The mystical elephant in the room
I was sitting on the arm of a sofa at a neighborhood dinner party. We were all new — to each other, though I had already spent a few hours with the hostess and she knew at least who I was and what I did. I don’t hide out. Usually. I’m pretty up front about the fact that I’m a card reader when someone asks. Though in the midwest, in potentially mixed company I might say something like, “Oh, I’m a freelance writer,” which is true enough for me. I’m writing this blog post right now, right?
But Midwesterners aren’t nosey. They keep their business to themselves. My experience of New York has been strange. There are assumptions made when I introduce myself that I never considered in Indiana. In the rural midwest, women who have children as small as mine don’t work. Or if they do work, they work someplace miserable. You don’t ask a woman what she does for a living. It’s unlikely she has a career anyway. In Ithaca, New York, everyone has a career. Everyone has a Masters degree. Everyone is living here because of some attachment to a certain Ivy-league college. If they don’t, they have dreadlocks1.
I’ve never been asked so frequently, “So what do you do for a living?” as though living here isn’t just enough. One of the upsides to folks here asking me that though, is I’ve found the probability of being lectured on my propulsion to Hell unlikely.
“I’m a tarot reader.”
“I’m a card reader.”
“I read cards.”
or if I’m feeling especially sassy, “Fortune teller.” And then I nod my head like, What?
And still, in a town where no one would bat an eyelash if I said, “Acupuncturist,” this does not fit into their worldview. There’s a sideways kind of look I’ve become accustomed to seeing. This is a place that wants me to being a kindergarten aide at a Waldorf school or researching microbiology at the university or at the very least creating artisan whatsits from reclaimed whosits.
“Oh! Melissa is psychic. She reads tarot cards!” The hostess declared gleefully. A roomful of heads swung on their necks toward me. It was a slow, quiet moment as they collectively struggled to imagine me sitting in front of a crystal ball in a room full of animal skulls and purple silk scarves2.
Crickets chirped. The only man in the room challenged, “I don’t believe in that.”
I shrugged, “Lots of people don’t.” Lots of people don’t believe in acupuncture or Waldorf education or hell, global warming either!
One of the women asked, in hushed tones, “Well, could you read my cards?”
“Uhhh… Well, yes, I mean, I could.”
“But could you tell me,” she continued, “You know, if there will be a man coming into my life?”
Three other women shot their hands up into the air as if it were suddenly a fifth grade classroom. And there it was. Contact made with the other side. I had polite excuses on hand. Unfortunately I almost always leave my deck at home. Business cards with contact info though, I always keep in my purse.
I was speaking with a client last week who wanted to become a professional card reader. I was a little surprised then, when she told me over the phone, that she had been giving paid readings for the past three years. Because that makes you a professional reader. The missing ingredient was that simple acknowledgement.
I am ordering business cards this week, so I’m thinking about my business. I am imagining a variant that is simply my name and the words Tarot Reader or Card Reader (Lenormand Reader is perhaps a little too esoteric for public consumption), my email and phone number. This would be different than the card I use in networking with other metaphysical or New Age types at conferences and events, which might have more information and a fancy logo (because I like fancy logos. Look at that one up there, it SPINS!).
So I have a few questions I’m working through for you.
If you’re an empath, intuitive or psychic: Do you hide out? Is is safe for you to say what you do? What do you say when someone asks what you do? What are the assumptions that you’ve found to go along with what you say you are? How do you deal with those assumptions?
If you’re not. I mean, if you’re reading because you’re a client, a friend, or a devoted amateur, and work on a different planet altogether, what are your assumptions about my work? How do you imagine the work of a tarot reader? I’m very curious, especially if it involves coin scarves and runestones and tea cups (I sometimes wish it did).