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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

74

Sympathy for Liz

When I was three, my mom went to visit a psychic and brought me along. After he was done reading her, he read me too. One of his predictions was that I’d be married “late in life.”

A few years later, when I was around eight, my mom told me this story. Looking back, I wondered why my mom would have told me this information, as it seems a little mature for an eight-year-old. Except she likes to recall a story around the same time, in which I came out of my bedroom clutching a Reader’s Digest to my chest and announcing I was pro-choice. To this day, she believes she’s the only mother to rip reading material out of her child’s hands and order her to go outside and play.

In any case, the way my still-developing child brain heard it, “late in life” was remembered in a slant rhyme, and became “eight times.” My mom and I wouldn't speak again about this conversation for nearly 16 years.

For an eight-year-old, thinking you’re going to be married eight times is a terrible burden to bear. Even more so when your mom is avid reader of Star magazine during the 1980s and '90s. Because Elizabeth Taylor was on the cover for like a straight decade. Always being put on blast for rolling through one marriage after another, right on up until No. 8 (Larry Fortensky, if you need a reminder).

I despaired for Liz, because I felt her mocking would eventually become my own.  “I’m just like you,” I whispered to innumerable magazine covers. And I was furious at the editors who so callously skewered her love life week after week after week. “It could happen to anyone!” I thought, staring at the cruel words.

Good people can probably fall in love a lot!” I thought, even though I had not yet loved. Or gone through puberty.

The years went by. 

When I entered high school, and started developing crushes, I couldn't throw myself into them with my friends' wild, all-encompassing abandon, although I tried. I liked boys, but I didn’t dare dream of marrying any. "WHAT’S THE POINT?” my brain screamed to itself. “YOU’LL HAVE EIGHT TRIES TO GET IT RIGHT!" So while I passed notes, developed schemes to have actual conversations (the most advanced of which involved several weeks of planning to return a forgotten pen and failed upon execution), and yearned from afar like only a teenage girl can, I never actually wrapped my head around the concept of “the one.” For me, there were always “the eight.”

College followed a similar pattern. I made out in bars. I went on several fun first dates, but couldn’t muster up the energy or feelings for a second. I left a lot of boys in the dust, and they me. And that suited me just fine. Heartbreak and I were going to have to get along. We had a long, strange road to travel together.

I should note here that while I knew that marrying eight times wasn’t something I could be forced into doing, I really did believe that his prediction was likely accurate based on how often my mom told me how great this psychic was. She often cited one story in particular, which always stood out for me. In the 1970s, one of my aunts left her thesis — which was also her entire life’s work — in a briefcase somewhere in Cambridge. Despite combing the city for days and days, she simply couldn't find it. In desperation, she called the psychic who mentioned that he saw the briefcase safe and sound “among flowers.” My aunt suddenly remembered she had stopped into a florist (keeping in mind that if you can manage to lose your entire life's work, you can also manage to forget you went to the florist). She ran there, and sure enough, the florist had the briefcase behind the counter. Believe it or not, this story was all the verification I needed that this man clearly knew his stuff and had plotted out my future before I had a chance to imagine it myself. There would be no manifesting destiny for this girl.

Skip ahead to my senior year of college. I started dating one of my best friends from home. Jason was nice, but we were very different at our cores and fought a lot. After graduation, I moved back to South Florida and was deeply unhappy. My job sucked. I was living at home and answering questions about my whereabouts again. And worst of all, Jason wanted me to convert to Judaism because he said we had no future if I didn’t. Though I didn't want to convert, it made sense to me that I should try because I knew that my first marriage had to end in disaster so I could get going with husband No. 2. However, finally starting down the path to my eight marriages caused me a lot of angst.

It boiled over one day while I was driving in the car with my mom. “I’m miserable!” I yelled to her. “I don’t want to be Jewish! I hate my job! I’m going to get married to Jason and what’s worse, I’m going to have to un-convert eventually so I can go ahead and get married seven more times!”

To my horror, she laughed at me. “What are you talking about?” she asked, looking at me like I was insane.

