A Case of Mistaken Identity

This afternoon, like yesterday and tomorrow, I was wading thigh-deep through bushes of Cat’s Whiskers when I had a flashback to a week ago: I was in Ubud preparing to head out for the evening – an experience worlds away from the one of today.

It all started, innocently enough, with a phone call. The connection was weak and short, only long enough for me to know that an English-speaking woman (but with an accent) was calling from somewhere in Bali to extend an invitation to me. To an event. In Ubud. The call broke off suddenly.

I didn’t hear from the woman again until the following day, when our connection was clearer and she was able to explain: She was calling on behalf of a Mr. B who wanted to invite me to the opening of a gallery. When I told her that I didn’t know a Mr. B, she was puzzled, because, as she said, “he specifically mentioned your name and told me that I should be certain to invite you.”

How odd, I thought, to receive a personal invitation from someone I’ve never met or heard of before. How odd – and mysterious. Without a doubt, I simply HAD to go…

The caller followed up with an email (thinking the haze of confusion would thereby be cleared up – wrong!), and I made just the briefest note about the time and location, not really paying attention to the… um… tone, and (so unlike me) not to Google the gallery for more information. I must have missed the key phrase: drinks and canapés. Canapés?!

And so, I sauntered over to Monkey Forest Road and walked up the hill, passing little shops, mini-markets, spas and crowds, before finding the glass doors to Métis.

A young man, dressed in traditional Balinese dress, opened the door for me and smiled. I gasped. I live in Ubud, and I don’t know anyone who has doors opened for them. Another young man just inside approached me with a tray of long-stemmed glasses, a pink concoction bubbling effervescently inside. Two young foreign women sat in the center, decked out in gowns, playing an unfamiliar duet on their cellos, their instruments connected (inexplicably) to amplifiers.

The woman who called introduced herself, again expressed her surprise at the mystery of my invitation, and proceeded to guide me around the new gallery. She pointed out the Buddhas and relics from across Asia, expensive jewelry locked up in cases, photographs and other artworks.

I felt as if I had fallen off Bali and re-appeared in a socialite’s dream scene on Fifth Avenue. One young woman, decked out in sleeveless, bejeweled top, cigarette jeans and stilettos, oohed and aahed over a ring, asked the clerk nearby to unlock the case and, with a breathless Ahhh, c’est magnifique!, promptly proceeded to buy the pricey thing – under the watchful eyes of young Balinese men stationed outside the large window, gawking at the scene inside.

As I walked through the two rooms, I realized I’d made a serious fashion faux-pas: Women were dressed in their finest casual outfits and high heels, designer dresses, jeans and bag, flowing tops and jewelry. The men wore expensive white-washed or well-ironed jeans, topped with button downs or gold shirts. Some wore cuffs and ties. Nearly everyone spoke French. Ahhhh… c’est magnifique

Ahhhh-oh! C’est terrible! My white linen shirt was both crisp yet crinkled enough to render it passable, thank goodness…but looking down at the rest of me, I wondered how they ever let me in (never mind opening the door for me): Yoga pants (cut off at the knee) and Birkenstock’s?!

At which point, I started to really wonder: who are these people and what am I doing here? They are (mainly) from ‘the south’ where the so-called beautiful people live. They work and party, shop and lie by their pools, attend social gatherings that are covered in the local papers. My social calendar (if you want to call it that) includes activities like yoga, massage, walking, meditation, potluck, movies, swimming, Bali Buda’s Green Food Smoothy and rest.

It was an unusual outing, and the jury is still out on why I made the cut. Apparently, someone didn’t get the memo: canapés and Birks don’t mix.


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