A vampire's life? It's really draining

The vampire drank cola at the movie because the vampire does not drink blood. She remarked that the giggling teenagers buying popcorn in their capes were "really, really great," but the vampire herself wore jeans and a T-shirt, as she breaks out vamparaphernalia only for special occasions. And after the 9:15 showing of the new hit film "Twilight," the vampire went straight home with her teenage son, because the vampire is a doting mom.

The vampire is Linda Rabinowitz, also known as Selket. She's in her thirties, lives in central Virginia and radiates warm approachability. If you needed a quarter to get on the bus, she is the stranger you would ask.

If you maintained eye contact for too long, though, she might be tempted to quietly sip away at your energy, or prana, leaving you a little fatigued, because that is what empathic and psychic vampires feed on, and that is what Rabinowitz says she is. But she would never actually do that, because "good" vampires — both psychic and blood-consuming sanguinarians — operate under the Black Veil, an ethics code that stipulates feeding only off willing donors.

What did you expect, some kind of monster?

Every time Hollywood comes out with an undead movie, everyone wants to talk to real vampires. "Twilight" — which made $70.6 million over the weekend and recounts the love story of human teen Bella and vampire teen Edward — is no exception.

And frankly, the vampire community is sooo over the negative exposure. Over teaching that vampires are born and not made, over answering such questions as: Do you really sleep in coffins and never die? Please, people.

Vampires, depressingly, are Just Like Us.

"I really look at my condition as more of an energy deficiency," says one 27-year-old Washingtonian who goes by Scarlet in the vampire community. She, like many vampires, does not allow her real name to be printed because she has not come out of the coffin in real life. "I don't always produce enough energy to sustain myself," Scarlet says.

So she occasionally needs a little energy from her boyfriend. Just a teaspoon of blood, once every week or 10 days, and always collected with disposable single-use lancet. Safety first, safety first. Feeding is "not as parasitic as people think," she says. "It's more of a reciprocal thing."

Rabinowitz is just as discriminating. "I stay away from people with medical issues," she says. "There's just too much complex emotion there." Also, no drunks, no druggies, no head cases. Although she most often feeds from one willing donor, she can take in ambient energy from crowds. Places such as Hard Times Cafe and Applebee's can be good spots, she says, because of the generally positive energy.

Think of this next time you're noshing on Nachos Nuevos.

Did you know that New York has at least 1,000 self-identified vampires? "If we take that as a sample," says Michelle Belanger, a psychic vampire and author of "The Psychic Vampire Codex," "it's less than 1 percent, but we'd still have tens of thousands worldwide."

It is hard to verify this, seeing as it's a self-selecting title, and each vampire might have a different definition of what it means to be vampirical. In Georgia, the Atlanta Vampire Alliance and its research arm, Suscitatio Enterprises LLC, spent two years collecting answers from more than 700 vampires answering hundreds of survey questions. From this we learn they:

1. Have much higher rates of asthma, migraines and anemia than normal humans.

2. Most commonly live in California, followed by Georgia, Texas, New York and Ohio.

3. Are an average age of 28.

Also, only 17 percent of vampires drink blood; 31 percent are solely psychic, and the rest are hybrids.

The keeper of this data is J. Collins, administrator for Voices of the Vampire Community, which Collins describes as "kind of like the United Nations of Vampires." Fielding media requests for interviews with vampires, Collins casually rattled off the schedule of just about every major vampire in the United States: Father Sebastiaan was in New York before heading to Paris. Don Henrie, a "lifestyler" who really does sleep in a coffin, just taped Maury Povich. Belanger was lecturing at a Florida college.

"We really hope that the fruits of what we're doing now will lead to us being understood later," he said. Of course, as with any community, there have been internal struggles:

Psychic vampires have perceived sanguinarians as rudimentary brutes, while blood vampires "had a very hard time accepting that psychic vampires are legitimate," Belanger says. She sighs. "It boiled down to: Oh, sure, 'I'm taking your energy, I'm taking your energy.' (Sanguinarians) have a hard time wrapping their brains around the psychic stuff."

That hatchet was mostly buried a few years ago, Belanger says, especially after Sanguinarius, a respected blood-drinking vampire (founder of Sanguinarius.org), came out in support of unity.

In a phone interview, Sanguinarius, whose real name is Elizabeth, wholeheartedly expresses solidarity, but says that psychic vampires "concern themselves as much as we do with ethics ... but all ethics aside, they could just walk into some place, and pick some person, and feed on them until the person flops down and twitches. The cops can't do anything because it's not illegal. Now if I did that ... "

You can understand the inter-community annoyance, which sounds pretty much like run-of-the-mill interoffice tension (Oh, sure, she has kids, so she gets to leave at 5. Now if I tried that ...).

It's all so borrring. Deep down, we don't really want vampires to be just like us. If we really have nothing to fear, then we also have nothing to be titillated by, nothing to make us shriek, then laugh, then shriek again.

No, no, don't suck my blood! Or do. OK, do.

In "Twilight," Edward can stop moving cars with an outstretched hand, reads people's minds, and gets all glittery when he stands in the sunlight.

When Rabinowitz is asked whether she possesses any of these skills, she thinks about it. "I do have a heightened sense of smell" when she feeds, she says. Personally, she thought the movie went a long way toward showing that vampires are complex, multifaceted beings. Regular folk.

Vampires should be pleased.

We average humans are a little disappointed.

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