Lieutenant, you would do me an enormous favor if you stopped calling me sir.

Thursday, January 11, 2018 

An Email Format That's Getting Weirdly Popular Lately For Some Reason

Hey! Hi! Haha, is this [Your Name]? There were a few other [Your Names] on Facebook but I was pretty sure this one was you, lol. It’s me, [Guy You Haven’t Exchanged A Single Word With In Four Years And Three Months]. [No mention of how the two of you may know one another, or attempt to jog your memory.] How are you? Here’s how I am, unprompted:

  • Some work updates at a new job you didn’t know I had

  • I visited a foreign country, here’s a Soundcloud link for some reason

  • I think I remember an interest of yours, is it this? [It isn’t, but it’s sort of close]

  • I think I saw your sister when I was in Chicago last summer, was it her?

  • I had a New Year’s Resolution to make more jam so I make a decent amount of jam now

Uh, I don’t know if you remember this or anything, but I feel like I might maybe have hurt your feelings at some point? Or said something weird? Or just generally been creepy? And if I did, that would suck, for sure. But I don’t know.

You know what I mean when I say the word “creepy,” right? Because I don’t really know what I mean. I’m definitely never going to get more specific than the word “creepy,” which can really encompass anything from “that tree looks weird” to “I am being actively murdered.” I plan on staying really non-specific throughout the course of this email and also for the rest of my life, in part because it’s way easier to make broad, leading statements in a manner that suggests anyone who wants to respond in thorough detail is going to kind of feel like I’ve beaten them to the punch. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but it seems like if you bring something up first, no one else is allowed to be more specific about it than you are, which seems pretty ideal.

Anyhow, I’ve been vaguely following the news lately – you know, The News? – and I got a vague sort of sense of all-encompassing dread, which sucked. Not because anything specific I’ve ever said or done sprang to mind, because pretty much three days after doing or saying anything, I send any memory of the things I’ve said or done into a sort of mental trash compactor, and never think about them again, which I assume is how everyone else deals with the burden of memory. But, you know, definitely some pull quotes that I’ve seen in the news lately have seemed sort of familiar, and it sort of made me wish I’d spent some more time in self-reflection before the last couple of days.

I’ve definitely been self-reflecting for at least three or four days, and let me tell you, it is the pits!!! I guess one of the nice thing about knowing a lot of women is that it’s like having a million little external memory banks who remember bad stuff for you. I don’t know if you ever noticed that, but it seems like women are like, weird good at remembering the worst stuff! Stuff where it’s like, Who even thinks about that stuff? I guess the answer is you do! I figured that if there was anything I had ever said or done to you that was bad, you know, bad like newspaper bad, or maybe not even that bad but just something that I should be aware of, that you would know about it, and you might be able to tell me what it was, so that I could say sorry if I was creepy or whatever!

Hey, let me mention for a real quick sec that I have a girlfriend/wife/new baby, just so you can bear in mind that if you were to say anything either to or about me, it wouldn’t just affect me, okay? Just so you know, as an FYI!! Not that you have suggested you were planning on saying anything about or to me, or have attempted to reestablish contact between us in any way, it’s just that this is kind of the first time in a while that I’ve second-guessed “that stuff I said” so I have no real sense of scale when it comes to how many bases I’m supposed to be covering, which is why you and like fourteen of our mutual acquaintances are all getting the same email at the same time. Honestly, to be on the safe side, I am probably just going to email every woman whose email I have, because I have no way of knowing if I have like, made three or four women mildly irritated, or if I’ve killed nine or ten.

Something in between, for sure! Something for sure in between those two options, is probably where I’ve landed, if I had to take a guess. Which I am, guessing, because who’s to say, you know? It’s not like anyone makes a habit of mentally noting the stuff they do or say, like some kind of remembering-machine. You know what I mean, right? Nobody plans the stuff they do or say to or at or about or near women, or whomever, or thinks about it afterwards.

Anyways, things are like, crazy out there, do you know what I mean, even though so far I have not actually said anything of substance? Like, I’m not actually making a claim, or recalling anything either of us ever said to each other, or admitting to a fault more specific than “man, the past sure happened, didn’t it,” or attempting to materially alter the way I treat the people around me in any way, but do you know what I mean when I say that things seem really crazy out there? Do you have a sense for when things are going to go back to the way things used to be, because I do not know how many more emails I can send before it’s like, my whole life would be emails, do you know what I mean? But everyone is like, noticing things. And remembering things. And I have already tried to remember about four days in a row and if I have to keep remembering every day for the rest of my life I am gonna be so exhausted, ahahaha.

