Glynnis MacNicol is in my top ten all-time fave authors list via her marvellous memoir No One Tells You This.
Beautifully written, it’s probably got the most resonance if you’re female and single. But really, she speaks to anyone who realizes that they’ve become self-defining. No One Tells You This starts with the author’s 40th birthday – yes, it is a Uranus Opposition memoir! Amid a year of turbulence and with no “good blueprint for how to be a woman alone in the world“, she sets out to create her own.
The result is a read that’s more liberating and inspiring than any self-help book I know of and ultra-witty. So I sent Glynnis a drooling fan-rave and she ended up agreeing to an astrological interview. So, here it is!
Mystic: Glynnis, You are a VIRGO – an honest to God multiple conjunct Virgo. You have the Midheaven, Sun, Mars, and Mercury in Virgo. Do you know how truly Virgo you are?
Glynnis: It’s amusing to me how much Virgo is going on here. Virgo has always felt like such a bad fit — for years I felt like my horoscope was gaslighting me. My mother read my sister and my’s horoscope to us regularly. My mother was a Taurus and my sister is a Pisces, two signs, incidentally, that reoccur regularly in my closest friendships.)
Whatever her interpretation of Virgo was, I understood it to be a Type A person who kept their room tidy, was well-behaved, and excessively organized. I was deeply uninterested in any of these things. It was only much, much later when I began to apply those same descriptors to the intellectual/imaginative world I occupied that the Virgo vibe began to make sense.
I was, and still am, obsessive about information when something, or someone, interests me (cf. I could teach a university course in Laura Ingalls Wilder at this point). That said, I’m deeply uninterested in details the rest of the time. You asked me if I looked at menus ahead of time. I don’t.
I saw two plays last month without reading even the summaries beforehand (this is a great way to go to the theatre I’ve discovered). And I recently flew to Berlin and didn’t bother to figure out ahead of time how one gets from the airport to the city; I just assumed that it’s Europe so there would be a way (there was! You take a bus). But when it comes to information and storytelling, I can really fly the V flag.
Mystic: Can you relate at all to my delineation of Mercury conjunct Mars?
Motor-Mouth: This is a revved-up thinker and talker, not unlike Mercury in Aries. When Mercury is aligned with Mars at birth, the person is inspired to not just speak their mind but to become a Thought Leader. Low Vibe Mercury-Mars is someone who will not shut up or who can be caustic as hell. High Vibe Mercury-Mars people? Their word is their wand: Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Warren, Julia Gillard, Philip Pullman, Voltaire, Rosie O’Donnell are all Mercurial Martians.
Glynnis: When you put it like this, it makes even more sense! And my close friends would certainly agree with “motor mouth” — I think the flip side of being a writer who spends so much time alone and in her head is that when I’m around people my brain can sometimes get uncorked through my mouth.
Particularly when I’m struggling to articulate an idea to myself – I tend to talk it out. I’m always somewhat suspicious of the phrase “thought leader” but I’m definitely a big-picture person. So much of the editing of this book was my amazing editor Christine Pride leaving notes for me like, “this big analytical idea is very interesting, but can you also please describe the weather.”
Mystic: We talk a lot on this site and in my horoscopes about a super-power called Virgo Vision. That is, extreme observation skills that are perfect for writing and detection work. But it’s hard to power down. With your surplus of Virgo Vision from the Virgo stellium, do you find it hard to switch off your analytical mind and the observation role?
Glynnis: This interview is like therapy: with every question I’m coming to accept the V more. So I do have extreme observation skills (though I’m not sure I would have described it so nicely), which I’ve channeled into journaling since I was very young. I related strongly to Harriet the Spy growing up. I started my first journal when I was six; it was about tobogganing with my mother and sister and our dog. That said, my journals from when I’m traveling – when there’s so much extra newness to observe — are the only ones that can stand up to a reread (the rest of it is often a lot of “observational” navel-gazing).
And yes, I do have trouble switching off the analytical mind. My mother did too, she processed everything in her life somewhat remotely, and with large words. It made me crazy growing up – I often longed for her to just throw a plate against a wall for god’s sake. Of course, now I do it too. This, too, resulted in a lot of “show don’t tell” notes from my editor on the first draft of the book. In real life, it’s resulted in a therapist giving me a sheet of “feeling words” she wanted me to start using.
Mystic: You’re Scorpio Rising! Do people think you’re up to something when you’re not? The classic Scorpio Rising trait is that they transmit more intensely than they realize. It also means you’re ruled by Pluto, FYI. You’re good at transitions and will auto-phoenix out of stagnant scenarios – can you relate to any of that?
Glynnis: YES. My Scorpio Rising is the only thing that has always made sense, and not just to me (I also have an Aries moon). For most of my life, I’ve been “accused” of looking at people a certain way. And auto-phoenix! What an excellent phrase. A much more elegant way of saying I don’t like to sit still (literally and figuratively), which is also very true.
Mystic: You No One Tells You This as you were approaching 40 and one of the things I loved about it is that you combine cool anecdotes and popular culture references with a fearless philosophical inquiry.
As you say in there, you decided to look at taking your own life seriously, as the product of deliberate choice – “not simply a makeshift thing I’d constructed as a ‘for the time being’ existence.” That in itself is revolutionary.
So much media and literature treat the ‘mature single woman’ phenomenon as an aberration from the so-called “norm” of couplehood. You did this book at the time of Uranus Opposition. It’s when Uranus – broadly, progressive values, invention, liberation, future – opposes your natal Uranus.