“WHAT YOU THINK I’M TALKING ABOUT? MY EIGHT MARRIAGES!” I continued to scream. “YOU KNOW! WHAT YOUR PSYCHIC FRIEND TOLD US!”

She took a few beats to try to remember what the hell I was talking about. Then, to my increasing fury, she laughed again. “That’s not what he said, Lia. He said late in life. That you’d be married late. in. life.” She turned back to concentrating on the road as if she hadn’t just shattered everything I’d ever believed in.

Even now, it’s hard to find words to describe the shock I felt in that moment. It was the equivalent of someone telling you the sky you always thought was blue is actually orange and oh, also? You’re a huge idiot. My mind simply couldn’t comprehend. "But Liz Taylor...” I sputtered and went silent. Then, again, “I’m not going to be married eight times?”

“I don’t think so, Lia,” she replied. I made a noise that sounded a lot like harumph. I sat on this information for six months and then moved to New York City alone on an August weekend in 2003. Jason and I held on for exactly one year and two in-person visits before we gave up.

Fast forward almost eight years and three weeks to August 2012. In our very favorite bar, surrounded by the people I love and tacos from San Loco, a wonderful, funny, kind man surprised the living shit out of me asked me to be his wife. I ugly cried for a solid minute surrounded by 20-plus people eagerly awaiting an answer. I said yes.

But now, two months later, as the dust of the surprise settles and the enormity of our commitment  becomes clear, a thought gnaws at me.

“Late in life,” the psychic had said in 1983. Does 32 count as late in life? I feel the question is relative. Would 32 have seemed late in life, to a man, back then?

When I think of late in life, I don’t think 32. I think more like 87. I picture headlines in USA Today. “A first-time bride at 87!” it might shout, with an adorable photo of me and my new, 88-year-old husband, taken for all of America to coo at over morning coffee and forget by lunch.

Who ever gets anything right the first time? Isn’t it easier to think you’ll have eight tries for perfection? I’m a master at overthinking trivial things. This engagement? It’s damn near killing me.

I still haven’t shaken the feeling, ingrained over the most impressionable and formative years, that I actually will have eight husbands. I look at my fiance as he sleeps. “Are you my Richard Burton ... or my Larry Fortensky?” I think. His face remains placid and perfect, blissfully unaware that he's lying next to an insane person, awake at 2:30 in the morning, comparing her life to Liz Taylor’s, all thanks to a mistake she made when she was eight years old.

Previously: A Moment "With" Kristen Schaal.

Lia LoBello works in public relations and marketing by day, but spends her nights crafting, cooking, and watching real-crime television. She blogs about her projects and recipes at Pretty|Delicious. She lives in Astoria and Tweets at @lialobello. If you know of any good shows about murder, revenge, or psychic children, please let her know immediately.

Image via Flickr/gammaman



74 Comments / Post A Comment

Emby

I don't know nothin' about no marriages or whatnot, but boy do I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you!

milenakent

i love it and thats word yooo@n

Quinn A@twitter

I love this.

A "psychic" told me I had not yet met the person I would spend my life with...the week my much-loved girlfriend moved in with me. I have dismissed it based on the fact that she probably just assumed I was single because I pass for straight and she saw me with two women who also pass for straight. But there was definitely a moment of horror there. WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE PERSON IS SINGLE?!

themegnapkin

@Quinn A@twitter Funny - a psychic once told one of my best friends (gay guy) and me (straight woman) that we would have a long and happy marriage, and he would give me many babies. She also told an actual couple we were hanging out with that they would split up soon. She was speaking Arabic, though, and her grandson was interpreting it into French, so something may have gotten mixed up somewhere down the line.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Quinn A@twitter Well.....what ended up happening? Was the psychic right?

Quinn A@twitter

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose So far, living together is working out great. I can't imagine ever wanting to be with anyone other than her, or not doing what it takes to maintain the relationship.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Quinn A@twitter Well, maybe that means you're the psychic. I refuse to believe that your successful relationship is due to anything else, like communication or choosing a compatible person or whatever. (Yay, you!)

meaux

“Are you my Richard Burton ... or my Larry Fortensky?”

