Very Superstitious

March 27, 2013

Let’s talk about amulets.

vodoooWritten by Mattie Kahn, illustration by Charlotte Fassler

I like to think of myself as a rational person. I don’t hold my breath when I drive past cemeteries. I spill salt and walk under ladders and step on cracks with near-reckless abandon. One time, I shattered a hand-mirror, and here I am! Not noticeably worse off for it.

According to my mother, I outgrew any residual childhood mysticism after my eleventh birthday came and went with nary a text message from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (My conviction that if wizards did exist, I would be one is unfortunately revealing.)

But don’t be fooled by this show of level-headedness. It is not without exception. Because while I’ve long proclaimed disdain for Astrology Zone and rabbits’ feet and herbal remedies, there is one realm in which my pragmatism fails: jewelry. Somehow—despite loud internal protestations to the contrary—I’ve always secretly believed that a certain brand of magic inhabits the pieces I wear daily.

When I was in first grade, my father brought home with him a heart-shaped pendant from a business trip to Dallas. He slipped it onto a silver chain and pressed the cool stone ornament into my palm. “See?” he said, showing me a gentle groove in its center. “You’re supposed to rub it for good luck.”

When I wore it to school the next day, I told my longstanding crush that it was an ancient Aztec talisman.

“My dad bought it from a hobo!” I reported gleefully.

“Cool.” Jeremy said, promptly deeming it his “good luck charm” as well.

“Wow,” I marveled wordlessly, “it’s working already!”

To hell with logic. The supernatural necklace was the indisputable source of my confidence and wit and (mostly) good hair days. It was an indicator of my future happiness and an omen for my eventual success and well-being. As far as I was concerned, it would be removed only in the event of its being forcibly wrested from my person.

Even years later—long after I’d purportedly lost faith in both its enchantment and Jeremy’s—I felt a pang of loss when I accidentally dropped it and watched it crack in half. “Well, that’s probably a bad sign,” I thought, as I stared at the two jagged pieces. “Not that it means anything,” I hastened to remind my calcified, jaded self.

But quietly, I put stock in other trinkets, too: my grandmother’s keychain, a gold locket, a crystal that had been billed as quartz but felt like plastic. They rattled around in the depths of my bags, and—like the heart-shaped rock before them—their presence comforted me. At the very least, I argued to myself, they couldn’t hurt.

When I turned fifteen, I began wearing a watch and felt naked without it. When I was sixteen, I bought a hammered silver ring in Israel and all but refused to remove it thereafter. (Spelled out in tiny etched letters across its surface is a Harry Potter quote rendered in a foreign tongue. I make no apologies.) Two years ago, I introduced a duo of bracelets to this real-time installation. They’ve been on my wrist ever since.

Maybe I’m confusing superstition and sentimentality. Maybe I’m not giving my still-sound mind enough credit. All I know is that when I occasionally forget to don these pieces each morning, I feel noticeably more fragile. They are my chosen armor. They are (deep breath) my good-luck charms.

So much so that in my junior year of high school I came an agonizing ten minutes late to the SATs because I momentarily misplaced the aforementioned ring. Don’t worry. I found it in the end. Really, how else do you think I got into Harvard?

  • Holly-Bella

    Maybe by being, like, a freaking genius? Just saying. xoxo

  • Bonnie, Clyde + Marni

    I am the same way. I have some jewelry that I NEED to wear everyday, if I forget to wear them I am naked and fragile.
    xxx
    Naomi
    http://www.bonnieclydemarni.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/lusafdie Luciana Safdie

    This is extremely comforting to a person that doesn’t leave the house without a certain few jewerly pieces. I couldn’t agree more when you say you feel naked without them. It’s a weird thing, they provide comfort and thus give us confidence in our everyday lives, making us “happier”. However, when we don’t wear them they work as a justification for our bad luck that day, which probably came from us (me) not feeling like myself. So if my -gasp- good luck charms only work in boosting my confidence and thus bringing me so-called good luck, I’ll take the placebo and run with it.

