Parental Paranoia

Listen to this episode

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: This Ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello and welcome back to The Big Mood, A Little Mood podcast. I’m your host, Danny Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Celeste Ng, a number one New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Her third novel, Our Missing Hearts, will be published in October 2022. Celeste, welcome to the show.

Advertisement

Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me on.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I’m so, so excited to get to try to answer some questions with you. Before we get started, a really quick note. I heard from an eagle eared listener last week that apparently if you download the podcast through a third party platform, not from Slate directly but elsewhere, some of the ads that it gets fed come from the Spotify ad network. And it was briefly running ads for Regent University, which is Pat Robertson’s university. Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention. Our ad team got in touch with them and they have assured us that won’t happen again.

Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: But do let me know if like a third party platforms are like packaging the show with just really any any ads for like virulently, you know, homophobic, right wing, hyper nationalist Christian organizations. I would love to hear about that because I, I think it’s bad for them because they’re unlikely to find any students among my audience. And it’s not great for me because I don’t like them. And I hope Pat Robertson dies soon and in pain. And that’s fine to say on the air because it’s my show.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Celeste, welcome to the show again.

Speaker 2: I am really thrilled to be here.

Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Thank you so much for being here and for not being associated in any way with Pat Robertson or Regent University. May they all die in a fire this week. How are you?

Speaker 2: I am. I am okay. Given the state of the world, I feel like being able to say I’m okay feels like a win. How are you?

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I am doing great. I feel like I made pasta recently. That’s always a joyful experience for me.

Speaker 2: You made the pasta itself for you made the sauce to go on the pasta because both are impressive.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. No, I. Sorry, I’m not that impressive. Although I did recently bake cookies for the first time in a couple of years. So I am pretty impressive.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: That is pretty impressive. What kind of sauce did you make, though? Because carbohydrates are very important to me, genuinely.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I made I’m a Trixie honor, which I’m not sure I pronounced right. But it’s the delicious one. I mean, they’re all. Yes.

Speaker 2: Yes, it’s pasta. How can you go wrong?

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Kind of can’t. You kind of can’t. And I live in, like a sort of moonstruck adjacent neighborhood, so I like periodically, really, like, just, you know, reach back in my my family tree and pretend there’s an Italian-American in there somewhere. And I’m just like, yes, this is who I am now.

Advertisement

Speaker 2: My mom used to joke that she must have accidentally gotten an Italian kid because I love pasta so much and subsisted from, I would say about age 14 to like age 16, pretty much just on pasta and yogurt. So I’m with you.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Then you must at some point in the very near future, try some of my pasta and you can’t see. But I made two of the like other Danza hand gestures. As I was saying it.

Speaker 2: Your hands are the only parts that I can see. There’s this like kind of tripod of wires and metal and microphones, and all I could see was these two hands coming out making the just great.

Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, it’s sort of that. It’s sort of a crab gesture. I’m working on it. It’s not ideal, but I should guide us in the direction of advice. So if you don’t mind, I’ll read our first letter.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Okay. The subject is paranoid, Mother. My best friend is caring for his elderly mom. They’ve lived in a small apartment for several years. His mom isn’t really a people person. She tried getting a job once after her husband’s death, but was fired for telling off her boss and hasn’t worked since. She only leaves the house for groceries and is happy to be a homebody. Over the last year, she’s begun to deteriorate in a scary way. At first, she claims that the neighbors were banging on the walls. Then she said she could hear the upstairs neighbors gossiping about her through the floor. Claims that they hacked their Wi-Fi and put trackers on their phones, claimed they wanted to steal her TV, etc. Things escalated when she bought a handgun, which my friend immediately put into a lockbox. He awoke one night to find her trying to open the box from beneath his bed. My friend called Adult Protective Services, but they’re unable to help until she becomes a danger to herself or others.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: He sent his mom to visit with her sister out of state, but when she returned, everything was worse. She stayed up all night whispering to the ceiling as if having a conversation. When he took her for a walk around the neighborhood, she claimed the neighbors were taking pictures of them and posting them on social media. She’s increasingly agitated and alarmed. Neither of us can think of what to do. He doesn’t have a big community to help him and can’t afford to hire professionals. I live across the country and can’t afford to fly out. His mom refuses to go back to her sisters, refuses counseling and is convinced everything is real. What does one do in this situation?