This was awesome.

Queen of Pickles

This is wonderful. I demand a book made of similar essays!

Lia LoBello@facebook

@Queen of Pickles you seriously just made my life with this comment. thank you.

Judith Slutler

Everything about this is just amazing!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

This is great; I have to admit, I've been imagining the psychic as Miss Cleo, and it makes it a little funnier for me.

rimy

This was soooo good!

Back when I was with my jerko ex-boyfriend, toward the end of our regrettable relationship, we went to a psychic who had a stall set up in the middle of a second-rate mall just for fun. It was his idea... Worst decision ever. She told him a bunch of stuff like, "you will go on a trip soon and meet someone who will tell you something important", which could be construed as true since he was going on a trip soon, but when it came to me she just said, "You will become a nurse... or work in the medical field." Which could not be LESS true of me. I think she said that because I was wearing a white shirt. UGH!!!

Somewhat related, in middle/high school I made up this tarot-type mystical card reading thing that I could do with regular playing cards and freaked a lot of people out at slumber parties.

Ten Thousand Buckets

@rimy I did oracle card readings at parties. (I got them at Barnes & Noble, so you know they're mystical!) My reasonably lame friends always crushed on the most popular seniors they were too scared to speak to, so as long as I could offer some variation of "it won't work out," or "if you'd only talk to him something might happen" I was always right.

rimy

@Ten Thousand Buckets I was a big fan of "there is someone watching you from afar- a secret admirer", which, I think everybody wishes that were true (or they do in middle/high school anyway) so they were pleased in a goosebumpy way to hear it and it sometimes is actually true.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@rimy i love that story! i also tried to read my own tarot cards...but it was harder than i thought it would be and i gave up immediately. i didn't think to use them as a party trick. that's very clever!

Ten Thousand Buckets

I call self-fulfilling prophecy. If he never said "late in life," she wouldn't have heard "eight times" and stressed about love for years. Rather than worrying about dating her future ex-husband, she might have hit it off with a college boy and married him at 24.

sevanetta

@Ten Thousand Buckets My parents always told me when I was a kid that '[OurLastName]s marry late'. What a family motto to have. It has always super pissed me off and even more now because my younger brother certainly hasn't married late! (he got married at 26)

Danzig!

@Ten Thousand Buckets it's "[OurLastName)s marry late"! One [OurLastName] can marry early!

skippersarah

Do you live in my head?? This was amazing.

meetapossum

My friend is into numerology and told me I would meet my soulmate at 28.

All I'm saying is that you better pick up the pace, Soul Mate! You've only got a year and a half before I hit 29.

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum Maybe you'll meet them...but you wont' know it.

meetapossum

@fondue with cheddar Oh god I didn't even consider that

Forever alone.

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum Oh, shit.

I was trying to make you stop worrying but instead I made you worry more! #whycantidoanythingright

meetapossum

@fondue with cheddar Thanks a lot!

No, I mean, I don't really believe that anyway (or at least not a lot?). Plus if it goes like my last few relationships, he'll date me for a little while, we'll break up, and then he'll marry the next person he dates. So I'm already kind of jaded and okay with being Forever Alone and living with my cat.

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum Hey, some people take while to find someone they can spend the rest of their life with. I got married at 29, but it was to the wrong guy. I finally met the right guy at age 37. It took awhile, but it was totally worth the wait.

That said, making peace with being alone is definitely a good thing either way, because you can definitely be happy without ever getting married or the like. And one could argue that those who marry young never learn that important fact, which is unfortunate because sometimes people stay in a bad marriage because they're afraid of being alone...not that I would know anything about that...ahem.

meetapossum

@fondue with cheddar Yeah, I lucked out in that both my parents were married before they married each other, and when they got married, my dad was 44 and my mom was 33. I've gotten to see both the "older married age" and the "it's not necessarily right the first time" side of things.

