I was at a dinner party the other night and I was feeling especially argumentative. I’m usually contrary and cantankerous, but for some reason, that night, I was especially so. I harrumphed more than usual.
What started it all was a conversation on astrology. According to the old zodiac chart, I was a Cancer, a crab, for most of my life, but now, since they just moved it all around, I’m a Gemini. I had become used to my crablike horoscopic depiction. The crab fits me well. So, when they determined that the horoscope charts were actually off base and added a new sign, I shrugged it off because none of it means anything anyway.
Strangely, most of the people at the dinner party, come to find out, were Leos, the pre-moving-around-of-the-zodiac Leos, not the new ones. These Leos were discussing the date shift and how they don’t consider themselves Cancers now, or whatever sign they are supposed to be. One of my friends said about me, for example, there’s no way that I’m not a crab. Ha ha. I laughed, she laughed, I held my tongue, hoping the conversation about astrology would die. Sadly, it did not. Eventually, I had to express my views on the matter.
I started off gingerly by saying that I find it difficult to believe that all people who were ever born or who ever will be can be categorized into twelve buckets, or thirteen as the case may be now. And that those buckets can predict not only personality and behavior, but the future as a horoscope is supposed to do. I’m not a believer in fortune-telling buckets.
I thought it was fairly diplomatic of me and hoped that would be the end, but one of the leaders of the conversation who was especially talkative on the subject and also a Leo said, ah, but you have to take into consideration the rising sign and so on. What’s your rising sign? I have no idea, I said.
I asked, I was a month overdue as an infant, so based on that, am I a Cancer or Gemini then? If I am actually a Gemini, since I born nearly a month later than I should have been, according to the new dates, shouldn’t I be whatever sign comes before Gemini since that’s when I was due to be born? No, she said, it’s based on when you were actually born. You were born when you were supposed to be and obviously you were supposed to be a Cancer.
The “supposed to be” was a sticking point. Who decides what I’m “supposed to be” then? Who says I’m “supposed to be” anything? Do I not have free will? Am I predestined to be a Cancer, a Gemini or whatever sign comes before Gemini? If I am “supposed to be” a Cancer, then that implies that someone is in charge of this whole astrological process of assigning who I’m “supposed to be” according to one of twelve or thirteen buckets. I find that impossible to take seriously. The horoscope and astrology are man-made constructs, and just like most other imaginary man-made constructs, it falls into the category of parades.
Since I’m probably the only person who has ever used that phrase besides an obscure Finnish author, the hostess dutifully asked what the category of parades meant. I’ve written on this blog before about the category of parades so I’ll quote myself from the post Blow Things Up Day:
“The category of parades to me includes, well, parades, fireworks, halftime shows, hot air balloons and most other grandstanding events where people just sit around and look at things passively. I’ve never understood them. I also don’t understand why people would applaud in a movie theater. You do know that it’s just moving pictures, right? The actors, director and pretty much everyone involved in making the film are not actually in the room. They can’t hear you, just so you know. Anyway, like I said, the category of parades can suck it.”
I then gave credit to whom I completely, bald-faced stole the concept of the category of parades, Väinö Linna. In his Under The North Star trilogy, Linna’s character Jussi, who is especially harrumphy, crablike and typically Finnish like me, is discussing buying licorice for his grandchildren and describes it as part of the category of parades, unnecessary and frivolous. It is a phrase that has stuck with me ever since I read the book. I have stolen and morphed it for myself, and I use it constantly, but I always credit Linna so I don’t think he would mind.
Originally, it was only intended for things like parades, but apparently, I can add astrology, horoscopes and the zodiac to that now, as well, because then, I started a sentence with “Not to denigrate your beliefs, but…” Whenever I start a sentence with “Not to denigrate your beliefs, but…,” it means that I’m about to do just that. I explained that, to me, horoscopes, astrology and the zodiac fall into the same category as the Easter Bunny and Jesus: man-made diversionary constructs, or the category of parades.
I had taken out my machete, gun, cleaver, baseball bat and grenade, and slashed, shot, chopped, bludgeoned and blowed the fuck up the conversation. Everyone looked at me askance and there was an awkward silence that followed where the blood rushed to my face and I went to the bathroom. Dinner parties are not the appropriate forum for denigrating beliefs, but fortunately, my fellow cohorts were forgiving and, after I apologized to the Leo in question, conversation resumed to a normal flow and all was forgiven.
Until the next argumentative subject came up, which happened to be Hollywood movies, a far less delicate and touchy subject, but one on which I expressed my distaste anyway. It’s a wonder that I’m even invited to social events anymore. The next morning, I awakened to find a link on my Facebook wall in which I was tagged by our gracious dinner party host to an article called Cheery Optimists Die Younger. She had written “How Goldfish will outlive us all…” To which, I simply responded, “Harrumph.”