Love in the Clime of Canada
Romantic advice from beyond the veil.
By Alina Shaikh, University of Toronto
For reasons that we don’t really need to get into, I resolved that in 2016 I was going to declutter my love life.
To do so, I devised a two-step process. The first move was to comb through my romantic tangles by channeling my inner Marie Kondo. I assessed, pared down, tidied up, and organized. All the failed attempts at keeping in touch, ignored Snapchats, trashed polaroids and misdirected romances were mentally dated and postmarked in preparation for part two—going off the grid.
Let me first preface my Luddism, though, by saying that I harbor exactly zero ill will toward the union of romance and technology. Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, OkCupid, Hinge, FarmersOnly, Christian Mingle, Whiplr, Craigslist—whatever gets you through cuffing season, I love and support them all. In fact, it’d be a lot closer to the truth to say that I’m not really swearing off the love tech as much as I’m just taking a break from it (except for Japanese dating sim apps, which wait for no one). But, the fact remained. If I were really going to declutter, simplify, and untangle my love life, unplugging was a major key.
So, I gave the old fashioned way a try.
And then after a week, I changed my mind a little bit. It turns out that dating apps are a lot like nine-to-five jobs in that they suck, but pretty much everyone has one. In other words, if you swear off Tinder, that just means you’re the only person on campus who doesn’t know if you and that TA would be a match. So no matter how noble or pure-hearted your intentions might be, going off the grid really just makes things more difficult.
Plus, it turns out that old-fashioned romance isn’t even that steamy. There’s a reason that our ancestors ditched snail mail nudeys for sexts. Modern man has a good thing going, and I was starting to feel like I’d thrown out the baby out with the romantic, lavender-infused bath water. What I needed was the best of both worlds—a little new, a little old. Better yet, I needed something that was simple yet whimsical, kind of like vintage without the hipster. I needed my fortune told.
I scheduled meetings with three of the best psychics and tarot readers in Toronto. I told them that I was looking to find love in a hopeless place, and that they should interpret that however they want. Unfortunately, I was met with the same rebuke from all three readers. They each said making predictions about my love life was impossible. To do anything of the sort, they would have to have someone in mind for them to focus on, which couldn’t happen because I had no potential candidates to submit to them.
So we did the next best thing. By looking at my past relationships and reading me, each clairvoyant would try to see what my romantic strengths and weaknesses were, and what I could do to cope with or improve them. It wasn’t the Instagram handle of my future spooning partner, but it wasn’t bad.
The highest rated psychic in Toronto is non-ironically named Crystal, and she lives in the exposed brick/nouveau riche neighborhood of Kensington.
“My name is actually Crystal,” she said as I settled into the cozy workspace. “I’m basically here for people to go, ‘Crystal, what’s up?’ Then have them express themselves, to prove me wrong.”
As the stereotype holds, she gets coy when it comes to explaining just how she can be proved wrong. “I tell people things, sure,” she shrugs. “But it’s on them to change it.”
She asks me to shuffle a deck of cards, which I was nearly incapable of doing. Crystal either doesn’t see my untidy bridge, or my lack of dexterity has no affect on my fortune.
“You have a lot of fire here,” she says as she lines up cards from the deck. I sit up in my seat. “Do you know what that means?”
I begin to question where I went wrong in my life.
She leans forward tantalizingly. I shift to the edge of my seat.
“What does fire do?”
For a moment I think she’s implying that my future holds the possibility of burning in hell. The session hasn’t even gone ten minutes.
“Burn?” I rasp out, my croak breaking the silence.
“Yup!” she nods vehemently. “You’re either way up here,” she says, throwing a hand above her head, “or way down here,” dropping her other hand below the table, presumably to the depths of hell.
“There’s no in-between with you,” Crystal warns. “There’s no balance.”
She looked up at me. “Shit,” I say in my head, and maybe out loud. Her sympathetic nod makes me think it was definitely also out loud.
“Your throat chakra is weak,” she says. She looks up to see my furrowed brows and narrowed eyes. “Don’t get me wrong—you talk a shit ton.”
I begin to like her.
“You’re just not nearly as sincere with your potential partners as you are with family and friends.”
At that diagnosis I begin to envision my “list of potential partners” (a phrase Crystal uses that makes it sound like I have some sort of huge variety of options) nodding passionately.
She asks me to think of someone that I’d like to know more about. I tell her the first girl that pops into my mind, who just so happens to be the clichéd one-that-got-away.
“I like her,” Crystal said, which puzzled me. This is girl that broke my heart, Crystal, where’s your tact. But then I thought about it. Of course Crystal would like my ex’s vibes. They’re good vibes. At one point, I liked them a lot myself.
“She’s a good person,” she said, looking me in the eyes. “You just gotta stop comparing what you have now to what you had then. It’s not fair to anyone.”
The next day as I stumbled out of my run-down student apartment, I thought about Crystal’s tough-love summation of my problems.
“Drop her. She’s confused,” Crystal had said. She’d looked up at me and sighed. “You’re not gonna listen to me anyways.”
I interrupted her with a meek “No I will,” but even I could hear how half-assed it sounded. As I left, she implored me to be safe. It didn’t feel like a platitude, though. It felt genuine, like when a parent says it. In the end, I don’t think she minded my stubbornness.