Advertisement

Speaker 2: My heart just goes out to this letter writer because this sounds like such a difficult and impossible situation. I think I’m learning that that caring for elderly parents is just difficult, even in the best of circumstances, and caring with for an elderly parent who is is maybe not as grounded in reality just sounds incredibly hard.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, I think I agree that this is really there’s lots of complications here. There’s lots it’s incredibly difficult. And I’m afraid a lot of our advice will will boil down to some some elements of this are outside of your control. But I do maybe then think it’s useful to start with one very specific, tangible thing that is in your friends control right now, which is get rid of that handgun. Yes, full stop. Take it back to the gun store. Turn it in. Like look up whatever local like turn in your handguns locations are. Take it wherever it needs to go. Get rid of it today. Figure out a story to tell the mom, you know, buy a new lockbox, pretend it’s in there, lie to her, do whatever you have to. But get rid of the gun.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, I know that. That your friend already contacted Adult Protective Services, but I feel like there’s an argument to be made that if she’s buying a handgun and she’s trying to get at it in this frame of mind, that she’s pretty close to being a danger to herself or others. And I think getting rid of the gun is a good step for sure.

Speaker 2: I also feel like, you know, so much of this is out of your control. But one thing to do is, again, find the people who can support you as you are trying to cope with all this. I know you say he doesn’t have a big community to help him, but I think that even having the other people just checking in on you, knowing that you are not alone in dealing with this, having someone else to say, hey, my mom is doing this and that seems not okay to me, can you just give me a reality check and tell me that I’m on the right track? I feel like that’s that feels so important for this friend who is who is dealing with this this whole situation.

Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Right. And to that end, I’m really glad that your friend has been sharing this with you, even though you are across the country. Like that is a good first step. So in addition to, you know, urge your friend to get rid of the gun today and do whatever you can from afar to support them and check in on like this is not something like wait around for a week. Hope she can’t remember the code to get into the lock box. It’s before the sun goes down today. Get rid of that gun because there is no way that that ends well given her level of paranoia and inability to kind of check in with reality.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, I believe that even if there isn’t an active, you know, sort of gun hand in thing, I think if you call the, you know, the police station, you just say, I have this gun that I would like to get rid of and explain the situation. I think they will make an effort to come in and take that away as a as a first step.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. And, you know, if you don’t want to like call the cops directly, which would be very understandable, you can always call like your your local non-emergency line and try to find that out. You can just Google like the name of your city and state, get rid of a gun legally, you know, figure out how to do that and and make it happen. Yeah. In terms of yeah, it is difficult because sometimes you might feel like I think this is extremely urgent. Like my mother is paranoid and detached from reality and is trying to get a gun and adult services might be saying until she has actually like tried to physically harm somebody, we can’t do anything. I would encourage you to share with your friend.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Every state has an aging services division. It might not have the exact same name, but you can go to elder care directory, dawg. That’s elder care directory, dawg. And they have a state resources section. And again, there’s like a statewide office in each state. This is part of the Older Americans Act. They have something called a long term care ombudsman. So there will be a regional office that will at least be able to direct your friend towards free or low cost services that he can take advantage of. Even if that’s just something like setting you up with Meals on Wheels or like a weekly or biweekly visit from a health care professional, some more at home care and checking in. That takes at least some of the burden off of his shoulders.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And I realize that’s not the same thing as somebody who’s going to show up, diagnose her, fix her paranoia, get her back in touch with reality immediately, like there’s still going to be distressing, ongoing need to, you know, just be as gentle and calm as possible when she says things like, I’ve been hearing the neighbors talking about us through the ceiling. So in some ways that might feel really, really painful because it’s not everything, but it will, I think, really help, even if it’s just once or twice a week.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: There’s like a new visitor to the house whose goal is specifically to help your friend care for his mom. And there are low cost and free services available. She might be. Eligible for like free meals for nutrition counseling. She might be eligible for SNAP. And again, it might be like, well, you know, food’s not the number one priority. But just again, I’m trying to think of anything that like lifts some of the day to day maintenance work from your friend’s shoulder. So he has a little more time and a little more money to focus on other things will be useful.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. I think the the more that can be taken off your friend’s plate again, even if just in the day to day thing of like, I don’t need to cook dinner today because there is food here. I totally agree. That’s helpful. And although I don’t I don’t know specifically where your friend lives, I know that a lot of times if you if it feels like a comfortable thing surprisingly like local government officials can be helpful with this that. So here for example we have like a local congresspeople and they’re surprisingly active in the community and they knew about resources that I didn’t know about in terms of like getting meals or getting assistance programs that I didn’t even know about that the community was running. And it might be possible to reach out to people that, you know, there were, again, to Google and just see, sometimes these local people are hard to find, but sometimes they’re sort of clearinghouses of of resources that are hyperlocal and again, might just be support for your friend while he’s figuring out what to do.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Right. Right. And that’s so critical to not feel like totally isolated. Like he’s the only person standing in between his mother and like total chaos. And like, again, to that end, if you learn more about the sort of elder care resources in your state and city, there might also be like counseling support groups or other resources for him. That’s like I am overwhelmed and scared about my mom’s paranoia is other resources that I can like tap into.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Again, I understand that she’s refusing counseling and there’s not like tons of spare cash lying around to whatever extent your friend is able to encourage slash, you know, kind of be a little officious about getting her to at least like her primary care physician for a checkup. You can really couch that just in terms of physical health. I would really encourage him to do that. You are, you know, entitled to call her doctor and say, I have some concerns they might not be able to share diagnoses or things back with you. This is sorry. This you refers to the son, not the letter writer, but I would really encourage him to try to make that visit happen. And you don’t have to say anything to her about like the fears of the paranoia that will come up throughout the course of the visit.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I was going to suggest reaching out to the primary care physician as well, just because I think a lot of times they don’t know what’s going on unless they’re sort of tipped off by somebody else and they will probably want to hear about this. And then you can kind of strategize as a team. You again, being the the son of the not the letter writer, but about what ways you can you can get to get her seen. And just to have I feel like the more sort of points of contact with reality and people checking will be resources for both the letter writer and for the mother who who maybe doesn’t even realize she needs help yet.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. And especially to because this could potentially be, you know, early symptoms of something like Alzheimer’s, of dementia. This can also be I feel like this is silly. Not everybody knows, but like urinary tract infections in elderly people often cause profound confusion and agitation. So that’s something, again, that like physically you would want to get her checked out for. I’m not saying like I’m sure that’s all this is. And if you get her, you know, some like antibiotics, this will all clear up and she’ll be hurt her former self. But like there are sometimes very specific and treatable conditions that can contribute to somebody’s sense of paranoia or bewilderment or agitation. And that’s why, again, that visit to the doctor is really, really important.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: You know, like I have so many different ideas about, like, I want you to get in touch with like your local Lions Club, your local like Meals on Wheels, America, your local like area agency on aging, anything like for benefits counseling. You can go to the National Council on Aging Benefits website and kind of find out like what resources you might have available to you that you don’t know yet. There won’t be adult daycare centers in your area that you’ll be able to take advantage of. And like all of these resources will be easier to to look up if you’re if you’re making those calls to places, not just adult protective services, which might say like will only step in and like absolute last ditch circumstances.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that they’re, you know, they’re really there as sort of the big safety net and as many other places that, you know, the letter writer can reach out to if you can find other anything else that that she might even be receptive to. Because I think I imagine that part of the issue is if she’s resistant to do it, you don’t want to force her to do it. But, you know, as Danny is suggesting, if you can catch it as, oh, this is this is just, you know, it’s a checkup or it’s bodily health or it’s this or, you know, whatever sort of routes there are that might keep her open to engaging with these other people feel like they might be. Worth trying. Yeah.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And then I think just like my last suggestion, especially in between now and the hopefully soon doctors visit, you know, I think some of the best ways to deal in the medium term with like paranoia or fear is don’t contribute to it. So he’s not going to be able to argue his mom out of these paranoid thoughts. It’s not going to be like if he says.

