Need advice? Ask Clio, Muse of History. Send questions for Clio care of Rebecca Harrington at Cliomuseofhistory@hotmail.com.
How do I make men twice my age respect my authority in the workplace?
In 1959, Elizabeth Taylor was making 125,000 per movie (not a bad living, really) when the producers of the disgusting epic film Cleopatra asked her to star as the titular character. Liz didn’t really want to play a role the film’s own director had called a “strange, frustrating mixture of an American soap-opera virgin and an hysterical Slavic vamp,” so she set her price high: one million dollars. The producers were angry and initially refused, but after some negotiations (which involved weeping), she got her salary, as well as a $3,000 a week living allowance, $50,000 for every week over production, 10 percent of the profits, director approval, and the guarantee that the film would be shot in a cinema process her late third husband invented, which guaranteed her even more money.
And Liz did not stop being extra work for the producers there. Early on in the filming, Liz got the Asian flu and was “pronounced dead four times.” This led the production team to move the shoot from England to Italy so that Liz would “show up more.” In Italy, her life got even better: The producers rented her a massive villa and flew her chili from a restaurant in Los Angeles. They weren’t allowed to film her while she was having her period.
And how did she do it? By, as Vanity Fair put it, “inspiring abject terror in powerful men” through screaming. So what if she was later charged with “erotic vagrancy” by the Vatican for her torrid affair with Richard Burton on set? She ended up making $53 million in today’s dollars.
The moral of the story: Apparently, to ask for outrageous things, scream, and never, ever work on your period — because if men had periods, there would be mandatory monthly vacations. Lean in?
Dear Clio, I think a man sent me a “sext” the other day. It was not a photo, just words. I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t respond, and now I think he might think I hate him. What do I do?
Confused about Sexts
I’m so sorry. The unexpected sext is so difficult and embarrassing for everyone. Yet sexts, as humiliating as they are, must be kept in perspective. Some of civilization’s most august love letters (the sexts of history) were just as embarrassing as any digital communiqué. To wit, this corker from Franz Litz, “Eternity in your arms … Heaven, hell, all is within you and even more than all … Oh! Leave me free to rave in my delirium.” What a nightmare to receive. I would be far more embarrassed to get that than a regular old picture. Check out this passive-aggressive ditty from Franz Kafka: “Did I think of signing myself Dein? No, nothing could be more false. No, I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with.” Kafka wrote this to his fiancée Felice, whom he once said had “unattractive hair.” They never married.
All you can do is write back and say something like “I was sleeping!” Or, “wish I hadn’t slept through THAT.” It will make him feel appreciated and will also supply you with a winning alibi. “I was sleeping!” — that is what I would have written back to Franz Kafka had I been Felice.