Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Age of Aquarius

(Published in Business Standard on February 9, 2013)

The only real-world advantage to being born in February is that once, in 1982, a furniture store in Switzerland held a sale where anyone born in February got a free office chair. My mother, who knows a good deal when she sees one, instantly attached herself to the scruff of my neck and my passport. We still have that chair. It looks as if famished hyenas have been gnawing on it for thirty years, but it works.

There are no other advantages to being born in February—better weather, maybe, and a pretty purple birthstone (amethyst). Lately, though, my daily newspaper horoscope is promising me more benefits.

Now, I’m aware that the daily newspaper horoscope is written by a valued member of the editorial team in an office space demarcated by the water cooler, the bathroom, and a medium-sized potted plant. This team member is skilled in the use of random-word-generating programmes. Here, for purposes of demonstration, is the result of using one:

“You will receive a phone call with an incredible offer about long distance. Take it! The hardest part is ahead. Stay home and rest. Baked goods are in abundance. It will rain tomorrow. Guaranteed.”

That’s a real horoscope generated by But here, I can write my own too:

“Venus (or Mars), in the third quarter of Saturn, eclipses or heats up romance, but cool-headed Aquarius may or may not care. You will enjoy a windfall this week, unless you don’t. Family members will be supportive, though obstructionist. Be careful on Thursday. Or Friday.”

I read this stuff every day without fail, out of some ancient human need for a good laugh. Truthfully, though, I don’t laugh as hard when my horoscope is being nice to me. You might say that I start to develop a soft corner for it. Lately it’s been giving me the come-hither, winking coyly and shrugging its top off one shoulder. I’m apparently on the threshold of making vast sums of money. Yay! When I do, I’m going to spend it on soundproofing my mother’s room.

I say this because there is nothing as terrifying as The Shadow, which appears when things are too loud. This February birthday, after a dinner party at my house and a couple of hours of dancing at a favourite bar, some friends and I returned to my house to keep going. I don’t do this often because my mother is a light sleeper and my friends sound like trumpeting elephants. I said we’d have to be quiet, and they did try very hard to tone it down.

I thought we were doing well—but then, suddenly, a square of light from the top of the stairs fell upon the wall at the bottom. In it appeared The Shadow, moving with as much soundless hostility as a shadow that has spent the day prepping for her daughter’s birthday party and now feels entitled to sleep, can. My blood ran cold. I went up the stairs to find her resplendent and glistening in her Kali avatar, complete with garland of skulls over nightie. I ran back down and sounded Defcon One—we set down our wine-filled glasses as they were, wherever they were, and hoofed it out of there to someone else’s place.

That was a few days ago. I’m now scanning both my horoscope and hers with some attention, to see if there’s anything in hers that I should beware of. Here’s what the random generator gave me (I’m not making this up): “Throw the baby out with the bathwater. Money isn't everything. You have a stepsister living in Mobile, Alabama. She's coming over for dinner tonight. Adopt a chicken.”

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