Speaker 2: Rational.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Mom, there’s no one there. Enough times, she’s going to say, oh, you’re right, thank you. So I would just encourage him, you know, again, if he asks for your advice on that front, to not argue with her, to say something generally reassuring like you, you also have to like stoke the fire and say like, yes, I saw them. But just to say that must have been really scary. Like, how are you? Is there something that you would like to do now that would feel reassuring and just not get drawn into a fight about like, that’s not what’s happening because that’s not going to be useful and will only increase her agitation.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. I mean, I think about, you know, times that in some ways, you know, when someone is dealing with these kind of fears, you feel a lot like you did when you were a young child. And when I think about when my child was younger, I you know, you can’t argue with them that there’s not a monster under the bed. You can look under the bed, but that’s it’s not a rational thing. And so part of it is just finding, okay, what will make you feel a little bit safe just in this moment and starting from that and saying, okay, well, you know what? If I sit here and we talked about this yesterday and it worked out, it was okay and, you know, was starting from that. And I think anything that can make her feel slightly comforted, whether it’s, you know, her favorite drink or watching TV, you know, it’s it’s such a small thing. But I think moment by moment kind of. Moving away from that agitation just while you’re figuring out what to do next. Hopefully will take some of the pressure off for for both you and for her.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. So, you know, just like even down to some of the specifics, like how do you live lovingly and reassuringly with someone who’s in a paranoid episode that might look like if she stays up all night whispering to the ceiling? You might want to ask her, how did that conversation go the next day? You might want to ask if it would help her to sleep to have earplugs. If she says no, maybe you would want earplugs yourself if you’re going on a walk. And she says, I think the neighbors are taking pictures of us. You know, you can ask, would you like to go back inside? Or, you know, I feel okay about that. If you and I just focus on each other, how does that feel to you? And that can feel maybe painful because it’s like, you’re my mom. I wish you weren’t experiencing these paranoid fantasies, but I think the best way to offer her, like real, meaningful care is to just be present with her and her paranoia. That doesn’t mean you have to believe in it, but to treat it like a guest that’s coming along with her, at least for right now, I think is probably the best way forward, at least for now.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And letter writer, I will include I listed like a bunch of different websites and resources and I will include them in the notes for the show so that you don’t have to just like pause and listen and write them all down in real time. But I think that’s the last thought I have on that. Reminds me, though, of like how much it always drives me nuts, like in the movies or on TV when it depicts somebody talking to like usually a relative who’s like developing dementia or Alzheimer’s and they’ll get argumentative, like, no, that didn’t happen. Don’t you remember? Or like, I’m such and such a person. And that always really like, drives me nuts because it’s just like, you know, that’s not going to work. Don’t talk to someone that way. Like, that’s just going to increase their agitation.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, because it’s, I think our, our impulse is always to be logical and rational and you can’t argue with feelings and the feeling that, you know, the letter writers mother has of being afraid is real. And so in some ways just acknowledging the fear as a real thing, you know, not getting into whether there’s a reason for it, but just acknowledging it and sitting with it and then trying to work on that feeling, you know, to accept it and be loving and kind of gentle around it. Maybe, you know, the the best thing that you can do right now while you’re finding other support systems for for her and for yourself.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Well, I think this is a good moment to move on to our next letter, because this is a letter where I feel like argument and like difficult conversation might actually do some good here. Not that it’s going to be the only way through, just that. It’s like it’s not one where just silence and reassurance are the only option. So we’re at least moving from questions. It’s difficult to talk your way through to questions that you might be able to talk your way through. So I’ll go ahead and read it.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: It’s drama department drama. I’m a senior at a small university. I recently returned after a semester abroad and while I was gone, my friend group all seems to have befriended my stalker. In my sophomore year, I broke off a toxic relationship with Isaiah and he didn’t take it well. He left me frightening notes, showed up unannounced late at night and tried to get my friends to contact me for him. I ended up getting a school issued no contact order and tried to file a Title nine report once campus security issued the no contact order. Things died down.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Isaiah and I are the same major, so we see each other often, but we don’t interact. Recently, a close friend of mine, Joseph, invited me and my current partner to a party at his on campus apartment. I asked Joseph who he was living with this semester, and he said two friends as well as Isaiah. I was floored that one of my best friends would be rooming with my former stalker, Joseph said. I’m not sure if you two are still awkward or whatever. It seemed very casual, and I was offended that Joseph would treat it so nonchalantly and invite me and my current partner into a situation where I might be unsafe. Am I overreacting? Do people expect me to be over it by now? Should I be?

Speaker 2: I mean, my first thought sort of related to what we were saying before is you can’t argue with feelings. And so if being around this person makes you feel uncomfortable, then no, you’re not overreacting. There’s no there’s no should about it. I think you if you feel unsafe, then it seems completely fair to me to not be in situations that make you feel unsafe and to to talk to your friends and tell them as clearly as you can how you feel. And hopefully they will listen and understand that. But this is this is a place I agree, Danny, where hopefully having those difficult conversations might lead to some kind of productive outcome.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Right.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And letter writer, I don’t know to what extent you brought all of your friends into the process of getting that like no contact order started or what the nature of like the post-breakup stalking looks like. So I don’t want to assume that like you didn’t say anything and that Joseph said, I don’t know if you two are still awkward or whatever, simply because he doesn’t know much. Like I want to also acknowledge the possibility that you were pretty clear and he does know, you know, to a fairly substantive degree what was happening and is being purposely vague in order to imply to you now that it’s not a very big deal, you might have overreacted and you certainly shouldn’t try to discuss it again with him now.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: So, you know, I’ll leave that one to you, letter writer, if you feel like, nope, I was real clear at the time and it feels pretty fucked up that Joseph would now like refer to that as some sort of awkwardness. Then I think you can probably just say something like, I need to make it really clear, Joseph, I won’t spend time like outside of class in a place where Isaiah is. That’s not good for me. That’s not safe for me. Don’t ask me to do that again. Or if, on the other hand, you haven’t talked much with Joseph about it yet, now I think would be the right moment to clarify.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Hey, things weren’t just awkward between us, you know? He left me threatening notes and follow me around. I had to get the school to tell him to stop doing it. We’re not going to be buddies. We’re not really pals. I don’t want ever to be invited to a party that he’s going to be at. And I’m hurt and, you know, upset that you invited me to this party without letting me know ahead of time, especially since you say that you didn’t know how things stood between us. That would have been a good moment for you to have asked and tried to find out, and you should have done that. And I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to be a little sharp with Joseph in that instance.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I agree. And I should clarify that. I don’t I don’t mean to assume that you didn’t talk to Joseph about it or any of your other friends, but that this is a moment where I don’t think that you should feel bad about setting boundaries for yourself and letting you know your friends know Joseph and anyone else. This is where things stand. And this is what I’m comfortable with and. Hopefully your friend group that has befriended your stalker will hear what you’re saying. If they don’t, that that sounds like it will be really painful. But I don’t think that you should feel pressured to be over it. You know, if you dealt with the situation, you went through it. It’s not up to other people to decide when your feelings have run their course. Right. And you should. I hope that you letter writer will let yourself off the hook for feeling any kind of guilt about any discomfort that you’re still having about this. Yeah.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And letter writer, I don’t know if it was just this was the sort of most illustrative anecdote or if you’ve had other encounters with friends who are like, I also now hang out with Isaiah all the time. So if it’s if it’s that this has been coming up a lot, you know, I’m really sorry. And if it’s just that this happened, then you’re kind of worried that it’s something that everyone else is doing. I think now might be kind of a good time to check in with some of your other friends and just say, like, I need to know that you’re not going to, like, invite me out to the movies and then I show up and my former stalker is there. Can you do that? And I hope very much that you would get, you know, an across the board supportive response. But the worst case scenario, if people are, like wishy washy on that front or say, you know, you should really get over it, at least, you know, in advance. And not because you go to a party and you see him there and you weren’t expecting to. So I think even if it’s like a worst case scenario, better to know in one on one conversations before you’re forced into the same room as him.

