Past Help: Ask Clio, Muse of History

Those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it. Happily, the Cut knows the past. Meet Clio, Muse of History and Cut advice columnist. Send questions for Clio care of Rebecca Harrington at . 

Dear Clio,

I trust my boyfriend and respect his privacy, but his Instagram and Facebook accounts are linked, so every time he “likes” (or is it “hearts”?) a picture on Instagram, a notification shows up on my news feed. I can’t help but notice he is always liking pictures of other girls he knows, and it really bothers me! I never used to be jealous, but now I’m obsessing over these Valencia-tinted vixens. Should I bring it up with him, or will that make me sound like a stalker? What do I do?



Hmmm. There have, of course, been times in history when a man’s esteem for pictures has been truly important and indicative of some larger emotional trend. Let’s examine the case of sixteenth-century queen Catheine de Medici, who according to Wikipedia was “small of stature, and thin, and without delicate features, but having the protruding eyes peculiar to the Medici family.” When poor Catherine was 14 she married Henri IV of France who was also 14. Almost immediately, he became involved with a 35-year-old woman named Diane De Portiers and installed her as his girlfriend for twenty-odd years, to the intense annoyance of poor Catherine. Diane, of course, relished her position as mistress/Mary Kay Letorneau. Perhaps in an effort to symbolize her position as pseudo-royal, she commissioned all these nude portraits and sculptures of herself. The paintings hung in a castle Henri bought for her, which in some eyes (mine) is almost the equivalent the King “liking” them on Instagram. What the hell! Catherine eventually kept Diane from the King’s bedside after he suffered a fatal jousting accident, but that was basically the only thing she could do.

In today’s highly connected and visual world, the particular sentimental import of pictures has, I think, been diluted. Instagram is not the same as an oil painting or even a statue! Your boyfriend could be trying to inform you that he has a yen for other women. Or he could be a kind-hearted man that loves to like things on Instagram.

Perform this simple mental test before you say anything:

1. Does this man make you insecure often? Does he check out other women, etc.?

2. Is he only liking a particular woman’s photos? (Is she 35? Is he 14?)

3. Are the photos of an ex-girlfriend?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s probably worth a conversation to let him know that pictures are symbols and that you are no Catherine De Medici, thank you kindly. If, however, he loves you and you feel confident, then he is just one of those dudes that loves to inform the world that he affirms the world. I would probably let sleeping dogs lie and wait for him to die in a jousting accident.

Dear Clio,

Are emoticons and exclamation points beneath the modern woman in a professional context?

Sincerely, Diedre

Absolutely not! In this post-ironic world, exclamation points are the only way to express the depths of malaise in which we live! Not to mention, some of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century adored exclamation points! For example, Queen Victoria employed them excessively in her diary. On going to Buckingham Palace for the first time, she wrote: “Though I rejoice to go into B. P. for many reasons, it is not without feelings of regret that I shall bid adieu for ever to this my birthplace, where I have been born and bred, and to which I am really attached!” Jane Austen used them frequently in her correspondence. In a letter to her sister, she hated on a man named Charles: “What a good-for-nothing fellow Charles is to bespeak the stockings! I hope he will be too hot all the rest of his life for it!”

Honestly, if it is good enough for those two, it is probably good enough for you!

Past Help: Ask Clio, Muse of History