So it’s a personal disrupt & emancipation that is often mislabelled the mid-life crisis – maybe it is a crisis for conventional expectations but for many, it is an opportunity. So is it fair to say that oppressive regime YOU overthrew with your Uranus Opposition was the stifling convention that you were supposed to be always on the look-out for the ‘right man’ and all that entailed? And that you not only went through your own process with that, but you also turned it into an amazing book?
Glynnis: I love this so much I wish I could make it the flap copy on the back of the book, with Uranus Opposition as the alternate title. This going to be a big-picture answer!
The overarching cultural narrative for women for most of history is fairly narrow: You’re born, you get married, you have children. The end. (I was reminded recently of the traditional Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone, when I passed a café in Berlin with the same name.) When you’re outside that story where are you?
How do you measure progress or accomplishment or value yourself in the world? It can feel like you’re treading water waiting for that narrative to start.
I’m a pretty deliberate person, and I wanted to interrogate myself and find out if I was where I was in my life accidentally and/or through a series of bad decisions (I think this is often the default assumption….”don’t worry” was a phrase that was frequently directed at me, as if whatever I’d done wrong to land myself here, or my bad luck, would end soon), or if I’d actually chosen to be there.
And if I’d chosen to be there, then clearly I’m on this path intentionally, and what does that journey look like?
That said, I do think it’s important to recognize the real-life infrastructures from which these abiding (and constricting!) narratives arise. The fact I even had the opportunity to question my own life is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one only afforded to a fairly small slice of the world.
Women are disempowered at nearly every stage of their life, not just in the stories we tell about them (think of the amount of shame or fear we automatically attach to women on their own) but in our very laws or lack thereof: maternal care, equal pay, rape culture…the list goes on.
Think too, that the only real power we confer on women is appearance – something we have so little control over – and even then, only for a few years. In every way possible women are made to understand they have little value outside their relationship to men, real or perceived.
In real life, meanwhile, marriage has generally been a shit proposition for women, but a necessary one since until, again, very recently — within my life more or less — women were barely able to financially support themselves outside of marriage, let alone control their own reproductive lives. The system was (and still is in many places) set up so that women had very little choice but to marry.
When you consider that, these narratives that have sprung up around marriage — which strive to make it look like a good thing, or an accomplishment when there was no alternative, or even the one true road to happiness — seem a lot like propaganda.
I also think it’s useful for us to ask ourselves who benefits from the “norm” stories we tell about women, and who has been authoring those stories for most of history? The answer is, it’s not women. I’m certainly not saying all marriages are bad, or that women who choose them have somehow been brainwashed, but I do think even the happiest married woman will tell you the reality is far, far away from the stories we were raised on.
Add to all this the reality that I did not feel disempowered in my actual life. In fact, I’d never felt more powerful. And the disconnect between that and the way the world was telling me I should be feeling was frustrating and then infuriating.
Because I’m a writer, and apparently a superhero level Virgo, I processed all this through storytelling as opposed to say boycotts and protests or advocacy work.
This is a very long answer to say, the stories we tell about women have almost always been authored by men, and we’re living in a moment when women are finally in the position to speak for themselves, and all these narratives – most of which counter the traditional one, which is largely bullshit — are sprouting up as a result. Mine is among them.
Mystic: Voila Mercury conjunct Mars in action! You currently have the all-important Saturn-Pluto conjunction in your $$$ sector trine that Mercury-Mars in Virgo – it would mean that after a phase of financial insecurity, you’re pulling together a formidable new financial platform that would allow you to fully express yourself and reach a broader audience. And this would involve a possibly deranged level of hard work and focus but come together in early 2020. Does this resonate at all?
Glynnis: From this interview to the universe’s ears. As any writer will tell you, financial security is a rarity, and particularly in the United States where, as freelancers, we pay for our own health insurance out of pocket (to the tune of $600/month). I had vaguely thought I’d dive right back into another project after I was through promoting the book last summer (and I did do a short book on baking, of all things) but I was surprised how bone-deep tired I was. I feel really lucky to write books, but they are hard and this one, particularly as so much of it was written immediately following my mother’s death, was especially so, emotionally speaking.
The book has been out for more than a year now, though (the paperback just published in North America) and I do feel not just ready, but excited to take on another big project (and get exhausted all over again). You can never know how stories will resonate in the world, but I’m about to be 45 and am absolutely happy to experiment with experiencing everything you describe above.
Mystic: Do you have any rituals or routines that you do around your work and writing?
Glynnis: I’m a morning person so when I’m in serious writing mode I like to be at the computer at 8 am having already exercised and eaten. My brain tends to slow down after 2 pm unless I’m on a severely hard deadline — the best thing that came out of the years I churned out multiple stories a day for websites is the knowledge that when you have to, you can write from anywhere at any time.
Being able to be choosy about your writing “process” is a luxury. Without question, though, my most important “routine” is turning off the internet. Period. I block it from my computer and turn my phone off. Even then, it usually takes a few days before my brain adjusts to offline. This is not true for every writer I know, but ‘get off the internet’ is my number one piece of advice for anyone who wants to be a writer.
Mystic: What weird ‘magical’ belief do you hold that most people would think irrational but which you know is legit?
Glynnis: I do have a thing with numbers (I also have a head for dates and birthdays; I still know all the birthdays of people I waited tables with fifteen years ago). And I have great faith in the number 21 thanks to my friend Margeaux who has always professed its power. I have deep faith in her, so I adopted this habit also.
Image: No One Tells You This