I walked to a local café to get my usual fix of Earl Grey, but was stopped at the counter. The cute barista’s nametag read Natalie. I started wondering if she hates being called “Nat” too, like the Natalie I talked about with Crystal.
Her dimple piercings glint as she turns to smirk at me. It would be so, so easy to ignore everything Crystal had just told me. I’m pretty much calculating how easy it’ll be getting this cute barista’s number and having a “Natalie” in my phone once again, until I remember Crystal’s little fire metaphor.
I wanted to prove her wrong, so I ignored Natalie’s purposeful lean onto the counter, her crossed arms pushing her chest up and her batting eyelashes. I order my tea and got the hell out of there. Maybe I could have some balance after all.
The next psychic on the list, Tara Tarot, also lives in Toronto.
To improve her tarot reading, Tara’s studied psychology, symbology, mysticism and dream theory. Her prognostications seem kind of like the book smarts version of Crystal’s street smarts.
“I’m really just picking up your energy,” she explains. “It’s a matter of trust. Tarot is just a means to tune into yourself.” She uses the phrase “self-mirroring,” which seems redundant but still makes a lot of sense.
“I always just knew,” Tara says, explaining her qualifications. Her self-confidence is infectious. “It came in clear, full memories. Past lives. Everyone gets these clues of ‘Who I am,’ and ‘What I’m supposed to be doing.’”
Tara helps clients identify what those clues are in their life, so they can find figure out what they should be doing. Her tarot is a means of disambiguation, like cutting through the fog.
“The tarot will always be accurate,” says Tara. “I don’t advertise as 100 percent, though. I don’t like that pressure. I feel like it’s counter-intuitive. It’s hard to say one single thing that’s definitely going to happen in the myriad of possibilities. Tarot’s something very personal. But we can only predict probability, not the exact outcome.”
A lot of clients get frustrated with psychics for not giving them a step-by-step plan to follow, but I prefer Tara’s method to the standard $50 compliment bath that other psychics will give you.
“You have free will,” she says. “You have choices and you can act on them. You are in charge of your life.” Despite making a livelihood out of predicting futures, she tells me that she believes in adaptable destiny and that fate is not predetermined.
That’s why reading tarot is a tool meant to guide clients’ futures, not illustrate them. “If you’re not happy with [the prediction],” she says, “you have to take responsibility for creating your own life.”
But what did she say about my love life? Not much. But I did take away one important lesson. Where Crystal illustrated how my personality influenced my love life, Tara stressed my ability to control my personality. To her, fate is just the accumulation of your actions and choices. So since you have control over what you do, you have control over your destiny! There’s a Dead Poet’s Society reference here somewhere. Point is: My romantic history doesn’t have to affect my romantic future.
My third psychic was Liz Worth, another one of the highest-rated tarot readers in Toronto.
“Everyone’s on different life paths, right?” she says. “Even though we’re all going through many of the same experiences, we live through them in different ways. We think about them in different ways, and we have to take different lessons from all of them.”
The next day, when the thought of taking on another job seemed crucial, what with the textbook fees and new residence apps coming up, I remembered what Liz had told me.
“You’re very early in your process,” Liz said, “but on a very fruitful path.”
The generality bothered me. So school is a good thing? Should I continue doing college exactly the way I am now, aka staring at my professor’s jeans, writing essays based on Yahoo! Answers crowdsourcing, and travelling westward to add time zones to midnight deadlines?
“Thing’s might not always be happening as quickly as you want them to,” Liz said, which was hard news to stomach. During my reading, Liz had pointed to the “Page of Pentacles” card. It indicates an independent person, someone who’s good at creating their own path, someone who wants things to happen as quickly as she wants them to.
A lot like a student who, I don’t know, maybe moved alone from New York to Toronto for college, has a brother in Jordan, Skypes her parents in Buffalo, and pays bills with the fumes of a bank account that perpetually runs on E, all because of her stupid determination to do things on her own? Smh, Page of Pentacles. Independence sucks.
Next I drew the Hanged Man card, which had me seconds away from swearing off tarot and all its creepy shit for good, until Liz pointed out that it symbolizes the need to self-reflect.
“When we try to fix things by launching ourselves into something totally different,” she said, “we don’t really get to the root of the problem.”
Which is basically my trademark.
I looked down at all the blocked numbers and missed calls on my phone. I’ve met a lot of interesting people that way.
“Just step back. You don’t have to throw another action into the mix,” she said, affirming my decision to declutter. While it might have just been an echo of what I was already thinking, it kind of felt like an echo that I needed to hear.
Looking back, I’d be lying if I said I got any hard and fast predictions. I didn’t; 2016 is going to be just as much of a shapeless void as 2015 was. But I did learn some things. I need to stop looking for what I don’t have. My romantic foibles are fixable, not fixed. And I need to do me for a little while.
I guess it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s one thing to get good advice from your friends. It’s another to get it from people you paid $30/session to talk to. It makes it seem more objectively for some reason. I don’t know. I’ll probably get on Tinder after I finish this. But at least Crystal and I are friends now. And if you were wondering if it’s totally fucking cool having a psychic friend, you’re right. It is.