There are “meant to be carried to the grave” secrets, and then there are, “I’ll just pretend this didn’t happen for eighteen years until it’s time to tell it” secrets.
This story is the latter.
I want to preface this with the fact that my mother, to this day, does not know the truths of this tale. That’s how long I’ve kept it covered. It’s a stain on my sleepover past and I feel it needs to be cleaned up, which leads to potential repercussions that I am fully ready to accept.
Don’t believe for a second my mother wouldn’t extend her discipline arm over state lines and assert her dominance over me as an adult by slapping me with a one way ticket to Grounded Town; sans iPhone, computer, and necessities in order to learn my lesson. I’ve learned many a time to not lie to her, because when she means it, she MEANS IT. I lost my license for my entire second half of senior year because of what I like to call “a miscommunication.” I firmly believe she’d have no problem waltzing into my apartment and snatching all my electronics to hold them hostage until I realize what I’ve done.
Just kidding, my mom is the cutest, she’d never do that. Right mom? With that said, let’s get going!
My best friend Katie and I used to have an unhealthy amount of sleepovers. I mean, I was at her house two weekends, she was at mine the next two. It was fascinating and sort of alarming how our parents never decided that we saw too much of each other (which I guess was a good thing, because I ended up as Maid of Honor in her wedding, and you need to have at least two-hundred sleepovers to earn that).
But anyways, back to the good stuff. When we would have sleepovers, it was customary for us to plan out our activities by the hour. We would get the TV guide, yes a physical guide, and a highlighter to select our ‘watch list’ for the night. Normally, everything we did revolved around what time Blind Date would play, because our parents would be asleep and that show was super scandalous and not for our eyeballs.
And that’s exactly where this hidden tale began.
After stocking up on yodels, gushers, chocolate milk, and triscuits, we went to the basement to settle in and watch a night of forbidden television. But the thing about late night tv at that time, which was the late 90’s, was that there were a lot of infomercials that played during commercials. And I mean a lot.
One in particular, that I remember so fondly, mostly because it is the culprit, the fulcrum, and the heart of this story, is Miss Cleo. For a refresher in all her tarot card glory, see the commercial below.
Enticing right? And realistic. So realistic! She was the future, and she could see mine. Who in their right mind wouldn’t drop everything they were doing at that moment and call the hotline? Crazy people! And we were not crazy. We had a fortune to be told, and she could help us. She could see our future in her deck of cards.
And at eight years old, if there’s anything that we needed in that moment, besides sleep and behaving, it was to call Miss Cleo at 2am and get telephone tarot card readings.
And of course, since cell phones were still in development, there was no option other than to use my house phone. The land line. The family talker.
I picked up the phone and Katie read me the number. I dialed. It rang. Someone answered. Although, the voice was distinctly different than the one that came out of Miss Cleo’s mouth on the commercial. Mostly because it was a man’s voice.
“Miss Cleo‘s hotline, how many I help you?” Reciting his lines through the phone.
“Um hi, my name is Mary (name change completely necessary at the time) and I would like my fortune told by Miss Cleo.” I tried my best to sound super mature and adult. Even made a point to talk in a low voice, because that’s what older people did.
I was on hold for a while, the phone sitting on the ground between Katie and I. Just two young girls, getting their fortunes told on a Saturday night by a strange woman off the television. It seemed harmless.
Only when it was my turn to talk to Miss Cleo did I realize that this was not a regular fortune teller – this was one of the, exotic nature, so to speak. It was, contrary to popular belief, NOT FOR CHILDREN. Hearing all these things about a boyfriend I didn’t have, a beach was involved, waves crashing, the works. Who knew what she was talking about? I had no idea. I was eight.
Did that stop me from listening? Nope. I stayed on that phone call for a whopping thiry-six minutes. See, the thing about me is, when I am in character, I cannot break it. I couldn’t just hang up on Miss Cleo while she was mid-fortune. That would have been rude.
Moreover, in my mind, hanging up would mean Miss Cleo would have realized I was a fraud, not over 18, and immediately backtrack to find my house phone number, dial it and tell my mom that I essentially called a sex hotline at 2am.
I would have none of that. So, I did my civic duty and stayed on the line, listening to her jibber-jabbering away for thirty minutes before my reading was complete. Then I hung up, Katie and I laughed and talked about how weird she was, and that it wasn’t anything like we imagined. We eventually fell asleep, content with our night’s successful phone call.
My mom got the phone bill later that month. Turns out Miss Cleo is not a toll free number. In fact, they kind of charge you a lot of money to talk to her. And since ‘wannabee-adult’ Meg stayed on the line for more than half an hour, the bill for the month was quite pricey, and my mom started asking questions.
I denied it. I pretended like I was at Katie’s that weekend, that I wasn’t home, it couldn’t have possibly been me who called. It was offensive for her to even assume I would do such a thing.
Only I did do it. And I lied about it. So, let me say this here and now, I am sorry, Mom. I’ll be the bigger person here and just mail you my computer, my phone, and my license. I understand what I have done is wrong, and I accept the punishment. Just tell me how long I’m grounded for, and can I have dessert? If not, I’m going to have to clear out some of my kitchen cabinets. But I’ll have time now that I can’t go out.
Lesson learned: Don’t call 1-800 numbers after 12am. It’s true. Nothing good happens after midnight.