I can’t have pets. The lease is pretty thorough.
It has been suggested to me at various times over the last six months that I should get a pet, perhaps a cat or a dog (most often told to get a dog). But I signed a lease on a place where I can’t have pets, which means no animals, vertebrates or invertebrates. [I wouldn’t even dream of having any sort of pet insect.] I don’t want to pay pet rent if I won’t be getting one, and I am very ambivalent about pets. On one hand, I love cats and dogs and would probably dote on one forever and make it the world’s business and give it a social media account that I would spend much more time on than my own.
But I also really like the fact that there’s no animal hair on anything I own, that none of my furniture is chewed up or scratch up, that nothing wakes me up at 5:00 a.m., or jumps up and sticks its butt in my face when I’m in Zoom court, or makes me unable to keep the front door open for more than a nanosecond. At the same time, there is no one to cuddle with, no one to knit toys that they’ll tear up, no one to cook for, no one who gives a shit if I come home or not.
So I became a Plant Mother.
Not an Animal Mother. This is Animal Mother:
One of the benefits to being in a small apartment in an old building is how warm it stays. The old stove has three pilot lights — one for the oven and two for the burners — that give off an ambient heat all the time. I don’t even have my heat on right now even though it’s in the 50s, and I still have to have the windows open. Granted, I have three north-facing windows, but most of them are unobstructed by buildings or trees because they face the alley.
Not much of a view, but the price is right, and I think there’s just as much to see in a Chicago alley as there is on a busy avenue.
I can have plants now.
I realized that yes, I can totally do this now. I don’t have pets that will eat them or knock them over. I don’t live with someone who will knock them over or who will be allergic to them. I don’t have to worry about vermin, and I dust regularly so I won’t choke them with shitty air, and because I’m here all the time in this tiny place, I can give them all the carbon dioxide they need.
And frankly, I feel a little lost without something to take care of. I know: it’s not like I can make them plant breakfast, or do their plant laundry, or point out a really cool series on plant Netflix I think they’ll be interested in, or get their plant car washed and fill up the tank for them or bring them a cup of hot plant coffee when they wake up, but what I can do suffices for needing to be of service.
The adoption process:
I began getting plants from Mariano’s, Chicago’s answer to Wegmans. I go to Mariano’s a lot because I like it and because it’s a decent walk from my apartment, not too close and not too far. I like the atmosphere. I like the prices. I like the selection. I like the jazz piano in the evening. I also still have a faint glimmer of hope that I will run into someone I met at Mariano’s just once about a year ago, someone I met very briefly on weekday evening in the produce section at the Edgewater Mariano’s who asked me where the dairy was because at the time, they were making renovations and no one knew where the fuck anything was. And, in my Sagittarius fashion, I joined in the lamenting that nothing was where it was because I too was looking for the dairy section.
We found it.
Anyway, I’m usually shopping at a Mariano’s in an adjacent neighborhood, and everything is where it should be in that grocery store, so I’m not sure what I’m hoping to find, but I am always certain to be groomed when I go (if I look sloppy or tired, I go to Jewel instead).
Of course, I have no idea what I would even say should I actually see this person again. I mean, what would I actually say? “Yeah, so that guy I was with last time? He’s dead now. You still like milk?”
But at the Mariano’s I visit, there are foliage plants from a company called Wild Interiors, and sometimes, the plants that don’t sell are left to dry out in the shade of other plants and they’re put on sale.
The first time I was there, I thought I would like something cheery, so I bought Clementine, a kalanchoe, who is chilling in the back behind Mad Dog:
And that was nice. However, I really felt that one plant wasn’t enough and that I needed to go all Mia Farrow on this shit, so a few days later, I got up early and went to Mariano’s again. It was there that I discovered the unloved plants section, which included the air plant above, Mad Dog, and the two ivy plants below, Scarface and Shalozby, respectively:
I’ve always liked ivy. I like plants that refuse to be tamed, even if I hated having to remove grape vines when I was a kid. But ivy always seemed a bit more magickal than aggressive, and I always wanted some in my home. These plants were crispy and droopy, but within a few days with water, sunlight, and food, they started rebounding. Now, they’re refreshed with new leaves.
