The Practical Magic Complex
Like many kids in the 1990s, I grew up with a working single mom, leaving me to my own devices quite a lot. Actually, it’s not like I was raised by wolves, I had a much cuter, matching sweatsuit wearing babysitter, my sub-five foot Nana. While she did love a good craft day, Nana was more concerned the number of menthol cigarettes she had left in her leather, green case than with what my chubby, bandana self was up to.
So, in the afternoons, I practiced being a CEO and played on powerpoint in her smoke-filled master bedroom, and she did whatever Nanas do. After perfecting my slide transitions, I’d lay in her king size bed amongst the crunch of Cheez-it’s, which Nana hid so she could shame eat in the darkness. As I snuggled in her bed, I deeply contemplated how this was my actual reality and began to worry that my real, royal family would never arrive to pick me up, I watched a series of movies to pass the time and distract myself. Once tired of reruns of normal 90’s children’s classics such as the Wizard of Oz and Lion King, I ventured out of the covers and lazily, grabbed for a new VHS.
I saw one with two witches and thought, “Heck yeah!”
I put it into the VCR and quickly swung my feet back into the bed, crunch went the Cheez-it’s and excitement ran up my chubby fingers. I always thought I was magic, maybe this movie would teach me how to use my powers. My daydreams were quickly halted by the wonder and mild disgust of why my grandparent’s house always had ‘that’ smell.
After my dramatic dialogue with myself concluded, I began to watch a movie that would impact my life forever. Not necessarily because of the cinema quality, but the number of times I watched, nay, studied the witches in Practical Magic. In this movie, which I’m not sure if anyone has ever seen but me and of course, my friends, who were also required by my bossy self to watch; Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock play two twenty-somethings, trying their hands at finding love, despite the terrible cursed played upon their witchy lineage.
The curse, which I nicknamed the Beatle Curse, was essentially the downfall of all the fictional Owens’. Once any woman in their family fell in love, they’d hear the sound of the Beatle chirping and they knew their love was about to die.
The first one hundred times I watched this movie, I genuinely thought nothing of this curse. Yet, as I grew older, it began to creep back into my mind.
The message became ingraned in my brain: If you fall in love, it will be scary, I mean seance-witch-level scary, and then the person will die. You’ll be alone and it will suck.
I let this complex slide as a distant fear until I was 20 years old when I really fell in love. Real love. Not the loser-boyfriend kind I’d had before, where we’d go to Walmart and steal frames for his ‘art’ and do psychedelic mushrooms every time we ordered pizza.
Real love, like the kind of boyfriend that takes you out to fancy restaurants on the water and wants to meet your parents.
Which led a complex, scared little girl inside of me to ask:
“Who am I to deserve this?”
“Is this real?”
“Am I enough?”
Basic, foundational, sweet, funny love was something I’d never seen before. My father and mother had an abusive relationship, and he left when I was less than seven years old. My grandparents slept in different rooms and yelled at each other things like:
“Shirley, the dogs are barking.”
‘Brooks, I can’t hear you the freaking dogs are barking!”
So, when I met, Chris, the sweet boyfriend, who seemingly was an ideal match to my OCD paranoia; I thought, “Hmmm… this is nice.”
Then, the beatle complex returned with a loud chirp.
I spent our first six years of dating like the Beastie Boys screaming ‘SABATOGE’ every time he rounded the corner. In an attempt to see if he’d leave me, I’d do all sorts of crazy things to seem unlovable.
In our seventh year, when he showed no signs of ditching me, despite my best efforts, the Practical Magic Complex crept in deeper, like the beatles were hanging out around my ears hollering dramatic scary things, and I, deep down a still scared banana wearing fifth grader, believed them.
The beatle complex would yell at the strangest times, like when Chris would walk our dog around the block for five minutes too long. I never once had a rational thought like, “He must have met a neighbor”. No way, each time I quickly threw my shoes on and ran around the block to make sure he had not been hit by a car, AKA became cursed by the beatle complex. Yet each time, I’d find him and our 104-pound chocolate lab, happily trotting back.
Why was I acting so bananas?
I dug deep, as most people do when they get tired of their own shit, and asked, “Where is this fear really coming from?”
“Did I inherit this fear? Is it in my DNA?” I over analyzed, day after day.
Until one day, I was eating a box of Cheez-its and I laughed.
I remembered….It was that damn movie.