I’m at the counter of a Denver bakery next to a bikram yoga studio waiting on a blueberry scone and leafing idly through a stack of promotional cards advertising the services of a psychic who’s running a special: a one hour reading for $55. Next to me, the glass bakery case reads “Please don’t scare the cupcakes! (no hanging or touching of the glass!). The Psychic claims that she’ll read my aura, my chakras, and my past lives because “everything is energy and holds a vibration.” I misread this as “everything is energy and holds a vibrator” which causes me to snort in laughter and draws looks of calumny from the lycra-clad yogis around me. I slip one of the cards into my pocket and slink off to a corner table.
I love advertisements because they express what remains unwritten in our official culture. They speak to desire, and no doubt Freud would have a grand old time with my gaffe.
But this one ad card is different, or rather no different but in a different way.
For starters, the largest type on the card screams out that the psychic has a business name, followed by LLC. I’m not sure I want to know that my psychic went through the cost and trouble of trying to limit her liability in this endeavor. The card also notes that the psychic has an M.A. though in what it does not say, which no doubt further confirms my need for her services.
Everything about the ad card distances itself from the hokey coney island version of a crystal-ball gazing gypsy woman I associate with psychic practice. The ad scrubs that image, goes legit with graduate degrees and business argot.
The postcard claims “everything is energy” and this energy is often misdirected and messes with our lives. This is just standard Freudian cathexis. In Freud, it’s the libido that controls these energies, there’s always a sexual to go with the psycho. As such, they are often culturally shameful, and thus repressed. They then get attached (he used the term sublimated) to some culturally “legitimate,” less shameful, practice—like yoga.
And so vibrators become vibrations, and yoga becomes big business, and we can’t lust after cupcakes lest we frighten them, and psychics get LLCs and graduate degrees, and the world becomes more exquisitely repressed and sanitized.
I watch the yoga crowd slowly dissipate with their scones and lattes. They’re all clean. They look healthy. They dress in tight-fitting stretchy clothes. They carry mats. Most are women. Most are showered and coiffed despite the early hour yoga. Except one guy: he’s wearing a loose-fitting cotton t-shirt over a beer belly. He’s sweating buckets. He’s unkempt. I believe the odor wafting this way is his. He’s chattering up his fellow yogis. Their tolerance is barely perceivable.
He’s the only one in the place smiling.