The “Small Talk Blues” Edition

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S1: Daniel Avari here and I have a special announcement for our listeners, some of you know that I published my third book in February. It’s called Something That May Shock or Discredit You. And it’s a series of essays about memoir, transition, religion, pop culture and Anne of Green Gables. Today, I wanted to let you know that for a limited time only you can get a really good deal on the audio book, which is read by me. Go to sleep dot com slash Danny. That’s Slate dot com slash Danny. There’s also a link in the show notes of this episode. The audio book will cost you just twelve ninety nine. That’s five dollars off the list price and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal in memoirs written by me. After you complete your purchase, you’ll be able to listen to the audio book in your preferred podcast player, even the one that you’re using right now. There’s no special app to download and no subscription fees. And there’s one more thing you should know. This audio book sale was brought to you by Slate. That means your purchase not only supports me, it also helps to support the important journalism that you depend on. It’s late, so it’s a win win. You save money and sleep makes money. If you’ve ever thought about checking out my book, there’s never been a better time. This is a limited time promotion. So don’t just sit there, sit there and go to sleep. Dotcom slash Danny and buy my audio book today. One more time. That’s Slate dotcom slash Danny.

S2: Dear, dear Prudence, Prudence, dear, dear Prudence here. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thanks. Thank you.

S3: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence, I’m your host, Danny M. Lavery, and this show is for you are plus subscribers. Our guest this week is Amanda McLauchlan, a podcast and business lady who runs Multitude, a podcast, collective and production studio located in Brooklyn. She also co-hosts Spirits A Boozy Dive into Mythology and Folklore and Joined The Party, a collaborative storytelling podcast powered by the rules of Dungeons and Dragons. And now here’s our first letter.

S4: Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Let’s move on to something nice and light.

S3: Or rather. It’s it’s it’s irritating, but small and I think there’s a lot more options than just like tell them to fuck off the fixable situation. I think so. So the subject is on the hour updates. Dear Prudence, my wife and I are retired in a normal year. I travel quite a bit both in the U.S. and internationally. My summers have previously been filled with trips on my motorcycle around North America. I know how lucky I am. However, this year due to coronavirus, I haven’t been on my motorcycle at all, nor have I traveled anywhere. I love my wife, but being home with her 24/7 is driving me nuts. She tells me who’s doing what in the neighborhood, even though I don’t ask and is obsessed with telling me hour by hour what the temperature and weather is. Even though I can see for myself. How do I tell her that I don’t care about the neighbors or the weather without hurting her feelings? How do I ask her not to talk every minute of the day? She doesn’t have many friends, and despite my encouragement to get out and volunteer, she has resisted that.

S5: This feels like a person who refers to their spouse as the wife, and I just it has strong the wife energy, which really puts a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad that he looking for ways to diffuse the frustration before it reaches a boiling point. But I just wonder, like, what have you asked your wife how you could better support her right now? What have you asked your wife what she’s thinking about instead of trying to dodge her? That seems like a great starting point. Yeah.

S6: Yeah, I both totally understand why being around somebody twenty four hours a day, seven days a week since March would be frustrating no matter how much you love that person. So, of course, you know, if you need some time of the day where you’re not talking as that, oh my gosh, if you want to, like, ride your bike around your neighborhood, do that. If you want to take a walk or just say, like, I need a couple of hours to listen to music and be by myself, say those things. But I don’t think necessitate saying, like, I don’t care about the neighbors because I think at that point you should look for compromise. You know, if your wife occasionally wants to talk to you about what’s going on in the neighborhood, even if you don’t care, she cares and she’s your wife and you will live near these people. And I think you should set a time set aside a little bit of time to say like and how are the, you know, the neighbors across the street? What are they up to?

S5: Yeah, it’s it’s very normal to talk about. You’re like ambient circumstances with the person you share them with. And these could be remarks at like, oh, the breeze feels nice, it’s so warm outside or like, oh, Margaret bought a new car like it.

S7: It is not a sort of like a woman detective like Agatha Christie, Miss Marple situation, you know, like using the curtains and and spying on the neighbors. I just it feels to me so much like his wife is is looking for opportunities to connect and we’re looking for subject matter to talk about. And your ambient circumstances is sort of like the thing that comes to mind. So I also wonder if, you know, setting aside dedicate a time that you’re not like reading a newspaper or watching TV. You’re looking at your phone. Maybe it’s over one of the meals during the day or just after you have dinner where, you know, both of you feel less like you to grab slices of each other’s attention wherever you can get it. And, you know, that may go a long way if if you ask her how she’s feeling, she says, well, I feel kind of disconnected and lonely. That might be really, really helpful.

