The first Mercury retrograde of the year begins on February 16 — two days after Valentine’s Day. Phew, you might be thinking, There’s nothing standing in the way of my romantic date night! Well, you’d be wrong. Because although Mercury hasn’t begun moving backwards yet, the retrograde pre-shadow is already hard at work.
Yes, that’s right — as if Mercury retrograde wasn’t enough, there’s a pre- (and post-) retrograde shadow, or “retro-shade,” to worry about, too. As the name implies, the pre-retrograde shadow occurs during a window of time before Mercury retrograde has begun, but when we’re already beginning to feel its effects.
If you need a reminder, those effects typically include issues with communication, technology, and travel. This is when you'll accidentally text the person you're gossiping about, have an ex slide into your DMs, miss your flight, or break your phone.
This Mercury pre-retrograde shadow began on February 2, “which means that day marks the beginning of our personal retrograde stories,” astrologer Lisa Stardust tells Refinery29. “Keep your eyes open for any strange behaviour you see and any bizarre information you hear. Mercury started to slow down on February 2 in the last degrees of Aquarius, and the retrograde begins full force on February 16 and lasts until March 9.”
As for February 14, stay vigilant. “With Valentine’s Day falling two days before the retrograde begins, prepare for exes to come back during this time and zombie us,” Stardust says. (Zombie-ing is when someone who previously ghosted you "comes back to life" and hits you up again.)
It's not just exes. Current relationships may be affected, too. “We may get caught up in past emotional fears that will hold us back from expressing our romantic notions and heart’s desires,” Stardust says.
Even your dinner reservation may be at risk. “Plans may fall apart last minute,” Stardust warns. But that doesn’t mean your date night will be ruined — it might just look a little different than you expected. Those altered plans should work out just fine, Stardust says, “as long as you keep in mind that fun is dependent on who you’re with, not what you do.” And what's more romantic than that?