  • http://twitter.com/catfishcaviar Drew Elizabeth

    If I leave home without my watch I feel like something bad is going to happen. Everytime.

  • http://www.farandwildjewelry.blogspot.com/ abigail lind

    look at the history of any culture’s treasured amulets (ie. ancient egyptian ankhs, middle eastern nazars, mayan suns) and you’ll find a similar desire to use them to ward off negativity, maintain well being, and attract jeremys. so crazy or not, at least you’re in good company.

    abigail
    http://www.farandwildjewelry.com

    • http://twitter.com/looksharpWI Look Sharp Sconnie

      but what happens when what lures-jeremy subconsciously, repels him in the flesh?
      #supermanbriefs

  • http://twitter.com/MufasaMane Adrienne Mauro

    I’ve been wearing the same om ring since 10th grade…I’m 25. I feel ya, home girl.

  • Marly Wijvekate

    your writing is so fucking hilarious, sorry for the cursing…

    marlsz.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/_jessgamble Jess Gamble

    So nice to read, I feel like i go through phases with my sentimental jewellery. For months I’ll wear the same ring, then I move on to a collection of bracelets etc. Some of them seem to bring good luck too :)

  • Alexandria Geeter

    this is a great post!! I definitely have those pieces that I can’t leave home without!!

    http://www.labelsandvintage.com

  • http://www.fashionsnag.com/ Fashion Snag

    I feel the same way about certain pieces. If something makes you feel stronger I think it’s okay and you need it in this world.

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • Kohava

    I’m sorry but this anecdote was quite boring, not really one of your best works Mattie. But I will say your writing style is great! It always seems to connect with the readers.

    • Jamie J.

      I kind of have to agree with Kohava, it was pretty boring. You spoke about plastic gems and a keychain that you thought had brought you luck & disguised it with clever writing. I do like your work though, just not this one.

      • Leandra Medine

        My fault, not hers. I assigned the topic.

        • http://www.facebook.com/paula.mcclelland1984 Paula McClelland

          I thought it was super cute – but maybe I’m being over sentimental :O

          ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.
          http://shoe-fiend.blogspot.co.uk/

        • Kayla

          I thought this topic was perfect. I guess some people can’t understand it if they’ve never experienced it. I have a silver bracelet with a bee charm that used to belong to my mother (I took it of course) and I am astonished by the fact that I still have it. I say this because I have lost this bracelet over 5 times while out and about and it always mysteriously appears in my bed or on my dresser whenever I wake up. I never thought of myself as superstitious, but I have all the confidence in the world that my bee bracelet is something special. Again, amazing post!

          • Patricia K.

            It’s not really the topic that was bad, it was story that was a bit off. I think everyone at some point in their life thought that a piece of jewelry brought them good luck, so the article is relatable (hence all the relatable comments down below). However, if this article had been written differently it probably would have done all sorts of wonders. (See: Aurora’s comment below)

    • http://www.vintageobserver.com/ Couteau

      Is it Mattie or Marnie?

      • Kohava

        It’s Mattie that I’m referring to in my last comment. Mattie Kahn is a guest writer for Manrepeller.com (see: today’s post above). Marnie is a fictional character on a show called “Girls” that Manrepeller.com often posts about on their after thoughts after an episode airs.

        • http://www.vintageobserver.com/ Couteau

          That Harvard quip sounds like something Marnie would say (apologies, lousy shot at a joke).

  • http://www.lucidnewyork.com HandmadeJewelrybyLucid

    My jewelry wearing is more sentimental. It ‘s hard for me to believe in any good luck stuff but it’s more the comfort of known, of something that I’ve had for a long time that can give me strength and confidence…

  • Kholá Waddy-Jones

    Personally I’m not superstitious….well, I try not to break mirrors but…..

    http://www.kholaskloset.blogspot.com

    • the (un?)social butterfly

      Breaking mirrors is really not a good idea, anyway. They tend to be expensive (and so is replacing them), plus their shattered pieces can actually hurt you quite badly.

      http://humanwomen.wordpress.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/PauloHenriqueOtoni Paulo Henrique Otoni

    Amazing sytle.