S6: Yeah, I think that’s really good, too. And of course, you can do all that and also point out or say, you know, lately you talk to me about the weather. Often throughout the day, and I just want to note that I’m just curious, like, are you bringing that up because you feel preoccupied, because you want to talk about something else? You’re not sure what to say. Have you noticed it? Do you do you think of it as unusual? You know, this woman is your wife. You are retired. You’ve presumably been together pretty long time. You say you love her. So I think that’s a question that you can ask her carefully and lovingly. That is not the same thing as saying, like stop talking every minute of the day.

S7: It’s also very normal to feel, as you were saying, irritation, frustration, like you have lower patients than normal and maybe kind of naming that and realizing that it’s very common for lots of people. And, you know, it doesn’t make you evil. And it just means that you can either ask for what you need or recognize that in yourself. You know, take that time away, ride your bike like go riding a motorcycle around. You can do that like that. That sounds great. And, you know, find that time during the day. Ask your wife what kind of errands you can run for her and, you know, have some time. Listen to music in your car, like, you know, go off and have solo time. And that might prove really kind of restorative and, you know, lets you be as patient, loving present as you want to be with your wife when you’re home.

S6: Yeah. And, you know, I’m sorry, she doesn’t have a lot of friends. I’m sorry that previously we’ve encouraged her to to do other things at the time that she doesn’t do that. I get that that’s deeply frustrating or hard to watch if you want your partner to have more people in their lives besides just you. But. Given that you cannot force her to do those things, I think the best middle path here is let her know when you need alone time and make it really clear it’s just like I need this. We’ve never lived 24/7 in one another’s pockets before. And it’s not like I can’t stand the sight of you. I just really need some alone time, maybe even every day in order to maintain a sense of equilibrium and well-being and say that because she won’t be able to read your mind about it, it’s fine to ask for it. It’s not mean or cruel.

S3: Do it and then take it for yourself in whatever form you can’t, even if it just means you’re going to go to another room and put your headphones on. And then when you do tell her either. I’ve noticed you’ve been bringing this up a lot lately and it’s sometimes difficult for me or whether you say I’d love to maybe talk about trips we’ve taken together in the past or have a deeper conversation about feelings about something. You can do all that in a way that’s not like spirit crushing. That’s not like you vacuous Ninni. All you ever talk to me about is the sunshine and the strangers you watch across the street. And I just think your mind is a batch of cobwebs and nothing. And I hate you, you know, like nothing. You would say that letter writer, but like, there’s definitely ways to let someone know that you feel contempt for a tech that they’ve developed a habit that they’ve picked up. And I think you can both just say, I’m having a you know, I only want to talk about the neighbors some of the times. Can we limit that? That’s not like you. Awful. Who’s the woman on Bewitched who’s always looking through the windows? You know what I mean? Oh, yeah. I don’t remember her name. Gladys Kravitz. Gladys have it’s the neighbor, Robert, which she was always looking through the windows and the actress who played her died like in the middle of the show, which I did not realize. And that’s very sad. I mean, I figured she was around now, but I didn’t know she died, so. Yeah. So all of which is to say she’s not Gladys Kravitz. Don’t call it Gladys Kravitz. And if you ask her for silence, don’t say you’re talking every minute of the day, just say, look, I need a couple hours myself, I’ll be back later.

S7: This is ultimately in service of your relationship and and prioritizing her. And you can say, like, hey, I don’t want to develop, you know, contempt or frustration when you talk to me during the day. If it’s, you know, interrupting something else you’re doing, then you can ask for alone time to do that or say, I want to hear about your day. You know, it just feels like we’re we’re talking very often when I’m doing other things, like you can you can do it because you want to be closer, because you want to hear what she has to say, because you don’t want to become resentful or frustrated. And that’s always a really good reason to contextualize, like a request that you make of your partner. Also, maybe start a project together, have a two person bookclub. My partner and I watch like 45 heist movies over the first few months of quarantine and it was so much fun.

S3: Yeah. Find things that you are both kind of interested in an attempt to do them together, find topics of conversation that you both find interesting and ask each other questions about that. There will be times that you’re not going to be able to be just alone in your bubble and, you know, try to make interesting conversation with your wife, who you love. I bet if you framed it in that way is like I want the time that we spend together to feel a little bit more meaningful or stimulating. And I want to try to watch the thing together and then discuss it. Or I want to talk to you about motorcycles or travel or whatever and find those things.

S7: I know this is something people also deal with even before this year in retirement, where it’s a big shift or dynamic and how you and your partner relate. So I bet there are resources out there, support groups or people who are your peers. You can, you know, trust and say, hey, that’s the challenge I’m dealing with. You know, how how do you cope? So you’re not alone in feeling this. And I think you have lots of options here.

