I Have Exciting News!
My 4th memoir, The Magic Seeker is available. This book is for spiritual deep divers who also love humor. It’s a deeply personal account of a year in my life, learning the hard lessons that we came into this life to learn & experience. Boy did I get my butt kicked!
Here’s the first chapter… I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. xo
“My Wife, The Gypsy”
Wild women are an unexplainable spark of life. They ooze freedom and seek awareness. They belong to nobody but themselves yet give a piece of who they are to everyone they meet. If you have met one, hold on to her; she’ll allow you into her chaos, but she’ll also show you her magic. ― Nikki Rowe
One evening with a full moon rising, I was finishing a spell to attract money and abundance at my altar. I use the energies of the universe in my work like those of the moon, which embodies the feminine, the subconscious, raw emotions, and psychic power. The practice of ritual and ceremony is a magical way to harness these energies. The moon’s powerful gravitational pull creates the right environment for intuitive breakthroughs and manifesting. I created my home office as a mystical sanctuary where I often conjure up introductions for my high-end matchmaking clientele. That night I’d carved ancient symbols into the wax of a green candle and was “dressing” it with gold glitter and fragrant oils when the phone rang.
My business partner Fredly was frantic. “You aren’t going to believe this! Andy filed a lawsuit against us. I was on a Happy Hour date! They tracked me down and served the papers!”
“WHAT? This is insane.”
“Yeah. It was so embarrassing! My date left. I’d hoped he’d ask me to stay for dinner.”
The green candle sputtered out. “I thought that our letter to Andy last week documenting all of the dedicated work we’ve done for him in the last six months would have convinced him to drop his request of a refund.”
“I know.” Fredly sighed. “You even threw in free coaching sessions.”
“Which we paid for! What could he possibly be suing for?”
It sounded like papers rattling on Fredly’s end. “It says here breach of contract, misrepresentation, and fraud. He’s suing for $10,000 plus $25,000 in damages.”
“FRAUD? DAMAGES?” I was screeching. “He’s met ten beautiful, sweet women. How in the heck is he damaged from that?”
“Maybe we should have given him the refund when he asked,” said Fredly.
“NO! We were right not to give him back the money. We worked our butts off for him, and he still has six months left on his membership.”
“You actually set up dates for him!” she said. Contractually introductions were all that were required.
“Andy is so clueless. Awkward with initial contacts. No idea of the best date spots. Impatient with coordinating schedules, so I put in hours and hours of concierge service at no extra cost.”
“And the recruiters!”
“Yes, the recruiters! Those girls deserve all of the money we paid them to find our clients great matches. We have to stand our ground and fight. If we refunded every guy who didn’t get into a relationship right away, we’d go out of business.”
“I agree. Okay, let’s get our attorney on the line…”
Fredly and I were gobsmacked. A goddamn jury trial.
I definitely started questioning my career path. As a professional matchmaker for almost two decades, I’m a popular guest at parties and on podcasts alike, as people always want to know what it’s like being a real life Cupid. “Tell me your craziest stories matching up the rich and famous. You must have a lot of them!” or “What a cool job, I’ve been thinking about becoming a matchmaker because I’ve matched up a bunch of my friends.” Yes, I’ll admit it’s been a fascinating and often rewarding career, and I’ve been beyond blessed by becoming my own boss and working the laptop lifestyle in my lululemons, however, as you can see, it’s definitely not all Valentines and rainbows. Navigating millionaire’s egos and issues around unhealed childhood wounds—which often erupt during the challenges of a romance—is a daunting task.
We were matchmakers for God’s sake! Our whole life revolved around love and romance. We were and remain lovers, not fighters.
Months followed of preparation with our attorney, gathering evidence, going over details and strategy while also continuing to run a business. It was overwhelming and exhausting. When our day in court finally arrived, I was both a well-prepared package and a bundle of nerves, as was Fredly.
Sitting on the stand in a black and white form fitting-dress, black Jimmy Choo Stilettos, and hair in a French twist, I virtually buzzed with adrenaline coursing through my veins. Fortunately, I could feel Fredly’s good vibes flowing in my direction as I told the whole truth and nothing but. I was an actress for twenty years, so I had no trouble speaking in front of an audience. It was absolutely nerve-wracking nonetheless because you just never know how these things could shake out.
Andy’s attorney, Brandon Jones, looked like he was young enough to be my son. I wondered why the owner of the law firm would give our case to a rookie like Brandon, because he obviously hadn’t tried many cases. Brandon was twistin’ and bee-boppin’ all over that courtroom, trying his best to discredit us in any way he could. Since the contract with Andy was under Fredly’s LLC, Brandon felt that I shouldn’t have even been there. At one point he turned to the jury: “Why is Marla even here? I’ll tell you why, because she presents well and is attractive! I’ve met Miss Martenson, I have no problem with her, she’s a nice woman, she’s fine, but again, why is she here?”