    Kiss from Manual Fashion.

    http://www.manualfashion.com

  • http://www.vintageobserver.com/ Couteau

    “Really, how else do you think I got into Harvard?”

    Group puke?

  • Reptilia

    I´m quite superstitious and i have some talismans.

    http://www.justreptilia.com

    xx

  • Jenna

    I initially came to the Manrepeller website because I love Leandra’s style and her point of view on shoes. Although I like some intelligently written pieces here and there, I feel like the blog is lacking the “fashion” lately. Mattie’s writing style is great but I don’t see how this particular piece fits with the esthetics of the blog. I would like to see more overalls and less pointless articles :)

  • Chelsea Mac

    I, too, am not a superstitious person; with the exception of jewelry. Dare I step on a plane without my Tiffany&Co cross necklace – I end up in nervous sweats the entire flight that my plane might befall some horrible fate. I wear my diamond studs to all my important meetings, and step back if I don’t wear my bangle on a night out.

  • Samantha

    I cried in a bathtub on my 11th birthday because I didn’t get an acceptance letter from Hogwarts.

    “If anyone is magic, I am!”

    Anyways, the moral of the story is that You. Are. Not. Alone.

  • Emilie

    I’m the same.. I feel naked if I’m not wearing my watch or if I don’t have my rings with me.
    During my exams if I don’t have them I just freak out because I “need” them, I also almost missed one of my final because I was looking for them.
    I don’t think it’s a superstitious thing though, it’s more sentimental and old habits, it just feels like a part of me isn’t here when I’m not wearing them and it’s weird and I don’t like it.
    Once I wasn’t wearing my rings (I have 3) and didn’t realized it until my friends were all “where are your rings? it’s weird, did you lose them or forget them?” then I felt awful and literally complained about it the whole day. This kinda made me realize that my rings became a part of my identity, it’s probably really weird but I feel better and kinda stronger with them, don’t know how I’ll react if I lose/break any of them. ( probably cry in fetal position with a pot of ben&jerry’s ice cream)

    Anyway, you’re not alone in this ha, x

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I still wear a toe ring. YES…a toe ring…that I’ve had one since I was 15 (circa 1997, if you must know…god, I’m lame). Don’t ask me why I wear it because I can’t really tell you, but it’s the closest thing to a tattoo that I have. I have considered that, at the upcoming 30th birthday, I will remove it – but we’ll see. It’s been with me half of my lifetime…and while I don’t think it has any special powers, it is a tiny reminder of the jaded, naive, young kid I used to be. It reminds me not to grow up too much.

    I’m sure getting into Harvard had more to do with the ring…but hey, we all have our superstitions that get us through the tough times!

  • Aurora

    Like all the other commenters before me, I too felt this piece to be quite dull. Maybe dull is not the word; but I felt no progression, no significance on all these anecdotes. Maybe it’s just me, but considering the fact that I still carry around a handmade gold necklace that’s grandfather made for me by hand as a child, there was so many places this article could have hit home for me, but did not.

    The writing style is still superb, and although disappointed I still wouldn’t not deem the time spent reading this article to be wasted.

  • Petra

    I don’t know what they’re talking about! I really enjoyed and was able to relate to this post. Very rookie magazine.

  • Guest

    I really enjoyed this article. I think it’s something many accessory fanatics relate to. I have many piece of jewelry but I have a handful of favorites. One is a silver ring that I purchased in college that I never take off. I took it off once and I felt like my whole day was backwards. I bought it because I had changed a lot that year and really felt like I figured out who I was. I keep it on me to remind myself of my values. Much like how people get tattoos.

    Well done, Mattie. Thanks for sharing! I’m happy I’m not the only one that is superstitious about their jewelry.

  • http://twitter.com/LocalAndOpulent Lesley O.

    Great writing.

