All of my life, I’ve had mixed feelings about being an Aquarius. As a child in the early 70s, I sought out and devoured every astrological description I could find. I was enthralled by the little Dell paperbacks by the grocery checkout stands that, for the price of a quarter, promised answers to life’s greatest conundrums: “What Does Your Handwriting Say About YOU?” “Interpret the Symbols of Your Dreams!” and “Learn to Read Your Own Face.” There were racks of little books devoted to each astrological sign, and I peeked through the descriptions of all of them, as I waited in line to buy cigarettes for my parents. In one hand, I clutched a note: “To Whom It May Concern: Please sell my eleven year old daughter a package of Benson and Hedges 100s. I am her mother, and it is fine with me.”
I had to be furtive, because usually I didn’t have a quarter of my own. I wasn’t a thief, except for the words themselves. I learned to thumb through the pages and absorb information quickly, then return the booklets to the stands before the storekeepers saw me. I was an Aquarius hippie child in a conservative Chicago suburb, and I was not well-liked by the authorities. This wasn’t due to behavioral malfeasance on my part, since I was introverted and obedient. They just thought I was weird, and disliked me on general principle.
From an astrological standpoint, it made sense that people considered me to be an oddball, as Aquarians were supposed to be rebellious, quirky, and unique. I was glad that I wasn’t like most people, since they struck me as narrow-minded and unimaginative. I was less pleased by the books’ descriptions of my character as detached, cold, and incapable of personal relationships. I liked personal relationships just fine, as long as the other person wasn’t an asshole. However, I rejected the idea of myself as an aloof social scientist, observing others without really caring. There was certainly a part of me that was like that, but it was self-defense, not temperament. I was a very emotional child, and most of the time I didn’t have the luxury of detachment.
I was intrigued by the description of Scorpio. Here was a sign I could really relate to: deep, passionate, mysterious, filled with complexity. Scorpios felt life intensely and were extremely powerful, just as I wanted to be. They were always pondering conundrums and exploring shadowy niches that frightened other folks. That certainly sounded much more fun than scientific detachment. It was a shame, really, that my mother hadn’t become pregnant with me three months earlier. Maybe I would have really gotten lucky, and ended up with a Halloween birthday.
To make matters worse, pop music producers were still trying to milk the success of the rock opera “Hair”, and the song “Aquarius” blasted from AM radio on a regular basis. I was fond of the soundtrack for “Hair” and listened to it constantly on my plastic hi-fi. Usually, I turned the volume down when “Aquarius” played, since I was tired of hearing the silly refrain, “This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius! Aquarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrius! AQUARIUS!” What the hell did that mean, really? Richard Nixon was still in office.
On the other hand, if being part of the age of Aquarius went hand in hand with hippie culture, then it all made perfect sense. There was nothing I loved more than hippie culture. One morning, my mother had a huge argument with my stepdad and announced that she and I were going into The City for the day. We got on the subway and rode into Chicago, then traveled to the neighborhood where we’d lived six years beforehand, before my stepfather invaded our lives. Wells Street bulged with psychedelic shops, and people dressed in wild clothing roamed the streets.
We were very close to the dilapidated apartment building where I had made my debut eleven years earlier-a late January birth on the kitchen table of a single mother who had figured out how to have the state pay for everything. She engaged the services of a local hospital that offered free childbirth in exchange for an opportunity to teach their nursing students. Seven student nurses arrived with a somber Middle Eastern doctor named Orhan Karacadag. The kitchen table was chosen instead of a bed because it was a firm, elevated surface, and everyone could see better. One of the nurses fainted. Finally, Dr Karacadag held me aloft and said, “Ah, little child, what a sad and difficult world you have inherited.”
Certainly, he was right. And it was a very Aquarian beginning, even among Aquarians, since I have never met another person who was born on a kitchen table. Later, I convinced myself that this unusual beginning imparted a plucky strength to my character, an ability to see beyond the squalor of my current circumstances to something holier and more joyful. This idealism was certainly Aquarian in character, the optimism of an individual born in mid-winter, who already recognized that she had gone half the distance and didn’t have to go much further until Spring.
And so, as the years have passed, my appreciation for my Aquarian temperament has increased. Even the detachment, which has wrought some havoc in my intimate relationships, has not been without merit. As I get older, I find that I increasingly fit the water-bearer archetype-I need plenty of room, and I get cranky when other people try to intrude upon it. I’m often more interested in the affairs of the world than I am in my own family. And, at the age of 56, I am still enthralled with utopian hippie ideals, and my vision that the world could be a better place, if only other people thought exactly the way I did.
Hey, at least the winter’s half over, right?