For anyone who has ever even mildly followed my original tumblr and its astrological musings, one thing has probably remained fairly obvious: Scorpios irk me.
everyone's evil ex is a Scorpio— Callie Ahlgrim (@calliebeaan) February 22, 2016
In my defense, I don't think I'm alone in this! (...except that literally isn't a defense.) One of the cornerstones of the sign is that it's criminally misunderstood. Scorpios are adept at misrepresenting themselves—sometimes purposefully, sometimes not. They are infamously mysterious and they're kinda scary. Hillary Clinton is a Scorpio. That's all I'm gonna say.
As someone who has often ruminated on the complexities of feeling misunderstood, I get that. And as someone who belongs to the female gender, I really get that. Ever noticed how people tend to simplify girls they don't understand as "crazy" or irrational? Or worse, on her period? I have. Maybe girls seem confusing to you because you have not grown up with mainstream media or art that explores the depths and intricacies of their inner lives. Or maybe it's because when women are clear about their desires and intentions, if they're not saying what men want to hear, the clarity is ignored ("Why is she playing hard to get? Women make no sense!"). Or maybe it's because women are not a simplistic hive mind; we don't have cheat codes (in the words of Porphyria R'lyeh, "women are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out").
Okay, these may just seem like my regularly-scheduled bitter grumblings, but I have a point! I promise!
Scorpio is a tricky season to wrap your head around because it is probably fraught with things that make you squirm. The sign is ruled by Mars, the planet of confrontation, and Pluto, ruthless ruler of discomfort.
The good news, though, is that these are also planets of action. The combination has enormous potential for change. This change can sometimes be destructive—but, when harnessed properly, it has unparalleled power.
This season, I am borrowing the theme title from one of my favorite Scorpios, who sings one of my favorite songs: Lorde. This girl is an exquisite rarity for many reasons, but especially in the music industry, she's so refreshing. Lorde is distinctly uncontrived; she is young and raw and aggressively herself. And she is not afraid to speak her mind, even if those insights to her brain are few and far between. (Desperately waiting on that sophomore album.) (But in the meantime, her Twitter feed is an absolute delight.)
my currently preferred dress code is 'slutty yet cozy'— Lorde (@lorde) March 6, 2016
Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine was released in the fall of 2013, the same time I graduated high school, moved out of the suburbs, and began attending college in a big city. The album, which is largely about feeling bored and trapped—both physically in "the Bubble" of a hometown but also in your emotions—crystallized all my jumbled sensations of nostalgia, splashes of milk and glimpses of bared teeth.
In an interview with Tavi Gevinson, the two talked about The Virgin Suicides and how it dealt with everyday tragedies in a dreamy, dusty rose landscape. In Tavi's words, "That movie has informed a lot of how I see growing up and looking back and trying to make the awful parts of being a teenager feel beautiful."
Lorde agreed, and all this reminds me of "Glory and Gore." She sings, "Wide awake in bed, words in my brain, / 'Secretly you love this, do you even wanna go free?' / Let me in the ring, I'll show you what that big word means." There's definitely an element of violence here, of glorifying struggle and pain, but there's also an awareness. It's like she knows she's doing it and she's both fighting for and against that instinct.
I think the instinct to romanticize hardships and illnesses and mourning is a powerful one. I think that it's hard to escape, especially as a teenager—because when your emotions aren't taken as seriously as "real person" emotions (as if teens are only, like, miniature photocopies of human beings?), sometimes it feels like the only thing you can do to compensate is to amplify and adore them. In the midst of suffering, it seems attractive to somehow imagine it as heroic or beautiful.
The end of 2013 was a transitional, transformative time for me. I started putting a huge personal emphasis on self-love and self-improvement. I've talked about this before, but that focus allowed me to expand my empathy as well. If you can manage a proper expression of confidence and pride, you realize that nobody's superior to you, and you also ultimately realize that you're not superior to anybody else. (Like, if I were a painter, this would begin to define my Feminist Era. Sort of akin to Picasso's Rose Period, but with less harlequins and more romantic bitterness.)
Almost a year after the release of Pure Heroine, I saw this photo online:
It really struck me. This was in August 2014, around the time of Mike Brown's murder, and I had never been directly confronted with such poignant racial issues before. Of course, I knew racism was still alive and well, but it suddenly seemed very sinister. During the protests in Ferguson, I began to edge my way into understanding these issues—but I was met with enormous trepidation. It had taken me long enough to get educated on women's rights, I thought. How could I possibly put myself in this ring as well, where the fight isn't truly mine?
This sentence, I will look at things I don't want to see, runs through my head every time I see a police shooting on the news, or I hear a friend saying a slur. Whether it's a big, national event or a small, personal moment, I am faced with a question: are you complicit or are you going to fucking say something?
There are serious issues plaguing our world and—as this election cycle has brutally reminded us—our country. There is something to be said for coping mechanisms, and romanticizing trauma is one of them. Ignoring it is another.
But there is no excuse when there are atrocities occurring that demand our attention and care. We cannot afford to put a pretty Sofia Coppola-colored tint on everything. In the real world, a suicide is a suicide and a murder is a murder.
I think now more than ever, we need to pay attention to how we are responding to everyday tragedies. I think we ought to start de-coupling glory and gore. With the election season grinding to a close and Hillary Clinton (hopefully) becoming our next president, we cannot get complacent. We must continue to look at things we don't want to see and push our country to be better, push ourselves to be better, and push each other to be better. We need to demand answers and not turn away, just because something is gruesome or sad and it's not necessarily affecting us directly.
One of the reasons I'm studying writing, and journalism in particular, is because I am fascinated in dialogue. I am not interested in yelling my opinions into a void—I want to be heard, understood, and challenged. I want to be informed and I want to be confronted. I think that's our job as participants in the human experiment. I think it's our job to listen to each other.
Writing as writing. Writing as rioting. Writing as righting. On the best days, all three.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) April 11, 2014
Photos found on Tumblr.