Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The Psychic

A friend had gifted me a reading (or séance? or session?) with her psychic/life coach. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t Christmas, or Hannukah, or any holiday that I knew of. The only thing that had happened recently was that my friend’s book had been launched. So maybe she was celebrating her book launch by giving me this present. But you know what? I didn’t even think about it much after asking her if she was sure she wanted to spend that kind of dough on me (“Go,” she’d urged, “Dr. Stayci gives good advice”). What’s so strange about a friend giving you a present, right? And, assuming she wouldn’t be like that psychic on 6th Street who tried to get me to buy her a Rolex and a 32 Regular cashmere suit to “pray over” (“isn’t your future happiness worth an investment?” she’d asked), who couldn’t use a little good advice?

So I went. As I raised my knuckles to rap on Dr. Stayci’s door, the door opened and there she was. But it wasn’t telepathy, it was just that she was escorting her previous appointment to the hallway. Her previous appointment was crying. She was tearfully thanking Dr. Stayci. I watched as they hugged and promised to stay in touch, and as the weeping previous appointment brushed past me, I was led in with a bemused sense of foreboding.

Dr. Stayci looked like a troll. I’m not one to say that in a mean way, so believe me, she really looked like a troll. Her hair was sticking out like old worn-out broom straw the color of dead grass, and her eyes were just like two great saucers surrounded by concentric dark (mascara?) circles and wrinkles, with dilated, psychedelically spiraling pupils. (Okay, that was just the impression she gave, amalgamated with visceral memories of nursery rhymes.) She had obviously done her nails herself, in a color that was considered elegant in the seventies. She was wearing some kind of loosely draped, poorly sewn outfit which, it later transpired, she’d made herself and was quite proud of. She had a habit of spreading her arms wide while talking, and hunching a little as she hovered over you, like raccoons try to do when they stand up and mean to scare you out of their way in a narrow forest path. And I think she might take “troll” as a compliment, because I’m not unconvinced that she strove for that look.

With this in mind I simply accepted her physical attributes as part of the act, introduced myself, and took a seat. And this was one of the first things she said to me after she closed her eyes and began her “reading” of me: “You have… a spring in your step… it’s an… it’s inappropriate.”  The funny thing was, I had the impression she’d been about to say, “annoying,” instead of “inappropriate.”

“Isn’t a spring in one’s step good?” I asked, acting as if I were surprised that a psychic might want to throw me off my guard. Pretending I was unaware that I usually annoy a certain kind of person just by virtue of existing.

“No! It’s not appropriate for a woman your age. How old are you, anyway?” Whereupon she picked an age she seemed to think was insulting and flung it in my face. But the thing is, at that point in my life, I looked nothing like how old I was, so she was still a little on the young side. Nonetheless, I decided it was in my best interests to play it her way, and pretended she’d guessed too old. I gave her the slightly injured, “so what” shrug with the requisite supercilious raising of the eyebrows, and said, “So? This is New York, and I’m a freelance cartoonist. I don’t have to walk or look or dress any particular way at all.”

“You were dressed like a SLUT at [my “friend”]’s launch party,” she growled, and added, “You looked like a WHORE… You. Looked. Ridiculous.” Now here she had me truly perplexed. I’d come from my day job, and simply changed out of my jeans to a knee-length fluted tweed skirt and wool lace tights to LES-ify my casual look a little. Blotted and powdered my face a little, and basta. “Are you sure you remember me right?” I asked.

“I was there! I saw you!” she roared with a wave of her feral arm, then lowered her voice and squinted into my face to add, “And you laughed too loud. People turned around to look at you.”

This was true. I had definitely laughed too loud at one point when a man (some kind of religious figure, I forget what, maybe a priest?) made a joke during a toast that nobody else laughed at right away because it wasn’t immediately apparent (except to me) that he was trying to be funny. My laugh came — generously, I might add — milliseconds too early, so, yeah, it was a little loud, given the silence it was born into. But it had been a well-intentioned laugh, and I wasn’t in the least ashamed at the time. I just figured I took a bullet for the guy. Nevertheless, I now began to feel the creeping heat of abashedness crawl up my spine and into my scalp. And it’s not easy to make me feel abashed, as anyone who has known me for the last 10 years since I decided no longer to suffer fools knows. She’d hit a nerve.

Seeing she had her hooks in me at least part-way, she primed me for the rest of the evening: “I’m going to tell you things your mother should have told you,” not realizing that my mother has already told me everything there is to tell as far as every mean, reproachful, denigrating, cruel, undermining, slap-down-y, patronizing (or should I say matronizing), vicious, appalling, uppity, sick, bitchy little thing anyone could ever imagine someone’s emotionally abusive mother “ought” to have told any annoyingly confident young woman with an inappropriate spring in her step.

