Sept. 1723, 2003

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

What you're trying to do now is the equivalent of wearing vertical stripes to hide the 10 pounds you've gained. It might work for a little while, in dim lighting, but it's no long-term solution. You have a couple healthy ways to deal with this: Accept the new weight you've put on. It's only 10 pounds. Or work out like crazy and take it back off. It shouldn't take more than a month or three, if you're determined. It's only 10 pounds. But you have to acknowledge the difficulty, not ignore it or hide it. While your problem probably has nothing to do with your actual weight, you get the parallel I'm alluding to. Figure out what you're going to do with this spiritual spare tirenow.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

We both know you're not as superficial as the stereotypes of your sign suggest. But your recent behavior makes you look like the hollow (wo)manall surface and no substance. It's not shallowness that made you say the things you did; it's carelessness and inattention. Fortunately, these things are easily remedied, with a little frank realness and sincere consideration. But don't wait long, because the legend of your social misstep is growing by the second and spreading faster than an e-mail virus. Don't drag the rest of your tribe back down into the cliché ¦rom which you've so spectacularly emerged this past year. Fix your faux pas.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

You know what these flash mobs are, right? They're practice. Right now it's just silly fun: Hundreds of people gather at a spot to make bird calls or take off their shoes, then scatter. But they're useful lessons in how to organize people via the Internet, on a moment's noticesomething that could have many practical (and political) applications. In an age where the individual is becoming increasingly powerful, even as we become less empowered, we need to figure out ways to halt or at least slow down the dehumanization of our world. Scorpios, in particular, have to lead the charge: You have a harder time fitting into numbered boxes than virtually any other sign. Therefore, you have the most to loseand should be fighting the hardest not to lose it.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

When someone tells you, "God, you're such a loser," you laugh. You know it's a joke. That's a healthy level of self-confidence, something I wish everyone possessed. But many signs wouldn't hear that as the teasing humor it's meant to be; they might take it to heart, and worry that it's true. Your goal this week isn't to censor yourself to be sure you don't accidentally hurt anyone's feelings with a barbed joke; it's to uplift everyone you knowespecially that someone who's been feeling low latelyso they can take whatever you dish out, and then some. When the gibes start flying back with smiles, you'll know you did your job.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

I have a friend whose family watches faith-healing televangelist shows as hilarious comedy. When the preacher jams his fingers into a terrified deaf child's ears and screams, "Laud, take the devil aht! Make this chah-uld heah!" they roll on the floor and laugh. Can you blame them? It's good shit and way better than most sitcoms. But it's important to remember that one person's comedy is another's serious religion. Enjoy the hilarity that you see this weekbut do so discreetly. You don't need them siccing their god on your ass. No smitings this week, OK?

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

My obsession du jour is Heather Woodbury. I've just been watching her perform her 10-hour "living novel," in which she plays something like 90 different characters over the course of four evenings. I'm impressed by her vision, her ambition, her versatility, her endurance, her imagination, her talent . . . and the list goes on. Can you tell she inspires me? I've been writing nonstop for days, thanks to her. What inspires you, Aquarius, and when was the last time you took some of that good juju in? Since you'll put out twice as much magic and manifest vision as you take in this week, go out and soak up some of whatever turns you on and tickles your creativity floodgates.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

Just rent a damn movie. Pop some popcorn, put lots of butter on it, and curl up with a snuggle-bud or a homemade quilt, or both (every Piscean should have at least one of these). You're doomed to mediocrity this week. If you go out, it won't be exceptionally bad, nor remarkably good. It'll just be blah. So why spend the money and time? Make the couch your love nest and stay in. Once Mars goes direct in your sign again next week, you'll have the power to punch through the mundane veneer that's settled across your world. Till then, sit tight.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

Rams love jumping the gun. It's so Aries to skip the four-year courtship your Cancer paramour might prefer and just pop the big question on your third date instead. It's one of your best traits: You know what you want, and you rarely vacillate long before making a decision. It's charmingbut also selfish; it forces all involved to conform to your will. You might say, "Well, if they can't deal with my style, they're not the right person for me," and perhaps that's true. But you could also see it a different way: Maybe, just maybe, you might actually enjoy doing things their way more, if only you'd consider it an option. Then it's win-win.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

You're a thick, epic novel. A glance at your cover, even a swift perusal of your first few chaptersthese will reveal nothing of your true nature. The only way to know you is to read you, cover to cover, twice. Unfortunately, some of the people you're dealing with have picture-book mentalities. They lack the fortitude or patience to plumb your depths. Don't fill in the great wellspring of your soul just so they don't have to do more than wade. Drop a bucket into your darkest, wettest waters, draw up some of that wisdom and experience, and just dump it over their sorry heads. At the very least, it'll wake them upand probably make them respect you, too.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

I occasionally have the urge to speak to perfect strangers, just to tell them something beautiful I've noticed about them. I rarely do; I imagine most people would take it the wrong way and react harshly or negatively to my well-intentioned declarations. You share my urge, don't you? Fortunately, you have the courage or foolhardiness I lack. Speak your mind this week to total strangers, especially (but not exclusively) about the good stuff. People can hear it from you. You'll be surprised at how magnificently your blessings multiply when you spread them around.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

I'm feeling particularly melancholic today. I thought I'd commiserate with the one sign who can most empathize with my experience, since you're likely to share it this week. Admit it, though: There's part of you that gets off on channeling this deep, abiding sadness. That's fine; it's rich and real, and certainly better than feeling numb. But push through it, because melancholy begets itself. That is, by being manifestly miserable, you generate more reasons to be gloomy. Don't suppress itjust accept it. Acknowledge that life is often sad, lonely, and constantly heartbreaking, and move on. There's joy to be had, too, and lucky youyou're alive enough to feel it.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)

Although outwardly you're far more consistent than most signs, you and I know that inwardly you're almost as changeable as those moon-driven Cancers, because your emotional state is so subject to the constant fluctuations of your ego. The challenge for every Leo is to transcend this trend, at least to some extent. The problem: So many of your supreme and undeniable supertalents are belief-driven, so it's tricky to shed the limitations of your ego without also shucking its empowerments. Nevertheless, I expect this week to show you one way to accomplish just that.

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