I also bought the air plant Mad Dog, who is coming back to life, too. Usually, he stays in the kitchen where it’s warmer, but the pressure cooker is currently taking up the last bit of counter space, and he looks nice on my desk.
Then, a few days later, I walked back to Mariano’s and bought Dr. Leakey, the blue star fern:
Then, I realized that I had a second north-facing window in the bathroom, so I bought more plant babies.
Padre Pio, the coffee plant in the middle was in the abandoned section with Dr. Leakey, so I obviously had to bring him home. Sometimes he stays in the kitchen, too. Next to him on the left is the bird’s nest fern, Cordelia, who usually gets less light than this because she prefers it, and on the right is the ZZ plant Banarama, who is supposed to be low maintenance.
I really hope I don’t end up killing these guys. Right now, it’s getting down to the low to mid 40s at night, but because this old building stays warm, the heat isn’t on yet, and I tend to be a warm-bodied human who doesn’t need it anyway, so I’m trying to be mindful that my plants may not want to sit next to a cold window all night.
These plants are not my friends.
The plants cannot give me friendship or companionship, but they do give me peace of mind and make my home more serene. They’re here entirely for my benefit, which is similar to pets. Even if you and your dog or cat have some sort of symbiotic relationship, they don’t give to you what you give to them. My plants and your dog aren’t going to make the bed for you, or get tickets to a movie, or move the car to the opposite side of the street at night so you don’t get a ticket. Granted, your friends may not do any of this stuff either, but they can do this stuff. And unlike your dog or cat, one would hope that your friends are capable of using a toilet and can feed themselves and won’t get run over by cars if you let them out of the house.
But my pets are my friends, Miriam!
No, they’re not. That’s the 5th house.
Okay, fine. They’re my family.
No, they’re not. That’s the 4th house.
Okay, fine. They’re my pack.
No, they’re not. That’s the 11th house.
Here’s a quick way to tell the difference between your 5th house and your 11th house friends:
Your 5th house friends are your friends, buddies, bros, bffs. The people you have one-on-one friendships with. These are best friends, people you have a special history with, people with whom you have a special bond, the people with who you have a particular affinity and loyalty toward.
Your 11th house friends are your clique or friend group. They’re the group you hang out with, identify with, engage in group activities with in which the integrity of the group is important.
Your 5th house friends can be your 11th house friends and visa versa. However, you need not have a close, intimate relationship with all of your 11th house friends. Your 11th house friends can include the Karens of the group, the least-favorites, and the person that you personally don’t like but put up with for the sake of the group. Your 5th house friends don’t have to be part of a group and may not even be part of your “friend group” anyway.
What if you don’t have any friends or a friend group?
It’s actually not unusual to have one but not the other. It’s not unusual to be the odd-man-out in a friend group with no close friendships with the people in the group. It’s also possible to not have a friend group but rather friendships with individuals who cannot be really gathered together. Me — I’ve always had trouble with all-female friend groups. I don’t have a place in them; I’m just not able to conform.
But the problem of not having a friend group is certainly easier to address than not having any friends at all.
Do you really have no friends?
You may not have none; you just may have lost touch with them. You may not have any nearby, but that’s not always a bad thing, especially if you’re surrounded by toxic people, or surrounded people are just simply going in a different direction in life. You may not really be in a place psychologically to engage others in platonic intimate relationships.
You may also be looking for friendship in the wrong people, or with people who really can’t appreciate you.
And some people do take a while to warm up to new people or to let their guard down, but chances are if you want them, you’ll find them.