Which is the following: That I was lost. That I wasn’t making enough money. I didn’t know how to dress. I didn’t know how to make the right kinds of friends or how to act around important people that could help me reach my goals. As for my goals, I didn’t have them properly identified, and I wasn’t getting any younger. I was going to miss my boat. My life was slipping through my fingers. I couldn’t keep a man. People were taking advantage of me and I didn’t even know it. I didn’t know my ass from my elbow, and people were mocking me. I was making a fool of myself all the time, and I was delusional if I didn’t believe her.

That pretty much sums it up. Everything my own mother had told me or made me believe all my life, I mean. And it was exactly what Dr. Stayci was telling me, too.

A weaker person would have thought: Wow. Mom must’ve been right! Because 20 years after I’d rejected all that brainwash from Mom, here was a troll-like psychic who prided herself on being a bitch (or so she’d said), going by a cheerleader’s name spelled in a contrived way and preceded by a doubtful title, and being paid (paid, no doubt, by someone I must surely have offended in some way) to tell me exactly the same thing!

But I just said, “I know what you’re doing.”

She said, “What?”

“I know what you’re doing. You’re tying to break me down, so you can build me back up again. It’s what they do in EST, and Landmark, and in boot camp. I know what you’re doing. And it’s not going to work. I listened to this stuff from my own mother all my life. I’m already broken and rebuilt, by me. I know you mean well, but I really think I should leave.”

But she would go on, reader. And so, understanding that her work ethic wouldn’t allow her to let me go until she felt she’d done what she’d been paid for, I sat back down. At least I think that’s what her stubborn refusal to allow me to leave till she was through metaphorically holding me by the neck between her wolf-like teeth and shaking me like a moribund field mouse meant. There might also have been a mean streak in her. So I stopped resisting and let myself be sucked in ever so slightly. To at least make it consensual.

She got me to cry, reader. Really. But don’t worry, it wasn’t the real kind of crying. It was the kind like when you’re watching a movie, and crying during a really moving scene. Like the scene where the brainwashed cult victim gets “broken” by the deprogrammer after hours in isolation, is brought back to her senses, and weeps with gratitude, pulled back to the warm breast of safe, middle-class convention, and suckled on approval. Or like practically any emotionally manipulative scene from The Champ, where poor Ricky Schroder swings from apparent rejection by his father to pure, grateful, orgasmic filial joy. I cry at that kind of thing the way people who know they’ll never get married cry at weddings.

This seemed to make her happy. Why did I want to make her happy? Because she obviously wasn’t going to let me out till she got what she wanted. I’d been in there nearly two hours! It kind of made me feel good that my friend was paying for all this overtime, because whatever her motive for putting me in this woman’s clutches was, I’d decided she wasn’t going to get away with it on the cheap.

So, during the rebuilding phase — the part where I’m so grateful for the cruelty to have ceased that I’ll listen to anything and lap up every little bit of advice as if it were mother’s milk (or in my case, Similac) — Dr. Stayci advised me to take a look at my friend who’d gifted me this session. Look how she dresses. (In expensive designer clothing, lots of make-up, colored and blown-out hair, plenty of jewelry, ostentatious designer high-heels.) She advised me to learn from her example, because people took her seriously, dressed, as she was, for success. Well, maybe not dress just like her, but I could change a few things about my style. Like wear more makeup. Whiten my teeth. Wear my hair in a more womanly way (like, not in pigtails). A nice, pink, modest lipstick to tone down my huge lips. And maybe pearls. Yes, she saw me in pearls. Pink pearls. They could become my signature look, she mused.

I blinked away my tears looking up at her in a way that I knew would gratify her and thanked her, trying to pity her as I pity my mother, but not show it. I was hungry and needed to bring this session to a close, no matter how much I yearned to anger her and add up more hourly fee for my friend to pay. So I let her tell me how she’d done it all for my own good, agreed that she was right after all, wasn’t she, that I was wrong to have resisted, wasn’t I, and then hugged her while crossing my eyes. Promised to buy those pink pearls. I left trying to look like what I imagined she thought grateful, humbled, slapped-down bitches looked like. Made a face at the door after she closed it — but not so she’d see it through the peephole and drag me back in for more. I’d have to hit her if that happened and I had no time for any more nonsense: I needed some soup. And maybe some salad. And a steak.

Out on the sidewalk, as I walked with a reinforced goddam spring in my step, I called a friend who’d been waiting in a restaurant for me for over an hour and half to tell her I’d been unavoidably detained by Dr. Stayci’s superfluous rebuilding of my self-esteem.

