I once had a charm sister.
Her name was Patty.
(I also have a sister named Patty but this story isn’t about her.)
She showed up at an open house I was having with her young daughter in tow and I immediately liked her.
She drove up in a common-sense Mercedes diesel, not-too-old and not-too-new – and was dressed simply but expensively and wore tasteful jewelry.
Her eye contact was excellent; her manner was respectful and her interest seemed very real.
After an hour or so lingering on the premises (this is a long time for someone looking during an open house!) she said she was interested in making an offer on the condo and would I call her the following week?
We exchanged information and she went on her way and I mine.
I called her and she invited me to lunch. I met her and she had her small daughter in tow (again).
Not thinking much of this beyond how difficult it was to conduct business with a wriggling four-year-old sitting next to you I shared with her that I had two daughters on either side of her daughter’s age.
I recall paying for that lunch.
We arranged a play-date for our children.
They got along as children do and we got along as mothers of children do.
Our relationship began to transform into an everyday call kind of thing.
I began to miss our talks the days we didn’t connect.
It began to feel like something was missing.
I began to feel an emotional connection to her that almost seemed to veer on a physical dependency.
I know that sounds nuts but I think now I was falling in love with her.
She courted me and after a time, I realize, I courted her back.
She had the most interesting stories to tell!
I soon learned that she was in the middle of a bankruptcy and was losing her home.
Of course it was all-so-unfair and she had been the victim of a large-money-investment-gone-south and was being persecuted for it but once the courts saw the light of day she’d be reimbursed and all the world would once again be her oyster.
She was also on disability.
But even with all that she was so much fun!
Her derring-do was irresistible!
Her mystery was alluring. She told stories of witchcraft and second-sight and fortune telling.
She called herself clairvoyant.
Undeterred (and mostly unknown to me at this point), she had set her sights on the condominium I was representing for sale.
I managed to work a deal out for her to purchase the condo that included me leaving my $7,000 commission in the sale, to be paid back at a later time, for a down payment.
We were friends.
I never saw a dime of it.
I learned that her expensive tastes extended to everything even though she was broke.
She believed in buying nothing but the best and it always seemed like she was selling expensive stuff that she had accumulated in the past to finance her present lifestyle.
I learned that her relationship with her mother was strained; it seemed she had been placed as an executor to her maternal grandmother’s estate and had burned through that money in less than three years at the expense of her other family members.
Of course that’s not how it was presented to me at the time but after a bit I figured things out.
Two and two doesn’t make five, Patty, as much as you would have liked me to believe your story.
Her collection (and knowledge) of gems and precious metals was enviable. She guided me in purchasing some of the best jewelry I own today.
She counseled me that wearing modest but expensive jewelry was necessary -especially for a woman in business.
I wore simple pearl or gold earrings up until that point in my life.
Occasionally I wore a watch but not often.
Suddenly I had rings with stones so large and deep in color their value would only increase over time (she was right).
I began purchasing 18-carat gold bracelets and a necklace here and there.
It was the 80s.
I purchased a Chanel suit that wore like iron into the nineties. I wore it two to three times a week!
It cost me $800 back then.
If you’ve ever worn a Chanel suit you’ll know how the cut of that skirt makes you feel.
She liked to travel.
The two of us traveled to China together. She ran out of money the beginning of the second week. I loaned her mine. About a thousand dollars as I now recall.
I never saw a dime of that either.
I was young and I was gullible and I made several other mistakes with her that translated into me losing hard-earned money but I’m not going to go into those now except to say there’s eminent wisdom in Shakespeare’s words:
“Neither a borrower not a lender be.”
Suffice it to say that once her promises to repay me became unsustainable she found cause not to like me anymore.
Looking back at it today it all seems rather comical but there were some lessons that emerged from the two-year long relationship that have served me (and mine) well ever since.
When I hear someone begin to talk of a new friend they have that just happens to be in reduced circumstances my “Patty” goes up.
When I hear tell of monies being exchanged in situations like these I’ll usually say:
“She’s doin’ a Patty on you.”
They’ll look at me quizzically and I’ll tell them of my life experience.
Sometimes it helps in warding off the evil hex and sometimes it doesn’t.
Charm sisters like Patty can be of either sex. Their common trait is that they weave themselves into your existence and before you know it you’re reaching into your pocket to help them.
I see many who I suspect are charm sisters operating today in our troubled times.
P.S. One of my daughters saw her a few years back at a high-end shopping mall here in Cincinnati. She was parking her Mercedes…
P.S.S. I’ve gone back to wearing very simple jewelry, if any at all on a daily basis. Most of what I accumulated back when I have given to my daughters or it lies in wait for them.