That Girl Is Poison: A Brief, Incomplete History of Female Poisoners


Forgotten Monsters

Garfel: Over the years, Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid was radically changed from her original form. The sad, painful dancer who turns into depressed seafoam after her one true love weds another became Ariel, a sexy, wide-eyed redhead, who successfully wins her man without even a small jig. In this same manner, Garfel, an ancient Norse demon who kept little Vikings awake for centuries, has been softened for weak modern children. Once known as a mostly-dormant feline beast whose ravenous appetite and formidable rage exploded only at the beginning of each week, today he is a cat who is funnier when he is not even around. His nemesis, Odin, was slightly changed for the modern version as well. READ MORE

The Week in Us Weekly Daily Email Headlines

I don’t consciously remember signing up for Us Weekly’s Daily Emails, I think they just knew that I needed them. READ MORE

A Modest Defense of Ogling Boys

From The Cut:

Put another way: We will stop Dong Watch once there’s a female president, zero wage gap, and Swedish-level paid parental leave; once tampons, birth control, and abortions are all available free and on-demand.

HEAR HEAR! Wednesday, The Daily Beast responded to the ostensible hypocrisy in Jezebel's epically illustrated Disney Dude Dicks, and now The Cut's Kat Stoeffel has smacked that complaint down handily.

We're just going to throw in our pro-shirtless thickneck two cents, and if that can double as a reminder that "hey, gender relationships in this country are still unequal as hell!" then that's some good work for a Friday morning.

[The Cut]

2,500 Year Old Bad Bitch Wreaks Havoc and Vengeance

The Altai Mountains – a range where Russia meets China meets Mongolia meets Kazakhstan – have recently been besieged by floods and earthquakes, and they have only themselves (and when I say "themselves" I mean archeologists that had very little to do with them) to blame. Why? They dug up the wrong HBIC. READ MORE

Some of the Psychics I Have Been To

Herewith, an incomplete list of psychics I have been to; partially because these are the important ones, partially because I can't remember all of the psychics I have been to.

August 2000, Weirs Beach, NH

When I was 14 and summer vacations were everything, my cousin Laurie agreed to take me to the palm reader who'd set up shop on the boardwalk. I wanted to go to a psychic more than anything (my parents had always rightfully insisted they were a crazy waste of money), but I still struck a hard teen skeptic's posture. I was extremely excited to pretend I didn't take the whole thing seriously. Fourteen years later, I still remember without trying that she told me I would marry a police officer or a lawyer. "A police officer or a lawyer" is my Damon Bradley.

May 2007, New York, NY

I could be wrong about the exact date, but I believe my foray back into the world of foretelling coincided with moving into my first real, non-dorm apartment in New York. Living in the West Village was a big deal (it was 2007 and I was 21), and there were a number of things I had seen wandering around the neighborhood but wanted to try as a real local. Things like now-closed Manatus diner and the psychic on the sharp corner of 7th and Bleecker, the one whose window read ~Clairvoyant~.

I was a little older than a skeptical teen but still young, and I openly wanted someone to tell me what was what. A few years in the city had taught me that I was free to leave the hard skepticism to other people and just believe whatever dumb junk I wanted. I was extremely superstitious then (also before that, and also after that, and also now). But this time I could see the psychic's wheels turning. I could see her sizing me and my friends up, deciding how we fit in with each other and in with the world we didn't really understand yet. I could see her deciding that we could be talked out of the cheaper palm reading and up to a pricier tarot reading. She was right.

The real art of psychics is reading people, in that quick, uncanny way of fictional crime-stopping men (see Sherlock, Psych, The Mentalist) and (predominantly female) sidewalk psychics. The idea of having an expert in human nature, however unaccredited, take a run at my life appeals to me. I don't remember the specifics of this reading (I think she told me my college boyfriend and I weren't built to last so I dismissed it out of hand, proving that I am no psychic), but I do remember gaining a new respect for what these encounters could be, when done well.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.48.20 AMApril 2009, New York, NY

As I was on any other night of my 23rd year, I was out at a boy-focused gay bar with my friends when this willowy, enchanting traveling palm reader approached us. And that I remember! The rest, eh, not so much. According to the caption of this Facebook photo, she told both me my friend Ian that our love lives were "revolving doors." Although this might have been one of the more accurate readings I've received before or since, it also seems like perhaps an easy assumption to make of a young gayman and his chubby, intoxicated female companion in a thumpingly loud bar on a weeknight. You could look at anyone in a mile radius of 23-year old me and say, "mistakes have been made" and we would wither in recognition.

Another picture from this evening shows a bloody knee with the caption "Meredith had a accident."

May 2012, Los Angeles, CA

Annie and I were visiting her hometown and my friends Matt and Sam, and this exciting confluence meant only one thing: group visit to a Sherman Oaks psychic superstore. We picked our various mediums from a board of laminated sell-sheets, and took turns sniffing wealth-creation incense and studying purchasable runes while we waited for each other.

I fought with this psychic, a little. Her sign had billed her as an "Angelic Messenger" but in person she resembled a biker's tired girlfriend. Rubbing a dirty penny across an alphabet hand-penciled on white printer paper, she told me that I should give an alcoholic former boyfriend another shot. I thought this was a bad idea, but she persisted. "Sometimes men need a little more understanding," she told, "it's up to women to give them a second chance."

After her reading, Annie told me that her psychic had been right about everything. "She knew about you! She said I had a close blonde friend."

"She saw me in the store with you," I pointed out.

