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Litscope: Libra & ‘Big Friendship’

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As we enter the closing quarter of 2020, the planets are busy beyond words. So here’s a brief rundown. First off, Equinox happened on September 23, the official signal of the astronomical fall. In early September, Mars went retrograde in fiery Aries, prompting us to slow down and take a good long look at what angers us and why. Last but not least, on October 14, Mercury Retrograde starts. If you’re not familiar with this planet’s slowdown phase, take it from me: proceed with caution. Mercury is associated with all things communication- and information-related (email, snail mail, contracts, etc.), so when this planet retrogrades, make sure to double-check all details before sending something off. Mercury retrograde ends on November 3, an already highly contentious date due to the presidential election. Whew. Take it easy this month, folks. 

Without further ado, it’s time to celebrate Libra season! Libras are ruled by the love-and-beauty planet Venus. If you know any Libras, you also know that one of their favorite pastimes is shopping for beautiful clothes or seeking gorgeous vistas to visit. But primarily Libras are associated with balance, especially since their sign’s symbol is the scales. Libras enjoy fighting for justice and advocating for fairness in the workplace as well as the world at large. But this air sign needs to be careful—their constant search for equilibrium can end up veering them away from their own thoughts and ideas. This sign adores partnership; however, this can sometimes negatively manifest as neediness. It can also make them avoid conflict at all costs, but you won’t mind that when you meet a Libra. Their charm and social graces make them the perfect companion at any party.

Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (photo by Milan Zrnic)

 

The book that embodies the spirit of Libra is the New York Times-bestselling Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. The simple overview is that this book outlines the eleven-year friendship between two women: one a Guinea-born, NY-based Black businesswoman and techie and the other an Iowa-born, LA-based white editor and writer. But below the surface, this book contains so much more and attempts to balance multiple genres: part memoir, part self-help, and part feminist studies guide. 

In classic Libra style, Ann and Aminatou are so inseparable that they actually write the book in one voice (with only a few exceptions where their stories diverge). And they don’t mince any words describing how enmeshed they are. “Although we’re self-confident enough to know that we would have been great if our paths had never converged, we cannot imagine what that alternate reality looks like. It’s impossible to untangle us.”

While the first half of the book spends a bit too much time elucidating the origin story of Ann and Aminatou—or “the Sow-Friedmans” as they jointly signed cards for friends’ wedding gifts—the story begins to truly take off when their friendship moves out of its adolescent stage and into adult difficulties. They mention a few rifts, but one of particular gravity was when Aminatou noticed she was the only Black person at a party held at Ann’s house. She got seriously upset but didn’t verbally address it with Ann, thinking it was “a little silly… on its face.” I agreed with their earlier assessment of their “low-drama” personalities as “a cover for our tendency to avoid conflict, a way we both tried to minimize problems that actually needed to be addressed.” That non-confrontational, not-dealing-with-it method is more Libra than anyone can handle. 

Trying to find balance is hard, both in friendships and in the rest of life. That’s why Ann and Aminatou bolster this earnest memoir with interviews of many sociologists, professors, anthropologists, and psychologists. One expert that Big Friendship “leans on” often, communications professor Emily Langan, said that “close friendships have some characteristics that aren’t so different from stable families.” Readers will discover that Ann and Aminatou are family in the truest sense. And while I might’ve wished for more deconstruction of the intricacies of how race plays out in their friendship, this jargon-filled, honest-as-shit, laugh-out-loud book will keep you charmed until the end. If you’re clamoring for more after you read the book, you can always find these two media mavens co-hosting their popular podcast, Call Your Girlfriend.

Finally, the card that emerged for the month of October was the Hanged Man reversed, from the Everyday Tarot deck. This card in the upright position represents getting a new perspective on the world. However, upside down, there is a resistance to slowing down and evaluating. Even though many of us are no longer commuting to and from physical workspaces, we may feel more tired from never-ending virtual obligations or having to share the house with children and spouses 24/7. Although the pandemic has put many things in a temporary holding pattern, perhaps we are still being distracted away from the actual issue. Notice how the man has one leg tied to the tree, and one free. He can liberate himself after this period of reflection. This Major Arcana (elevated status) card is one of deep introspection; it asks us to take a minute to rest and renew before we enter into election season or even new interpersonal territory. The struggle continues, and you can’t fight if you haven’t taken time to reflect. 

The Hanged Man from the Everyday Tarot deck

Header: "Big Friendship" cover, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (photo by Milan Zrnic), Hanged Man Everyday Tarot card, Libra from Guido Bonatti Liber Astronomiae

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