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Zodiacs, part 1

My kids were all born under different signs of the zodiac. There are ways in which this is pretty great, the first and most logistically enjoyable being that they are almost perfectly spaced throughout the year, occurring roughly every three months, which means we never have to double up on celebrations, and each kid always gets to feel special on their big day. I’d like to take credit for this and say that this is proof of what exceptional planners my husband and I are, but in truth, we just got lucky. Kind of literally, I guess, because that’s what has to happen for most people to end up with a baby, but we got lucky in the more esoteric sense of never needing to have a combination Hot Wheels/rainbow unicorn party because those kids’ birthdays happen in totally different seasons.

There’s another way, though, in which having kids in different seasons is cool, and that’s in the birth sign aspect. I never paid a lot of attention to birth signs until I was in college, where I was assigned to a group project with a girl who asked me within a few minutes of meeting me what my sign was. She’d been gathering the same information from the other members of our group, responding enthusiastically with gushy little tidbits, like ohh, you must be an artist at heart or yes, so is my mother, and she’s very intuitive. I honestly didn’t know my sign, but I volunteered that my birthday was at the end of October, and then I sat forward expectantly, excited to hear something wonderful about myself that I could agree with readily.

To my surprise, my new acquaintance’s eyebrows shot up, and she drew back, putting as much distance between herself and me as the molded plastic desk chairs we sat in permitted.

“Well,” she said with theatrical airiness. “It’s all just for fun. How do you guys want to split up the work?” She was looking around at the other members of the group, who were watching her in turn with the kind of wide-eyed attentiveness normally reserved for spectators of girl fights at malls (this happened back in the late 90s, when malls were still things).

“Hold up,” I said, less interested in making a new friend than in finding out something terrible about myself that I’d no indication of up to that point yet that would likely determine the course of the rest of my life. “What’s my…you know…thing?”

She looked at me blankly. If I’d been slightly cattier or a lot wittier, I would have used my own mystical foresight to predict she had no future in theatre (moot point, it turned out: she was an accounting major).

“It’s not real,” she intoned, again affecting unconvincing levity. She tried to chuckle, but the group had fully turned on her at this point, likely because they all wanted to know if they should appeal the professor to have me removed from the group before things went any further. “All the signs have their positive and their negative…”

“Right,” I said, cocking a thumb at the guy to my right, who was tattooing the Slayer logo into the side of his sneaker with a ballpoint pen. “I heard you tell this guy he’s going to be a CEO and her”—I pointed at a girl across from me who squeaked fearfully and turned magenta at the sudden attention—“that she’ll have frequent, passionate romances with a string of smitten paramours.” The girl blanched so suddenly I side-eyed her for signs that she’d lose consciousness as I continued talking to Zora the Mysterious. “So, what’s my super power?” I demanded (you can probably tell I was really good at making friends in college).

“Well, you’re a Scorpio…,” she trailed off as if this answered my question.

A few of the other group members turned to look at me, but my desire to know my fate exceeded my desire to save face, so I crossed my arms over my chest and hissed, “And you have some kind of problem with Scorpios?”

“Oh no!” she gasped, clutching her throat as if I’d just asked if she planned to join the Klan. “No, I’m a Pisces!” I cocked my head. “I just mean that all that Scorpio baggage doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers…you know…” Here she swept her hand around the whole group, and the implication was clear.

As much as it bothers literally everyone else.

I looked around at my group mates, and not one of them met my eye.

I left class that night in a weird place: part of me was pretty annoyed at having been called out for something I neither truly believed in nor had any control over, but a slightly larger part of me was high on the reality that every person in the group that night had been super nice to me for no reason, and no one had assigned me any work, and when one person suggested I do some part of the project, the girl who had blushed and blanched in such rapid succession had piped up to say she’d be happy to do it, and that it was really no trouble.

In the end, my fairness ethic and burgeoning grammar skills won out, and I insisted that everyone send me their parts of the project before our next meeting so that I could proofread all of it, and they all agreed to that, not, I think, because they really had any faith in my superior editing skills but more so because they were genuinely afraid of me and what my spazzy inner Scorpio might do if they disobeyed.

I didn’t walk away from that experience with any new friends, but I did walk away with something equally precious: an inflated sense of undeserved power.

To be continued in Zodiacs, part 2…

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