18 February 2007

Not Your Psychic Friend, but You Can Ask Me About Sex

...and I won't mince words or lie.

Last month I was asked to be the fortune teller at a Mardi Gras party at church. I agreed with reluctance. My hesitation stemmed from my decision to scale back my participation and attendance to church to near nil this year. After thinking about it, I started wondering why they asked me to be the fortune teller. Was I being typecast? And if so, what type were they casting? That's really a discussion for another time. Bottom line, I agreed to do something I didn't want to do, but I needed to follow through because I agreed to do it regardless of my reluctance to do it. Later I grew even more reluctant because volunteers were asked to pay $15 admission like everyone else. So not only did I agree to do something I didn't really want to do, but I was to pay to do it. And deep down, I knew I could have a good time if I just sucked it up and stopped being a party pooper.

Last night was the Mardi Gras party. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I ate dinner before I left, sneaked in and didn't pay, sneaked only a piece of chocolate cake (which someone paid for me), and played my part with feeling and enthusiasm until the very last moment.

I never realized that playing a fortune teller could be so draining. When I was in high school, I used to read Tarot cards and palms for friends. I stopped doing it when I was recently dropped out of college, living with my parents (who for a time thought I was into dark Satany stuff, which I wasn't, but I'd read some Crowley. Ooh Ahh...), and my decks started disappearing. Now I still collect tarot decks, but rarely ever pick them up and do a reading, even for myself. And I still have one surviving tarot deck from my alleged devil worship days. I brought that one, thinking my most recent acquisition, the Manara Erotic Tarot, wasn't family friendly. It was a good choice. I am reluctant to admit when I get those touches of "knowing", but I have to say, those cards felt like talking with long lost friends. Long lost friends made of paper who speak in your head, nonetheless.

So the first few readings went fine, and people marvelled at how accurate I was. Wow. I wasn't even trying to be accurate. I was just reading the cards and reading the people. Over the course of the evening I probably read about 12 people. I made stuff up when I read for children. I could tell some people wanted cold readings, and wanted me to reveal something amazing, nevermind that I'm sitting on pillows in a church basement doing 3-5 minute readings for 50 cents. In that setting, it's hard to pull amazing out of your ass. But I really wanted to give them something real and honest. So I did my best, and remained mysteriously vague when I had to read 100% cold. I had two people who had something going on mentally. One guy had been in a horrible car accident and had gross and fine motor issues, short term memory loss. His cards were a little creepy, but I found something positive and encouraging to say and he was happy. They were all happy, even when it was clear I was pulling things out of the air (or my ass).

I don't understand the whole "read my fortune" thing as entertainment. Slight of hand card tricks are fun. Asking a total stranger to look you in the eye and tell you what they see is not my idea of fun. Reading for friends should be an intimate, private thing, and the basement of a church, no matter how gussied up they make it (and it was nice), just isn't a comfortable setting for me. Especially with 150 people walking around, music blaring, people drinking and partying. etc. In hindsight, I think there are other reasons why I stopped reading cards besides having my parents' eye of suspicion cast on me (they were fine with the cards when I was in high school, by the way.) I remember that emotional drain.

Somewhat more fun, but still harrowing and a little anxiety inducing is having a seven year old ask you what a condom is, and being who you are, feeling that full disclosure is the only way to go. That was the real excitement of my day. Before I put on my fortune teller hat, I took Bea grocery shopping with me, and made a pitstop to Jeremy's to drop off some pictures for him to work on designing the rest of my sleeve. He keeps a colorful basket of condoms and needle sterilizing kits at the top of the stairs. Naturally it caught Bea's eye. "What's this stuff?" She asked.
"I'll tell you in the car", I said, and took a condom.

We had a frank conversation in the car about sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections and condoms, and all that stuff that parents allegedly freak out about when they talk about it. Not Parthenia! I've had this conversation with Bea before, at a younger age, when she was more interested in where babies come from but didn't care to know about the whole sex act and where things go, or the emotional implications of it, or how good it feels. I've had this conversation with college students when I was in college and took my job as a Health Services Representative very seriously, and they wanted to know more than I could describe without firsthand knowledge. So I was ready. And I had a rare moment of feeling like an effective, savvy parent. I didn't even feel this successful when she finally potty trained. She asked, I answered. And when I continued to talk, she still listened. She asked questions, she told me what she knew. No word mincing, and she was interested. We stopped by World Eye Books and picked up It's Perfectly Normal. I got myself the newest edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. I've now owned every single edition, including the one that came out the year I was born (thank God for that book when I was in junior high and high school.) Bea was mad that I wouldn't buy her a stuffed animal, but when I handed her the book, she stopped complaining and jumped right in.

I'm even happier to know that the book I chose to help Bea learn about human sexuality really gets Concerned Women of America's panties in a wad.


joshua said...

Since the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Candlewick Press published it in 1994, It’s Perfectly Normal has riled citizens all across America. A few examples:

* Anchorage, Alaska, 2001: Angry citizens object to the book's inclusion in their public libraries.
* Montgomery County, Texas, 2002: County commissioners order the book removed from country libraries, after citizens object.
* Fairfax County, Louisiana, 2002: Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) raise money to donate the book to public school libraries; citizens object.
* Waco, Texas, July 2004: Local pro-life group protests the use of the book in "Nobody's Fool," a Planned Parenthood-sponsored "sex education" program for children aged nine to 14.

Why the fuss? One reading of It’s Perfectly Normal will answer that question.

Critics say the book promotes abortion and homosexuality. They're right. It also denigrates Judeo-Christian religion and morality.


There are a lot of Jews in Anchorage, AK, Montgomery, TX, Fairfax, LA, and Waco, TX, eh?

I wish these people wouldn't involve my religion in their crazy bigoted shit.

Meguey said...

Yay for straight talk for kids! I *highly* reccomend Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, the book for teens by the Boston Women's Collective.

About fortune telling - yep.

Parthenia said...

Oh course we ruined it all for her when our door crept open in the middle of the night, Bea woke up, and came into our room to ask someone to snuggle her, and... We picked a fine time to tell her all about sex, we did. I can say no more.

I wish I could find the sexuality books my mom used to buy from the pediatrician. They were very straight forward, age appropriate, the line drawings were well done, and I don't remember any moralizing . Of course they're outdated now as they were from the 70's, but they sure would be good for a chuckle. My mom was good about getting me the information, even if she was too embarrassed to describe herself. She always said "ask me if you have questions", but she picked thorough books, and I never asked.

I have a great book on childbirth from the late 1800's called Tokology by Alice Bunker Stockham.
She was years ahead of her time.