S3: Yeah. OK, good luck. This is nice. This one’s kind of bracing. I think there’s a lot you can do with this one. This next one. Every once in a while, I have a response to letters about animals that I’m just like it’s just a dog like and I see that as someone who loves dogs and I think everyone should take care of their pets and be really conscientious about when and where they get them and under what circumstances they would consider removing an animal. And I’m not at all saying like it’s just a dog, shoot it in the street, but also like it’s it’s a dog. It’s not a country on the brink of nuclear war. Do you know what I mean?

S7: Maybe like it’s like this is not an emergency. I don’t think.

S3: Yeah. I mean, it is it is urgent and it’s important. And there’s a lot of different factors to consider. But it’s also like, yes, I’m absolutely willing to make the stance of like a human baby is more important to me than even the greatest dog in the world.

S5: Do you think that river is in more like river versus this dog? I feel like we’re at similar levels of like they’re pretty fine. Everything’s pretty OK for them.

S3: If for some reason I could only save River or Bingo’s like human Bunni River. Yes. And not the 12 year old dog named Bengoa. I don’t know why. I’m just like inviting angry emails by going on and on about how much I don’t. No one stealing a dog. Everything’s OK, let’s just read the letter and I’ll just reiterate again, I care about animals and I think you treated well and I don’t think that you should just toss them out in the backyard and say, go be free.

S5: No subject won’t inherit troubled dog.

S7: Dear Prudence, my recently retired parents adopted a dog during the pandemic. They wanted an older dogs. They wouldn’t have to deal with puppy shenanigans. They asked me to take care of him if anything happened to him and I agreed. But that was before they brought home bingo from a shelter. He’d been surrendered by his previous owner and my parents didn’t get much information before adopting him. He thought, well socialized and is aggressive toward other animals. Whenever I visit my parents for a few days minimum, since I live far away, I always bring my two cats. Leaving them with the sitter isn’t an option due to medication schedules and distrust of strangers. My parents were told bingo is OK with cats. But a quick Google search says that this breed of dog should never be trusted around cats and other small animals because of their prey instinct. The way the house is laid out, it will be virtually impossible to keep animals in different areas. One parent has admitted as much as they ever will. But bingo isn’t a good fit. But neither has brought up contacting the rescue organization so they can try to find a better fit for bingo, who may easily live for another ten plus years and themselves. They paid an animal behaviorist for a session and have tried her suggestions. In her words, the dog is, quote, nuts and quote, overstimulated due to not being exposed to normal situations, socialized properly, etc.. My parents have had bingo for more than three months and there’s been little change. He’s 12. They were originally told he was ten, even though the rescue agency had his birth date from his microchip. On top of all of this, one parent is on the dementia spectrum and the other has a progressive respiratory condition. I don’t have any siblings and all my other relatives are distant. Do I somehow try to help my parents? Except that the best thing for them and bingo is to find another home. How do I discuss not being able to care for a dog that doesn’t mesh with my living situation? Do you have any ideas for visits when it’s safe to visit again to my parents home or for when they visit me in my small apartment and bring bingo because their last dog was able to visit and not attack my cats?

S3: Yeah, I mean, I do want to be the letter writer at their word. I don’t want to be dismissive, but there are lots of cat sitters who are used to giving cats medication on a schedule.

S6: And most cats don’t like strangers. Yeah, so, again, it is your life to lead, you’re free to listen to this podcast episode and say, Danny, you idiot, you don’t know anything about my cats and I won’t do it. And that’s fine. You can completely disregard me here, but like. At least, I think explore the possibility that you could contact a pet sitting service and say, I have two cats who are on a strict medication schedule and don’t do well with strangers. Have any of your cat sitters ever heard of such a thing before? And do they think they’re equipped to deal with it? Because that might be just the simplest, most straightforward option is occasionally in the future, and this is again, this is apparently going to be months, maybe even years from now, because you don’t plan on visiting them until some progress has been made in this whole covid-19 thing we’re still doing. But, yeah, you could get that information. You could maybe even schedule a visit with the sitter before you plan that vacation and have them come over and get to know your cats and see how it goes.

S7: Or a trustworthy friend. If you hang out in your house together with cats, get to know them. They can take over for a few days, a few times a year. I also don’t know if the anxiety is mostly around the visits to the parents or like if the parents like like die imminently and then the letter writer has to take in the dog. It feels like a lot of worry about this kind of fundamental incompatibility when the only problem with bingo that is in this letter is that they’re breed. It has a prey instinct, you know, like it’s it’s not been a documented case where he hasn’t hurt. It happens. Yeah. Yeah. And they don’t live in the same space and probably won’t be in the same space, you know, until more than a year from now likely. Or if something tragic happens at which case you can think about homing bingo then if your life is not conducive to adopting it.

S6: Yeah. I’ll also just say I can’t make any promises obviously. But the idea that a 12 year old dog may easily live for another ten plus years is yeah, I think it’s very unlikely that Bengoa will live another 10 plus years. I think if bingo is in good health and it’s lucky he may live another five, I think it’s probably likely that he’ll live another two to three.

