9,5 random reasons to feel sorry for people in the Middle Ages

9,5 random reasons to feel sorry for people in the Middle Ages

I consider myself a very lucky girl in general: after all, I have toothpaste and a great pair of glasses.

I escaped being a medieval woman so no reason to complain here. Don’t ask me why, but I spend a lot of time thinking about people in the Middle Ages. When I’m a bit down I consider all those unlucky souls having been born between 500 and 1500 ac and I feel immediately better about my own situation. All the dermatological atrocities, wars and plagues aside, this is why:

  • Medieval people had to wear the most horrific haircuts ever. Serfs, peasants and soldiers were forced into a buzzcut and actually were better off. Clergymen sported nightmarish crowns of hair circling their bald heads, pages had to go for those godforsaken pagecuts, and long locks -considered a sign of luxury- was in fashion with rich knights and the elite. That last one sounds good? Forget the glorious image of Jon Snowy locks flowing around his face, whenever a knight in shiny armor took off his helmet, the Middle Ages’ terrible penchant for messed-up bangs was revealed to broad daylight and it dìd hurt the eye.
  • Reading a book meant peering at a scroll as long as your arm, cramped with doctor’s handwriting, that probably smelled of the old monk that almost died while copying it for you.
  • And if, by any chance you were one of the 99% of MiddleAgers with bad eyesight, you’d have to resolve to this device to read the old smelly monk’s writings:
  • Even the royals had a though life, having to wear heavy spiky iron circles that passed for crowns. No wonder they occasionally wore a soft beanie underneath, one look at it and I develop a headache. I haven’t intensively researched it, but I’m pretty sure Queen Elisabeths II’s tiaras are embedded with soft little cushions to prevent her royal hairdo from bruising.
  • They had great dogs though –I have got to hand it to them.
  • They had no fridges. There were a lot of icy winters though, which looked like a lot of fun. Sometimes.
  • The worst part of all: tooth paste had yet to be invented. Any historical account on dental hygiene starts with the Egyptians, Romans and Greek, each coming up with their own clever way for minty fresh breath, and then just goes dark for some centuries, only to pick up where the ancient civilizations left off somewhere in the Renaissance and later on in the 19th century, when toothbrushes became a massive hit. Fun fact: the tooth brush was in fact invented during the Middle Ages, in 1498,  by the Chinese emperor Hongzhi. Western travellers marveled at the little hairy piece of wood and brought it over to the West, were it wasn’t deemed interesting enough for ages. Sigh…
  • This one is probably the most frustrating of them all: medieval folk managed to invent pasta (yay!) and came very close to having lasagna, even developing the precursor of bechamel sauce. But because the tomato wouldn’t be introduced for centuries, the very concept of bolognese stayed out for a long time, erasing every shot at a good warm lasagna after a day of hard labour in the field/battlefield/copying library. So close, yet so far…
  • On a happier note, they did have almond milk. Yep, you heard me well: millennial hipster’s favorite drink was a commonplace beverage at every medieval table.
  • Even being rich wasn’t a free pass to a life of hygiene and peaceful bliss. According to almost every historical account, nasty things happened behind wall carpets. Not getting into details here, but poor medieval guys and gals…
  • There were no baby bottles. How on earth did mothers make the transition from breastfeeding to regular milk?! Laugh at me, but any new mom will gasp in horror and relate to this. It get’s even worse: the great minds of the Middle Ages came up with gun powder (because yes, there was a very urgent need to blow each other up), but the invention of milk powder didn’t seem to top the list.
  • Fun fact: while our forefathers were merrily blowing each other up, Kublai Khans soldiers in the Far East marched with some sort of sun dried milk in their backpacks, which could easily be considered the next best thing to milk powder –said Marco Polo.

So ìf I had to be born in that era, I wish it were as a beautiful Mongol baby girl with a tooth brush and milk powder.  That’s all.

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