For the modern man, venturing through life as if you were living in the 1880s and ‘90s would be no easy feat. If you were Jesse James, you would always be worried about getting killed by Robert Ford; if you were a writer, you would no doubt be jealous of Mark Twain; plus the clothing was very heavy. This has not stopped writer Sarah A. Chrisman and her husband from trying, however.
Chrisman expounded their old-timey life today in a period-essay for Vox, a sacred relic originally found in XOJane circa 2013. In it, she explains how she and her husband, Gabriel, live a fully authentic Victorian life in the year 2015. No cell phones, no pens, “hand-knit wool swim trunks” for swimming, a bowl and pitcher for bathing, access to only two blogs apparently. It is really something. Here we’ve attempted to distill her wisdom into six olde bite-sized chunks, for you—the reader who might want to take a walk on the excruciatingly Victorian side, if only for a few years.
1. Get Old Things
You’ve got to get old things. “But I like my new things,” you’re thinking. Well—OK. You’ve come to the wrong place, then, buddy, if you like your new things. “There are no modern lightbulbs in our house,” Chrisman explains. “Every morning I wind the mechanical clock in our parlor,” Chrisman explains. “I write in my diary with an antique fountain pen that I fill with liquid ink using an eyedropper,” Chrisman explains. “...my letter opener was made sometime in the late Victorian era from a taxidermied deer foot,” Chrisman explains. You see what I’m saying, about the old things.
2. Make Some Minor Exceptions for Company
“When Gabriel and I have company,” Chrisman boasts, “we use early electric lightbulbs, based on the first patents of Tesla and Edison. When it’s just the two of us, we use oil lamps.” What will your company talk to you about once you are able to find some company? Well, that is a different topic altogether.
3. Let Your Boyfriend Know You Really Like Him by Sewing Identical Copies of the Old-Timey Clothes He Buys You and Wearing Them Every Single Day
Chrisman explains that she first started wearing Victorian clothes because Gabriel, who knew she “always admired Victorian ideals and aesthetics,” bought them for her as gifts. “I was so intrigued by those clothes,” she explains, “that I hand-sewed copies I could wear every day.”
4. Dumb Bikes in Old Mines
On special outings when Gabriel and I go cycling together, I ride a copy of a high-wheel tricycle from the 1880s. Gabriel has three high-wheel bicycles, and he has ridden them hundreds of miles. On our vacation just last week, we rode our high-wheel cycles more than 75 miles along a historic railroad route between abandoned silver mines.
5. Talk About Old Magazines Nonstop
- “The books and magazines the Victorians themselves wrote and read constitute the vast bulk of our reading materials...”
- “There is a universe of difference between a book or magazine article about the Victorian era and one actually written in the period.”
- “(Shampooing with Castile soap is a piece of beauty advice I found in a Victorian magazine from about the time our house was built.)”
- “ I kept thinking of an article we had read in an 1883 cycling magazine about wheelmen riding bikes just like Gabriel’s when they took a trip out to a mine.”
6. Prepare for People to Want to Murder You or Be Rude Otherwise
If one thing stands out from Chrisman’s essay, it is that life is not easy for those born with a Victorian mindset. Must they be persecuted so—in 2015? Open your eyes. Until things change, you’re going to have to accept that your neighbors will want to murder you:
We have been called “freaks,” “bizarre,” and an endless slew of far worse insults. We’ve received hate mail telling us to get out of town and repeating the word “kill ... kill ... kill.”
7. Empty the Melt Water From the Drip Tray Beneath Your Ice Box’s Base
Well, you knew this was coming:
When we moved in, there was an electric fridge in the kitchen: We sold that as soon as we could. Now we have a period-appropriate icebox that we stock with block ice. Every evening, and sometimes twice a day during summer, I empty the melt water from the drip tray beneath its base.
So, there you have it.
Lot of dumb stuff out there, as it turns out.