Later I decided that my angelic messenger had meant another alcoholic (one I had a vested interest in) and that I had played my hand all wrong. In truth, I think she wasn't talking about me at all.

October 2013, Beacon, NY

Before leaving my second job and starting my third, I forced my friends to road trip to Beacon for the express purpose of seeing a psychic. "You have to go to 'Notions and Potions,'" my friend Lindsey had told me, after her own trip up the river, "They sell Harley Davidson merch, hemp bracelets and crystals. And you can get your tarot read." I was sold, right up the river. After what we in the business call "a really bad date," it had been a difficult, touchy summer, but with a new job, I was ready to put old shit behind me. And I wanted a psychic to tell me how.

From the car, we called the store to make sure they were open and ready to receive us. They seemed confused, but we made appointments. The store was everything Lindsey had promised, plus an impressive supply of "funny" t-shirts. I was in love.

I let my friends go ahead of me, not wanting to make them wait after I sold them all up the river too. Each one came out a little shocked, a little validated, a little indignant, a little seen. I listened to their readings and thought they sounded unusually insightful. In the moments before my reading, I got scared.

His name was Sacred Owl. He was a large man with a goatee/ponytail combo and bracelets, and it felt – like it was supposed to, I suppose – like he knew things. I don't remember what I expected – to be told I was a calm, laidback girl who was going to be just fine, no problem? He told me that I overthink things and that I was off my game. I agreed but said that the latter was for extenuating circumstances, and Sacred Owl cut me off. "I know," he said, "but we don't have time to get into that. You have to get your groove back in the next three weeks." He looked at his cards more closely, "By November 4th." I didn't even ask "or what?" I just knew.

For months after that reading, I thought about Sacred Owl every day. In an early November panic, I got my recently grown-out bangs recut into a solid fringe. I still think I missed my deadline, and part of me worries that my groove is still missing.

August 2014, Brooklyn, NY

After trying to counsel my friend and very recent former co-worker that she should stop trying to predict the future when it came to boys and jobs, I suggested that perhaps we should have someone else predict the future. (Ultimately, I'm going with "unemployment" to explain this.)

It took some maneuvering, and some embarrassed-giggle-filled phone calls, but eventually we ended up at a psychic right near my Park Slope apartment. She had a small window on 7th Ave, and her kids played on the other side of the door, occasionally poking their heads in during the reading and making a small commotion. The walls all around were unusually thin.

Because Beejoli had never been to a psychic before, I went first, to prove that the water was fine. When we sat down, the psychic started her expert talk-around, avoiding my questions about the price for anything and asking me probing questions. I hurriedly agreed to pay an exorbitant fee. I was already flooded with regret. "You're moving," she shuffled a pared-down tarot deck. "No," I told her. Despite the trip being my idea, I had apparently decided – without forethought or self-reflection – that I was not going to give her anything. I was a hard teen skeptic again, and I was not going to admit the cosmic similarity between moving and losing a job. I had recently paid my therapist to listen to me talk for an hour while she sat quietly, and now, for a small discount, I would let this stranger speak uninterrupted while I steadfastly said nothing. At the end of the spiel, she pressed a small crystal in my hand and told me she wanted me to have it. "At least I'll walk away with something," I thought. "Just $65," she said, closing my palm around it.

I wanted to tell Beejoli that we should leave, that she should save her money or at least angle for the cheaper readings, but I was not able to properly convey any of this with a desperate look. I could hear her reading a little through the door. She was being much more forthcoming with the psychic than I had been. She sounded like she was hearing real insights. It occurred to me right then that while this psychic wasn't psychic, I had prevented her from any chance of performing the cool, human magic trick I wanted. I had wanted her to read me, but I behaved like a totally different person: skeptical, closed-off, capable of being quiet. I needed to put something into it to get anything out of it. Psychic readings aren't unlike relationships that way – you might be getting duped, but if you don't try to enjoy it, then you're just out $45 with nothing to show for it.

Afterward, Beejoli and I used the Tarot app on my iPad and got almost devastatingly accurate readings. That thing is uncanny.

(Second photo: Ian Carlos Crawford)

The Mountain Goats, "Sign of the Crow 2"

For your listening pleasure, (one of my favorite) Mountain Goats' songs that (to my knowledge) was never properly recorded. It's not uplifting per say, but I find it buoying somehow. That does not make sense, but I stand by it. READ MORE

Playing the Lexical Field

Over at the Guardian this morning, a list of "untranslatable" words and their translations, along with a few thoughts on what it means for a word's true meaning to be limited to its speakers. READ MORE

Not to "If You Read One Thing Today" You

It’s inescapable fact that, if you happen to have dark skin in America, you are immediately and irrevocably trapped in the narratives of race that swirl about this place. Death, destruction, despair. We are here and we are here to stay, was Baldwin’s sentiment. Yet I, along with every other black person in America, live with fear every day. We are human — why does that never come to light until we’re forced to show our animal pain grieving another dead child? I’m tired; I am so, so unendurably tired.

But if you read one thing today, here is the thing by Bijan Stephen that should be that one thing. READ MORE

New Game Alert! Depression or Unemployment?

Having recently found myself involuntarily jobless, I had a lot of time on my hands. And I discovered that I was filling that time in new and unusual ways that made me ask questions like, "hey, is this something a depressed person does? Or is this just unemployment?" So I created a game, because obviously. For fun, divide these behaviors into two categories, depression or unemployment – or just go lay facedown on the floor. You don't owe anyone anything! No one is paying for your time! READ MORE