In the process of pursuing the online dating thing, I keep finding myself confronted by the questions of why I’m interested in history and why I’m interested in English history in particular.
It’s hard to answer that. It’s even harder to answer it without going off onto massive, rambling tangents.
I suspect that most of us don’t have clear explanations of why we’re interested in what we’re interested in. Some lucky people may have good stories of a moment in which they discovered the interest, but is that the same thing as an explanation of WHY it interests you? Probably not.
When asked, I start by saying I’m not really sure why I’m interested in English history more than, say, Argentinian or Nigerian or Vietnamese history. It’s just what draws me.
Then I tell about my first trip to England, when I was ten. That was the first time I remember encountering museum audio guides, which proved invaluable in navigating (and maintaining a ten-year-old’s interest in) London’s National Portrait Gallery. I loved learning the tidbits of information and context surrounding each piece of artwork.
This trip isn’t when I discovered an interest in history. I really couldn’t say when that started. But I think it may be the moment when I started turning to English history more often than any other nation’s history.
It’s been nearly twenty years, but I still remember that first trip to Hampton Court Palace. I initially wanted to go there because they have a hedge maze. The maze proved anticlimactic, but I found the strange hodgepodge of three architectural and landscaping styles fascinating.
I can’t explain WHY English history draws me, just as I can’t explain why I’m interested in the time periods that draw me. Luckily I can distract people from their original question with my Hampton Court Palace anecdote. It’s a more appropriate response in a social situation than a twenty-minute philosophical ramble through the nature of intellectual interest, anyway.
As for a general interest in history… I find something reassuring about the past. I can joke that I find it comforting because I know how it turns out, which is partly true (quiet, you philosopher types). I think it’s also that having a familiarity with the past makes me feel like I’m more firmly rooted.
And now, on an unrelated but sad note, French actor Louis Jourdan has died at age 93. His role in GIGI as the wealthy, bored Gaston is still one of my favorites. He’s obviously not going to win any singing competitions, but I like his voice. It sounds like a normal person putting their thoughts into music. And boy, is he nice to look at. Classic mid-century Hollywood male beauty.