I knew a man who struggled his entire life to make and keep friends. He had some here and there, but none for long. He had girlfriends and then a wife who was with him for the rest of his life. But not much in the way of close friends. He had Saturn and Neptune both retrograde and conjunct in the 5th house, but he had Jupiter direct in the 11th house, which should mean that he would have a few (Saturn) spiritual (Neptune) friendships (5th house) and lots of colleagues and associates.
But I don’t think any of that was true. He was sought after, and his advice and knowledge was prized by many, but he didn’t seem to have a lot of people in his life, and no matter how many times he analyzed his chart, he couldn’t seem to pinpoint the problem. He always figured what you need are people who represent the planets in your chart, and to a certain extent, that’s true, but I don’t think that was entirely his problem.
The problem was that he was very much a contrarian who was abrasive when he thought he was right, alienating a lot of people.
He really could have looked at himself — his Sun/Moon opposition in Aquarius/Leo to figure out why he was having trouble keeping close friends.
Do you need friends?
Consider how many lovers, fuck buddies, boyfriends and girlfriends you may have had in the past, people you hold close to you, attempting to place them into the hole inside you, some fitting better than others, but none quite settling into that love-shaped hole.
Over time, the dimensions of that hole change a bit, but it’s largely the same hole.
You have the same hole for friends, and it may just be that you’re fitting the wrong ones in the hole, and you don’t know where to find the right ones. And sometimes, if you’re in a circumstance in which other people are at worst, a drain on your assets and abusive and at best, a distraction from what you should be doing, it’s okay to walk away. Sometimes, you’ll know who these people are because their personal planets make close contact with your South Node (usually a conjunction) AND (AND, AND, because mere nodal contacts aren’t bad) one of their planets makes a hard aspect to one of your angles or personal planets or luminaries. But, sometimes, you don’t.
How to find your friends in your natal chart
There’s a few things you can find in your natal chart:
- The kinds of friends you attract;
- The social groups in which you (might) find friends; and
- The kind of friends you need.
5th House friends:
Your 5th house cusp, the planets and points therein, and the condition of the ruler of the 5th house tell you about the kinds of friends you attract and the kind of fun you like to have. This is why the 5th house also rules lovers and entertainment, because frankly, for most of us, lovers ARE basically people we have around for entertainment. Partners are a 7th (then also an 8th) house thing. Friends make a mutual decision to make each other happy in some way. If your friends don’t make you happy, or if they specifically do things that hurt your feelings knowing that’s what they’re doing, they’re not really your friends.
For example, if you have Cancer on the 5th house cusp, look at the Moon and the condition of the Moon by house, sign, and aspect. If you have Aquarius on the cusp, look at both Saturn AND Aquarius, because Saturn is the traditional ruler and Uranus is the modern ruler. If you have planets in the fifth house, those will tell you how important friends, children, lovers, etc., are to you and what you want from them.
An empty 5th house doesn’t mean no friends; it just means that you won’t spend as much time and energy on friendship as others may.
11th house friends:
Take the same trip around the zodiac as you would for the 5th house as described above. The difference is that these are friend groups, peer groups, groups of people you have something in common with but aren’t necessarily close with. This is your orchestra, your Meetup group, your Dungeons and Dragons campaign, your fellow volunteers at the animal shelter, your sorority.
The 11th house is less tolerant of differences than the 5th house. For example, I don’t think I could join a knitting circle full of MAGAtards and quietly pretend I’m not hearing what I’m hearing at each meting while trying to steer conversation toward something less divisive. Whereas you can have 5th house friends who are very different from you in fundamental ways — different cultures, different upbringings, different interests, different goals — 11th house “friends” are like you in some way, making you easily identifiable as a group.
Your childhood or college best friend who now has a completely different life than you do, someone you probably wouldn’t become friends with now if you never met them before because it is the shared bond of growing together that keeps you together, because they know you so well and accept you in a way that other adults would not? 5th house.
Your friends from law school who were all also going into business law, with whom you studied, with whom you were on a journal with, with whom you went to lectures and symposiums with? 11th house, and why?