Although I saw my friend again a few times during a brief period of denial, having been assured that she didn’t think I’d dressed like a slut at her party, Dr. Stayci was pretty much the death knell of our friendship. How do you forgive a so-called friend something like that? How is it possible she didn’t know what was in store for me? And anyway, she got a Blackberry and soon began communicating only in short texts, which greatly degraded the content and integrity of our discourse. Within a few months, there was no friendship left to lose, as far as I was concerned. Words are important to a friendship, I’ve always thought. Our friendship would’ve shriveled away, Dr. Stayci or no Dr. Stayci, once that Blackberry came between us. I have very few Blackberry friends.

So, did I ever buy those pink pearls? Fuck, no. And I just keep right on walking with a spring in my step.

Previously: Hildegarde of Bingen to the Rescue.

Carolita Johnson's cartoons appear in The New Yorker and at Oscarinaland.

96 Comments / Post A Comment


If a woman has a spring in her step, she needs heavier leg-irons.



@atipofthehat I'll find something to have a spring in, if they make them heavier. My toes, my ears. Whatever!

Sarah Nicole Pinner@facebook

I like you, Carolita. Great piece.


Dear Ms. Johnson,

You, madame, are a Woman of Merit.


A Reader


I once had an art teacher like this! She was awful. It was a drawing class where we went out and drew things in nature. And she REFUSED to teach any real drawing skills. Example: me: "hi, I'm having trouble with the perspective here, should the line go there or there?" Her: "I'm sure you will figure it out. It's more about how you feel about perspective". NO lady, it's not.

So she only liked the kids who looked up to her as a life mentor. I was all good with my life so she just DEDICATED herself to dragging me down, hating on every piece I did, always trying to probe ("oh this piece it looks so sad, were you unhappy when you did it?").

BUT. The worst part was when she made us all come in one at a time for a final "self evaluation". You know, where you give yourself a grade? Where you are supposed to say something low enough that you hope she'll give you a slightly higher one and if she doesn't you can live with it (like...b+ maybe?). And I was having none of it. I said, "I think I deserve an A. My skills are good. I did this work and this work." And she said, "really, I think you deserve more of C. You have a real attitude problem."

And this is where it really aligns with your story. I cried. I pretended my grandfather, rest his soul, died that semester, not 2 years earlier and that we were very close and looking at the trees reminded me of him, and how I just wanted him to be proud of me. And she took such a SICK pleasure, and it was so wrong. I felt cheap doing it, but she also pushed me right into it, you know? I got my B+ in the end.


@E Sociopaths should not become teachers.


@E i think our art teachers must have been sisters. mine was less in touch with her emotions and more with her hairspray, but the spirit was the same.


@E Why do these kinds of awful people always tell you that you have an attitude problem? I had the same kind of dynamic with my former boss and it was the worst.


@E mine was a nun who just wanted nothing so much as to break me down. she made me "redo" an assignment in the hallway that I had received a 100 on (I hadn't redone it with the rest of the class b/c it seemed pointless); berated me for not being properly grateful for winning a spelling bee (with a computer printout congratulating my win posted behind me) and took any opportunity to humiliate me in front of the class. I was confused but unbreakable. Also, I learned to throw around the term "sexually repressed."

Better to Eat You With

@lobsterhug Because the only proper attitude is kissing their asses, apparently.


@lobsterhug Yep, I have learnt (mainly from family) that 'You have an attitude problem' actually means 'By 'you', I mean 'I'' or 'Your attitude problem is ME'. Also I don't know why but whenever I hear this it inevitably ends with me trying desperately hard not to giggle at the absurdity of the situation because if I giggled I just know the other person would get much much angrier.

tea tray in the sky.

@E Was this at the University of Ottawa? I SWEAR I had the same art teacher, and I thought of her the moment I looked at Carolita's illustration.


@Twinkle Little Bat No! A small university in Massachusetts.

tea tray in the sky.

@E Oh man. Mine had us walk through the art building, and then draw an image representing how we felt while entering different spaces using overlapping planes of charcoal on one piece of paper. Then she told me that I wasn't clear enough in my rendering of the stairwell's atmosphere (it wasn't "transformative" enough)... We also had one-on-one's where we'd mark ourselves and she'd agree or disagree, but she wouldn't really offer any explanation, just take notes while we talked. Also! I have permanent frost bite on my toes from our "field trip", which was skating in -42 degrees CELCIUS weather, plus wind. Oh my god. I can't even.


@Twinkle Little Bat we would go out sketching in the winter and I had those half finger gloves and I'd be soooo cold, and I'd come back and she would single me out as someone who didn't make enough drawings. Even though this other guy, who did okay in the class only went into the woods and smoked pot. But his drawings were always nice and trippy so I think she was okay with it? She was rotten.