S7: Just a guess, and three months is not a huge amount of time, it hasn’t been like five years that they have been trying to train bingo and behavioral problems, you know, exist. Nonetheless, lots of dogs are overstimulated, especially when they’re in a new home or just in general. And it really sounds like things are are mostly OK. And I see that as somebody, you know, with anxiety, who loves to think through every single facet of a situation, lots of ways in which it could go wrong and maybe, you know, hearing us kind of reassure you or talk through the logistics will be helpful. And I don’t want to say that your concerns are unimportant either, because they clearly feel really urgent and important to you. Right. But I I think there are lots of ways forward. And, you know, we also don’t know how your parents feel about any of this, about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, what they want. So far, they’ve, you know, made a plan for custody of their dog if something happened to them. And they’ve, you know, communicated with you about what he’s behaving like. And that feels really OK.

S6: And I say all this, too, and I absolutely think it’s fine. And that you can and probably just should say, by the way, given how the last couple of months have gone, I’m not able I will no longer be able to take bingo in if something happens to both of you. So we need to talk about a different backup plan. That’s fine. That’s not cruel. That’s not awful. You didn’t, like, sign a contract in blood. You didn’t know what the dog was going to be like. It’s clearly, you know, if only because of your own anxiety, not going to be a good fit for you and your two cats and this dog. So, you know, both of your parents have medical conditions that are serious, but neither of them sound like they are on death’s door. So it’s not as if you have to come up with a plan in twenty four hours. But you can talk to you know, you can you know, you say neither of them has brought up contacting the rescue organization. You should bring it up. And that doesn’t mean call them and say, like, give me go back tomorrow.

S3: But just to say, like, can we talk about what we might do if something happens to both of you? Because I no longer feel like I’m able to take care of the dog. Do you want to contact the rescue organization and let them know that in the event of one of your hospitalizations or untimely death that you would need to give them go back and make sure that we have that plan in place or ask around, are there other friends who may not have cats and who are maybe happy to take in a slightly, like, active dog?

S7: So that seem reasonable? It does seem reasonable to me, I don’t think you have to kind of plan for an eventuality that hopefully is a very long time away by becoming a dog who you could just as easily reach home if it comes to that, if your parents are not able to care for him any longer. It feels like you’re kind of planning for that, which I, again, totally get keeping all these things on your mind and you being kind of the only person you know who is who is assisting them right now. But it sounds OK, I think, for visits as well. You could stay at like a pet friendly hotel or short term rental with your cats. When you visit, you can leave your cats home with like a friend who gets to know them, a boarding facility, which I’m sure have dealt with hundreds of cats that don’t like being away from home or with strangers over the course of the establishment or even have your parents come visit without the dog because it sounds like bingo loves people and would love to hang out with somebody while they visit you.

S3: Yeah. And I think, you know, if they can afford an animal behaviorist to come visit, it sounds like they would also be able to pay for a dog sitter to stay at their house when they hopefully someday are able to travel and visit you again safely. And I just you know, I think I started this letter off being very like, why do you think this dog is going to live 10 years? Why do you think your cats are the only cats don’t like strangers as being very dismissive. And I just want to acknowledge, like, you don’t have any siblings, you’re not close with any of your other relatives. Both of your parents have serious illnesses and you’re not able to see one another in the middle of a pandemic. Of course, you are so anxious. You’re going through a lot. And I’m really, really sorry. And of course, it just feels like and now I don’t even know how I’ll be able to visit each other. And this dog is driving me crazy and we haven’t even met yet. And like, it’s in really good health and maybe this dog’s still going to be one of those dogs that lives to be like 18. And what am I going to do? And that just makes a lot of sense to me, you know, and it just I feel with you and I feel for you. I think it’s good news that some of your fears are not as. True or likely to be true, as you fear that they are, but I don’t say that to be like you fool, you goofball. How dare you think those things? I just I think you can breathe a little bit here and remember that nothing needs to happen tomorrow. But yes, they have brought it up, that’s OK. You bring it up.

S7: Yeah, it is reasonable to think about these things and I totally sympathize with that. But it sounds like right now, you know, your parents have a dog that excites them that they like hanging out with. And, you know, you are thinking about some kind of vague plans for one day, you know, if you have to when you’re able to visit or, you know, if you have to take custody of the dog or what will happen then. And I think that makes total sense. I think you’ve thought about it and I think you have your options. And hopefully you can focus on the fact that, you know, your parents have a cool dog to hang out with, which sounds lovely.

S8: That’s our mini episode of Dear Prudence for this week. Our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. As always, if you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message at four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three to seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show.

S1: You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request, we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S9: Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh.