by Hayley Doyle
It started with my pocket money. Then my Saturday job wages. The first thing I’d buy when I had some cash was a magazine; Sugar, Just Seventeen, More, Bliss… Whilst these fortnightly issues were my Number One go-to for rather inappropriate first-time sex advice and seducing me into desiring pastel pink clothes, nail polish and fluffy pens, I never started reading from page 1. Barely out of the shop, I would be scouring the back pages, eager to read my horoscope.
Twenty-plus years later, do I still do this?
Of course not.
It could be blamed upon the digital age. I don’t think to actively look online to find out what’s in store today for an Aquarius*. Perhaps if I’m at the salon, the only place I ever seem to read print magazines these days, I’ll flick towards the end and take a peek. But there’s no weight in those star-dazzling words anymore. It’s a moment of fun mixed with instant cynicism. Unlike back in the late 90s and early 00s…
Approaching adulthood, there are no hills to climb. Everything is a big, giant mountain. Some might say that’s because the smallest hiccup is blown out of proportion, but we should know better not to underestimate the intense power of hormones and emotions. Once you’re granted more responsibility in life, that freedom can also be overwhelming. Think about it; a couple of young kids have a crush on each other, but they’re just kids. Nobody takes it seriously. But once you’re a teenager, that crush is encouraged. Family members might ask, ‘So… do you have a boyfriend?’ Friends are maturing at different paces, some more sexually prepared or confident than others. Suddenly, you’re dying to know whether your crush fancies you back. It has become important. Are they scratching your initials into their tin pencil case? So, there are two choices (fine, maybe three, if we count sliding into their DMs), but traditionally it’s always been a) approach them face on and ask them outright, ‘Do you wanna go out with me?’ Or b) read your horoscope.
No matter what’s printed in black and white, the words - can, but perhaps not will - sing to you. Thanks to moons and stars aligning in this way or another, the horoscope predicting what might happen to you over the next day, week, or month, will somehow speak to you personally. Really? Uhm, yes. Because the description is carefully vague. Behind the fluff and fancy astrology jargon is some clever, manipulative wording. You’re made to feel as though it’s been written especially for you.
Okay, okay, okay… There could be an element of truth to each and every horoscope printed. I admit, I’m an eternal optimist and forever intrigued by celestial and spiritual powers. I like to believe that con-artists are few and whatever I read is the truth. I’m often, sadly, disappointed. But I was once a proper fan of the old horoscope. Perhaps mildly obsessed. I relied on them to bring me positive news and guide me down the right path.
Oh, and it wasn’t just love - and lust - I was curious about. It was my career, too. At eighteen, I was auditioning for some of the UK’s top drama schools. Waiting for a letter to arrive in the post, my fate on paper, was agonising. My horoscope gave me a shot of hope, that today - or tomorrow - could be The Day. And so it went on. At every big crossroad I came to, whenever I needed to make some sort of life-affirming decision, even if it meant admitting to the lad in the Sixth Form that I loved him and that our twice weekly landline phone-calls (that went on for two hours at a time) just weren’t enough, that I wanted more, much more… but not too much more, oh God… words of wisdom from my mum or too much advice from my friends just didn’t cut it. Thank goodness I had the back pages of those magazines to point me in the right direction, eh?
As we transition away from our youth, the black hole of uncertainty becomes apparent. Our growing knowledge not only creates a greater sense of awareness, but the choices become endless. In the race to grow up fast, get sorted, settled and be “winning” at life, this uncertainty can leave us feeling powerless and out of control, so it might seem like a good move turning to horoscopes for a dose of enlightenment. By reading your star sign, you’re able to create an idea of what’s possibly to come, which can give you a sense of security.