Anyways, hope you’re great! Heads up, if you do write back with any feedback about something I said or did to you, I will either A) never write back, or B) hoo boy, get ready for the lonnnngest email of your life where I bring up a lot of thoughts and feelings I have about this current moment and also pepper in the fact that I’m actually sober now, so…, lol. And then, you know, obviously, some other stuff will be coming your way, after that super-long email. But either way, you won’t know which response to expect! It’s hard to say which one you’re gonna get, because again, I really cannot stress how little thought I have put into this whole process before just MAKING CHOICES and PRESSING SEND.

If you ever want to get coffee to…discuss things, by which I mean talk very imprecisely about whether or not I am a good person, I would be willing to do that. I promise it will be mind-numbingly uncomfortable, and that I will show up either a few minutes late or wildly early!

Anyways, hope you’re, you know, idk, not damaged or anything,

Sent From My Work Email

You have an additional six JITTERY, VAGUE, ANXIOUS-YET-TRYING-TO-SOUND-CASUAL unread messages from men you haven’t spoken to in years. Would you like to read them now?

Saturday, December 30, 2017 

Marcus Aurelius Prepares For The New Year

Meditations

Hoo. It’s – hoo boy. Just focus on one thing. Just focus on the thing ahead.

I know it’s kind of hokey, but honestly, after this year, maybe I need hokey, you know? It’s not like anything else has worked. It’s sort of like – I, Emperor of Rome, son of Marcus Annius Verus, heir to Hadrian, know, on some level, that just “drinking more water” isn’t magically going to fix everything, that eventually when it comes to drinking water you experience diminishing returns, and that it’s not going to suddenly clear up my skin and make me the sort of person who gets cheerfully out of bed at gallicinium, ready to face the sunrise. But it’s also like, okay, there’s not a lot that’s within my control right now, and that’s good for me, and that’s free, and that I can do throughout the day as a reminder to look after myself, you know? So fuck it, yes, I’m going to try to drink more water this year, and I’m not going to be embarrassed about it.

Starting this year, I’m not going to be surprised when people disappoint me anymore. Ahh that sounds so, I guess, Tumblr-y, but I don’t mean that in a passive-aggressive way, I swear. I’m just going to wake up – WHENEVER I wake up, and I’m not going to beat myself up if I oversleep once in a while, that’s just a sign that my body probably needs the rest, right? – and say to myself, okay, some people today are probably going to be really challenging, because they haven’t found a way yet to stand in the light, and it’s not that they’re trying to make my life more difficult, they just don’t Get It Yet.

Not that I’m trying to say that I get it! Ahhhahahha good thing no one’s ever going to see this, idk idk idk, I just mean I’m going to try to respond with patience, and to remember that no one can ever make me feel small without my permission. Like, if we’re all part of the same divine material, it’s not even possible for someone else to hurt me, which is why it doesn’t even make sense for me to still carry around dark energy w/r/t Antoninus. I want to release that energy! I really do! And if I want to do it, then I do it! Antoninus, I release that energy towards you, I mean, I imagine it was probably really hard for him to see me become quaestor before I was even twenty-four!

Not that I want to spend time trying to read other people’s minds in the new year, ahhh. I’m just: I release it. It’s honestly not my business if Antoninus or Gracchus or whomever is jealous of me, if they even are jealous of me. I want to spend more time this year releasing things, whether that’s just clutter around the house or relationships that don’t honor my higher self or books I’m never going to get around to reading, because I really want to get in touch with my own mortality, not that I want to spend a lot of time obsessing over death, because I can’t change it, but I want to live in a constant state of radical acceptance so that when I do die it’s not like Oh my God, ahh, death!!! like, DEATH!!! but more like, Yes, okay, this. Does that make sense??

Because if I’m really just honest with myself right now, I can accept that I’m never going to read all of these books. I keep buying them, and saying I’m going to read them, and then I don’t. Then when people are like, “Oh, Marcus, what are you reading right now?” which is a perfectly innocent question, I feel like they’re trying to GET me, and I’ll just name whatever books I recently bought (which, is that compulsive??) and hope they don’t ask any follow-up questions because then I have to guess what I think the book is probably about (not that a book can really be ABOUT anything lol) and that kind of feels like lying.