For my final piece I did this very cool huge drawing of an apple tree on campus all in black and white and she HATED it. She hated that there was no horizon line, she hated the angles she hated how "cold" it felt. She probably was picking up on the coldness of my soul.

There should be a special medal you get: meaningless art critque survivor

tea tray in the sky.

@E Speaking of meaningless art critique, another prof of mine led art crits by using comment prompts such as "Who makes the prettiest paint strokes?". In a UNIVERSITY. PRETTIEST PAINT STROKESOHMYGODWHOCARESNOTTHEPOINT.


Girl! Where'd you get all of that self esteem, and can I borrow some?! Love this piece. Thanks for the inspiring read!


@lagreen My pleasure, Lagreen! I made my self-esteem from scratch with a piece of string, some pebbles, a magnifying glass, and a few rubber bands.


i went to a psychic like this once, too! except it was an ancient indian man at the world's fair in germany in 2000. oddly enough, he also looked like a troll!!

apparently my unusual combination of abnormally high self esteem + fatness + americanness + pigtails with pink streaks / sparkly peasant shirt / shiny silver cargo pants meant that i was going to die alone, friendless, and poor, never having met a single goal or ensnared a single man.

maybe some psychics are like dominatrixes for your spirit and some folks like that?

i like it better when a psychic tells me something that is obvious to everyone but me, but i won't listen. like, when i moved to new york with my 10-years-younger boyfriend and a psychic told me, "this is going to be great for you, but your boyfriend is going to wimp out and you're going to turn into his mother and then you're going to break up."

yeah, probably didn't need to be a psychic to see that coming!

anyway carolita i'm always so happy when i see a piece from you on here. <3 <3 <3


@madge I had a past life tarot reading done at a Renaissance Faire in 2000. It was really convoluted. I was a noble lady who got pregnant and ran away to get an abortion. I was really sick after and ended up as a nurse in a convent where I took care of a lord's younger brother. We ended up getting married but couldn't have kids. At the end, the lady told me I should focus on my career because I'd never find love.

What the hell.

The Lady of Shalott

@lobsterhug That is hilarious and I would totally have someone do my tarot card reading if they promised me it would be like a hilariously awful historical fiction novel.


@The Lady of Shalott Right! I wish I could remember more of the details because it would make for a pretty good bodice ripper.

The Lady of Shalott

@lobsterhug "THE LADY AND HER LOVER"

Marie is the only daughter of the cruel Lord Dunderhungs, who rules his manor with an iron fist. She is spirited and feisty and beloved by all the villagers (historical fiction trope no. 1) and her father marries her off to the kindly, gentle Lord Dieuxbiedieux, who secretly prefers the company of men. Though she no longer has to submit to her father's cruel will, she is saddened that her husband cannot stand to touch her and instead sleeps with his best friend, the stable boy of the manor. In her sadness, she befriends a strong and burly peasant. Slowly their friendship becomes something more, until one night the good Lady Marie is caught in a rainstorm in the village. The good-hearted peasant man, Francois, scoops her up and carries her to his humble home, which is very meager, but clean and smells lovely. They make love wildly with abandon, with a lot of screaming.

The good Lady becomes pregnant, though, and she realizes that she cannot have the baby because she's never actually had sex with her husband, because he's gay. So she devises a plan to run away to get an abortion from a wise woman in the forest (PSYCHIC???), and live happily somewhere far away with Francois. So she takes her precious jewels and they flee in the middle of the night on a white horse. But they run into terrible trouble when they realize that the Lord Dieuxbiediex is chasing them! You see, he realizes that this is his chance to have a legitimate heir without ever having to touch his wife! So he and his lover chase Marie and Francois through the woods on a wild and stormy night, and then suddenly the white horse rears and Francois is tragically thrown off and breaks his neck! He dies instantly, and Marie has no choice but to cling to the horse and keep going, lest her husband and his lover catch her! So they run and run and run until finally they lose them, and then she collapses to spend a night sobbing quietly on the forest floor, MORE ALONE THAN SHE'S EVER BEEN.


@The Lady of Shalott PERFECTION!

Lady, you are quality.

The Lady of Shalott

@The Lady of Shalott But eventually she makes it to the wise woman in the hospital, who bears a striking resemblance to the Troll Psychic. And the Troll Woman gives her a secret brew of herbs, promising it will heal her broken heart, as well. And poor Marie thinks she's dying of a broken heart, when she's actually just bleeding horribly because this is a terrible way to induce an abortion.

Marie eventually passes out from blood loss, and the Troll Psychic becomes frightened, and takes her off to the local hospital staffed by kindly nuns, and dumps her on the doorstep. Troll Psychic steals her jewels and the beautiful white horse, and Marie has a long period of convalescence in the hospital staffed by kindly nuns.