For me, I grew out of horoscopes pretty quickly. It became clear that the boys I was falling in love with and financial grants to send me to London drama schools weren’t aligning with my stars at all. Still, I do believe there’s a difference between Mystic Meg’s predictions in the Sunday supplements and a deeper study of astrology. Whilst there are no scientific facts or data to support its ability to see into the future, astrologer Aliza Kelly wrote for Cosmopolitan; “Astrology is - fundamentally - a practice in empathy. We use the stars, planets, and celestial bodies to understand ourselves as multidimensional beings… But just because feelings aren’t quantifiable in a scientific way doesn’t mean that astrology can’t have an impact on someone’s life. You know how you get a sinking feeling in your stomach after receiving a nebulous text? Although these expressions can’t be folded neatly into data, the emotional experiences are very powerful, and having explanations for them even more so.”
Perhaps it was a natural progression from fortnightly horoscopes, but during my twenties, I went to see various fortune tellers. Many of my peers were doing something similar and hearing their stories made me ache with curiosity. My first experience was with a lady recommended by a friend, but I found myself hitting a brick wall trying to fit my life into her predictions. After the odd moment of, YES, the clock tick-tocked quickly before I had to hand over my cash. I was left with more questions than answers. What had I gone there for? What outcome was I hoping for? I was 24, in a stable relationship, had a good job. Marriage and babies felt like a faraway leap rather than the next step, but still, I guess I was keen to know if they were on the horizon. And yes, they were, apparently… with the man I was with. I mean, it would’ve been awful if she hadn’t said that! Cracks in that relationship appeared some time later and well, no, we didn’t get married or have children together.
During the single years that followed, I took a chance on a Tarot reading, got my palm read, and again, started to read my horoscopes. The future seemed so uncertain and playing with astrology felt proactive, somehow. I read books on compatibility, with lengthy descriptions about which signs of the zodiac partnered well with each other. I was desperate to break bad cycles of dating and disappointment. I just wanted to find love. I even tried a session of Past Life Regression therapy, searching for answers as to why I was alone and what I was doing wrong. Like that first experience, some readings rang true, sparking notions of love and adventure that I was happy to hear, to believe. But overall, the readings were specifically non-specific, if you catch my drift.
Since meeting my now-husband, I haven’t dabbled in the stars. To be honest, I never made a conscious decision not to, I just haven’t thought to. The world of horoscopes fell off my radar and when mentioned in conversation, I’m simply filled with nostalgia for those magazines I used to buy. I think, as we get older, we’d rather not know The Plan or The Path. We’ve lived through big decisions, fallen in and out of love, made mistakes, survived. That’s not to say we won’t continue to do all that - and more - for many more years to come, but we’ve learnt lessons and feel better equipped to navigate through the ups and downs, the fears and anxieties, by trusting our own instincts, rather than somebody - or something - else’s.
Also, on a more serious note, life can get tougher as the years go by. Our responsibilities weigh us down. We question our own mortality and are more likely to experience the loss of those we love. So rather than create more worry about what the following days, weeks or months might bring, it’s healthier for our minds - and our souls - to adjust to being happy going with the flow. I don’t want to be influenced by words that might, or might not, predict my future, steering me into a false state of hope or anxiety. Let’s face it, life throws us enough of those moments naturally without us having to search for them.
Quoted on WebMD, clinical psychologist and author Terence Sandbek, PhD, advises to, “Stop wasting time reading horoscopes. One of the hallmarks of mental and emotional maturity is being able to run your own life and make your own decisions.”
So read your horoscope if you enjoy doing so, but don’t allow it to take over the path you’re on regardless. It’s not a security blanket and it can lead to an unhealthy habit. Trust your gut instinct and be sure of who you are; nobody else has this power, remember!
*Curiosity got the better of me today, so I Googled my daily horoscope. All in the name of research, of course. You might be pleased or disappointed to hear that not a single sentence related to my day or how I’m feeling. At. All. With all the efforts in the world, I don’t believe I could’ve squeezed this square peg of a reading into the round hole of my life. Maybe tomorrow will be different…