Relatedly!! I don’t want to keep PUTTING EVERYTHING OFF. Like, I sometimes feel like I just say yes to everything because I don’t want to disappoint anybody, and then I can’t do everything, because I’m human and it’s okay to be human Marcus, and then I do end up disappointing people, and maybe it’s better to just say No more often, and to accept that I’m not always going to be able to get back to everyone about everything, and that sometimes I actually NEED to do NOTHING because I’m a person, not a job. I’m going to treat time like a resource this year, instead of a problem to be solved.

And to that end, I want to be really mindful about how much coffee I drink this year! More water, less coffee! Coffee just makes me jittery and anxious, not wakeful, and Theophrastus always says that it’s worse to fuck up when you’re jittery than when you’re just consciously like, Yes, I want to do this thing that may not be right for me right now except for maybe that’s what makes this thing right for me right now, and I really want to be more like Theophrastus in a lot of ways, while also still being myself.

I want to spend less time worrying this year about what people think about me, and to let go of the delusion that people even are thinking about me, because maybe they aren’t! I mean yes, okay, I still have my job, I know that people have to think about the Emperor of Rome sometimes for work, but that doesn’t define me, and honestly someday there’s going to be an Emperor of Rome who isn’t me, like Pontius Laelianus’ son or Commodus or Titus or whomever. God, that’s weird to think about. But this is the year I stop allowing other people to take the present moment from me, which is my only possession, which is why I think I’m finally ready to get rid of all my furniture, like the Cynic Monimus.

So not that these are formal resolutions or anything, because I don’t want to set myself up to “fail” at something before the year has even started, because this is the year where I stop setting impossible goals for myself that go against my own nature, this is the year I really try to meet myself where I’m already at and maybe just bring myself a cup of water and a sense of acceptance. I’m just recording my thoughts without judgment.

The soul of man does violence to itself FIRST OF ALL WHEN I get angry or irritated at someone else and forget that we are all part of the same nature. So it’s not actually possible for someone to “cut me off” or “interrupt me,” so there’s no point in getting angry over it. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to get angry! It means I’m releasing the delusion that anger is a possibility in those moments.

SECOND OF ALL , when I turn away from any other fellow-creature, or moves toward anyone with the intention of anger. So like, why would I even eat dairy anymore? It’s not a rule I have to follow, I’m not like, officially “not eating dairy anymore” if anyone asks, I’m just going to ask myself in the moment, am I moving toward a fellow-creature in acceptance or in an attempt to dominate? and make my decision from there. Which means I probably just won’t even eat dairy anymore, but it’s not like it’s going to be a big deal.

THIRD OF ALL when I get overwhelmed by either pleasure or pain. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel things!

FOURTH OF ALL when it acts or speaks insincerely/untruly. So if I haven’t read a book and someone asks about it, I’m just going to speak the truth: “I haven’t read it.” I’m not even going to say “I haven’t read it yet,” because I don’t know if I ever will, and this is the year I stop trying to claim intention as certainty. Ahh! This is like…exciting? I know it’s a lot, obviously, but I really think I’m ready to start stepping into these habits this year.

FIFTH OF ALL when it allows any act of its own and any movement to be without an aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without considering what it is, it being right that even the smallest things be done with reference to an end; and the end of rational animals is to follow the reason and the law of the most ancient city and polity. So like: I have handled the Costoboci and the Christians and Avidius Cassius of Syria, and I don’t have to keep worrying about them once I’ve achieved my goals. I’m leaving them all in the last year.

Some final thoughts: Of human life the time is a point, and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgement. So it’s not either a good or a bad thing that I personally am extremely famous, and I need to just exist in a neutral space w/r/t my being a famous person. And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and vapour, and life is a warfare and a stranger's sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion.

So like: what’s left, if I choose to release (sorry, if I choose to acknowledge that I have already released) those things? Philosophy! And it’s that energy, that mind-spirit, that gods-consciousness that can keep me from from violence, separated from both pain and pleasure, hold me to my purpose, not worrying about what C. Avidius Cassius is doing or what Martius Verus is doing but what Marcus Aurelius is doing, accepting everything that happens as coming from the same source that I myself come from, whatever that is, and waiting for death with a cheerful mind and not compulsively buying more books to distract myself. Because even if I quit my job tomorrow and just started reading full time, there’s no way I would ever finish! I have bought my last book. I accept that. So death is just a dissolution of the elements that every living being is made of, and elements are always changing, so why should I be afraid to change again? Because that’s just life, and nature, and nothing is evil which is in harmony with life, so it straight up does not matter whether or not Matidia’s will includes me or not, or how heavy the denarius is or isn’t, or whatever. Even if I never read another book, I’m still a person.

