That ubiquitous newspaper portrait of the tidy Virgo soul with a perfectly balanced bank account and an immaculate bathroom no doubt sends you into fits of cynical laughter. Virgos are generally sadly misinterpreted, and understandably you can get pretty irritated about it, especially if you're the sort of Virgo who is untidy, chaotic and not in the least concerned about whether you arrive at one minute before eight or one minute after.
Discrimination is a Virgo characteristic. So is subtlety of thinking. Black and white perceptions imply a simple universe, and to you the universe is rarely simple. It's more like a huge, boundless jigsaw puzzle, and it can drive you crazy if you're missing a piece or if there isn't a picture on the top of the box showing you how the puzzle should look when it's finished.
But perfectionism - something of which you are often accused - isn't the same as discrimination. To be a perfectionist you have to be idealistic, and Virgo is probably the most realistic sign of the zodiac. You harbour no impossible vision of a perfect utopian world, or even a perfect utopian bathroom. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and you don't indulge in either arrogance or false modesty. You use what comes to hand to create order in your world, and order is at the top of your list of priorities - whether it's order in the material environment, in the realm of ideas, or in mind and body.
Virgos are the great synthesisers of the zodiac. Both your problems and your gifts spring from this deep urge to bring things together, to connect knowledge and experience to form a comprehensible whole. With Mercury, god of intelligence and communication, ruling this sign, naturally you love acquiring knowledge, especially if it's useful. And "useful", like "order", is another important word for Virgo. If something can't be used, you'll discard it with a ruthlessness that can terrify more sentimental signs. Sometimes Virgos throw out romance because it isn't useful.
You're capable of being quite cynical, and you know perfectly well that one has to be clever to survive. If you're going to do something, you'll do it well, from both pride of craftsmanship and a good marketing sense. Idealistic perfection? Hardly. Yet despite this apparent toughness, the impulse to be of service runs strong in you.
Virgos need to feel needed and useful. There's not a lot of ambition in this sign, and your tendency to look for more and more pieces to complete the great jigsaw puzzle of life takes away any propensity for the kind of obsessiveness needed to claw your way ambitiously to the top of the heap. You'd make an excellent advisor or counsellor to those silly enough to have grabbed the throne and subjected themselves to all that trouble. Your work is the thing you let people know first about you, not your secret self. With Virgos, not all the goods are visible in the shop window.
You don't like showing your hand until you know where you stand. You're a student and observer of life rather than a gambler or an entrepreneur. With all that self-containment, naturally the emotional realm can be the trickiest piece of the puzzle. Emotions aren't orderly, and they make you feel vulnerable. All those rituals you love so much are a means of keeping the "dark forces" of your own powerful feelings at bay. Deep within you there's a huge reservoir of sensitivity, romanticism and imaginative vision. Show it? Never. Your apparent coolness and insistence on privacy are a way of protecting yourself against an intolerable sensitivity. All that emphasis on practical reality helps you escape the mystic in your own soul.
You can be detached and even brusque in manner, and no one will ever catch you offering your last pennies to a drunk on the street. More likely you'll deliver a stern lecture about self-help. But this is because you're too acutely, compassionately aware of the human flotsam of life.
Planning for the future can be an obsession with you, because your realism makes it hard for you to trust in life. Yet when you feel secure, you can be the kindest, most gentle and generous of souls, giving freely of your time and skills. You're a complex creature, with many masks and disguises. You've learned your lessons early. But then, it's only realistic.