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Sign Language

Cosmo's astrologist doesn't sugarcoat her readings: If you're a jerk, she'll tell you

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We've come a long way since Helen Gurley Brown first took over as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan in 1965. Before Brown championed the idea of "fun, fearless females" and their right to have it all -- particularly, the right to sexual freedom -- women's magazines focused on mending socks and baking cakes. But times have changed. Women are bringing home the bacon, and men are the ones to fry it up in a pan, while keeping an eye on little Timmy. Still, for better or for worse, Cosmo has remained much the same since the Brown era. The July issue, which we read cover to cover -- for research purposes only, of course -- features "sizzling new secrets" on how to "make his lustiest fantasies come true" and "strategies to get superclose" to your man. But so what if its premise is as dated as an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Cosmo still has a couple of things going for it: beefcake (in the form of a four-page spread on "yummy naked bartenders") and its Bedside Astrologer, Hazel Dixon-Cooper.

Thanks to Dixon-Cooper, astrology doesn't have to be a dirty word. The professional soothsayer has been the magazine's columnist only since May, but already she's made an impact. While most astrologers sugarcoat their readings as if they're writing Hallmark greeting cards, Dixon-Cooper calls a spade a spade. Watered-down interpretations of our signs force us to focus on the positive, when all we really want is to understand why our Capricorn sister is a social climber, our Gemini co-worker a gossiping, two-faced shrew, and our Pisces pal an emotional train wreck.

Flippant -- in fact, sometimes downright rude -- and straightforward, Dixon-Cooper cuts to the chase without all the feel-good mumbo jumbo of old-fashioned astrologers. In her new book, Born on a Rotten Day: Illuminating and Coping With the Dark Side of the Zodiac, she focuses on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 12 signs, analyzing the positions of the sun, the moon, and the stars to show us how to handle our backstabbing colleagues, cheating mates, and certifiable family members. Instead of putting a happy spin on each sign's virtues, she reveals their flaws, turning what's usually complimentary into "rotten-truth translations." An Aries, for example, is typically described as a "charming, enthusiastic, natural-born leader," writes Dixon-Cooper. "The truth is," she continues, "this bossy, egotistical motormouth is as self-absorbed as a two-year old." Scorpios are usually portrayed as "still water [that] runs deep." Dixon-Cooper's frank version? "You more closely resemble a boiling cesspool of hydrochloric acid."

If you can handle such candor (thick-skinned Sadges will fit right in) and have a healthy sense of humor, meet Dixon-Cooper at an "Evening With Hazel," when she leads an informal discussion about how to apply astrology to career changes, love, and family. We trust that she'll be honest.

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