Because if you had dropped out of law school — and let’s face it: if you stopped practicing law right now — you’d probably not be friends with them anymore, if not now, then later.
Saturn and Capricorn affecting the 5th house, 11th house, and sociability:
Saturn denies. It creates aloneness and alienation.
Saturn in any of the social houses can indicate aloneness and/or loneliness when it comes to that house, as can any house with Capricorn on the cusp. Everyone is lonely and alone in some way or trying to hide from it. Saturn in the 5th house can deny friends, lovers, or children. Look at the ruler of Saturn to see where they may come from or where you may find them. For example, if you have Saturn in 5th house Libra but Venus in the 7th house, you may largely have friends through your spouse, or you may make friends through alliances, such as being the two most unpopular kids in class, so you’re sticking together so you’re not completely alone.
Saturn denies and makes you earn it. What you will get isn’t much, but it will be of quality when you learn what you need and how to get rid of things that aren’t quality. Someone with Saturn in the 5th house may eventually have a few life-long friends who really understand them.
Likewise, Saturn in the 11th house may indicate someone who will find friend or peer groups deliberately through other means. If Saturn is in Aries and Mars is in the 4th house, then this person may find groups to affiliate with through family members and heritage, i.e. someone who joins the Daughters of the American Revolution and is an active member.
Capricorn is selective. It creates onliness.
Likewise, if Capricorn is on the cusp of the 5th or 11th houses, the individual tends to be selective about who they are friends with or what groups they associate with, and if they find none that are appropriate for them, they will choose none.
Capricorn tends to show where you are choosy about things, and willing to go without in order to preserve your integrity. Capricorn suns and Capricorn rising people aren’t asocial; many of them are quite social, they’re just choosy about it. For example, I notice that these guys seem to have no problem dropping someone or writing them out of their lives, no drama, no fighting, just…okay then, have a nice life without me.
But Capricorn energy applied to the social life is very much about rank and file. Capricorn Suns and Capricorn risings can be quite social, but they have to be distinct. Capricorn risings at their worst are the typical smartest-guy-in-the-trailer park. At their best, Capricorn risings will take on the whole world and slowly and surely use their assets to carve out success for themselves by making sure that everyone respects them and sees their value.
Capricorn Venuses also tend to be choosy about the people they associate with, especially partners, but tend be more discreet about severing ties because these guys really, really hate making a scene, and they will keep people around for the sake of appearances that they wouldn’t ever really trust with the truth or anything important.
Capricorn Mars is probably the most raw of the rank-and-file Capricorn energy. These folks tend look for people they can dominate in some way, either overtly or by comparison. I notice that these guys need to be dominate in some way over their friends and partners. For example, they need to be the better looking one (even if Capricorn Mars belongs to a heterosexual man), or the smarter one, or the more successful one, or the more (outwardly) virtuous one, or whatever it is that is important to them. This isn’t so much like Mars in Aries competitiveness, in which there is no conscious desire to rank others so much as there is to win it all, or like Mars in Libra, which wants everyone to get a participation trophy. Someone must win, someone must lose, but Capricorn Mars needs to choose who wins what.
Contrast this with Capricorn Venus, which needs a partner or friend to be both better than them in some way but also their clear inferior in some way so as to create a balance. You’re the pretty one, and I’m the smart one. You’re the artist, and I’m the intellectual. Everyone has their thing, and everyone does their best. Capricorn Venus, unlike Capricorn Mars, isn’t competing and doesn’t put themselves in positions to compete (this of course, depends on the placement of Mars in that individual’s birth chart). In fact, Capricorn Venus is willing to concede things that don’t matter to them in order to keep the peace and have a place where they are best.
If you have Capricorn on the cusp of the 5th or 11th houses, consider if whether you’re choosy or just afraid to concede that someone may be better than you are in some way.
You got my hopes up talking about pets, Miriam.
