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On Body Scrubs and Kant

Beauty is a curse on the world.

I had a body scrub last night. My friend, complaining of how his back has been festooned with "lamig," asked me to accompany him for a massage. Also in need of one but not wanting to be all slimy afterwards (we were going drinking), I chose to have a body scrub instead.

I decided to try the salt scrub over the coffee variety because I did not want to smell like a frappucino again as what happened the last time around. Inside a dimly lit room with the constant trickling of water as pipe-in music, I lay flat on my stomach on the masseuse table, eyes closed, a blob of flesh on display without glory or shame.

The "technician" first cleaned my body much like how a car goes through a car wash: with soap and a fine scrub, a sponge for rinsing and a cloth for wiping. (Others take it further by having a "body wax.")

Then the salt comes in, which I presumed would be rock salt (imagining the pain of coarse salt rubbed on the skin was what got me to go in the first place) but it turned out that fine iodized salt would be used. As such, it did not smell so much as I wanted it to, thinking ahead of the sea and the beach I would go to the following day. Actually, it did not feel, smell or taste (I tried it) like salt at all; it was more like a cross between baby powder and fine Boracay sand.

In other words, instead of feeling the salt of the earth puncture my dead flesh in the hopes of renewing it, I was merely pampered like a baby on a changing station. I became no different to the matrona in the other room who was complaining about how her skin needs moisturizing or to the metrosexual young man who earlier had a milk bath.

Yet this pampering was done not in the manner of a mother bathing a newborn babe with fine delicate hands. As the word implies, to scrub (the M.L.G. schrubben) means to "rub hard" or, which amounts to the same, to apply something with force not only by colliding with the object but by going against its resistance in an attempt to overcome it. (Yes, that did not come from the dictionary.)

In other words, to scrub something is the will to intrude its interiority at which it ironically knows it can never arrive. But, in the process of that willing, the surface of the object is exposed and made vulnerable--like the walls of a fortress giving way to the thrust of cannonballs from invaders who wish to occupy it.

Scrubbing tests the limits of an object and it can only do so by scratching the surface (the French surface which means "outermost boundary" or "outside part"), which in turn is only possible by the attempt to intrude it. And at the interior design company of which I am part, we call this extra service to our clients "deep cleaning."

Put simply, I was a carpet which was first vacuumed, scoured and then shampooed. Or better: I realized I payed seven hundred pesos to play a cadaver on a coroner's table under the critique of an ambivalent embalmer.


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