This in Carnuntum. Anyways, I’m probably going to delete this, lol.

Friday, December 29, 2017 

A Series Of Increasingly Obscure Forgotten Brontë Siblings

I’ve been trying to spend more time lately figuring out why it is that I think Branwell Brontë is an inherently funny person. (I was in the woods in the mountains above Bakersfield over Christmas, in a cabin with no cell phone reception, which may have had something to do with it.)

(OH, also, my friend who is super into David Lynch movies finally showed me Blue Velvet, which I have steadfastly avoided until this year, when I completely gave up on avoiding things that I’d sort of developed my personality around not having seen, and I hated it every bit as much as I knew I always would, because of course I hated it, but in a way that I knew would be ultimately productive, if that makes any sense, because I knew I was going to have to reflexively hate it before I could get anywhere with it. Does that make sense? I have to leave “hating anything that can be described as ‘dreamlike’” back in 2017, I don’t have the storage space to drag that particular quality into 2018.)

Anyhow, back to Branwell. There’s the fact that both his first and last name start with B, which is one of the funnier sounds in the English alphabet. There’s the fact that in the one portrait of the Brontë siblings he’s been hastily and super badly painted out, so it looks like something you’d describe to guests as, “And here are my children, Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and INTERDIMENSIONAL GOLD-BEAM Brontë.” (And he painted himself out! What an unsettling sort of self-own!)

There’s a whole subplot of Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, which is not a perfect book but which does contain the line “I ha’ scranleted two hundred furrows come five o’clock down i’ the bute,” where this dude Mr. Mybug is trying to prove that Branwell secretly wrote Wuthering Heights and was in love with his aunt he wrote to once asking for money.

There’s something, too, in the way people forever seem to want to put forward a slightly lesser-known Brontë as if they are rediscovering a hidden treasure, like, “Have you heard of ANNE BRONTË? Only slightly less INCANDESCENTLY FAMOUS than the one who wrote JANE EYRE, she was the author of such forgotten classics as SLAGMIRE MANOR and THE DOWDY-EYED TUTORESS, both of which were shoved hastily under a rock in Lancashire in 1839 and only rediscovered this morning, by me.”

“Say, ever heard of BRANWELL BRONTË, the dude someone mentions literally any time the Brontë siblings come up in conversation? He ate half of Elizabeth Gaskell’s face in 1843 and painted the faces on all of Charlotte’s toy soldiers when they were nine, so his contribution to English letters cannot possibly be understated.”

Like: The Brontës are very, very famous! There are no obscure Brontës at this point, even if we haven’t all gotten around to finishing Agnes Grey. And yet the hope never dies among us, does it, that one day we are going to be able to hoist a totally unheard-of Brontë before a grateful public and shock everyone. And because so much of the whole Brontë thing is that all the sisters were incredibly bummed-out and creepy, there’s this weird sort of arms-race to produce the saddest, most forgotten, most terrifying Brontë of them all.

Here comes ROAN BRONTË, who burned down Haworth parsonage in 1821 and was immediately mailed to Brussels as punishment for her crime!

SACKWELL BRONTË, who insisted on spelling the family name BRUNTY and vandalized Emily’s mailbox for thirteen consecutive years!

FLAWBREAKER UNWORTHINESS BRONTË, best known as the author of Lord Sleetheart, a deeply interior novel about a young woman who uncovers an insufficiency of pillows at a local boarding school, and also meets a married man who cannot unclench his hands.

SKIMSHINT CRANNABELL BRONTË, who ate the first manuscript of Shirley, and afterwards retreated to a sea-cave, where she declared war against all other Brontës, Bruntys, Bronntachs, Bronns, Pruntys, Pronntaighs, and Brondes! She fights on to this day!

O horrors! It’s NIGHT-NELL JACKSONHEART BRONTË, the youngest of the Brontë cousins, who lost all vision in her right eye after Anne threw a Bible at her in a fit of pique after losing badly at a game of nine-men Morris!

HEARTHOLOMEW BRONTË, who died of embarrasment at 29! William Thackeray begged to marry him on his second trip to London in 1834, and never recovered from his death!