    A new outfit post and photo diary from World MasterCard Fashion Week is up on Local & Opulent

    http://localandopulent.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/wmcfw-photo-diary-day-3/

  • Fabita Punk

    I don’t like this dolls…not because of my believes or something…i just don’t like them

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    Mattie Kahn could write about anything and I’d be wholly captivated. She raises the bar for essay writing, if ya ask me. Loved this piece – just as I love all others by anyone ever on this site.

  • laurengt

    There really is something magical about sentimentally valuable jewelry. I wore the same necklace to every single exam that I have ever taken and would panic if couldn’t find it in the morning. I’m sure that it didn’t make any difference whatsoever as far as rationality goes, but having it with me made me feel calm, and a calm Lauren is a smart Lauren so perhaps it did work!

    Also, no judgement on the Harry Potter love. When I became engaged my Dad teased me that I should engrave “One ring to rule them all” onto my wedding band. I thought about it.

    Lauren x
    Gordon + Gold

  • Emma Logue

    What Harry Potter quote??? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    • Mattie Kahn

      “Time is making fools of us again.” c/o Dumbledore circa the Half-Blood Prince. A classic!

  • what to wear/

    This has made me nostalgic and superstitious. Well done!

    http://www.whattowearwheretobuy.tumblr.com

  • Andrea R.

    Oh, please! People expect an award winning essay everytime something is posted? Go read somewhere else. This was cute and I think many of us can relate – I sure can! I’ve worn the same rings on the same fingers for years, and if I don’t I feel defenseless, it’s a horrible feeling!

  • Lydia Bishop

    I think its really cute…
    http://www.herlux.blogspot.com

  • http://ravenmaidenmaven.blogspot.com/ Lydia Teo

    Not sure whether I believe in good luck charms, but I do hold precious the items that have sentimental value, like a family heirloom or something that signified something big that happened in my life…that said, I do have a study voodoo doll warrior on my pencil case, so…I guess I need everything I can get when it comes to exams.

    http://ravenmaidenmaven.blogspot.sg/2013/03/interior.html

  • F&ML: Fashion And My Life

    SO cute!!
    xoxx, Monica
    http://fandml.com

  • http://twitter.com/tesstrunkshow Tess Goodwin

    I totally relate to this article and found it to be charming and cute!

    I am a fanatic about the power of certain jewelry pieces and almost had a heart-attack the other day when I thought I lost my moonstone pendant. I found it thank god, as I was nearly afraid to leave my house without it!

    I do agree though and would love to see more outfit posts!!

    Perhaps another lesson in layering?

    http://www.treehousetrunkshow.blogspot.com

  • Dandy Moon

    totally relatable, love it!

    http://thewhatiwores.blogspot.com.au/

  • http://www.facebook.com/alisa.rudy Alisa Rudy

    Did you mean you asked Hadaya to write a Harry Potter quote in Hebrew? Classy!!

  • Genesis Falcon Brito

    Well I disagree with some of the comments, I think this was a good post that I could relate too. Maybe is just plastic gems or so, but that is the point it doesn’t matter it just makes you feel less vulnerable. I have two items that do the same for me, so maybe that is why i totally relate to this post.
    Still awesome my dear man repeller.

  • Lauren Gallagher

    Contrary to what some other comments say, I found this piece to be insightful. It made me smile and was (for me) written in an extremely accessible and almost amicable style. To me this piece described a fundamental factor in the way we each make sartorial choices, in the context of jewelry.

  • Brishti

    I liked reading this piece. It hits home for me because I have the tendency to do the same thing. I keep believing that an item (watch or a certain piece of clothing) would bring me good luck when I know it’s irrational and I really shouldn’t. I can’t help it but think it’s my good luck charm until (gasps!) it doesn’t work. I will, however, promptly move on to proclaim another item as the good luck charm. I guess what it really is that it makes me feel protected and confident like “If I have done it before, I can do it again.”

  • Shannon

    Very cliched, especially the Harvard reference.