Thanks for the positive thoughts, though! Glad you've found the right guy for you :)

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum Thanks! You know, people knock the divorce rate but really there are some good lessons to be learned so it's not all bad. It's wonderful that you've seen that divorce isn't the end of the world and second marriages can be wonderful. Some people can get it right the first time, and that's great. But I know so much more about what makes a good marriage than I did when I was married, and I will carry that knowledge into the next one. Relationships are so complicated!

SarahP

I have several times tried to convince my husband it would be funny to go to one of those sketchily-advertised-by-neon-signs-on-back-streets psychics together and pretend to be in a big fight on our way in, just to see if they used that somehow. He has always refused on the grounds that they might still say something legit about our future--he hates spoilers.

SarahP

@SarahP Sorry, the image for this article distracted me. But I loved the writing! So great.

BosomBuddy

A psychic told me I would have three children. I am 31 and doubtful whether I will have one, let alone three. That would involve a significant change of heart, a PhD, and ready loins.

SarahP

@BosomBuddy Maybe you will write three especially awesome books and they are your babies.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@SarahP Oooooooh interpretive psychic readings! I love that idea.

BosomBuddy

@SarahP That sounds about right. Or, two books and a kitten.

fabel

This is so great! I love it.

Megasus

My ex-stepmother went to a psychic once, and told her she would have 5 children (which invariably did happen when she married my Dad, there were 5 kids all together), and that one of them will write a book about her or something? If it's me, it's ah, not going to be entirely complimentary.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@Megano! i love it! mommy dearest part II??

Megasus

@Lia LoBello@facebook preeeeeetty much

kickupdust

huh! so many people seem to believe in psychics!

whizz_dumb

@kickupdust Yeah what is going on? I mean I enjoy the shit out of some X-Files and want to believe in paranormal things, but when it comes to real life I can't bring myself to hold any stock in such superstitions.

whizz_dumb

I know, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". I would follow that rule if I thought that phony fortunes were completely harmless.

Saaoirse

@kickupdust I think magical thinking sucks enough that we can be outspoken about not believing in psychics. Politely, I mean. I am surprised so many people just go along with it! Still a really great essay, though.

Gilgongo

@kickupdust I would feel the same way if I haven't been to one that was SPOT ON. Both times, it was just for fun, but they told me so much stuff (really practical/specific stuff, too, like "Get rid of your car, it's about to die," or to my friend "Who is this guy Peter and why are you still going out with him? He's terrible for you!" and, to me "You're a graphic designer. You're unemployed, but you've had 3 job interviews. You'll get one of them by the end of the week.") that I really have no other option than to believe in it.
One psychic, in particular, was at a "psychic party" that my friend had. The psychic had no idea who was going to attend and had no way of researching us in advance. It was seriously freaky.

itiresias

In fifth grade, a friend told me that her dad had said "he could tell" our other friend would "have a lot of boyfriends that went in and out of her life" and I would "have one guy I just stuck to" when we got older. I took it as wisdom at the time. Then I thought about it in high school and was bitter that the other girl had one boyfriend all the way through the four years, while I had zero. Now, she's not really my friend anymore but I know she's had a long string of dudes and I've pretty much only had feelings for two so far, with only one returning them. Fortune? Nope, suuuuuper creepy inappropriate dad calling one of his daughter's friends a future slut.

itiresias

@itiresias Unrelated, I like this and I like Lia LoBello in general, a lot.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@itiresias oh my goodness, thank you so much. and your story is amazing. i love it.

sprayfaint

My one and only time at a psychic she asked me if I was single or with someone, and I said "single" in a way that I guess was either confusing or mumbly, and she thought I meant that I was with someone -- and spent the rest of our session making predictions about this nonexistent person. So yeah, I never went back to a psychic.

Judith Slutler

@sprayfaint If that story were a horror movie, or maybe a whimsical supernatural comedy, your conversation with the psychic would obviously have created exactly that significant other for you!

selkie86

@sprayfaint
I'm endlessly amused by fortune tellers. Apparently my great aunt was really good with a regular deck of playing cards. Another person predicted my grandmother's 3 kids and many moves (military family).