MICKELWORTH “THE ENCYRUSED” BRONTË, who was taken into The Gloom as part of Gloomself in 1841!

EPAPHRODITUS “TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE” BRONTË, who hung the laundry among the headstones in the local cemetery and deliberately infected the local gentry with typhus after being forced to work as a governess!

HONORA GRASPHEATH BRONTË, who, upon being asked what she wanted for Christmas at the age of four, replied, “Respect and betterment, and a cellar full not of lies but jam!” She took acid in 1830 and became Shirley Jackson!

SINIFRED “THE FINGERLESS” BRONTË, who was arrested for shoplifting on no fewer than nine occasions, and was sent to Northumberland to taxonomize ghosts!

VIRGINIA REEL BRONTË, who kicked Arthur Bell Nicholls under the dinner table every night for a period of not less than seven years before creating one of the most memorable literary heroes of all time, the frustrated Swiss orphan Scrimothy Crutchandler in Shan’t A Clergyman Haven’t?

YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU are the forgotten Brontë, forgotten even by your own birthright, but I have never forgotten! You round out the last! Take your place among the family, sister! Tighten your dark curls, incline your delicate head, enter in mittens and in silence! Grave, stern, murmeress! The last Brontë, after whom no Brontës shall ever come again! Frustrated, expended, cut short, a constrained Byron in women’s weeds, fighting the triple devils of Papism, your father-curate, and the steel bands wrapped tightly ‘round your own swollen heart! Author of such novels as Privation in Girlheart, Stay-At-Home Percy, and The Enwickening of Thrushmore Grange! Painfully shy, but daringly brave in the face of an enfeebling, lingering death! Never spoke a word outside the family, burned every manuscript you ever wrote, razed over seventeen churches with your telepathic Brontë powers, nineteen feet tall and terrible to behold! Died at publication! Mourned, beloved, feared by all, guarding the entrance to Hell! We are here, we have all come as Orpheus to Rediscover you!

Thursday, December 14, 2017 

Gentlemen! My Ward!

Continuing our series of “Mallory reads a lot of old-timey novels while desperately searching for context clues,” I’ve found myself unable to stop muttering the phrase Gentlemen! My ward! to myself over the last couple of days. You know John Mulaney’s bit about quicksand?

He talks about how it came sort of a surprise to him, as an adult, that quicksand didn’t ever really end up becoming a thing he needed to watch out for, given “if you watch cartoons as a child, quicksand is like, the third biggest thing you have to worry about, behind real sticks of dynamite and giant anvils falling on you from the sky.” That’s how I think about wards, I think; ditto breach of promise suits and college widows. “Things I spent a ton of time thinking about as a child, without ever really understanding what they were, and have never even once encountered as an adult.”

Like: WARDS. What are they? I know they are young people between the ages of, I don’t know, roughly fourteen to twenty-one (IS THAT THE AGE OF MAJORITY? PEOPLE IN BOOKS WERE ALWAYS “COMING OF AGE” BUT NO ONE EVER BOTHERED TO EXPLAIN WHAT “THE AGE” WAS, I THINK MAYBE FOR BOYOS IT WAS 21 AND FOR GALS IT WAS LATER, OR LIKE SOMETIMES YOU COULD COME OF AGE W/R/T MARRIAGE BUT NOT BE OF AGE W/R/T YOUR INHERITANCE, SO YOUR SEX “OF AGE” AND YOUR MONEY “OF AGE” MIGHT BE DIFFERENT), who maybe have parents but also maybe don’t.

What I Am Pretty Sure Is True About Wards Based Solely On What I Have Read In Books And Without Looking Anything Else Up

  • Literally anyone can be a guardian, you just have to be mentioned in somebody’s dead parents’ will (or honestly maybe just show up and ask? IDK)

  • You’re sort of their dad but only for a little while

  • If someone is your ward you have to tell them what tailors to go to and whenever you go to a club or a dance you have to say “Gentlemen, my ward.” Maybe you can say “Gentlemen, may I present my ward,” but that’s about as much room for interpretation as you’re going to get with that line.

  • You don’t have to live together necessarily but they can periodically show up and take over your whole house

  • You are allowed to do stuff like “talk in a hallway” with your ward without everyone being like “Oh, you have been compromised, m’gal, on account of the hallway talking, better get married straightaway,” which leads us to

  • You are mostly not supposed to marry your ward but it seems like that is the ONLY THING THAT EVER HAPPENS WITH WARDS?

