I've been fascinated by the world of parapsychology for most of my life, ever since I was six years old and opened a door with my mind.
...Or so I've basically convinced myself in the intervening years.
Like any enlightened modern person who has ever emailed her mom a horoscope with the subject line "WHOA -- TOTALLY YOU," I have always been secretly, guiltily convinced that the Ridiculous is possible.
Specifically, I have trouble not believing in psychic abilities, and the kooky medieval notion that I have them. This is all in spite of the fact that I consider myself a Richard-Feynman-reading, NOVA-watching, bona fide Woman of Science (Boring dinner party? Let me into your pantry! I am confident I can make something explode).
My faith in this kind of stuff varies from day to day, depending on whether or not I am around other Incredibly Smart Geniuses and we are all smoking pipes, or if it is late and I'm alone with a scary movie about a puppet that murders people.
To this day, I get a huge, teenage-girl charge from any subject that might have been shelved in the Borders' Metaphysics section I was drawn to as an adolescent -- like a moth who sucked at gym. I watch those reality ghost hunting shows, especially the one with the tribal-tattooed guys who say "Dude!" all the time and take themselves super seriously (I don't know the real title because I call it "Ghost Bro."). When I go on road trips, I always try to stay in a "haunted" hotel or B&B. I love hearing addled, end-of-party stories about people being visited by their grandfather's spirit the night of his death, and most notably, I probably get about 10 readings from mediums or psychics a year.
I call it "Scooby Doo Agnosticism."
And whenever I get my palm or my cards read, the reader always tells me that I have the gift of sight, which I love. One, because it's like Stephen King role-play and there's something deeply narcissistically satisfying about being told you've Got the Gift. Two, because I assume that they say this to everybody -- the professional clairvoyant's version of telling a guy he's sooooo big. Three: because some little, dumb part of me believes it.
My middle school friends all believed it, too. We were a group of Claire's Boutique goth-lites obsessed with candles, spirits, and inventing newer and more absurd ways to spell the word "magic." Each of us claimed our own little paranormal "ability" -- like if the Captain Planet crew had fought Giving Dudes Boners instead of pollution.
One of us swore by the power of crystals, one read us her beautiful Ursula Le Guin ripoffs, one of us swore that she had seen and communed with "faeries" in the woods. I can't be sure, but I think one of us may have claimed to be an Elf.
(It should be noted that they were all really smart girls, ones who ultimately ended up at great schools and are now doctors, playwrights, and scientists. I always think back on these friends when I see lyrical, "coming-of-age" films about precocious young women. These are the kids milling around the Advanced Math classes and Gifted-Talented camps where you'd probably expect to find Salinger's charming Glass children or Wes Anderson's pretty phenoms: deeply strange, weird nerds who smell like primrose and armpit and save their allowance money to buy pewter figurines. Proving a personal theory: fictional or real, preocious young people are actually pretty gross. Leave them alone to be larvae.)
Basically, we were a set of monster dorks having a collective Stevie Nicks phase. Ever try to attach orthodontic headgear while your hands are greasy with protective ritual oil? I don't recommend it.
But back to my "thing" -- being psychic.
I was a master exaggerator who liked to talk up the murky, possibly gypsy ancestry of the Greek half of my family. Other times, I'd breathlessly recount a couple of genuinely weird experiences I'd had as a little kid that proved my point. Combined with the powerful junior high invective of It's True, Call My Dad and Ask Him, they had everybody fairly convinced of my powers... incuding me. See, please:
- The time when I was five and terrified my mother by correctly guessing the Final Jeopardy category, just seconds before Alex Trebek said it aloud (to be fair, it was "Sports." But still. What are the odds? Way psychic.).
- The time on a family vacation when I had an asthma attack in a Colonial Williamsburg church, one that could only be attributable to the vengeful spirits of restless patriot ghosts.
- The time my mom made me watch the video for "Thriller," and I was terrified for weeks afterward. My parents were freshly divorced, and one night, I called my dad into my room because I was convinced that there was a dance-zombie in my closet, lying in wait to dance-kill me. While my dad sat next to me on my bed, rolling his eyes and cursing my mom, the closet door slid all the way open by itself, freaking us both the fuck out to this day. (A few years later, I asked him if he thought it was possible that I'd opened the door via telekinesis. "I don't think I've known anybody so afraid of anything as you were of Michael Jackson," he mused. "So maybe.")
As you can tell, I was a very normal little kid.*
When I was 13, I bought a Ouija board at a charity flea market run out of the basement of my mother's Greek Orthodox church. It was an old, 1970s edition, an ombre photo cover on the crunchy, hot beverage ringed box: a photo of two pairs of hands, moving the planquette towards the word "YES" against a candlelit background.
The Ouija board in particular is an adolescent girl Rite of Sleepover Passage, like prank calls, Tombstone pizza and dry humping other teen girls. My friends and I would play with it for a little while, mostly pushing the planquette around and pretending we believed were indeed talking to the spirit of John Lennon. But around 4 in the morning, our retainers tasting of mortality, we would suddenly decide that Ouija was evil.
