can see are your ther­a­pist’s gnarled toe­nails.

But first, the pa­per un­der­pants. Which way do they go? Will they feel like a nappy? Are they re­cy­clable? Oh FFS just wear them An­gela, or leave your own on.

OK, now I’m ly­ing down. Should I call out to Amisha? How does she know I’m ready? Oh no, I haven’t shaved my legs. The poor girl has prob­a­bly mas­saged Chrissy Teigen and Lindy Klim this morn­ing and now she has fat, hairy me.

But here she is rub­bing my feet with a hot towel. It’s bliss. I’m go­ing to look like Gigi Ha­did after this. Or is Bella the pretty one? How crass of me to com­pare sis­ters. Are they even sis­ters? When ex­actly did I stop know­ing this stuff. Am I old?

Mmm, the pres­sure is a bit light. I need it firmer. How should I tell her? What if she then does it so hard it’s like be­ing struck in the eyes by a spit­ting co­bra. Ask­ing for a stronger mas­sage is akin to say­ing you want your curry hot then hav­ing to strug­gle through a bowl of chicken steeped in a thou­sand chillis.

Oh no, I’m go­ing to fart. If I clench my but­tocks I might avoid it. But then she might mas­sage my bum think­ing it’s where I hold my ten­sion ...

Did I pay that park­ing ticket be­fore I flew out? What if I didn’t? Will the fine have tripled by the time I re­turn home. I’m an id­iot. That’s nice. I love the way she presses her el­bows into that crease next to my shoul­der blades. Ah, this is what mas­sages are all about.

Ex­cept what if Amisha doesn’t get my $15? What if she’s bossed about by a mas­sage pimp who gives her 50c at the end of her shift.

Am I ex­hibit­ing cul­tural su­pe­ri­or­ity by in­dulging in a mas­sage in the Third World? Al­though it’s not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect to call it the Third World is it? We’re meant to call it a de­vel­op­ing coun­try.

In­ci­den­tally, what about the Sec­ond World? Where is it? Does it ex­ist?

Gosh, she’s get­ting a bit close to my nip­ples. Eek. I won­der if men get erec­tions when they have mas­sages?

How do they know if they’re go­ing to be of­fered happy end­ings? I won­der if any of my pre­vi­ous boyfriends have taken up the of­fer. That dodgy Mike may have. God, he was a creep.

I think we’re near­ing the end. I think my head is stuck in the hole.

What if they have to bring in three men to break the ta­ble to get me out. I should’ve worn my own un­der­pants.

Damn, it’s about to end. She’s squeez­ing my ear­lobes. If I was wealthy, for­get the Porsche — I’d em­ploy some­one to squeeze my ear­lobes ev­ery day.

Now she’s run­ning her fin­gers through my hair. Did she wash off the oil? Did I bring dry sham­poo? Oh sod it, it’s over.

I think that was re­lax­ing. Or was it? I need a cock­tail.

“If I was wealthy I’d em­ploy some­one to squeeze my ear­lobes ev­ery day

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