Have you ever wondered if you would have fit in better had you been born in another era or culture? I’ve romanticized many a time and place in history that I think would suit me, however the truth is that in those eras I’d be dead by now.
I love Vikings, with their strong warrior women, would rock the eyeliner of ancient Egyptians, tunics of Greece and Rome, or a corseted dress in any royal court, and think that the life of pioneers was honest hard work. Sadly though, none of those scenarios bode well for my health.
Let’s remove the idea that living as royalty in most ages and kingdoms, because it’s more likely statistically that I would be a common peasant. But even if I were royalty, I don’t think that I would have wanted to deal with chamber pots due to the lack of indoor plumbing in most castles. It took over a century for indoor plumbing to develop, and by 1940, more than one third of houses still didn’t have a flush toilet.
But outhouses don’t scare me.
Back to cultures living off the land and sea, such as Vikings and pioneers, I wouldn’t fear physical labour, in fact I’d welcome it. Hard work feels purposeful and working outside is ideal. Being off the grid, because there was no grid, has an appeal to it. I like that your success is based on your hard work (and a little luck from mother nature). Truly, there is no better sleep than after being outside working hard all day, even if the morning pee had to be in an outhouse.
Living farm and fish to table, preserving, salting, and storing seems like something I’d enjoy. I’d like churning my own butter, even knitting my own socks. Why do I say I wouldn’t survive as a Viking or pioneer if I’d be OK with the hard work and primitive conditions? The life expectancy of most pioneers is reported between 30 to 40 years, and Vikings between 40 to 50 years old. Based on those life expectancies alone, I’d be dead by now, but those are averages, so why couldn’t I still be alive?
I grew up getting a number of ear and throat infections, at least once a year my mother would rush me to the emergency room, me clutching my teddy bear, wailing at the pain of the infection. I’m not even sure what the garden variety ear infection is, but for my throat it was always strep. Without the proper antibiotics, the infection could have evolved and killed me.
Penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928, across the pond, by Scottish physician Alexander Fleming. That said, Canada’s research on penicillin didn’t start until 1941 at the University of Toronto.
All this to say that had I been born before the mid 20th century, I would have been one of those sad child gravestones with not enough years separating either side of the dash.
Next, the first caesarean section where the mother survived was reported in Winnipeg in 1895, and the first cesarean wasn’t performed in Ontario until 1923. There was no mention on whether the baby and or the mother survived. Since my first delivery was an emergency c-section, I’m dead any time before the procedure was perfected and widely available.
Since I would have needed antibiotics to get out of childhood, I’m not left with a lot of choice of alternate eras. If I had to throw a dart at a time map, I would probably choose to be off to university wearing bell bottoms and flowers in my hair, protesting wars and supporting equality, open to sexual and pharmaceutical experimentation, hitchhiking and travelling the county. Seems like being alive then would have been a real trip.