New Rule of Thumb: History Only Happens in Our Lifetime

It’s a new rule of thumb, apparently, that history doesn’t matter. Fall of Rome? Who cares? WWII? What’s it matter? The Great Depression? Just a blip. It’s NOW that we care about, man. All that history stuff? Pffft. If it isn’t happening now, it doesn’t matter.

This notion that history is for the stuffed shirts of academe and that it doesn’t mean anything to modern, common folks always screams out when these woeful “Top Ten” lists start showing up in the media.

Today we have another example of this historically illiterate sort of list at Time Magazine’s website. There you’ll see history’s “Top 10 Mistresses,” but if you have even a cursory knowledge of history, you’ll also see that there is no sense of history in this list of “history’s famous mistresses.”

This “top ten” list is practically ripped from the headlines from National Enquirer issues from the last 10 years for the most part. Though one old tymie mistress as thrown in for good measure, almost all of the supposedly “top” mistresses are historically insignificant, modern American mistresses that in no way represent some of “history’s famous mistresses.”

Here is Time’s list:

  • Jamiee Grubbs: Tiger Woods club warmer
  • Maria Belen Chapur: Gov. Mark Sanford’s South American Hottie
  • Reille Hunter: John Edwards’ secret babymama
  • Marilyn Monrore: well-known Kennedy shtup
  • Ashley Dupre: Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s “escort”
  • Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s next wife
  • Lucy Mercer: FDR’s secret squeeze
  • Monica Lweinski: Bubba’s famous walking humidor
  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall: Not quite as pretty as Princess Di
  • Amy Fisher: commonly referred to as the Long Island Lolita

How can Reille Hunter be on a list of “history’s famous mistresses” when Edwards is such a minor figure that he’ll be completely forgotten in, well, weeks most likely? And Tiger Woods’ chickie? Who will remember her next month? Additionally, at least two of the names on the list weren’t know as mistresses in their time so it’s hard to say they qualify. Marilyn Monroe was only turned into a Kennedy paramour in the public’s eyes after her death and no one even knew who Lucy Mercer was until recently — the media certainly never said a harsh word about their sainted FDR in his lifetime! In any case, neither Monroe nor Mercer are famous as mistresses, at least not famous enough to be on a top ten list.

Certainly the list is more notable for who is missing and that would include just about anyone that came previous to the 1960s (the tragic Anne Boleyn and FDR’s Mercer aside). It seems like the folks that put this list together are unaware that there are more famous mistresses of days past. It’s as if the list makers only know what has happened in their own lifetimes.

Where are famous mistresses like Hitler’s Eva Braun? How about President Warren G. Harding’s mistress Nan Britton? How about Thomas Jefferson’s Sally Hemmings (if you believe he actually tapped dat thang)? I seem to recall that Cleopatra had a few flings here and there. If you want Royal scandals there’s Alice Keppel, mistress of King Edward the VII of the United Kingdom. How about Madame de Pompadour mistress of France’s King Louis XV? For that matter, there are dozens of famous mistresses in literary and Hollywood circles to choose from, as well. There, of course, are dozens more I have not mentioned. Where are any of them on this list?

Indeed, there are even more famous mistresses from the last 30 years that the list ignores. Women like Gary Hart’s Donna Rice and Clinton’s Gennifer Flowers are inexplicably absent for instance.

Of course, this sort of historical illiteracy is so typical in these lists. Lists of “top” books, for instance, seem to always include hacks like Stephen King because he’s read today, the “best” music inexplicably excludes just about everything that isn’t rock-n-roll, and top movies and TV show lists, with but a few exceptions, never seem to include much of anything older than 20 years. Yet they all seem to be sold as “top of all time” lists.

All I can say is that instead of compiling those ill-informed lists, these media types pick up a book or two and find out what happened before they were born.

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