I spend a surprising amount of my time being thankful I wasn’t born in the 1400s. Or 600 AD. Or 1100 BC. Basically, all of the dates before the second half on the 20th century. They seem like, by and large, people had a fairly shitty time of it, unless you were the 0.00001% who got to wear velvet or something while a doctor cut into you, without any painkillers, repeatedly, because draining all your blood out of you would cure your plague. Yeah, that’s right, the peasants probably never even got a doctor to bother bleeding them dry! But they also lived in a world without any sort of sewage system beyond “here’s our bucket,” so I think things were probably fair.
But then, one afternoon, I was bouncing a baby. Now, you have to understand, I don’t mean the mild jiggling people do with babies on their hips while they’re distracted. I mean bouncing on a yoga ball to the point where you’re worried about popping it, while an infant screams bloody murder in your face. For hours. And that’s when I thought of it. The perfect solution to every mother’s problems had already been invented.
That’s right, that sweet, sweet mix of grain alcohol and straight opium, with maybe a dash of sugar or herbs to make you think you weren’t just drinking drugged out hooch. Back in ye olde times, if your baby was being difficult, you’d just pop a little bit of Mother Nature’s Cure-All down their throats, and watch the little guppy drift off into an opiate-induced haze of contentment. And then, if you were feeling like you just couldn’t take any more of the world, you too could treat yourself to some laudanum, because it was a respected, genuine medicine that people thought was a good plan!
Okay, sure, you might become hopelessly addicted, and sure, when you say it out loud it’s not a good idea to give babies drugs because they’re annoying you,* but you wouldn’t know any of that! You’d be riding high without a care in the world, genuinely convinced you were taking excellent medical care of your entire household.
So then I was thinking, what else would actually be really friggin’ rad about living in the past? We’re constantly bashing on historical lifestyles just because you’d probably die when you were 26 of an infected spider bite, after having fourteen children, having never experienced what it was like to be not-starving. But where do we get off, with our technology, and our big cities, and our penicillin? Imagine what it was like to be in Eleanor of Aquataine’s court. First off, you’re at the coolest party in all of Europe, and you know it. There’s music and poetry and probably a court jester juggling flaming swords or something.
And then, one night at dinner, a hush falls over the banquet hall. What is that wacky Eleanor up to now? What the…. she’s… she’s not using her hands to eat. And she’s not trying to eat off a dagger without cutting her face off. I could keep all this duck grease off my fine clothes and live a life with relatively fewer prominent scars? WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THIS, AND WHERE DO I SIGN UP??
That’s right. Think about the day forks became cool, and don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to be there.
After that, I want to smell the Library of Alexandria. You know how, when you’re little, you imagine that your local library had every book ever written? The Egyptians really did! Now, think about how good an old used book store smells. The library of Alexandria must have smelled, like, five times better than that at the very least!
Oh! Business opportunity! Someone make a perfume for nerds that smells like the Library of Alexandria. You’d make millions.
Speaking of old libraries, you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t be a hoot to hang out with Medieval monks. I mean, yeah, vows of poverty and chastity, robes that were probably super itchy, and the world’s least flattering hairstyle, but they still knew how to have fun! Back then, a monk would devote his life to copying out a single book, cover to cover, painstakingly making a beautiful work of art. But nobody was, like, looking over their shoulder to make sure they were behaving themselves, so in amongst the Thou Shall Nots they decided to have a little fun. Okay, more than a little.
See? Monks were basically history’s first Monty Python cast!
A Monty Python cast that was really, really into shooting things out of butts, and strangely proportioned penises.
Seriously, there are several. It’s a little alarming.
But you know who would never be alarmed by a strangely proportioned penis? Cleo-fucking-patra! Yep, that was my transition from Medieval monks to Cleopatra. I thought it went quite smoothly, don’t you?
Anyway, we’re taking it back to Egypt one more time because of the Coolest Broad In Town. When I was younger, I genuinely thought that Cleopatra was just made up, because nobody could be that completely awesome and crazy, right? I was embarrassingly old before I finally figured out that no, she was a real person, and yes, she was just as completely batshit as all the Romans said she was. But in a really great way! She threw parties, seduced two out of three of the most powerful men in the world, and for all I know probably rode around on an ostrich!
And let me be the first one to break it to you, ladies and gentlemen, but this famed beauty, this woman who half the world was genuinely obsessed over in an era before Twitter, this rock star of the Roman Empire, looked like this:
HOW GREAT IS THAT? There was a time when you could just inform people you were beautiful, and they’d just… believe you. She just straight up walked up to men and was all, “I’m the most desirable woman in the entire world,” and they went, “Well damn, I guess you are!” Nowadays if you did that people would just pull up an Instagram feed of a supermodel doing naked yoga poses on a beach in Bali. How much cooler would it be to live back then? What else could you get away with? Here’s my vision: you walk into a room, and yell that you’re Emperor of the Universe, and also Very Smart and Terribly Wealthy. People will just accept this as fact, and you’ll be able to party like it’s 1199, everyone doing whatever you tell them to, because apparently fact checking was still centuries away!
So yes, sure, if you went back in time you’d probably be dead in under a week from some rich asshole running you over with his horse because he could, or a plague you got when you said hi to the cute girl across the street, or because your neighbor called you a witch because he wanted to expand his front yard. But while it was happening, you’d be having such a good time!
Oh man, if only I could live in the past. Oh, the wonderful time I would have, the stories I would tell, the antibiotics I would smuggle into the time machine with me! Yes sir, people had it pretty great back in ye olde days.
[Ed. Note: I wrote this based on vague memories of high school history class. Most of the historical facts are probably wrong. What do expect from me, basic research or something?]
*Don’t give babies drugs. But if I needed to tell you that, you’re probably not the kind of person who looks at footnotes.