My love life seemed to sigh, sputter and die soon after I moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco when I was 29. It's unclear whether the problem was, well, me -- a semi-neurotic, feminist, now-sober East Coast native, I'm not always easily understood by San Francisco's mellow, surf-y, Peter Pan-ish single-guy population.
So when I was 32 and all my friends started coupling up, copulating and thinking about kids, my frustration hit a crescendo and I decided something drastic was in order. Something weird, something woo-woo, something super-Bay Area and super-unlike me: I decided to do a love spell. Or, rather, I decided to have a friend's Wiccan mother-in-law do a love spell for me.
It's not like I thought it would actually WORK. I just figured I might as well try, because God knows I'd tried (and failed) to meet a good guy on my own, in normal-person ways. Being single had its perks, of course: decorating my house as I pleased (hi, pink bedroom), taking spontaneous day trips, eating coconut frozen yogurt for dinner every night if I pleased.
But it could get lonely -- neurotic feminists need love, too! Sure, I had dude dalliances: approximately 3,423 "meh" Internet dates, some halfhearted flings here, a few 3-month almost-relationships there. But nothing real, nothing substantial.
So when I met Sally, my friend Tina's Wiccan, flowy-robe-wearing mother-in-law, at another friend's home-blessing ceremony (!), I couldn't help but be intrigued.
"Oh, I've manifested love for loads of friends," Sally confided over crudites in the kitchen, pushing her long, grey-blond hair behind one ear. "My friend Gloria found the man of her dreams, suddenly bumped into him on the train, about a month after our love ritual. And I attracted my husband with a ritual."
Leaning in conspiratorially, she explained the details of her spell, which involved planting small amounts of her own menstrual blood at the base of a tree in her backyard.
"Hey, whatever works," I thought, and agreed to let her do one for me for a small fee (sans menstrual blood). Later that week, Sally emailed me a bunch of probing questions about what I wanted in a partner -- she encouraged me to be uber-specific, so I made a long list.
She also asked me to describe all the "blockages" that might be keeping me from love -- crappy patterns, negative beliefs, shitty self-esteem, what have you. She told me to buy a pair of men's shoes -- cute shoes, ones I'd actually want my future beloved to, y'know, WEAR -- with the intention of using them during the spell to, as she put it, "send energy out to the universe to fill the shoes with the right man for you."
A couple weeks later, after I'd sent Sally my lists and procured some guy shoes (a dark-grey kind of sneaker/boat shoe hybrid, if you're curious), she came over to do the ritual. It lasted about an hour and a half, and I tried hard not to emit involuntary blips of nervous laughter during the more, um, offbeat moments. Was I really doing this? What had I become?!?
We burned scraps of paper bearing my "love blockage" list items, then flushed the ashes down the toilet.
"Time for you to take a bath with my Love and Beauty herb mix," Sally instructed about halfway through the ritual, shooing me off to the candlelit bathroom. She told me to use her special patchouli soap and then, post-bath, put on something I felt "sexy and beautiful" in. After getting out and donning a cute dress and boots, I met Sally in the living room, where we did some chant-y stuff and she led me through a guided meditation "to discover your beauty, attractiveness and playfulness, and to envision yourself finding the love you desire."
Before heading on her merry way, Sally gave me a red handmade "Love Mojo" sachet to put under my pillow at night. Half of me felt like a complete lame-ass, and half of me felt excited about taking fate in my hands and transmitting my intentions to the universe: I WANTED AN AWESOME/CUTE/SMART/FUNNY/WORSHIPFUL GUY, AND I WANTED HIM NOW.
A couple weeks later, a casual acquaintance-y friend, Lisa, pinged me on Gchat -- for the first time ever. "I ran into my friend Charlie the other day," she wrote. "I knew him in high school. He's a total sweetheart, kind of shy, a music geek (in a good way). Would you be into me setting you guys up on a date?"
Holy randomness -- had the love spell actually WORKED? After closely examining Charlie's Facebook photos and determining that he was, indeed, totally cute and totally my type, I told Lisa to go for it.
Charlie dutifully called a few days later, and we met for dinner at a Senegalese dive. He seemed to possess a bunch of the qualities I'd described on my Dream Partner checklist -- he was adorable, smart, creative, non-weird about me being sober, and a bit of a homebody (like me).
After dinner we played Jenga at his place. Kissing me goodnight on his front steps, he bit my lip a little bit, exactly the way I like it, without having any prior insider knowledge of such thing. This was a big deal.
After that, things moved quickly -- probably too quickly. Charlie and I began texting constantly, and he spent almost every night at my house. The more we hung out, the more I appreciated his better traits, like being affectionate, kind, and down to watch movies for 6 hours straight while spooning on the couch (and spooning ice cream into our faces). Before him, I'd been most attracted to guys who were ambivalent about me, and dating a nice guy who genuinely wanted to be there was ... refreshing.
Still, a vague sense of anxiety tugged at me -- something wasn't quite right. Maybe it was his eagerness, the fact that he was jonesing to change his Facebook relationship status like, Right That Instant. Maybe it was that he made $10 an hour working in a deli, and had no semblance of a clue what he wanted to do with his life.
Maybe it was the extreme ease we felt around each other after just weeks -- sure, it was nice to not care what he thought as I whipped off my bra and scrambled into yoga pants the second I walked through my front door. But there's such a thing as being too comfortable with someone, and we seemed to hit that milestone alarmingly early. Or ... maybe it was the fact that Charlie was semi-recently separated from the love of his life, a woman he'd considered his best friend for years.
But dammit, I'd done a love spell! DAMMIT, I'd set aside my pride and chanted, meditated, burned things, and idiotically proclaimed "intentions" to the universe! THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK!
Sadly, it didn't. Not for longer than 3 months, anyway. Charlie ended it soon after informing me that his ex had just filed divorce papers.
"Laura, I really care about you," he said. "But I can't say I don't have regrets about my divorce. I'm not sure how I feel about it all." When he admitted he "wasn't sure" if he was still in love with her, I knew we were through.
Yes, I shed a few tears, but not because I was in love with him. I cried because the spell hadn't worked, at least not all the way, and I was now forced to revert to being a Party of One after having had a brief, haunting reminder of the cozier aspects of being in a relationship. I wanted that, but deep down I knew I also wanted more -- or different -- than what I'd had with Charlie. And I realized that plotting, strategizing and making demands of my love life ("NICE GUY -- NOW!") wasn't helping.
So I packed my embarrassing love-spell detritus into a drawer and decided to focus on other things -- like me. My friends. My work. And my very sweet pets. I'm still accepting awesome/cute/smart guy applications, though (if you know any, send them my way!). And I still keep Sally's little Love Mojo by my bed -- can't hurt, right?