Once upon a time, in a magical land, there lived a beautiful princess.
That was so nice to write. I always wanted to begin a story with that. And I think that poor little Rebecca Rawson (R.I.P, 1692) would have liked her love story to have begun that way, too.
Sadly, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was not a magical land. It was rather small, and rather cold, and rather muddy when it rained, and rather too full of Indians, and rather too inhabited by Puritans, who rather thought that dancing and singing and partying and generally having fun would damn you to eternal hellfire.
And Rebecca Rawson, sadly, not a princess. She was a Puritan woman, which meant that even though she was reported to be “beautiful, polite, and agreeable,” she also had to wear this outfit
and let’s be honest, how hot can you ever be in that? There must have been slim pickin’s in Boston at that time—when the entire American population teeters around 2,000, it’s not really the time to begin hunting for Playboy models. If you found a chick with all of her teeth, no smallpox scars, few lice, and morning breath that didn’t suffer too much from having never encountered a toothbrush or a bottle of Listerine, you pretty much slammed down onto your knees and proposed on the spot.
And that’s what all the Puritan boys were doing for Rebecca. Oh, the way she looked in her little black dress with its giant sleeves and sexy white apron and atrociously gigantic white collar! Oh, her other black dress that looked exactly the same! Oh, her hair that they never actually saw because it was always tucked under her white cap! What if it was black? What if it was blond? Oh God be good, what if it was red? What did her arms look like? What did her legs look like? For that matter, what did her entire body except her hands and face look like? The Puritan boys lay awake many a hot, sweaty, fitful night just thinking about what Rebecca Rawson may look like.
But Becky was a choosy little minx. Her daddy was the secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and she was pretty sure she wouldn’t have to settle for just any old kid. We can imagine that she ran around singing whiny songs about “this provincial life” and lying around in dandelion fields dreaming about “adventure in the great, wide somewhere” and possibly a castle with a saucy, talking candelabra and a stodgy little clock and a rather slutty little feather-duster.
That is, until Thomas Hale stepped off the next boat from Britain.
Everyone wanted a hat just like that, with that little purple feather in the top.
Everyone wanted that debonair little mustache, with the squiggly bits at the end, and the thing on his chin that was trying so desperately to be a goatee but wasn’t totally willing to admit it.
All the Puritan women swooned. All the Puritan men grumbled about “pretty boys.” And Thomas Hale waltzed right up to the Head Honchos of the Massachusetts Bay Company and said:
“Oh, hello old fruits. I’m Thomas Hale, son of Sir Thomas Hale, relation to Chief Justice Hale. I am aristocracy, my dee-ah chaps, and I do find your little colony so quaint! Where are the Indians? Can I touch one? What happens when you poke one with a stick?”
Everyone thought Sir Thomas was the bees knees. The crème de la crème. They laughed at all his jokes and nodded at all his comments and lapped up all the stories he told about all the fancy people he knew, and what the Earl of Sussex liked to eat for breakfast, and exactly how the King’s farts smelled.
Rebecca Rawson was in love. This, she thought, was the man for her. After all, she was practically a Puritan princess–didn’t she deserve a lord? So whenever she saw Sir Thomas, she tried her very best to be sexy. In church, she hiked her skirt up to show him a scandalous amount of her little, stockinged ankle. She purposefully let one tiny strand of hair peep out of her cap. She pinched her cheeks to make them red. In short, she acted like a total harlot. Puritan society was scandalized.
But Sir Thomas thought she was a hottie. He quickly proposed marriage, Rebecca quickly accepted, all the Puritan girls quickly wept and all the Puritan boys quickly damned Sir Thomas to hell, and they were quickly put on a boat back to England.
The sea is one exceptionally vast, big, blue wet thing. So how could Becky know that her tiny, bobbing speck heading toward England was passing another tiny, bobbing speck heading in the opposite direction? The other ship arrived soon after Becky and Tommy’s waving hankies had disappeared over the horizon.
(I know. Puritans aren’t mermaids. Just roll with it)
“Yo Yo Yo!!” the newcomers greeted the colonists. “Wassup?”
“Oh, you know,” said the colonists, “The usual. Smallpox wiped out most of our buddies. Indians continue to enjoy tomahawking our brains and we continue to steal their lands and obliterate their livelihoods. Really effing cold winter. Oh, and Sir Thomas Hale’s son married our own Rebecca Rawson!”
“…………..” said the newcomers.
The colonists smiled cheerfully and rather proudly.
“??” the newcomers’ eyebrows communicated.
