5 Old Controversies That Are Laughably Ridiculous

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by Jordan Breeding

Being rebellious and bucking up against social norms have always been important parts of growing up. Without youthful defiance, punk music and indie films would probably just be centered on how confusing taxes are. And besides, it’s helpful to get that rage out of your system when you’re young. It’s just easier to accept your life as a middle-aged, mild-mannered regional salesperson if you can always hold on to the memory of that time you burned down an Arby’s just to feel alive.

Look, we know times were different. But still, there was some pretty wacky dot-connecting going on in these stories.


Breakfast Was Only For Gluttonous Pagans

Nowadays, it takes some real effort and a well-followed YouTube channel to do something truly contentious, but just a few centuries ago, becoming a medieval Logan Paul was as simple as eating a few scrambled eggs. That’s because Europeans of the time saw breakfast as a moral affront to God. Chowing down on a couple of McGriddles was, according to theologian Thomas Aquinas, a very clear instance of committing the sin of gluttony. Of course, eating McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches is morally dubious regardless of your religion, but thankfully they didn’t exist back then.

The idea here was that Christians were to avoid being too invested in worldly things and learn to control their natural passions. That meant both no hay-rolling with random strangers and no swallowing sausage links whole before noon. So, the most spiritual way to consume food was to skip breakfast entirely, pace yourself midday with a small lunch, and save your largest meal for dinner. This is in direct contrast to the modern American tradition of eating all of the food, all of the time.

Medieval people assumed if you couldn’t not eat a bowl of Lucky Charms in the morning, then you probably couldn’t avoid other, worse things as well. Basically, the guy guzzling Frosted Flakes in the corner was almost definitely following his meal up with some sort of murderfest and probably getting a tattoo directly afterwards.



“I’m warning you: It’s been a bacon and eggs morning.”

Of course, all of these moral philosophies were ditched once Europeans were introduced to chocolate during the 17th century. That sweet, sugary rush coincided with the discovery of New World coffee meaning Europeans couldn’t freaking wait to wake up in the morning and stuff their faces with delicious treats. Rather than fight back, the Pope basically changed the rules to say it was fine to have something in the morning as long as it was a liquid. That was all the motivation Europeans needed, however, to basically start eating whatever the hell they wanted for breakfast. And really, what’s a tall glass of bacon grease between friends?

Then, Christians argued it was terrible for people not to eat breakfast and everybody had to eat it. Because, well, we humans do have certain things we hold sacred, but if we want something bad enough we simply rewrite the rules so we can do whatever we want.

Sneakers: The Criminal’s Choice For Footwear

When rubber-soled shoes were invented back in the 19th-century, they were primarily worn by the world’s foremost athletes. That is, tennis players. They were too expensive to mass-produce, and plus, many people wanted to ensure that the superpowers granted by this high-tech footwear, like running marginally faster and jumping a little bit higher, didn’t find their way into the hands of normal people.

But by the early 1900s, breakthroughs in the development of this new-fangled ultrashoe exploded, and “sneakers” were suddenly affordable and available to most everybody -- not just the 23 rich, white dudes who played tennis. At the same time, the sport of basketball started to take off, further popularizing the shoe with those athletes and ... maybe you see where this is going.



No, not out of bounds. It’s heading toward racism.

By the latter half of the 20th century, people couldn’t stop accusing sneaker-wearers of being criminals. You know, because sneakers are quiet, and the guy creeping into your house to murder you wouldn’t be caught dead in some lame-ass Sperrys. In 1979, The New York Times went so far as to publish an article titled “For Joggers and Muggers, the Trendy Sneaker.” The piece was presumably followed up by the expose “Ice Cream Cones: Somebody Could Probably Kill You With One If They Wanted To.” In fact, in 1986, Run-D.M.C. wrote the song “My Adidas,” and not just because they were the first musical artist to score a deal with an athletic wear company, but also to defend their so-called “felony shoes.” Imagine being compelled to write the line: “I wore my sneakers, but I’m not a sneak.”

Of course, it didn’t help that around the same time as “My Adidas,” Nike released the Air Jordan sneaker, and soon a lot of athletic apparel became the favorite among drug dealers and gang members and other unsavory types everywhere, even helping to inspire a rash of “sneaker killings” in 1990. So, yeah, bad people wear sneakers -- but so does pretty much everyone else. In 2015, sneaker sales were over $34 billion, just in the United States. Surely, those aren’t exclusively bought by the guy who sells your kid crappy weed or jaywalks or whatever.

Jewish People Weren’t Allowed To Bake Because Jesus Is Bread

Sometime during the Middle Ages -- like back when eating breakfast was akin to open-mouth kissing your friend’s mom -- Germans were starting to make their way into Poland. They didn’t come empty handed, though -- they came bearing various bread-related gifts. Specifically, bagels. Yes, the idea of putting a hole in the middle of your chewy bread actually dates back as early as the 14th century.

Around that same time, Jewish people also arrived in Poland, but there was a key difference between them and the German immigrants: Jews were legally prohibited from making any type of bread, including bagels. Why? Well, because Jesus is bread.