The best one I went to (mind you, I'd tried to down a slushy, alcoholic beverage before it melted in the hot Texas sun) knew that my dog missed me, there was a guy on a motorcycle in my life (crush on a guy at work who loved his Harley) and that I was a creative person (my knuckles made little star shapes?). I wish I could remember more of what she said because I left suitably impressed.

The worst? I paid for my boyfriend and I to each have short tarot card readings. The lady basically said he was lucky in love and would have a wonderful life. She said the same thing about me, but added that I was generous (well I HAD just shelled out $20 for this). She then informed us that it was just for sample reading and if we wanted more we could seek her out at her shop. We didn't take her card.

The most entertaining: She ate Cheetos during the reading which resulted in slobbery, orange dust on my hands. She mentioned I should let an old boyfriend go, bake the new guy in my life's mother a pie. She also let me know that I was "too nice" and that if I kept this up people would use me like her kids use her... this went onto a rant about her kids.

Harbinger of Something

Oh my word there is nothing more devastating than a childhood misconception shattered. I thought "island" was a totally different word from its phonetic pronunciation for an embarassingly long time. So, completely different, but whatever.

Is It a Hat?

@Harbinger of Something I have something even worse. Everytime I saw an old black and white family photograph, I thought people back then didn't have color. Like they lived in a world of grayscale? I can't even imagine my mom's disappointment as she had to explain it to me.

brooklebee

@Is It a Hat? I had the same idea! I also thought that people live to be exactly 100, and then died on their 100th birthday. It was super disappointing to find out that the average life expectancy was more than 25% shorter.

coconuts

@Is It a Hat? I always thought that too! I was always watching old episodes of I Love Lucy and I knew that the show was from the 50s and that my mom was born in 1951. I figured that if she grew up in that time that obviously she grew up in a world without colour.

Valley Girl

I like that I can't tell whether the sidebar ad I'm seeing here is because of this piece or because I already Googled "Liz and Dick" today.

If I'm ever fortunate enough to be proposed to, there is no doubt that I will ugly cry. Best wishes for a happy marriage!

saritasara

Side note (haven't read the whole piece yet) I'm glad I'm not the only one who was obsessed with Reader's Digest as a child! I remember reading the large-print edition when we visited my grandparents' house. I always skipped straight to those "true-life" survival stories where people were trapped in a cave or had to fight off bears or shipwrecked or something.
Anybody else remember those?^^

Peanut

@saritasara VIVIDLY. One in particular, about a woman who got her arm trapped in a train door that wouldn't open and her sister saved her life by body slamming her before the train went into the tunnel.
And that is how I learned about 'induced comas'!

Faintly Macabre

@Peanut AAHHH I thought of the same story before I read your comment! And that is the only Reader's Digest true-life story I remember. How weird. (Also, that story gave me a lifelong paranoia of train doors, and I now live in a city where I have to watch people almost get stuck in them multiple times a day.

Verity

@Peanut Wait, how did bodyslamming her help?

queenieliz

@Verity yeah...I'm curious! Was she inside the train or outside the train? How much of her arm was stuck in the door? I remember reading these, but don't remember any particular stories!

Peanut

@Faintly Macabre NO WAY! For years, I thought I made it up.

@everyone The trapped sister had to run/was being dragged along with the train, and a tunnel was coming up so her sister kind of blocked her way with her body, I guess?

whateverlolawants

@Peanut How does that work? I still can't envision it. So scary! I hope my sister or I could do that for each other.

I still remember a story they printed, probably in the early or mid 90s, about a guy who had some problem while climbing a mountain. He had a massive lung problem (puncture?) and was coughing up something pink and foamy. Who can forget a detail like that? And then there was a guy who was stuck upside-down in a tree stump for a whole day, but that might have been in Guideposts.

