I’m having trouble remembering why I did this, but earlier this year I moved to a new city, which inevitably means I have to at least try to make new friends. This is a harder experience at 28 than it was when I did my last move at 17. Back then I was much more malleable, and actually excited about my first day at a university that still asks me for money even after all the money I’ve already given it. Making friends in a big city is hard enough if you aren’t afflicted with my specific condition, which is that I’m personally unpleasant. I’m brusque and bossy, and from what I gather, finding a friend requires at least an introductory period of being nice, which I am completely uninterested in faking.
Do you know there are people in the world who don’t make fun of their friends? They just hang out with each other and find little ways to be supportive, to foster a community of generosity and kindness, and not once do they maybe hit the top of their friend’s beer bottle with the bottom of their beer bottle and watch them struggle to contain all the suds that bubble up to the top, and then they laugh and laugh and laugh, not with them but, rather, at them. Some people make friends not by attacking new people into submission but by having dinner with them. They don’t even pretend they forgot their wallet at home to get their friend to pay for the meal! Dumb!
If I do want to be friends with anyone at all in this new place, and if I can’t immediately and directly attack them when I first meet them, I at least need to find sly ways to make them feel worse, thereby cementing that they’re someone I am willing to give my time and energy to. There has to be a way for me to pinpoint their weaknesses and strong-arm them into a friendship so that I have someone to hang out with the next time I want to watch a Raptors game. (Once a year?)
In terms of personally attacking my friends — or, as it were, my potential friends — nothing has been a more useful tool than Co–Star, the astrology app that creates a detailed chart for you based on your birthday, time of birth, and birth location. From there, you can add your friends and see how compatible you are, what kind of day you’re going to have together (or apart), and what kind of challenges each of you might be facing. The app also sends some truly insane push notifications that either make you feel completely untethered from normal behavior (“🎉 Tell everyone what you love about them”) or humiliatingly seen (“💕 Try to stop obsessing today”).
But Co–Star can be hard to parse sometimes — my horoscope for today tells me that “resilience is an elastic experience” — so if you want a hyper-specific reading about your own flaws or quirks, any number of Instagram meme accounts will do. I’m partial to ones like @notallgeminis and @gnarlyastrology, which largely provide answers to questions like, “Which one of my friends is the most obsessed with themselves?” and “Who cries too much?” and “Who is most likely to suggest we go on a hike and then instead get drunk and maybe do cocaine and then cry in the bathroom about how hopeless they feel about climate change?” (The last one is me.)
I don’t know if I actually believe in astrology, since it’s so easy to twist into something applicable to your own life. If being a Taurus doesn’t sound quite true to you, your rising sign or moon or Mars or whatever other dumb planet just might explain the discrepancies. Entire marriages in my family’s long history, in India and beyond, have been arranged or fallen apart because of the alignment of the stars, which makes me even more hostile to thinking about what my birth means for my future. My husband and my best friend are both Sagittarians, which on paper means they sound like downright nightmares, when, in person, they’re only somewhat insufferable. Besides, I don’t like it when space tells me what to do. You’re not my mom!
That said, it is comforting to look at a string of sentences that aptly describe a personality type, or an image with a few specific words typed on the front, and think: It me. Astrology apps and memes have given us a language to talk about the specific and peculiar ways we fail ourselves and each other, the seemingly wanton actions we take that seem frantic and unnecessary to others. See, you get to say when a friend sends you an Instagram meme of your sign’s particular quirk. I’m not a dick, I’m just a Leo!
Similarly, astrology has given me a safe way to tell the people I love the most what’s wrong with them. Telling my Virgo friend that she’s trash at apologizing might not fly; sending her this meme of a Virgo Marge Simpson holding a gun at Helen Lovejoy, with the banner “Admitting you’re wrong,” somehow seems more palatable for everyone.