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And again, this is super reasonable. All you’re asking for is like, I don’t want to socialize with this guy. I have to see him sometimes in class. We both give each other a wide berth. I’m not trying to, like, you know, make sure he has no friends or like. Like, I’m not trying to do anything to him. All I’m asking is that, like, outside of class, I don’t have to see him. You’re not even asking, like, your friends to denounce him. You’re just saying, like, don’t invite me to things that you’ve also invited him to, especially without alerting me first. That’s a very reasonable request. So if anybody pushes back with like, wow, you’re like really hanging on to the past. He’s never stalked me, so he’s awesome. You know, you don’t have to, like, buy into that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Absolutely. I mean, what you’re doing, I think, is you’re setting your boundaries for yourself and you’re asking your friends to respect those. You’re not telling them that they can’t, you know, speak to him or see him. You’re just saying I need to not do that. And it’s not a I don’t want to. It’s an I need to not do that for my own comfort of my own safety. And, you know, hopefully your friends will absolutely understand that. And so I wish you all the best with that. It’s it’s a hard situation to be in. And I really feel for you.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. And I also, you know, I don’t want to, like, plant suspicions in the letter writers mind. I hope that Isaiah, like, got a real wake up call when he got a no contact order and has, like, seriously changed his life and deeply regrets having, like, threatened and stalked you and will never treat anyone else like that again. But I also want to just float the possibility that this was intentional and that he took advantage of your departure from campus to befriend your social circle on purpose.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And given especially that you say in the past he tried to get your friends to contact you for him, this this could potentially be I mean, again, it’s at least he hasn’t yet been trying to, like, send you messages, but he may very well have done this on purpose to further, like, isolate and frighten you. And so I don’t even want to, like, land on. You should just say this is just for me. It’s fine with me if you’re all pals with him. I actually also think it would really, especially given that they weren’t close with him before he stalked you, I think it would be really fine to say if I’m going to be really close with someone. It’s actually important to me that they are not also close with my stalker like.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: And again, that doesn’t mean I hope he never has friends. That doesn’t mean I will denounce you from the top of the tallest building on campus. If you ever have a warm thought towards him, it just means like I. I want his social circle and mine to be very different. And so I can’t, like, be close with somebody who’s also close with him that is also super reasonable, not punitive, not an overreaction. So I want you to feel empowered to say that if it comes up, that might not be the situation here, but it might be.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, essentially that’s asking them to take your experiences seriously and not to brush off and, you know, belittle what you went through and the validity of your feelings. And that seems really reasonable to me, too.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Right. And just this is definitely again. A situation that calls for naming the truth. Things weren’t awkward without trying to say that there’s no chance that Isaiah could ever live a better kind of life where he treats people with respect and safety. But, you know, after you broke up with him, he left you threatening notes. He showed up at places where he knew you would be in order to intimidate you. That’s really fucked up. That’s not awkward. And so, you know, again, don’t feel like you have to have an all out conversation with Joseph if you just mostly don’t want to see Joseph again.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: But yeah, I think to really say unless Joseph was just like studying abroad that semester himself and then also never talk to anyone about the situation, I think it’s a little cowardly of him to say awkward or whatever. Like call it what it is. Like name the things that happened and that bothered you. And don’t feel beholden to Joseph’s purposeful vagueness in order to downplay it. I find that cowardly of Joseph.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I’m not impressed with Joseph’s behavior. I would frankly, it would have been better if he had just said, I am now living with Isaiah. I like Isaiah. What what are you going to do about that? Like that would have at least been bold, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m trying to, like, rate bad behavior, but this just feels like sniveling and cowardly in a way that that I think is really gross.

Speaker 2: I don’t disagree with that at all.

Speaker 2: I in experiences that I’ve had with with people who engage in behavior like stalking, I think it’s I want to stay open to the possibility that, as you said, Dani, that like this is not accidental from Isaiah. And that Isaiah may have been in the letter writers EB since massaging the truth and giving a very slanted take on how things went, which is not to excuse any of it, but I think, you know, letter writer, it will be up to you and your feelings about if you know how far into this you want to go with Joseph and your other friends. If if you think there’s a possibility that you again being like, Hey, I want to be crystal clear about what happened. I don’t know what Isaiah has been saying to you, but this is where I am and that’s where things are. You can do that. And that it may be they go, Oh, that’s not what he said.