As a child, my ex-boyfriend loved to read one particular Reader's Digest survival story whenever he visited his grandparents. They thought he was just into Reader's Digest in general, and got him a subscription for years. Even in college. Quite possibly to this day. I drove past the headquarters last month and sent him a photo.

fruiting body

This was fantastic. I wish you much happiness in your future marriage. Maybe the psychic meant you would CONTINUE to be married late in life? Like it will last until 87? I hope so!

Also: To this day, she believes she’s the only mother to rip reading material out of her child’s hands and order her to go outside and play.

Haha my mom had to do that, too.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@fruiting body thank you! one can hope, i suppose!

whateverlolawants

@fruiting body At age 6, I was punished by not being allowed to read for a whole day. But I read a book really quickly when my mom went outside to send my dad off to work.

geometree

When I was 18, a psychic (whose services I did not seek out, I was just shopping for candles) did a reading for me. She said I would marry young but my husband would DIE before we could have children. It would work out alright though, because later in life I would marry a man with two children of his own and be very happy. This essentially works out to "YOU ARE NEVER HAVING YOUR OWN CHILDREN" to me.

I got married earlier this year at the age of 25. I still constantly think about seeing another psychic to get a 2nd opinion (so to speak) but I haven't found one where I live that doesn't seem like a scam. :< I am also gripped with fear every time my husband is out driving alone and I don't hear from him in a timely fashion.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@geometree oh my gosh i'm so sorry! i hear you though..it's such a traumatizing experience to hear something that may or may not be true. even worse, when you kind of believe in those sorts of things? obviously i wish you all the best and hope this is very, very wrong!

Jessica Kay

@geometree That was just mean of her to tell you that. Like really.

gidgetjones

My mom and I went to a psychic once, and as she read my palm she told me I'd meet the right man, but not for a while.
I turned my hand over to show her my wedding ring.

However ... she was right.

Jessica Kay

My mom was dragged to a psychic with a friend back in the 80s. The psychic breezed past the friend and said to my mom, "I see 18 wheels when I look at you." My mom, ever the skeptic, gave her the "yeah, okay, lady" bit. Fast forward one month. She meets my dad, who drives an 18-wheeler semi. WHAAAAT. She's hyper-religious though, and is still freaked out from the episode.

But more importantly, I can relate to the psychic-influencing-me-for-life thing. In 9th grade a psychic told me I'd move far from home (does 8 hours count?) and marry a guy with dark hair, "medium" skin, and light eyes. I've forever compared EVERY BOYFRIEND EVER to that description. Of course, I always tell myself, "Oh, of course he fits this description...?" But seriously, I regret the psychic visit. I hope she was wrong.

Tandy Byrd@facebook

Well, what I want to know is, what was in a Reader's Digest that would convince an eight -year-old to be pro-choice? I loved RD when I was that age (mostly for the Word Power and "I coulda died" stories) and I remember feeling sort of scandalized to learn how right-wing it was. It was an "Aslan....is Jesus???" moment for me. Sounds like the RD propaganda didn't work on either one of us, thankfully.

Lia LoBello@facebook

@Tandy Byrd@facebook that is so funny. omg who knows? i also loved the "i could have died stories." if memory serves, they were titled "Drama In Real Life."

bluewindgirl

When I was 13 or 14, I went to a fortune teller with a couple of friends. She looked at my palm and told me, "True Love, I see, is not for you." Even though I do not legitimately believe in psychics, that obviously made an impression on my fragile, teenage-outcast self. She also told me that (True Love not withstanding) I would get married, have a couple of kids, get divorced, and then (weirdly) get a hysterectomy in late middle age. Somehow I both believed the no-true-love thing, and disregarded all the rest of that, mainly because I came from a family of Making It Work, and I KNEW I would never get divorced.

Depressing footnote: 15 years later, I've never been in love with anybody.

coconuts

I know people laugh at psychics but I still believe that some of them exist. Back in the 60s my friend's mom went to a psychic who was totally freaked out and didn't want to read her. But she finally gave in and told my friend's mom that she would have three husbands and all of them would die. This woman has been married twice and both husbands have died in freak accidents. She refuses to marry her current partner for obvious reasons.

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