One of my closest friends, Barb, is a Pisces (absolute nightmare) and a true believer in the sun, the stars, the moon, all that garbage. After a decade and change of knowing her, I can finally make fun of her without the result being her bursting into tears. Instead, she nods along knowingly, saying, “Yes, you’re right, I’m like this; amazing, we’re having a good time!” Eleven years ago, Barb refused to speak to me for two years in part because I made fun of a poem she wrote about the moon that was clearly about a horrible woman she was trying to date. Two weeks ago, I sent her a Co–Star meme describing how a Pisces would ask you out: “Reads you a poem about the ocean and looks at you coyly, but expectantly.” She replied succinctly: “FUCK ME.” The truth hurts, but it’s good for you.
Another friend of mine, Adrian (a Leo, truly the best), recently downloaded the app at my behest, which almost immediately chided him daily with, “You aren’t the center of the universe. Don’t act like it.” In theory, I could’ve told him this myself — “Adrian, stop looking at yourself in your fork; we’re having dinner” — but isn’t it better if a disembodied block of text on his phone does it? It’s been a few days since I made him download Co–Star, and he hasn’t been speaking to me much, but I’m not too concerned. According to the app, we’re currently “in flux” when it comes to “mutual respect” and “personality clash or unbothered,” which I have been sure to tell him about repeatedly in many texts that he seems too busy to respond to at the moment. Is it because I have launched him on his astrological journey and he feels a chaotic lack of control over his predestined life? Hard to say.
For my entire life, white women have been trying to convince me to get into astrology, and I’ve mostly avoided it until now. Nearly everything white women are always trying to make me do forces me in the other direction. I don’t want to spend money on crystals (THEY DON’T WORK) and I’m not going to buy a salt lamp (WHAT IS IT) and hot yoga is too hot (THAT’S HOW YOU GET RASHES). So my response to astrology was similar. Who needs some preset script telling me what to do with my life or what fresh hell is coming around the corner? But now I know I was looking at it all wrong. It’s not about prediction but, rather, definition.
Astrology has finally served a purpose I can get behind: giving my anxieties real, tangible labels and making my friends feel like shit.
I keep trying to get my husband — who hates the internet and my whims and astrology and apps and my insistence upon blaming our fights on cosmic, otherworldly forces and not the fact that I somehow got liquid lipstick on all the light switches in our apartment — to use the app so I can predict his moods. It just seems unfair that he gets to blame my premenstrual dysphoric disorder for the fact that every month for about eight days I try to burn our apartment down with him still inside all the while accusing him of cheating on me but that he won’t do me the dignity of downloading an app so that I can figure out what his specific and notable weaknesses are so I can exploit them the next time I think he’s being a brat. I mean, isn’t this what marriage is all about? Using technology and the goddamn moon to finally defeat your spouse, once and for all?? No, I’m not having my period!!!!!
Making new friends requires real risk that I’m less willing to take, now that I’m in my old, wizened late twenties. More than once, I’ve called Barb and Adrian, who both live hundreds of miles away from me now, and told them how tough it is to find people who are the exact kind of person I want in my life — someone who will take my shit but not too much, who will throw it back at me, who’s sensitive and loyal but salty and bitter. It’s easier, maybe, to say that a Leo–Cancer rising or a Pisces–Gemini rising is all I’m looking for.
That way I can spare myself the messiness of actual friend-making: vulnerability, the concern that I’ve said something stupid and ruined a nice day, worries that I’m too aggressive, that people won’t like me because I’m bad at small talk but great at gossip; or, maybe worse, that you only get a handful of close friends in your lifetime, and I met mine when I was younger, and they’re all hours away from me, tethered mostly by our phones, me buzzing them once or twice or eight times a day when I’m feeling lonely to remind them that they’re, like, a lot. Making new friendships would just be a lot easier if I could match with a few people through the stars, pick whichever ones can handle my constant needling, and skip the messy “getting to know each other” parts.
I’m an Aquarius, by the way. Could you tell? ●