Though poor Marie has a broken heart and she is now destitute without her jewels, she gradually learns the simple ways of the nursing sisters and begins to enjoy their quiet life, though she is without Francois. Their lives are quiet until one day there is another terrible accident on their doorstep!

The dashing Lord Hauhauhaun was on a hunting trip in the woods, hunting wild boar, when his younger brother was tragically speared in the side by the Lord's secret enemy. The younger Hauhauhaun, Pierre, lies unconscious for many days while Marie and the sisters nurse him back to health. His life hangs in the balance for many days, and Marie takes an especial liking to young Pierre. She bathes his handsome face and sits with him for many many hours.

Eventually Pierre wakes, and the first thing his eyes behold is the lovely Marie. He falls instantly in love, thinking she is an angel, but Marie dismisses his instant marriage proposal as just more raving. Gradually as Pierre heals, Marie grows closer and closer to him, until the first day he is able to walk outdoors.

He walks around the garden, thankful that he is still able to live and breathe, and then he gets down on one knee and proposes to Marie! She confesses that she is actually of noble birth, and tells him that she is afraid that if he knew, he wouldn't truly love her. But Pierre is delighted with the news, and takes her home with him in his fine carriage to the estate of the Hauhauhauns, even larger and richer than Dieuxbiedieux's or Dunderhung's! The Lord Hauhauhaun and his wife, the Lady Hauhauhaun, are delighted to see their new daughter-in-law, and they welcome her to their loving arms.

Tragically, Marie and Pierre are unable to have children, thanks to Marie's failed herbal abortion courtesy of the Troll Psychic. But when the Lord and Lady Hauhauhaun die in a smallpox epidemic, they adopt their three children, and then adopt a couple more from a village family who also perished.

They live a long and happy life together and they name their youngest adopted son Francois.

The end.


@The Lady of Shalott Oh my god, I should not be laughing this much at work. People are going to realize that I'm shirking my duties.


@The Lady of Shalott Would that be Lord Scoubui Dieuxbiedieux?


@madge the best psychic I ever met was in Nice, a genuine gypsy that'd been hired as an extra on a commercial I was booked for. I watched him tell people amazingly true things, like that they'd just had an operation on their back, or that some relative had this specific problem. It was amazing. But he kept avoiding me. So I finally cornered him and gave him my hand, and begged him to read me. He looked at my hand for a while, then laughed. Shook his finger at me, and said, "I'm not telling you a thing. You're a character. You'll be just fine." That's how I knew he was real.


@lobsterhug I missed the "past life" part of your post and was marvelling at this crazy life you lead.


@Decca Like...I haven't a blue's clue how I could even think that could possibly be your actual life but I was momentarily very excited that we had a real life "noble lady" ex nun commenting here.


@Decca If only! The lowly tales of a database manager pale in comparison.


@carolita that is awesome :)


I have a really strong aversion to emotional manipulation of any kind and am deeply grateful to have sidestepped any psychics who roll that way, but HOLY SHIT BATMAN and I'M SORRY and YOU'RE GREAT.


I endeavor to be just as inappropriate as you, Ms. Johnson.


Would you really call this woman a psychic? I would call her a sadist. Also your writing is lovely! Thank you for breaking up my day.

World of Sass

Lord almighty, your friend's behavior wins the Most Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Human History award. Keep that spring in your step, lady. And please, if you haven't already, email your former friend a link to this article.


@MollyReid :) Thanks! But I wouldn't email her this article. I don't know if she meant well or not, and as I've said elsewhere, if I get a good story to tell out of a bad experience, I don't need more. A good story to tell is the winner's takings!


The last psychic that spoke to me called out from a doorway on 8th avenue: "Reading for you, miss? I think I see something! "
And I replied, "I should think so! I've got alot going on."

More replies later, as they're too hard todo on my old iPhone!! Thanks for all the sweet props! <3!!



As I walked past as psychic's storefront on Rivington Street years ago, the psychic tossed an enormous trashbag out of her door and hit me full in the chest. From the look on her face, she had not foreseen the incident.


@atipofthehat ha!


Holy crap, Carolita, that is MESSED. UP. Also, do you have any idea what you would have been charged for the pleasure of this beratement had her services not been a "gift?"

Something tells me pyschics like this dismayingly do much better for themselves than the ones trying to pump you full of lightness and positivity, which was the experience I had when I went for a reading last year. My psychic was the complete opposite: very young and pixie-like, life coach slash social worker during the day, and so sweet, but I knew I wanted my money back when she asked "have you ever heard of this book called Eat, Pray, Love? They (the spirits?) are telling me it could really help you out!" HEADDESK.

However, I would take "Hippie Dippie" psychic over "I Am Going to Train a Machine Gun on Your Soul" psychic any day.


@DickensianCat Yeah, everytime someone suggests I read "Eat, Pray, Love" I sadly cross them off my list of people to save if the ship ever goes down.


Any time I'm told I'm doing something "inappropriate," I have a very strong desire to do it a million times stronger.

Lauren Hayden

All right, this post is amazing (per usual) but I'm really just commenting to say I followed the link to Oscarina and I am so in love. I am about to spend my entire afternoon there and I can't waaaaait!


@Lauren Hayden :) Oscarina loves you.

Trudy Kockenlocker

My land, you got professionally negged. That is really something!

Queen of Pickles

Once you said "I know what you're doing," I let out this huge breath I didn't even know I was holding, and all my peripheral vision returned. This was basically the documented masterclass I have been looking for in identifying people who are trying to tear you down.

For the first twenty years of life on the planet, I assumed that everyone else meant well and was as terrified as I was of Being Bad and hurting other people. So if someone had said this to me, I would have totally assumed it was because They Cared So Much, How Could I Not See How Much Pain I Caused Them.

Thank you so much, in a very selfish way, for writing this.

Lauren Hayden

@annainbrooklyn It's funny, your comment and your use of the word "masterclass" brought back to me an incident when I was 17 and a sickeningly cruel violin professor flayed me in every possible way in front of all my classmates. Connecting that horrifying experience with this really empowering piece of writing feels like it's going to be very helpful, so thank you.


@annainbrooklyn it took me a good 35 years to get to that point, so if I saved you any time, my pleasure! I like to think I do the field work for a lot of people, and save them the trouble of learning from their own mistakes. Learning from your own mistakes is overrated. People have been making the same mistakes for eons. I say get out and see if you can make new mistakes!


@annainbrooklyn "terrified as I was of Being Bad and hurting other people."
You describe how I feel pretty much all the time lately. Residual feelings from a sensitive childhood and emotionally manipulative mother. It sucks when people take advantage of this.
The thing is...I always KNOW when someone is emotionally manipulative. But I never call them out on it. Fuck that! From now on, I'm just going to look them in the eye and say, "I know what you're doing..."

Katie Scarlett

I love when authors address their audience directly! I'm always reminded of the famous line from Jane Eyre: "Reader, I married him." I feel like a confidante!


I hate having Blackberry friends for that reason and thus I completely agree with this. Great piece!


@cosmia BLACKBERRY FRIENDS. THIS is the name for the reason that i've fallen so far out of touch with my best childhood friend, and why i'm having a slow time of making friends in LA. there are *lots* of blackberry ladies in these parts.


Maybe you're a special kind of masochist for sitting through the entire session, but I wouldn't put up with five minutes of this kind of shit from another human being, let alone a stranger. Life coach indeed. She should consider going into pro-domme work where her "help" will be more appreciated.


@charizard I've always been curious about how far people can take things. And how much I can take. But mostly how far people can take things. It's like watching someone dig their own grave. Fascinating. Plus, I would never know what these kind of people do to other people if I hadn't stayed. And now I do! And now you do, too! :)


@carolita You must like Curb Your Enthusiasm, then!


@pinkmoon I'll have to get it on Netflix -- I've been too cheap all my life to get cable. I did love the two episodes I've seen at other people's houses!


That is so disturbing.I hope you sent this article to your friend. I wonder what the hell she had in mind?


@jeanytay I've always wondered. Being that the previous appointment left in tears, I tend to think it was a typical session. On the other hand, like my boyfriend was just telling me (and as I noted in the beginning of the story), I may just have the kind of personality that brings out the sadistic beast in this kind of woman. It's also just a classic technique for a psychic (or drill sergeant, or kidnapper, or torturer) to break down a person's self-esteem, imprint herself on their psyche, and make them follow her like a duck for $90 an hour. Thinking this only makes me feel bad for my friend, actually, that she feels she needs the advice of a mean-spirited woman like this. (I had this crap for free from my mom!) She's so smart in other ways. So, no, I wouldn't send this to her. She might have meant well. I just think it's wise to not stay friends with people who "accidentally" or "well-intentionedly" give me this kind of grief.