Well, Brandon, I thought, thank you very much. Maybe you have a thing for older women, but don’t worry; I’ll try to be gentle as I squish you under my stiletto heel. I got my chance when he pulled out a copy of my memoir, Hearts on the Line. Waving it in the air, he began firing off questions.
“Miss Martenson, isn’t it true that you pay women to go on dates with your clients?”
“No, it is not.”
Brandon walked over and set the book down in front of me pointing to a page he had highlighted. “It says so right here. It says you pay women to go on dates.”
At that point, I knew that he hadn’t actually read the book.
“Uh, it says that my old boss, Gary at my former place of employment used to pay women to go on dates, and that was one of the reasons I quit.”
Brandon’s face twisted in frustration.
“Well, isn’t it true that you gussie yourself up when meeting new clients?”
“I dress professionally.”
Brandon flipped through my book and showed me another highlighted page where I described how my old boss Gary used to make us gals wear our hair down and wanted us to look hot for the clients.
“Again, that was at my former job. And this book was written as entertainment.”
I watched a bead of sweat trickle down Brandon’s neck.
“Frankly, I don’t see how this book that I wrote years ago has anything at all to do with Andy’s membership or this case.” I said.
The judge chimed in, “That’s right, Mr. Jones, the book has nothing to do with the case.”
“That will be all Miss Martenson.” Brandon slunk back to his seat.
I had noticed that Andy hadn’t made eye contact with us all week, turning his back whenever possible and hanging his head as if in shame as I gave my testimony. I knew the truth then. Andy didn’t believe we committed fraud. Andy had liked the women we introduced him to. Someone put him up to this. I suddenly detected eau de RAT wafting through this proceeding, and it smelled a lot like Gary, our former boss from “Double D” Dating Service in Beverly Hills.
After closing statements, the jury recessed for deliberation. Over calming herbal tea, Fredly and I now realized why we’d seen Gary’s name on one of the witness lists, and why his name had popped up on our client’s phone that was sitting on the table during the arbitration. Still, this was so low we hadn’t imagined a possible connection. Gary obviously held a seething vendetta against us because we’d become his competition after we branched out on our own.
The jury came back. Fredly and I held hands. The verdict: NOT GUILTY on all counts. Fredly and I broke down in tears right there in the goddamn courtroom.
We were victorious, we were not shysters; we were good and decent people, expert matchmakers. Our names would not be dragged through the mud. But we were out ten thousand in attorney’s fees, as well as courtroom, hotel, food and gas expenses.
Just as we were recovering from the trial, another client charged back twelve grand on his credit card (yes, they can do that) while dating one of our ladies exclusively for a month. We soon discovered with no surprise that this man also knew our former boss. We decided that it was highly likely that Gary had talked our clients into suing us or charging back the money in exchange for a free membership at his service.
So, even though I did still make many terrific matches with truly nice people, my bank balance seemed to be going in the wrong direction, and I yearned for a less stressful situation with a bit more appreciation for my expertise.
My two decades as an actress—day job as a waitress—had led me to a similar turning point. I’d responded to an ad in the back of an actor’s periodical for a dating agency, turned in my apron, and picked up a Cupid’s bow to become a matchmaker for affluent men. But the clientele were too often over fifty, self-styled Dorian Grays, fancying themselves as ageless hunks demanding to be matched up with younger goddesses, who often would only accept a date if their bank account bulged in all the right places. But that wasn’t what I’d signed up for. Branching out independently with Fredly, I’d held my Cupid’s bow as a sacred talisman, a magic wand, poised and ready to disperse glittery love dust onto unsuspecting singles who, in their heart of hearts, knew that authentic love was what they truly needed.
Maybe it was time to reinvent myself again, or at least add something new to the mix. I had a heartfelt convo with my angels and spirit guides. “This is seriously stressing me out,” I told them. I wasn’t planning on actually quitting matchmaking outright—but maybe I could create spiritual side gigs until I could kick the narcissists to the curb. “Spirit team,” I announced, “Thank you for assisting me in manifesting work that satisfies my soul—something creative and fun. Something magical!”
I was already attuned to Reiki, a Japanese form of energy healing, and I had a few regular clients who came to the house for crystal healing/Reiki sessions, as well as some clients who ordered distance healing and angel readings that I typed up and sent through email at a bargain price. I loved that work, but it certainly wasn’t going to pay off my house or boost my retirement account.
