Thursday, May 2, 2013

"You are going to die alone." -The Paranormal BLOW OFF

My mother likes to meddle. In my life. A lot. I'm second-generation, which means my mother was born in Vietnam and she immigrated to California in the late 70s'. She only brought three things with her: her mother (my sweet grandmother, may she rest in peace), her strong opinions and her intense belief in the supernatural. The arrival of these two women only meant one thing for my future: eternal meddling - even from beyond the grave.

For my mother, psychics (or 'zen masters' loosely translated from Vietnamese) - are there when desperate answers are needed. And for some reason, there was something about me that screamed I needed all the help I can get.

I don't know where she got that idea.

"You need to get it together," my mother said as she watched in horror as I drank old, uncorked champagne that was left out for a few days prior to making the appointment with her psychic.

I don't like to admit it, but I am my mother's daughter. I promised myself that I would never get caught up in that world. Besides my monthly dose of Susan Miller, buying a Yelp coupon for a psychic in San Francisco and a few scattered meltdowns where I found myself on 18th and Mission in front of a street psychic weeping about my blip of a life - I like to think I've shown considerable restraint compared to my mother. To me, "psychics" are a form of cheap therapy for those that can't afford a real therapist - or at least another version of girl talk - "Girl, don't worry, a tall, dark, handsome stranger will appear in your life!" Scam or no scam - there is something very comforting about being told that "everything will be okay". Because in the end, that is all that anyone can ever hope for in this life. Hope, I have discovered, is a very hard thing to destroy.

My 5-year high school reunion was approaching at lightning speed - and despite all appearances, my mother knew I was upset over it. I didn't want to congratulate my classmates who acquired MBAs, book deals or gush over photos of their newborns while I was busy filling my days watching Ellen in my bathrobe. Hell, I'm already at my high school reunion every day - that's what my Facebook newsfeed is for! Great idea, Zuckerberg - way to invent a daily reminder for the rest of us lowly serfs that we're nothing.

So, on Christmas day, my mother dragged my "ungrateful" ass to see her long-time "psychic". ("You're going to pay for it, right, mom?") I sat quietly as my mother did all the talking in rapid Vietnamese. His face looked unperturbed, probably because he was immune from having to comfort yet another delusional dreamer before him.

He looked at me sharply, made me write my name down in front of him as he shined a flashlight into my eyes and measured the space between my eyes. Chinese new-age crap, I muttered in my head. He then said that my birth name didn't suit me and that I should go by "Helen" from now on. I turned to my mother to give her my best, "can you believe this guy?" face only to see she was completely serious. I made some joke that I didn't believe in psychics and he quickly corrected me saying that he was an astrologer.

I eventually tuned out altogether. My mother could translate for me later. I was in the middle of a profound thought over why Khloe Kardashian was the best one out of the three sisters when my mother started crying.

My body froze as I snapped out of my reverie - both were trying to reason with me, one in broken English and one in rapid Vietnamese trying to explain that I wasn't really "fit" to be with a man or have kids. I have never once thought of having children as a priority or really given much thought about marriage, but hearing a strange man try to translate in English that "You will have no husband or family. Not in cards for you. Die without." Suddenly made me want to go to the drugstore, buy a pack of condoms, poke holes in all of them and go out there and get knocked the hell up. I suddenly would have given anything to be that annoying girl at my 5-year reunion showing pictures of my kid.

I coughed nervously. "What?" There must be some mistake. I'm not that bad of an egg, damnit!

He sighed, and slowly and painfully enunciated each word, baring his teeth at me, trying to explain to the incompetent woman in front of him:

"Die. Alone. Not. Find. Love."

My mother continued wailing next to me, proclaiming, "Her life is so sad! Can nothing be done?" In case you couldn't tell by now, my mother has a flair for the dramatics.

Hold the iPhone. This isn't the purpose of cheap therapy. I knowingly get scammed by psychics to be reassured that everything is going to be okay. Where is my, "get it, girl!" That's what my Yelp psychic told me!

"So, that's it?" I stuttered. "I'll never find love? I'll be alone? For the rest of my life?"

He nodded. "Yes, Helen."

The drive home was a nightmare. "Would you consider adoption?" "You should go to grad school!" "Wait, do you want a boyfriend? I might know someone!" "What about teaching English abroad?" While my mother was busy trying to meddle 20 years into my future, I was mentally combing through my contacts list on my phone to see which ex-boyfriend I could trick into loving me again.

Whether or not I fully believe in psychics, astrologers, divine entity or whatever - I was told I would never find that person. My person. Spare me the Sartre crap that 'we all die alone' bit. At least I had another excuse not to attend my 10-year reunion. Everything was overshadowed by the idea that in the end, after miles, miles and miles of awful dates, one night stands, awkward moments, terrible relationships and braving the trenches of going to bar after bar in the hope of meeting someone great - I just simply wouldn't. David Lynch once said, "It's human nature to have a tremendous letdown once you receive the answer to a question, especially one that you've been searching for and waiting for. It's a momentary thrill, but it's followed by a kind of depression."

But what if my question never gets answered? I always thought that if I died penniless, I would have hoped to be able to hold someone's hand after all these years of being alone. Someone who really understood me and for lack of a better description, that yes, in the end after much trial and error, I was hoping to hold my soul-mate's hand. Alright? I admit it! I HAVE FEELINGS, INTERNET!

I called my friend who sympathetically tried to tell me that psychics were all con artists and that there was a good percentage that he was just a douchebag. Another friend was groping for comforting words. "Maybe it's just like the Matrix. The oracle told Neo that he wasn't "The One" but he totally was. It's just like that!" Finally, fed up with my crap, my oldest friend of eleven years bluntly told me that I should stop seeing psychics, ignore my mother and move out of my parents' house.

Later that night at 4 a.m., after seven beers and infallible drunk logic, I turned to my male friend and began eyeing him up and down. We'd friendzoned each other years ago - there was no spark there. Or was there? could change things. He eyed me and noticed my palpable desperation to end my spinsterhood, he rolled his eyes in response to my advances. "Get over it," he said. "The best part is proving everyone wrong, remember?"

I looked at him through hazy, drunk, Newcastle eyes - should I kiss him? We could have three kids! One of each!

"No," he said, with rather disconcerting conviction. "Just, no Carolyn."

"You're right!" I slurred back. "My name is Carolyn, not Helen! And I will find love one day!"

"Or you might just die alone," he said, waiting for the drunk bitch in front of him to calm down.

I laughed in response. "Yeah, or that."

And I guess if I never have the luxury of waking up to next to someone in the morning - well then, that's when the tampered condoms come into play.

Because hope is a funny thing to kill after all.


  1. This is a crazy story. I would have punched that zen master in the face. You can't even worry about dying alone until you're at least out of your twenties. But this will be a great title for your memoir once you prove this guy totally wrong!

  2. Side note, Khloe is my favorite kardashian too. I think it's because she's the only one with a personality.

  3. I'll dedicate my memoirs to this guy! or I'll make him my maid of honor. begin 10 year grudge!