On my eighteenth birthday my friends bought me $25 dollar tarot reading at the Psychic Eye next to the Jiffy Lube. The psychic made them all leave so she could be alone with me, then did my cards and determined that my life was "darkly cursed." Luckily, she assured me that for a mere $300 she could uncurse it by lighting the proper candles etc etc. When I balked she said, "This is your LIFE we're talking about here!" The awkward part was then we both had to wait in silence, just sitting across the little table from each other, until my friends came back to pay her the $25 dollars for the reading. I'm pretty sure she hated me so much at that moment that after I left she actually did curse my life. :/


@paperbuttons Don't worry. There are no curses that we don't put on ourselves. Other people can't. Anyway, I had a similar experience (with the lady who wanted the men's rolex watch -- to fix my "timing", and the men's cashmere suit in 32R -- to pray for my love life). She pursued me for ages after I ditched her. She actually found my telephone number, I'll never know how. I was amazed at her gall. She gave me that "This is your LIFE" talk, too. They all do. But I was just like, hey, the jig is up, lady. I'm out of here. I'd been to see her a few times, very curious as to how far she'd take things. I was very intrigued by her instructions regarding putting an egg and a red rose and a specific written prayer under the bed. (something like that, anyway). I actually had a "Wouldn't a Timex do? Timex's take a licking and keep on ticking, you know" debate with her over the Rolex. Hahaha. She should've known right then and there that I was just watching my own personal documentary.


@carolita "I was just watching my own personal documentary" is totally how I read this piece, and the state of mind I've been in when from situations that result in the most amazing stories, like this one.


@carolita @insouciantlover "Hahaha. She should've known right then and there that I was just watching my own personal documentary." Now that, that is fieldwork being done. That is the story of my life.


I am of the real opinion that true feminism will begin when smart intelligent women everywhere stop giving "psychics" their money. I am truly amazed how many educated, bright people play into that scam every time.


@Jasons_Johnson yo, dudes do it, too!


@Jasons_Johnson Well yeah, if you've reached a level of dependency on psychics as therapists or are regularly dropping money on them there are issues there, but every once in a blue moon it makes for a fun story or an interesting experience. I went once and was underwhelmed-but definitely entertained. I probably wouldn't go again unless it was on someone else's dime, but spending my money on a psychic wasn't much different from spending it on a massage or something equally as frivolous.

Vera Knoop

@Jasons_Johnson You know, we've been sitting around here for ages, dying to know when feminism-- TRUE feminism-- was going to begin. We even asked our psychics, but they wouldn't tell us! Thank god some dude's Johnson was here to put us wise.
BRB throwing away my dowsing equipment.


@DickensianCat I've always tried the occasional psychic the way other people try gambling at Vegas on vacation, or a ride on the roller coaster, or a walk in a haunted house. People pay to get abused and terrified all the time, as entertainment. There's absolutely nothing anti-feminist about a woman going to a psychic for the odd thrill. It's safer than a one-night stand with a stranger at a seedy bar. More fun than a mani-pedi. And like I said, men do it, too. It's just tragic when a man or woman becomes addicted to a psychic or to the whole psychic drama to the point of spending thousands and thousands on them and doing things they'd never do in their right mind. Like, I'm sure SOMEONE must've bought one of my psychics a Rolex watch, or she'd never have thought she'd get away with asking me for one, right? Yikes!


I was going through the comments counting psychics and I lost count.


aw why do blackberry people send short texts? I don't send short texts! I'm a good texter!

Is this why i have no friends :'(

Vera Knoop

@redheadedandcrazy I'll be your blackberry friend! I send overly long, fussily punctuated texts, myself.


@redheadedandcrazy dude, I send AMAZING texts from my blackberry. People tell me all the time that I'm the best texter they've ever known.

Chesty LaRue

@redheadedandcrazy @Vera Knoop @insouciantlover Can we all be blackberry friends?


Your actions are basically the ideal version of how I deal with my mother. She's moved on a bit and now is being Lovely Mummy, but she is still really Mother From Hell, so basically I just do receptionist face and nice her out. Give her a bit of what she wants but not so much that she gets heady with triumph.

This line: "like practically any emotionally manipulative scene from The Champ, where poor Ricky Schroder swings from apparent rejection by his father to pure, grateful, orgasmic filial joy. I cry at that kind of thing the way people who know they’ll never get married cry at weddings." is PERFECTION.

More pieces by people with horrible parents, who have managed to be actual human beings with coping mechanisms, please. They make me feel hope.

Also, thinking about it, the general thesis of this piece is something I have been realising lately, viz, that while I am not grateful that my mother is emotionally abusive, and I have had to unlearn some fairly awful coping mechanisms, it has also given me a lot of strengths and advantages. I mean, some of my cousins are only just now, in their late 20s, learning things that I knew from 5 in teh way of 'sometimes people are just jerks' and 'not everyone means well' and 'perhaps don't tell everyone everything until they have earnt your trust'. Those are some pretty hard lessons to learn at any age, but having built yourself back up early in life brings a righteous glow with it. I have really WORKED on my shit, and I feel like I parented myself, basically, into being a decent, non manipulative adult. So, hooray for me! I don't need psychics either!