So. After some research online I decided to audition as a card reader for one of the most established party psychic agencies in Los Angeles. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous when I gave the owner, Kim, a general reading over Skype using a combination of traditional tarot and oracle cards. The reading showed that she had a side project besides owning the agency that she was trying to get off the ground, as well as some qualities of her personality that were really front-and-center that were assisting her in order to make things happen.
“You’re spot on,” said Kim. “I have a HUGE project that is about to come to fruition in a few months! I love your style and energy. Welcome aboard!” Kim gave me the details on what to bring to the gigs, how payment works etc. “Oh, and you have to dress like a gypsy. This IS entertainment after all.”
I was beyond excited and shared the news with my husband Adolfo. “I need to go buy a gypsy dress ASAP.”
Always practical, his response didn’t surprise me. “What if you don’t get a gig?” he asked, fretfully. “Then you would have spent money on an outfit for nothing! Just wait till she calls you.”
“Oh, I’ll get a gig. Kim wouldn’t have taken me on if she wasn’t planning to book me,” I assured him. “I can’t risk waiting until the last minute.”
The next day I hustled over to a Halloween costume shop in Burbank. Three days after that, it gave me joy to prove Adolfo wrong. Kim contacted me with my first gig, which more than paid for the costume.
“I told you I’d get booked,” I said to Adolfo, smirking as I twirled in front of the full- length bedroom mirror modeling the $75.00 multi-colored gypsy dress, complete with headscarf.
“It does look pretty cool,” he admitted. “Have fun at the party.” Still skeptical, he added, “I hope you make some money.”
It was a fantastic party. The hostess set me up inside near the fireplace, complete with a candelabra on the table. I added a crystal ball and set out a few different card decks to choose from. I was non-stop busy until midnight. Every guest including the bartender and the DJ got a reading.
I texted Adolfo a photo of me at my table, the candles aglow and cards in hand. He texted me back a thumbs up and a heart emoji. How wonderful that my husband is so supportive of my new venture, I thought. I am SO lucky!
I pulled my Toyota hatchback into the garage at 12:30 AM and slipped off the heavy gold hoops that tugged at my ears. I unloaded my bag from the trunk and rolled it into my home sanctuary/office. I was just putting away my crystals and tarot cards when Adolfo appeared in the doorway, his dark eyes flashing with anger.
“SO, THIS IS IT?”
“Adolfo, what are you talking about?”
“MY WIFE IS A GYPSY?”
“IT’S AFTER MIDNIGHT! I’ve been here WAITING while YOU’RE OUT READING TAROT CARDS. So, tell me… Just let me know that THIS is what you ARE now! A GYPSY? I mean… just let me KNOW, SO I CAN TRY TO ACCEPT IT!”
Kee-rap! That was certainly not the welcome I’d expected, but in his defense, my beloved had witnessed my dramatic transformation over the past few years from successful entrepreneur with a spiritual side to full on woo-woo woman. It seems that my 50th birthday had conjured some powerful cosmic energies—or maybe it was just menopause—but whatever it was, it called for changes. My writer friend and neighbor, Julie and I went on a madcap adventure together exploring the esoteric side of Los Angeles, which included energy healing, channeling, crystal grids, tarot reading, candle magic, angel communication, and more.
Adolfo had accepted some of it, crystals for instance; he loved those. But my Ouija Board? Oh, hell no, that is NOT to be displayed out in the open; the trash can would be the best place for it, in his eyes, but the back of the closet was acceptable, although he does put up with my Ouija coffee mug after much arguing that it is NOT a portal to hell, just a novelty item.
I would try to reason, diplomacy, and ch-ching. “Well, honey… I really had a great time tonight, and made some extra money. Of course, I’m not quitting my career as a matchmaker; I never said that. But business has been a bit slow the last couple of months, and the trial really hit me hard emotionally.”
His look softened a little.
“So, as I already explained, I wanted to branch out and use some of my other skills to add to my income. I thought you were good with that.”
“I understand, I guess, but…DO NOT POST ANY PICTURES OF YOU in that GYPSY DRESS ON FACEBOOK! What would my FRIENDS AND FAMILY THINK?”
I used our pet term of endearment. “Mi amor, I promise, I will not post any photos on Facebook. You have my word.”
He smiled and took me in his arms. “Okay, thanks. I was just upset, because you were gone so long, and the dog and I were waiting. I just wanted to spend quality time with my gypsy.”
Kisses ensued. Marathon argument avoided. I would have to tread lightly with my new endeavor, though. Having his wife compared to one of those actual gypsy card readers who flash their neon signs in windows would be humiliating for Adolfo, who grew up Catholic in Mexico City amidst a family of attorneys and business owners. Gypsy card reader was not exactly considered résumé-worthy.
I didn’t want to think about his reaction to what I had planned for the next night.