There were stories traded, of cousin's friends or camp bunkmates ,who had unwittingly invited spirits into their homes: drowned little girls, Indian ghosts, garden variety hell daemons (with an a, thank you! Looks cooler that way).
It is a rule that every time a preteen girl has a sleepover, she has to invite That One Who Cries and Wigs Out -- and around this time, that girl would usually start doing her thing.
I fancied myself Fairuza of the group, but I, too, eventually got creeped out. Despite the fact that the thing was manufactured by the same people who made Bop-It (and that I'd technically bought it in the Sacred Ground of the flea market), who knew how many capricious teenagers had tried to call up Captain Howdy before us?
I was scared for weeks after I'd thrown it away, convinced that being shoved beneath a Papa John's box was the final indigity for some annoyed demon who was like, "UGH, that's it. I was being nice but now: POSESSED."
My adventures in occultism lasted about a year -- that is how you have a phase in the suburbs -- but my love of psychics goes on unfettered by stuff like a "college education" or "growing up."
I love having my fortune told and take every opportunity to. It's like what I imagine going to a psychiatrist to be like, except without that annoying thing where the therapist makes you do all the work. Instead of like, "Why do you think you feel that way?" They say things like, "You are very creative and people are naturally drawn to your sparkling energy."
How much better would going to a doctor be if you were like, "I have abandonment issues" and he was just like, "Hmmm, avoid the number 62." So much better!
Obviously, I don't put too much stock in their actual predictions. It's just really fun to pay a stranger to talk about you for several minutes, and it reinforces the wild, freefloating hope that maybe something awesome is going to happen to you. That's probably why I feel compelled to call up a hotline or make an appointment with some overbooked medium in in Queens when my life is a mess or I've been single for a long stretch of time.
It's a thrill if your reading is dead-on, and it's funny if it's way off-base. Once, after a Christmas party, my friend and I stumbled out of a bar and into a storefront in Alphabet City lit by a signature neon eye. The reader, a wildly confident older lady swaddled in paisley scarves, told me I was psychic, that I was going to be famous someday, and that "a foreign man is longing to take you to his island." HIS ISLAND!
It was all very sexy and convincing until she very earnestly told my celibate friend to forgive herself for having so many abortions.
A few years ago, I interviewed a world-famous psychic, who told me that I was going to meet and fall for a blue-eyed stranger in 2011. That year, I dated a brown-eyed Argentinian with "Down to Fuck" tattooed on his neck**, but otherwise, there's been nobody. I think this is why psychics generally try not to be too specific in terms of time or eye color or whether or not somebody is your "soulmate." (Though it goes without saying, this guy was not.)
But sometimes, they're right. They're bound to be by probability. (But also maybe by PSYCHIC MAGIC! Right? Right.)
When I was 18, I saw a tea leaf reader in New Orleans who told me that I had The Sight, and that I was going to work in entertainment and live on the west coast for a while. (I did! And not because she told me to.)
Another one told me that my boyfriend at the time was Not the One, looked at me with a gimlet eye and said flatly, "You're going to have a LOT more boyfriends... if you can call them that." (True! I grew up to be a tooootal slut.)
Once, walking around Brooklyn at 1 AM, I rang the bell by a sign that said "PALM READINGS: 24 HOURS." A few minutes later, I was sitting on a threadbare floral couch across from a young woman in a synthetic negligee, like a bad short story. The fee was ten bucks, I gave her a twenty, and she picked up my hand and examined it roughly while two small babies snuffled in a playpen a few feet away. She sighed. "Oh. Okay. You're one of those bloggers." (Scary! Acurate, and my palm wasn't even encrusted with telltale Guacamole Dorito dust at the time.)
Richard Simmons personally read my aura and told me I'm rebel and that my sprit can't be tamed (True x 100,000,000,000).
I know many People of Reason who occasionally say things like, "Don't buy a car NOW, you fucking idiot, Mercury is in Retrograde!" and I never think less of them for it.
I don't know: I think that it's comforting to believe that some part of me knows what's going to happen next. That little things, like when I know my mom is going to call me right before she does (this happens regularly) or I'm walking down the street singing UB40's "Want to Make You Sweat" and walk into Rite Aid and it's playing (DEFINITIVE proof of my bond with the spirit world), are positive little signals.... to me, from Wherever.
A friend's mother once told me that these types of coincidences weren't coincidences; they were a sign that "the universe was unfolding as it should." I don't know what that means. I just want to know the exact date that I'll be getting my own TV show and/or getting laid next.
Most recently, I had my cards read by a woman who told me my next relationship was going to be with a tall, controlling man with graying hair and an unhappy childhood. I'm super psyched about this because it sounds way hot, as long as it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I was writing a review of "Fifty Shades of Grey" at the time.
I know, I know. You think I'm gullible and a dumbass and an embarrassment to brilliant women with awesome hair and genius IQs.
But do you know how I knew?
*Who grew into a VERY cool teenager, **who grew into a wise adult.