Pets are still a 6th house thing because you take care of them and they are part of your routine, and you do all the heavy lifting. You are of service to them, and they are of service to you. They are your pets for your sole enjoyment, as much as you insist that the pet picked you. The relationship between humans and animals are generally transactional, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise.
For example, if you feed squirrels in your backyard, you can eventually train them (and their babies) to come to you for food, even taking it out of your hand. Years ago, one of my sisters with the squirrels in the backyard. This was cute, but it also resulted in squirrels following us into the house, into the car, and never being able to set a bag of groceries down to unlock the door because the squirrels thought it was for them.
And if you’ve ever been startled by suddenly finding a squirrel that you didn’t know was in the house in the first place darting from under the kitchen table to the counter upon hearing someone open a bag of Doritos, you would understand why this isn’t really a friendship. First, the sole benefit for us was entertainment, but that went away pretty quickly. Second, you can’t really be friends with a squirrel. You can’t talk with it. You can’t have a coffee with a squirrel and tell her all about your troubles with your job or ask her advice about a guy you met on a dating app who seems too good to be true. Third, unlike most of your friends, squirrels have no problem shitting on your floor and leaving you to clean it up.
How did we solve the problem? We all stopped feeding the squirrels, and by the next generation, they unlearned relying on humans for potato chips and apples.
Having pets solely for entertainment (5th house) is a relatively new phenomenon. Even lap dogs were meant to keep the owner warm and to attract fleas and vermin so as to keep the master free of insect bites. Cats were hunters who kept vermin at bay and alerted owners of danger coming. Pets generally had a job (6th house) and provided a service (6th house) in exchange for payment in the form of food, protection, warmth, and shelter. If there was no job, the pet would naturally look for one anyway, and there went your furniture and shoes.
But moreover, pets are animals that become property to human owners for the sole benefit of the owner.
Even if you didn’t drive to a farm in Minnesota and pay $1,200 for that puppy, you still choose the pet. The cat you adopted from the shelter didn’t choose to go to the shelter and pick out her cage so she could wait for the perfect human to take her home. The dog you adopted from the rescue organization didn’t ask to be rescued. You filled out the paperwork. You paid their transport. You brought them home. You make sure they don’t piss on the rug (or you try your best).
You make sure your pets are fed, that they get medical care, that they don’t get ticks, fleas, worms or ear mites, that they don’t engage in embarrassing sexual behavior when you have people visiting, that they don’t run out of the house and get into a fight with a skunk or a porcupine. You don’t take your dog aside and let him tell you why he’s barking at that other dog across the street and then suggest that maybe his insecurities are the root of his problem, not the other dog: you just hold the leash tighter and say “no,” and then reward him with a liver treat when he passes another dog on the street and doesn’t start barking.
You don’t do this with people, or at least you’re not supposed to do this with people. Unlike children, which are ruled by the 5th house, your intention is to keep your pet for a purpose for as long as you want it, whether that purpose is work, companionship, or a hobby, but children are meant to be raised so that they will eventually individuate and leave you. No one is raising their dog to eventually be autonomous. No one is up all night worrying about how they’ll afford to send their dog to college. No one’s dog is going to get revenge by letting them rot in a dirty, run-down nursing home when they’re old. In fact, your dog doesn’t even care if you’re an otherwise loathsome person so long as you give them what they need.
Likewise, no one is wondering if their cat is just using them for food and a place to crash. No one is wondering just how much they really have in common with their dog and if maybe they’re too enmeshed and should start hanging out with some other dogs just for a change of pace. No one ever has to explain to their dog that even though they’ve got a girlfriend now, the dog is still their best friend and they’re sorry they haven’t been hanging out as much as they used to — in fact, unlike with a human best friend, you’d be okay coming home and seeing your girlfriend petting your dog and your dog licking your girlfriend.
But my cat/dog was there for me when no one else was. It licked my tears away, and it listened to me, and it sat next to me while I poured my heart out in a text I never sent while eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and wondering if I will be alone forever.