@Craftastrophies All true. And I'm proud of you, too! :)

fondue with cheddar

@Craftastrophies My boyfriend's ex wife is emotionally abusive to their children (and was abusive to him also). He often worries that the kids will be screwed up because of her. I was just talking to him this weekend about how such an upbringing might make one stronger, and then comes this! I just emailed him a link to this post and also copied your comment for him to read. I hope they'll turn out to be more like you and Carolita (from what I can tell, I think they will).


@jen325 I really hope everyone who has abusive parents learns to overcome them -- mind you, it took me a long time. I had to leave home and be far away from friends and support networks to even have it all begin to dawn on me. It's very difficult. But the fact that your friend is already aware, and that he has good friends like you, gives those kids a good chance at it! Good luck!


@carolita naw thanks! I cannot get enough of stories like yours, where it's acknowledged but not the central, life-ruining thing in the story.

@jen325 My partner's ex is crazy. No, really, she is, she has multiple diagnoses. None of which she is being treated for. I can't talk about her with the kids (not that that would really be appropriate, anyway) because it brings up so many of my own issues. Sometimes when he tells me the things she's said to them, it just makes me so upset. But they have a head start in that they have him, and he not only builds them up, he helps them decode what is going on. He also overtly teaches them better ways to communicate, and he has to sort of deprogram them when they come back from a long time with her (he has them during the week), because they are both so tense and defensive. It breaks my heart.

One of the things I feel the most grateful for, in a conflicted way, is that as I got older I found more people who had been abused. These are people who, when I tell them about an incident with my mother, know that it's not about whether we should have had that extra piece of bread at dinner or not, it's about control and power. Who don't say things like 'but she's your mum!' or 'but she loves you, REALLY'. Well, that may be so, but I shouldn't have to be translating that. SHE'S the adult. No matter how old I get, she's always older and should always know better. Still, it took me a long long time to get from 'I have conflict with my mother and it's probably my fault for being broken' to 'my mother is genuinely a bitch' to 'woah, that's actually abuse'. I had to actually do a course on domestic violence for my job before I realised. That was a confusing moment.

Anyway, clearly I can write ESSAYS about this. If you want to bitch more or whatever my gmail is kaviare at etc. I don't really do advice because it never ends well, but I would recommend 'Children of the Self-Absorbed'. It has quizes and worksheets you can do to help you think aboutwhat's going on and I found it super helpful even though I am not a fan of that kind of book. Your boyfriend might be able to read it and get some ideas from it to help his kids out?

fondue with cheddar

@carolita Thanks for your kind wishes! Two of his kids are in college, and they did choose schools that are far from home and seem to be better for it. Hopefully the younger ones will follow suit. And I figure the fact that they have one good, sane parent goes a long way.

fondue with cheddar

@Craftastrophies Wow, I can't imagine how hard it must be to hear the things your partner's ex says given your history. His kids are lucky to have him. My boyfriend's ex has not been diagnosed but I've no doubt she's got a particular, serious disorder for which she really needs to be treated.

I will definitely recommend Children of the Self-Absorbed to him, thanks! She doesn't have narcissistic personality disorder*, but I think there are enough similarities that the book would certainly be helpful.

*She has borderline personality disorder, and the book Stop Walking on Eggshells helped him immensely.


Great piece, it kept me reading really fast to find out how you got out of that mess. I don't think I could have ever reacted the way you did - despite it obviously being the best way to leave without a confrontation with her. I really connected with the idea of someone trying to break you down for their own reasons.

In my undergrad years I became friends with a meangirl. I didn't realize this till a couple months into the friendship and when I broke it off she and her helper monkey asked me to chat with them. I went into her dorm room and they sat me down with a two page list of everything they felt was wrong with me. Petty things, which somehow were blown up to explain how seriously terrible a person I was. When I got up to leave she stood to block the door. Fortunately I am much taller than meangirl or helper monkey so when I threatened to kick their asses they let me go all while yelling 'I can't believe you don't appreciate this, this is for your own good!!!' As it turns out we ended up switching to other universities so we never lived together again, but when I googled her - wouldn't you know, meangirl is trying to become an actress.


Carolita, I don't know which I love more - your pieces, or the fact that you come into the comments and chat with everyone and seem just totally sincere. Please write more of these stories. They have this wonderful effect of making me super pissed off and then making me laugh or feel some sort of soaring satisfaction at your reaction. Love it.


@insouciantlover I know, I love that she responds too! It makes me feel so special, like YAY, she noticed! :)))) Love her stories/cartoons as well. *happy feelings*


@insouciantlover How could I not respond? All these comments are so cool! Thank you!


@D.@twitter ditto to you! ;) (that's a special ditto)


@insouciantlover Yes, more! MOAR.


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