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Star Child

An Ode to the Planets

By Heather CunninghamPublished 2 years ago 9 min read

I’m not sure that I believe in God, but I am confident in the force of astrology. At my childhood home, I spend afternoons lounging on the blue suede sofa, a paperback Astrology for Lovers nestled between my thighs. My mom’s beside me in the floral armchair, meticulously meddling with her website: She hopes her friends don’t mock her. Check out the polarities page. Click on a few ads. Donate to my tuition. Abandon your horoscopes. Forget your sun signs. Reject astrological banalities. Your moon sign is your Lebron James. This is what we say to zodiac virgins. Lebron James: moon in Aries, an immediate Google search after he got pissy with a ref in the 2014 semifinals. Fucking Aries.

“If nothing else, astrology is a great way to pick up men.” I joke to the freshmen in my program. Film School parties are pointless without a Riesling in my hand and a stack of business cards in my pocket. Once the gold liquid is level with the Barefoot sticker, I’m prepared to interrogate any guy who looks like he could be Jewish.

“Do you know what time you were born? I need the exact minute to configure your rising sign. Ask your parents and get back to me. Here’s my mom’s business card. Here’s my number.”

I investigate the signs of friends, family, and enemies, and rummage Facebook for the birth day, month, and year, and configure their natal chart at 11:59 and midnight, and make my notes app a secret zodiac log. I begin to notice trends.

My first boyfriend was Ethan Abramson, an atheistic Jew. Also a double Gemini. Geminis are obsessed with whys. Unable to watch South Park without analyzing its comical complexities, they find good conversation as thrilling as an accidental curly fry. Other signs would rather discuss school, or work, or their irrational fear of the dark, because those are subjects we kick around with strangers. But I crave discussions of reincarnation and the possibility of death leading to a second chance. Or third. Or fourth. Or seventy-ninth. But Ethan won’t whisper that he can’t stop thinking about you after a long night of mozzarella sticks and cheap wine. Perhaps because he knows it’s a cliché. And Gemini, although pretentious, will never get caught listening to Lana del Rey with her “dancing all night” and “summertime sadness.” So I’ll trade “I’m crazy about yous” for “I really like hanging out with yous” as long as it means falling asleep to the melodic bass of Matt Berninger. An Aquarius. My favorite musicians are all Aquarians. I’m an Aquarian. I’m one of my favorite musicians. Kidding! God, what do you take me for? A Scorpio?

As an Aquauris with Taurus moon, the constellations suggest I’m boring. My Leo rising is my pop of fun. But we aren’t all so lucky. Someone has to have boring signs to make the rest of us look better. Maria is my most boring friend. First of all, she doubts the validity of the stars. BORING. I smirk because I’ve already looked up her signs: Taurus moon and Taurus rising. Taurus: stubborn, practical, the least likely to believe in astrology. Maria doesn’t realize she’s further proving my point with every eye roll. She dismisses me as she readjusts the position of her Marc Jacobs handbag weighing heavily on her shoulder. Taurens love their things: soft things, pretty things, fragrant things, decadent things, luxurious things. As a Taurus moon myself, I don’t judge Maria’s excessive extravagance. If my parents ran a meth lab under the Sawgrass Mall, I would drop thousands on handbags too! Maria is clueless as to what her parents do for a living.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” She’d say.

So, naturally, my guess is meth chefs, but that’s probably the Taurus in me. Taurus is known for its sense of humor. Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Donald Glover, Stephen Colbert, and many more were all born under the influence of the bull. All idols of mine. All representations of what I can be. Of course we’re not identical to those who share our signs. But I thank my mom for pushing me out at 5:39 nevertheless. 5:40 and I may never make anyone laugh.

Capricorns get my jokes, which may indicate why I find myself attracted to men with strong Capricorn influence. Capricorns will smother you like a hug from your Aunt Pearl, enveloping you in old lady perfume until you can no longer breathe. A Capricorn sun won’t fall asleep without texting you goodnight, kissy-face emoji, red heart, purple heart, blue heart. A Capricorn moon will spout platitudes such as,

“These snapchat pictures would be great for our wedding slideshow” when you’ve only been dating for a month. I’ve let Capricorns borrow my toothpaste from time to time. I’ve let them take me to parties and take me home from parties. But then their family will announce you’re distracting them from memorizing lines. And Michael’s never going to be an actor if he doesn’t spend Friday nights doing vocal exercises: “Red leather yellow leather, unique New York.” And they’ll listen because when has mom ever been wrong? And you’ll watch Capricorn slip away, like a cherry Popsicle on Fort Lauderdale beach, because most parents don’t want their children to cackle until their ribs hurt if it means missing their curfew. I ask Capricorn why their bucket list is blank.

