Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Henry in Real Time

Woman A: Okay, so you're an Aquarius? And what's your boyfriend's sign?

Woman B: Virgo.

Woman A: Ooh, that's trouble! Is he a real homebody?

Woman B: Actually, yeah, he is. So that guide is pretty right-on, huh?

Astrology. Utter trash. It is nothing more than the power of suggestion. Woman A's magazine tells her that Virgos are homebodies, and then she goes looking for examples among the Virgos she knows. The problem is that, while she may think she's testing the theory, in pursuing the possibility of any connection between an individual and one specific zodiacal symbol, she has actually already fallen into the trap. Because when you're determined to spot patterns, you're liable to interpret them even where none exist.

While real people tend to be complexes of many and sometimes contradictory aspects, most astrological profiles are brief and one-dimensional yet also deceptively generic. A normal person is most likely a combination of the collective traits describing all the signs. So, really, most individuals could probably be described by any of the sign profiles. After all, they're more like moods that we all go through than fully fleshed-out personality types.

Woman A: Yeah, I've dated a lot of Virgos before. They never like to go out or do anything. I'm a Leo, so I'm really active, and I need a guy who can keep up.

Maybe her Virgo ex-boyfriend was too tired to go out on one occasion, but because that example is all she'll be looking for, that's all she'll see. If I were to shuffle all the profiles around without her knowing it, Woman A would probably still manage to find evidence supporting those manufactured connections.

Woman B: Ha, I think you're right. My sister's a Leo and she's the same way.

Woman A: Yeah, Leos and Virgos just don't work. Virgos are real homebodies. They never go anywhere with you.

Okay, this is getting downright offensive. Time to set the record straight.

Me: I don't think that's true.

Woman A: Oh? You don't believe in astrology?

Me: No, I think it's just the power of suggestion.

Woman A: What does that mean?

Here we go . . .

Me: The problem is that those descriptions don't really say anything. People are too complex to be summarized like that. I mean, those are more like moods than personalities. Probably, you could find an example in anybody's life to support a profile of them as a homebody. The whole trick is that any of the profiles can match any of us. If I switched them all around without telling you, you would probably still think they made sense.

Woman B: Yeah, I see what you mean.

I rest my case. Right?

Woman A: So what's your sign, Henry?

Hmm, this could be a good chance to shatter her preconceptions about Leos and Virgos, while also proving my point about the power of suggestion.

Me: I'm a Leo.

Ha! She'd be the first to insist that we two Leos are nothing alike. So what does she have to say about this?

Woman A: Really? Me too! When's your birthday?

Crap! I'm actually a Virgo. And maybe a bit of a homebody.

Me: I don't know.

Woman A: You don't know your own--

Me: I was adopted.

Argh! This is not going the way I planned. Now my thoughts are lagging behind my rapidly deteriorating speech. Dare I continue down this course and attempt to keep up with my own lies? This cannot possibly end well.

Woman A: So, wait, you don't have a birthday?

Me: No, that's a lie. I'm actually a Virgo.

Damn it all! I should have made her use her stupid guide to guess my sign!

Woman A: Aha! I thought so. Yep, you are definitely the Virgo type.

That's what you think! But what if I just change my sign again with another lie? So much for my being a "Virgo type" then.

Me: Maybe.

Alas. You win this round, pseudoscience.

Woman B: Haha, that was funny.

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