Haircuts and massages…

While abroad, there are few enterprises that are socially risky but have great potential. Naturally, I am speaking of the two mentioned in the title– haircuts and massages.

My first few days here I walked around with fascination at the casual, yet fierce fashion sense I encountered. I’ll never forget the first shirt that caught my attention, it was yell0w with large black letters and it read “Yellow, the new black”– which might not sound that fashionable, but when you have an androgynous Asian male sporting it with colorful high-tops and tight jeans it is! Some of the male hairstyles are just like you see them in fashion shows, shaved-spiked-dyed-or-emo, they are ridiculously high fashion. And I thought to myself, well, you are in Asia, you could try and rock something and if it was horrible no one would have to know (well, at least not anyone outside of this blog anyway!). So after consulting my favorite partner in crime (read- Natalie), who assured me that my fear of looking like the-Mom-who-tries-to-wear-her-daughter’s-fashion was unsubstantiated. I mean, I’m not exactly in my twenties anymore and, of course, the only people sporting these dynamic do’s were teenage men, so there’s that whole thing. But in the end I decided it was now or never and if I brought a picture with me at least I would have a fighting chance.

As if going to a new hair salon isn’t stressful enough, going to one in a foreign country where you can’t exactly communicate is a whole different type of anxiety.  I asked around and had a salon recommended to me, in fact it was a specific hairdresser, so that made me feel slightly more comfortable. But there are a few main differences between hair salons here and back home. First off, they work until there are no more customers (there is really no such thing as closing hours), and appointments don’t really mean anything, they’re like stop signs- merely place holders that are suggestions of a possible system, but nothing to take seriously. I learned this when I tried to make an appointment, and as I stood in the middle of the half-filled room with a spotlight of eyes pointed at me and suggested a time I could return the next day, he nodded and everyone resumed their previous actions- no book, no writing, no nothing. So I wasn’t that surprised when I showed up the next day and had to wait 45 minutes for the person in front of me to be finished. Secondly, and more importantly (for me anyway), they sweep up the hair at random times (not in between cuts) and pile it up in a corner…and this one happened to be right next to my feet! Some of you may not know this about me, but here’s my confession– un-attached hair totally freaks me out, I don’t like it on my skin, or in my food, or piled up into a hairy volcano right next to my sandaled feet. The whole time I had a difficult time concentrating on what he was doing because I was trying to focus on anything else but the ever-growing sea of other people’s hair mixing together and staring at me with a mustached grin. And while the haircut itself turned out to be pretty awesome (red streak and all), the key was having the picture in hand and a certain desperate flair for non-verbal communication!

Other than the haircut, I haven’t really indulged in any extravagant luxuries (I would settle for air conditioning), so the other day I decided to make an appointment for a massage at a salon that was also recommended to me. I  settled on a Thai Yoga massage because it has always been something I have been interested in and people always tell me they come out refreshed and  limber, no real pain from fingers jabbed into pressure points or soreness from excessive hand-focus on tender joints, it’s more like being stretched further into yoga poses. As someone who has a regular yoga practice, I thought this would be the ticket for me! So, I go into the room and change into the pajama suit they provide, and as soon as the masseuse walks in to the room she turns to me and asks “Do you have any problems with your bones?” Hm. Problems with my bones? This question slightly threw me off, I mean my bones are pretty good, it’s more my joints that I was worried about. In fact, I had recently tweaked my neck a bit earlier last week and was finally starting to feel back to my old self. However, when I tried to relay this information to her she just looked at me and said “Do you have any problems with your bones.” At this point I was feeling like if I said yes, then the whole deal would be off, it was not the typical pre-massage discussion of agreed upon injured areas to be avoided. So I shrugged and hoped for the best.

As I sat cross-legged she placed my hands behind my head and then grabbed one of my elbows, stretching me up and back (this is the yoga part) and I started to feel like, hey this isn’t so bad, it actually feels amazing! That’s when she somehow ended up wrestling me to the floor. I think it was supposed to be a more fluid motion, but when the only thing she is telling me is “Relax, mam, relax”, it’s not exactly the clearest of instructions, so as she tried to fold me and roll me I resisted, I naturally tensed up feeling uncertain as to what was going on. I’m not saying anybody ended up in a half-nelson or anything, but I’m pretty sure she was just as surprised as I was when we landed side by side, ankle to hand, mutually entangled. However, she recovered quicker than I and was able to finesse her body into a position that made it look like she meant to do it, that it was some sort of Thai yoga technique, but I’m still not convinced. Then, sometime later in the massage, I was lying on my stomach, a rolled pillow supporting my throat, when she grabbed my left ankle and right wrist, flinging them high into the air and as my head rose off the mat I felt like we were enacting an interpretive segment of the Flight of Icarus, me- winged and falling, my wax wings melting from the intense sun, leaving only one foot and one arm left able to rise, while she was Zeus-  the true reason for my decent and ultimate controller of my life! Even my struggle for breathe due to the position of the rolled mat would have been included in our dramatic adaptation! And at this point I’m feeling apprehensive but fairly safe, like maybe the worst is over and my fears were necessary but over-zealous, after all, I’m just an American, and things here are not so scary. That’s when she wrestles me, er flips me, over and as she grabs both my wrists from behind me, places here feet in the middle of my back, and says “Relax, mam, relax”, I think to myself “This is probably going to be bad”. I breathe in and as I exhale she pulls my arms back and pushes into my back with her feet, lifting my butt off the floor. And as she began to work her feet up and down, I realized that I had become the toothpaste tube and she was the index finger and thumb- squeezing out my spine from my opened mouth! Luckily, I was only subjected to this ‘pose’ for a short amount of time and was able to recover as she laid me down to massage my arms and hands. I think this was her peace offering, some hush-hush ‘money’ that would lull me to sleep and help me forget the gut-squishing pain I had just  survived. It worked. I was soon fast asleep, my fingers and hands purring by my side.

Surprisingly, I did feeling more refreshed afterward, but it might have been  more of an appreciative outlook on life, like survivors after an accident- safe and grateful. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do it, I know several folks who love intense Swedish massages and hot rocks placed on their skin, so maybe this would be for you, but I think next time I might just try a body wrap or a foot scrub 🙂

Hanggang sa muli!



3 responses to this post.

  1. shame on you for writing this post and not including a photo of your new hairstyle and toothpaste squeezed body.


  2. Posted by elizabeth on July 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    OMG, this cracked me up. There was a woman who used to massage my mom in the PI and at some point there was always the walking on the back, along with what looked like a karate chop beating. It worked, though.

    Um, yeah – photos of the hairdo, friend. I’m sure you look awesome.


  3. Posted by natalie on August 1, 2010 at 6:11 am

    mustached grin?! flight of icarus?!? omg…too much!!


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