The colonists’ smiles faltered.
“Sir Thomas Hale doesn’t have a son,” the newcomers explained.
The colonists were silent. The tiny bobbing speck on the big blue wet thing continued on its journey to England, with a happy Becky and a Tommy-who-was-not-Tommy.
When the boat finally docked in London, Becky couldn’t wait to get off.
“Dahling, dahhhhling,” said Not-Really-Tommy, “You couldn’t possibly navigate these streets right now, you are far too fat.”
It was true. Becky was preggers. Take a moment here to slap your forehead and shake your head in a doomed way.
“I shall take all our luggage and find us a nice little hotel to stay in before we go on to my maahhvelous castle, all right my little muffin-butt?” Rebecca agreed right away. From where she stood on the ship, London looked very much like a sh**-hole. This was not snobbery—it was an observed fact. Toilets hadn’t yet become all that popular. Why have a toilet, when you could throw your poop into the street? The rain would wash it away. Except, of course, when it didn’t. And when horses and dogs pooped there too. And when you couldn’t walk through all the poop, so the poop got shoved against the walls and piled up into giant towers.
Becky was just fine with Thomas dealing with the sh**.
So she hung out on the boat for a while. She drummed her fingers. She counted the cracks in the floor. And on the ceiling. And on all the walls. And then she re-counted them. Eighteen times. Each.
Where was Tommy?
Sir Thomas Hale, it turns out, was actually Thomas Rumsey, and he already had a wife and kids in Canterbury. And now, hooray hooray, he also had all of Rebecca Rawson’s dowry and fancy belongings. Score! He was rich! Best idea ever to go to that nasty old New World! If only he’d been able to poke an Indian with a stick……
No one knows how long Becky stayed on that boat. Fortunately for her, she had family in England, including a sister, and she eventually found them. She also found out who Thomas Hale actually was. Then she popped out his baby.
So now Becky had three options. One, she could go back to Massachusetts with her tail between her legs and become the laughingstock of the whole community. Two, she could stay in England and romantically waste away with a depression and die beautifully of a broken heart. Three, she could shrug and find another dude to marry.
But Becky had some major guts. Suddenly, she was in England—and even though London was a sh**-hole, its sh** was way more interesting things than Boston’s sh**. Plus, it had a heck of a lot fewer Puritans, which meant a heck of a lot more exciting parties. There was just one problem, and it was lying in a crib and squalling a lot and vomiting milk and pooping its pants.
So Becky decided to leave her kid with her childless sister. Perfect deal! Becky was free and Sister was overjoyed. What Baby thought is unknown. Possibly Baby was bugged by the fact that both its parents left before it turned one, but who knows?
Becky decided that marriage was for losers. She set up her own business painting glass miniatures. And, apparently, glass miniatures were all the rage back in London, because Becky’s business was totally bumpin’. She hung out in London for 13 years, and was apparently the toast of the town for being one fine, unattainable, saucy dame.
I’d like to end the story there. I’d like to end it with Becky having spades of lovers who she created a special, secret door for, which led up a secret spiral staircase to her bedroom, where she entertained all of the city’s most eligible bachelors and showed them all just what color her hair was and what lay under that Puritan garb. I’d like to say that Becky broke hearts like eggs in a supermarket. I’d like to say that, one fine day in Canterbury, a piano fell from the sky on top of Thomas Rumsey and killed him instantly.
But I don’t know what happened to Tommy. All I know is that, one fine day in 1692, Becky decided to go back to Massachusetts. Maybe she wanted to tell them all about her glass miniatures and her secret spiral staircase. Maybe she just missed her Daddy.
But Becky never got there. Because while stopped off at Port Royal, Jamaica, there was a massive earthquake—and Becky died.
*pause for total let-down*
So what’s the significance of this story? What can we take away from this, if dear old Becky is dead and Tommy has all her stuff and Baby still doesn’t know its Baby Mamma or its Baby Daddy?
Well, my dear fans, there are several morals to this fascinating story. First off, the historian’s favorite phrase: “History Repeats Itself.” Think Puritans were too civilized and religious to have con-men? Think again! Major jerks have always existed.
Secondly, we must intone the wise words of the Buddhist monks who have spent centuries contemplating the mysteries of the universe: “Karma’s a b****.” Don’t be too snotty for the wee Puritan boys, and don’t abandon your baby to party and paint wacky glass miniatures.
And finally, the echoes of feminists throughout the ages, who applaud Miss Becky despite the gaping black hole that existed in place of her Mothering Instinct:
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”