That was the whole argument. Jewish people were seen as enemies of the church, because they had ostensibly killed Jesus (despite that being, you know, Jesus’ entire plan). OK, that might seem pretty par for the course as far as terrible medieval peasant laws go, but it still doesn’t really explain why Jews weren’t allowed to handle bread, specifically.



No word on whether or not there was an exception for toast.

Well, the Christian sacrament of communion is typically taken with bread as a stand-in for Jesus’ body (which Catholics hold literally transforms into Jesus’ actual body in your stomach). So the Christians in power felt weird letting Jewish people ever make or handle bread, because sometimes Jesus is bread and you don’t want the enemies of Jesus to touch bread because of reasons, we guess.

To be clear, we respect that people will have and are entitled to their religious beliefs, and we don’t pretend to be experts on the subject. But it does seem pretty obvious that the whole thing probably shouldn’t have been taken literally. And even if it should, isn’t there like a blessing and ceremony involved that like, converts it or something? Does that mean that non-Christians can’t drink wine, too? And what about cornbread or naan -- do those count?

Eventually, in 1264 a Polish prince was like, “OK, guys. Jews can make bread if they want to,” because obviously that makes sense. Of course, a couple years later Polish bishops claimed that Jewish people were probably just going to poison the bagels anyway, but by that point everyone had fallen in love with their deliciousness and probably because they had discovered cream cheese.

Typists Were ... Love Pirates?

In the early 1900s, Americans were beset upon by a new existential threat unlike any they’d ever faced, and no, we’re not talking about fascists or communists. These new enemies threatening to tear apart the very fabric of America were primarily known as ... love pirates.

Obviously that term immediately conjures up an image of Pirates of the Caribbean’s Johnny Depp or Keira Knightley or Orlando Bloom, but in reality, “love pirate” actually refers to something much less piratey -- normal-ass typists.

See, in the early 20th century, women were finally getting involved in the workplace. Young women most frequently found jobs as typists or stenographers at large companies after the invention of the typewriter. Of course, this meant a lot of close interaction with their male bosses, which scared the ever-loving crap out of their wives who assumed those slender typing fingers were equally skilled at removing a dude’s pants.



Especially if button-fly jeans were a thing.

The term “love pirate” first shows up in the transcript of a court case where a spurned woman, Una Goslin, was suing her ex-husband’s stenographer. Goslin called her a love pirate because she was a “demure, tailor-made little typewriter girl whose habitat is the skyscraper, whose weapon is the two-edged sword of coquetry, whose prize is the human heart.” That ... seems like an excessively harsh description of someone who probably just wanted a freaking job, but the court agreed, and Goslin was awarded $50,000 in pirate reparation money.

But it’s not just Goslin who used the term. Calling stenographers love pirates continued for years, showing up in books like Why American Marriages Fail (answer: pirates), and newspapers like The Chicago Inter Ocean. Somehow, women couldn’t shake the notion that their husbands were powerless to fight against the “pretty little heart buccaneers [cruising] the business sea of downtown Chicago.”

Eventually, society decided that not only could women probably hold down a job without automatically seducing every man they encountered, but also that it’s probably not fair to sue any random woman you think your husband might have slept with. Progress!

Puritans Saw Nothing More Scandalous Than Wearing Hoods

It’s no great surprise the Puritans had pretty strict laws about what was considered appropriate. A huge chunk of their religion was apparently built around the idea that God would be too embarrassed to save anybody caught performing a Fortnite dance, lest everybody in the vicinity of the dancer become impossibly aroused. Obviously, women bore the brunt of these laws, with many of them mandated to cover up anything that might cause a man to “stumble.” Ironically, when looking at these laws, it’s pretty apparent that just about anything would make a Puritan man lustful, so we’re kind of surprised tarps weren’t invented immediately and recognized as the Official Female Garment of Choice.

For example, in 1634, several new laws were passed limiting what could be worn, including how women shouldn’t adorn any sexy, sultry, silken ... hoods? Several young women were sent to court because they were caught wearing the sexiest hoods the New World had ever seen. One woman in particular was accused of “wearing silk in a flaunting manner, in an offensive way.”

Of course, the laws went much further. People couldn’t wear any silver or gold girdles, or belts, or anything made of lace. If anybody was caught with more than two “slashes” in their clothes (which would, of course, reveal their fancy underwear), their clothes would be taken from them. By the 1650s, nobody was allowed to wear short sleeves, and by 1679 women were forbidden from “cutting, curling, and immodest laying out of their hair.”




As a fun addendum to all this, New Jersey Puritans made it illegal to trick anybody into marrying them using “scents, paints, cosmetics, washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips.” So if it turned out the girl you married had somehow bolstered her hips, you could divorce her without consequence. Also, she’d be punished exactly the same as if she had been a supposed witch. Because nobody has bolstered hips and artificial teeth like witches.

Now, this wasn’t all just for sexual reasons -- a lot of it was to keep people “living within their means.” Which … OK. But still, if you had the cash on hand to afford cutting your clothes with a knife, we would have said, “Go for it.”

Like this article? Check out “5 Laughably Stupid (But Real) Details From Famous Historical Moments” and “Soooo … History Was Way Weirder Than We Thought”.

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