  • Like the timeline goes ward—>ward—>ward—>I CAN NEVER MARRY YOU, YOU’RE MY WARD—>the wardship is over—>now we are married, me and my former ward

Mostly, though, you have to say the sentence “Gentlemen, my ward” a lot, and I think that’s wonderful. You can say it with an air of emergency, as if you’re interrupting a business deal:

“Gentlemen! My ward!”

You can say it in a tone of stern reproof, as if to remind these gentlemen that they are in the presence of your damn ward and had better watch themselves.

“Gentlemen, my ward.”

You can say it with pure smugness. I have a ward and you don’t have shit! Fuck off, other gentlemen, you wardless jerks!! My ward can kick your ass at whist!

“Gentlemen…my ward.”

You can say this while striding jackbootedly into some northern mansion to uncover the dastardly gentlemen who stole your ward. The game is up, gentlemen!! I’m here for my ward! I’m gonna give you the chance to turn my ward over without a fight, but hoo boy, if you don’t do it, I’m gonna fight you real bad with swords!

“Gentlemen. My ward.”

It’s a heck of a template of a sentence, is what I’m trying to say. I don’t know, you know? I don’t know what anything is. Last night I was finishing The Masqueraders and I had to put the book down and whisper, “Like honestly, the fuck is a heath” to my empty room. I have read, conservatively, 400 books prominently featuring heaths and I don’t know what one is even a little bit. And that doesn’t mean I want anyone to tell me what a heath is, either. I don’t have room to learn anything else, I finished a while back and now if you want to jam a new fact in my head you have to push something else out, so the name of the current game is just Maintaining Equilibrium.

On the plus side, reading a lot of old-timey novels has reminded me how much I enjoy coming up with fake etymologies for archaic-sounding curses. I’ve always felt mildly resentful of those, like, Explain-y Shakespeare books you get in high school with a glossary at the front that tries to convince you every single swear word English people used to say was a different reference to one of God’s body parts. “Oh yes,” I can only imagine the editor of such nonsense compendiums trying to say without giggling, “grown men and women definitely said things like ‘God’s teeth,’ when they were angry, that was for sure a thing people said.”

Don’t try to tell me what these words mean, I know exactly what they mean, intuitively, just like I know what a heath is on some deep internal level, despite being unable to describe it.

Zounds God’s zounds

Strewth The truth with an S in front of it

Ods bodkins What an odd bodkin

Gadzooks God’s zooks

This is true, and you know it. Here I leave you – gentlemen, my ward.

Thursday, December 7, 2017 

I don't understand the Wars of the Roses

For example, I 100% had to look up, “Wait, is it the War of the Roses or the Wars of the Roses?” (It’s Wars, apparently.) At any rate, I was recently at my beloved Nicole’s house, where, as is our custom, we spent a lot of time companionably scrolling through our respective phones while some period drama played on endless loop in the background, and this time, that period drama was The White Princess. Both Nicole and I have, between the two of us, probably actively consumed a cumulative 40 hours of Wars-of-the-Roses-themed television adaptations, and if you factor in the passive informational osmosis one averages just from walking past a Philippa Gregory novel, we probably both clock in somewhere around 100+ man-hours of Plantagenetian content.

And yet I don’t know that either of us could write a sensible flowchart outlining the main players and high points of the thing if our lives depended on it. The number of times I’ve cracked open a book or started an eight-episode television event that starts with a bunch of drawings of the Lancaster and York family trees is – I don’t know, a lot – but somehow I’ve managed to retain exactly zero of that information. It’s a fucked-up word problem, the Wars of the Roses, because everyone decided to rename cadet branches of the same family into different family names, so it’s like, if Plantagenets represent Y quantity, and Lancaster and York are both constants, demonstrate how we end up with Tudors? Solve for Elizabeth Woodville.

You could make me read Richard III once a day, every day, for the next thirty years, and at the end you could say something like, “Hey Mallory, please name a single character from Richard III who is not Richard III, and tell me how they are related to Richard III,” and I would fail. I just can’t retain the information. It passes by me as th’idle wind, which I respect not! (OH, BUT SOMEHOW I CAN REMEMBER THAT SCENE WHERE BRUTUS AND CASSIUS BITCH EACH OTHER OUT IN JULIUS CAESAR, LIKE THAT’S GOING TO BE USEFUL INFORMATION TO ME SOMEDAY.)

This is, to the best of my recollection, English history:

ROME —> MERCIA —> VIKINGS —> AETHELRED IS SOMEWHERE IN HERE? ALSO BEDE, WHICH I USED TO THINK WAS THE NAME OF HIS JOB BUT IT TURNS OUT WAS JUST HIS NAME, LIKE YOU COULD BE A BEDE AND IF YOU ESPECIALLY GOOD AT IT YOU COULD BECOME A VENERABLE BEDE —> UHHHH —> MATHILDA? —> “THE LANCASTERS” —> WAS THE WAR OF THE ROSES CONCURRENT WITH THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR OR WAS IT AFTERWARDS —> SOME TUDORS WHO WERE NOT HENRY THE EIGHTH —> HENRY THE EIGHTH —> STUARTS —> THEN I DON’T KNOW IF IT WAS JACOBITES FIRST OR CROMWELL —> GERMANY DEFINITELY DID SOMETHING AT SOME POINT —> THE VICTORIANS.

I still have no idea what the hell a Regency is, it’s all just a bunch of words I can’t anchor to anything. Someone something Hanover, someone something electorate, the Glorious Revolution and the Restoration either definitely are or definitely aren’t the same thing. And a Jacobite is a whole different thing from a Jacobin, and only one of them is a magazine now, I’m pretty sure.

Anyhow, one of the great things about watching a period drama, even if you are a dumb person like me, is feeling vastly superior to everyone on screen for knowing shit like “Arthur Tudor never became king of England, I am a genius and master of foreshadowing.” (“Fine, name one of the Princes in the Tower, then.” “They were…obviously, um, Tower wasn’t either one of their names, of course…”)

In about three days, I will have forgotten completely every new detail about the early Tudors/late Yorkists I’ve absorbed from The White Princess, but if I know one thing, it’s this: Regardless of what period in English royal history you are adapting (and let’s be honest, it’s probably between the House of Anjou up until whomever the last George was, and even there it’s probably not a Stuart, nobody is out here going, “We really need a visual representation of the sexy and alienating life and times of Harold Godwinson,” LEAST OF ALL ME, because I had to look up which guy came after Edward the Confessor but before Edgar the Ætheling in order to make this very joke), you need to keep to a bare minimum the number of scenes you set in Burgundy focused on some disgruntled cousins who never make their way across the Channel to get in on the main action.

I’LL SAY IT AGAIN: MINIMIZE YOUR BURGUNDIAN INTERLUDES, MAKERS OF PERIOD DRAMAS. We all know the one time sailing over from France to invade England worked, and it was in 1066, and we do not care about whatever ambassador from the Low Countries almost-married Duchess Margaret or whomever, we want to get back to tumultuous London and try to remember which Henry we’re on. I do not want to spend fifteen minutes an episode watching a bunch of people whose names I know I do not have to remember reclining on long, low sofas in front of oranges and palm trees to remind me of how different the French climate is from cold and hostile England.

Also, please make a television adaptation of The Visions of Tondal right away, just look at these title descriptions:

  • Tondal Suffers a Seizure at Dinner

  • Tondal Appears Dead

  • The Valley of Murderers

  • The Mountain of Unbelievers and Heretics

  • The Valley of the Perversely Proud and Presumptuous

  • The Beast Acheron, Devourer of the Avaricious

  • The Nail-Studded Bridge for Thieves and Robbers

  • The House of Phristinus; Punishment for Gluttons and Fornicators

  • The Beast that Eats Unchaste Priests and Nuns

  • The Forge of Vulcan; Punishment for Those who Commit Evil upon Evil

  • Demons Dragging Tondal into the Infernal Cistern

  • The Gates of Hell and Lucifer

  • The Wall of Heaven Where the Bad but Not Very Bad Are in Temporary Discomfort

  • The Good but Not Very Good Are Nourished by a Fountain

  • Two Kings of Ireland, Former Enemies, Who Made Peace before Death

  • The Happy Crowds of the Faithfully Married

  • The Martyrs and the Pure Sing Praises to God

  • The Glory of Good Monks and Nuns

  • The Wall of Metals and Jewels surrounding Angels and Saints

If you need me, I’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon contemplating “The Wall of Heaven Where the Bad but Not Very Bad Are in Temporary Discomfort,” and trying to see if I can remember whether Queen Anne was a Stuart or something else.

Lieutenant, you would do me an enormous favor if you stopped calling me sir.