My mom and I shit-talk signs the way older women shit-talk the Kardashians. Scorpios are rude. Libras are fake. Capricorns suck. Everyone thinks their sign is the best sign. Everyone except my mom.

“I love astrology because it makes me aware of which flaws I should work on” she jokes. She resents her Leo: fun but belligerent, despises her Capricorn: assertive but apprehensive, makes due with her Gemini: quick but cutting. After decades of research, she realizes her greatest passion manifested her greatest burden. Painfully aware that she is the embodiment of the signs she hates, my mother bites her tongue until it bleeds modesty.

She tells me she admires me, the water bearer in a world full of lions. But interacting with other water bearers, seeing your own reflection in that water, feels like a Samuel Beckett play.

“What do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know, what do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know what do you wanna do?”

“I wanna do whatever you wanna do.”

Decisions are for fire signs, so I saturate in them until I’m burned to a crisp. Letting it slide when my best friends call me a pushover, something only a pushover would understand. Astrology for Dummies will tell you Aquarians are weird and aloof and smart. But that’s like saying Breaking Bad is good and scary and addicting. It’s so much more than that. Better astrology books will tell you Aquarians are patient, that they’re the best at handling all personalities.

“Why did Alex just yell at me? That was so unnecessary.” My friend asks me. “She’s just a Sag moon, she can’t help it.” I respond.

“That’s no excuse.”

And it isn’t. But the more you try to understand a person, the easier it is to forgive them, much like Walter White! Sure, Alex will scream at you because you dislike Lena Dunham. But it’s not because she wants to make you feel like shit. It’s because she can’t help but make you feel like shit. And she’ll feel shitty about it later. So let’s all be less shitty and stop shitting on each other for their shit.

In the summer of 2014, my best friend watched as astrology blossomed from fascination to obsession. Initially reluctant, I gave Scot the push he needed to dive head-first into the zodiac bandwagon. By June we were ransacking his dad’s office, desperate to find his birth certificate that was nowhere to be found.

“I was born around 11AM” he promised.

“That would make it Aquarius rising. I’m sure that’s what it is.” I replied.

“That makes sense to me.”

That wasn’t good enough for him. The next day, he called Broward General Hospital in request of a new birth certificate. Two weeks later, the results were in. Holding his hand as he read the document aloud, we giggled at the drama of it all. His time of birth read: 12:20PM. Pisces Rising. I was wrong. I failed him. I failed myself. Scot was heartbroken to say the least, which ironically, is indicative of Pisces rising. I should have known! Rookie mistake!

“Well I guess I have to be emotional now” he stated. “I wanted to be Aquarius rising.” But astrology doesn’t mold our personalities, it simply categorizes what we already know.

Psychologists say we can never truly understand ourselves. We can try, and perhaps succeed on a surface level, but never to our core. It’s impossible. But this doesn’t stop us from creating ideal identities. It doesn’t stop kids from taking Buzzfeed quizzes a dozen times before achieving the result they want.

“This says I’m a Monica, but I’m totally a Phoebe.”

In middle school, I considered myself a big personality, often sporting an Abercrombie Kids Graphic Tee with the words, “Social Butterfly” displayed proudly on my chest. In high school I wore uniforms, and my peers labeled me “quiet.” ‘You don’t know me’ I thought, bitter that I may not be the person I thought I was. As I approach college graduation, my theatre professors repeat three phrases like a mantra: Know who you are. Know what makes you happy. Don’t let yourself become miserable. If you actually try to be your most genuine self, you will probably find it is easier to be Phoebe Buffay. But as Walt Whitman says: “I am large. I contain multitudes.” I think Walt would have liked astrology, with all of its contradictions and complexities.

I ask “what’s your sign?” like it’s the greatest punchline in the world. A natal chart looks like a diagram I forgot to study in Freshman Bio, or a set of scientific hieroglyphics. I live for stunning the crowd with my hieroglyphic proficiency. I deliver my patients their zodiac diagnosis like I’m a comedian doing standup. When they laugh, it’s because I wanted them to. As I study performance and writing, I’m constantly instructed to observe the people around me, learn their stories, study their mannerisms, examine their idiosyncrasies. I do this reflexively, like a sneeze making eye-contact with the sun. I can’t imagine not doing it. I can recall signs better than I remember names. Names are just titles. Personality is the content. Astrology is a filing cabinet in my brain. It’s a personal index of my most valuable studies and findings. Whoever said, “I know you better than you know yourself” was probably an astrologer. But of course, I don’t reveal this to my skeptics. I am an air sign after all. I would never voluntarily depress what is light. I would never deflate a helium marvel. But to my critics I say,

“Astrology is just like heroin, don’t knock it till you try it!”

I’m kidding. Don’t try heroin. Do try astrology. Guessing a sign correctly is a high like nothing else.

Short Story

About the Creator

Heather Cunningham

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