I have a loaded relationship with newness. I grew up poor and an immigrant, and that meant almost nothing was given to me new. My mother would take me to flea markets. I would wander from table to table, bombarded by bodies, eye-level with whole lifetimes of trinkets and unruly piles of clothes. Dig in, she would call to me, and I'd rifle through until I pulled out something I thought I might wear or something that she would like to see me in. I learned to search with my hands, by texture and weight. I learned this on the street, and I learned it in the dark hole-in-the-wall my mother would bring me to, a storefront that looked more like a cellar: dim, with mounds of clothes on the ground. The owner was a Jamaican woman named Lucy who would sing out my mother's name the moment we shadowed the doorway. She would ask about my father and remark on my change of height or weight. I understood that there was intimacy in this relationship, and it was intimacy alone that inspired me to move forward into that dark cavern and dive, searching for adornment through moth holes and the threat of mice.
By the time my family could afford to buy me new things, a first-day-of-school outfit there, something from Toys "R" Us here, I was already trained to hoard my desires and measure what a child might consider a need against the needs of the collective. As an adult, this training mixed with memories of lack, rising out of me as a deep yearning for only new things. The smell of thrift stores would turn my stomach, and I'd walk out anxious to wash my hands free of whatever film they felt coated with; anxious to go to a bright fluorescent storefront and try on one item in three different sizes, just to make sure I found the very best fit.
But, new things, mass-produced things, can leave a different kind of film on the hands of those who acquire them. We know now, as we knew then, the abuses of the garment industry: the toll plastics, run-off, and fabric refuse take on the environment. As well as the exploitative labor practices on humans—on children. It is telling that while so many people can nod with familiarity about the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire, that happened over a century ago in 1911, few will readily talk about Bangladesh's Rana Plaza Fire which happened in 2013, in a complex that housed at least five garment factories, where the labor for many American brands was outsourced. There are those amongst us that take refuge in the past as some gone thing, a safe we can place our incredulity and our relief. "It's not like that now," we say, clad in products that—traced back to their sources—are, yes, not like that. Because they are worse.
Gemini is a mutable air sign whose modern ruler is Mercury; it is the sign associated with one's hands. Gemini relates through information, it builds intimacy through the exchange of knowledge and the accumulation of language. Gemini loves trends and enjoys experimenting with their outward expression. Geminis love fashion, its history and relevance as well as its visual impact. Gemini uses their hands often, to make deals, to start new projects, they acquaint themselves with instruments of learning and of pleasure. The new moon is associated with beginning again, a new cycle, a new intention, and new outward focus. The new moon acknowledges what has come before, regards it, and moves forward. Under the auspices of today's new moon in Gemini, we are asked to think about how we define newness.
Yes, we can think about our global relationship to newness and our roles as consumers. In what ways has capitalism so deeply ingrained into our spirits that the acquisition of an object gives us a momentary feeling of being more present and alive? In what ways do transactions take the place of intimate relationships? The Gemini moon is aspected by Neptune and Jupiter, and so there is a sheen of the collective dream and the collective ambition: the dream of America and the reality of what sustains the machine.
This kind of reckoning, whether you sit with it knowingly or not, is always on you. There is no one who escapes the retribution of systemic injustice, especially when these systems reach their tentacles into our water supply and our access to basic needs (which affordable clothes are). On a higher level, there is a kind of spiritual thirst, a poverty, in understanding that unless one has access to large sums of money regularly (and where did it come from and at the cost of whom?), one can't afford to purchase that which has not harmed others. A cycle of harm, a spiritual trap for those who came from oppression and feed that oppression worlds away.
I think about these cycles of suffering interpersonally, too. Like what it means to build new relationships on unsteady ground. Dating someone new, for instance, when you're still heartbroken or in love with someone else. Using people the way we are trained to use objects, to fill a void, to touch a spark of life through someone or something else, instead of cultivating it within ourselves. To glaze our eyes over the toll that might take on the other, to elide the pitch of suffering within ourselves in order to present a consistent phrase, one which is unaffected, unmarred, untouched by others, and acceptable to all; a self like a mass-produced garment, a self that comes in accommodating sizes, that has no past to reckon with and nothing to answer for.
What would it mean to move forward cultivating life within ourselves anyway? To build a relationship with yourself means, as my mother might say, taking yourself into your hands; by which she meant, keeping it together. By which I mean, reckoning with what you hold against yourself and what you're willing to do now to make things right.