Speaker 2: You know, you may not want to do that at all, but it does seem like this is sort of a moment of truth for your friendship with Joseph, which is is a painful thing, but hopefully will give you some clarity about how he reacts about this. I mean, the only thing that I want to say about this is that you should not feel bad for feeling uncomfortable with any of this, that it is totally okay for you to set the boundaries that you need to and to say to any of your friends, this is important to me and it bothers me that you are dismissing the stalking that happened as awkward or whatever. And it’s not okay with me. And you shouldn’t you shouldn’t feel that you are overreacting or that you should be over anything. You know, those those feelings all are perfectly valid. And other people who care about you should acknowledge that and respect that. I mean, I think that’s the thing that I most want you to hear.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, I just think Joseph is a weak link, and I think that you should be able to expect that your friends would be continuously supportive after you had an ex that stalked you. And like, there are absolutely ways that they could be like, hey, I wish that guy generally like healing and good things without I want to be his buddy within a year and a half of his stalking my friend like I.

Speaker 2: Think that’s that’s a reasonable expectation to have of your friends that.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Absolutely.

Speaker 2: Not dismiss what you went through.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. Yeah. And so maybe part of the fear is now I’m worried all my friends feel this way and I’m kind of scared to ask because they don’t want to get confirmation, especially because they’ve got at least another year and a half at this like admittedly small school where I worry that like by leaving campus for a while, I lost all my support. And that’s a really understandable fear. I hope that it’s not the case, but even if it is and a worst case scenario, your expectations and your hopes for distance from Isaiah and safety are still reasonable and good. And I’m glad at least that you’re your current partner. It sounds like is is not a weak link is not encouraging you to get over it is not secretly hanging out with Isaiah to see you at least have one person in your kind of immediate circle right now that you can rely on.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: But I’m just really sorry. That must be so disorienting and upsetting. And I think that Joseph has just kind of let you know that he’s not going to be able to be a good friend to you. And I’m sorry, I wish it weren’t the case, but I don’t think this is something if they’re living together and Joseph only brought it up after you asked and referred to it as awkward or whatever without saying you need to start shunning Joseph and like turning your face away when he enters a room. I do think that you should not think of him as a reliable, safe friend.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, and. I would encourage you to whatever happens with Joseph, to kind of reach out to the people that you do feel are reliable and that do make you feel safe and that can kind of validate. Yes, it’s it’s okay to feel that, because I think that that’s that’s an important thing for you to hear no matter what. But especially while you are sort of dealing with this kind of secondary issue of, you know, there’s the concern about Isaiah, but then there’s also concern about the friends who now are friends with your stalker. I think that, you know, as much as you can find and reconnect and, you know, sort of get support from the people that you do trust, they are out there. And, you know, you you will find those. You know, you will find more people who are supporting you. But for right now, I think, you know, lean on the people that, you know, that will not dismiss what you went through and that will accept your feelings and your boundaries is is reasonable and valid because they are.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Before I ask you about your next project, I want to inform the people of something that has been a real being my bonnet for the last 24 hours. Celeste Are you familiar with the website? First Dibs?

Speaker 2: I’m not.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I spend so much time on it. It is like a high end second hand, but like fancy second hand, like décor, furniture, art exchange. So, like, you can get new things there, you can get antique things there. You can, like sometimes get in on estate sales there. And I often will go and look at like $50,000 cuckoo clocks, you know, from the 17th century. And I’m like, I could buy that someday, maybe. But for the last two years, I’ve had my eye on Gore Vidal’s desk because it was it was like listed for something like $4,000. And I was like, I mean, it’s a lot of money, but, like, I, like, saved up for it.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Not a lot of money for, like, Gore Vidal’s debt.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Like, no, that’s what it is like. It’s a lot of money for a desk. It’s not a lot of money to say to everyone who comes in to your house for the rest of your life. Oh, that that’s Gore Vidal’s desk. But I recently realized that someone had finally bought it, and I was glad because, like, you know, I’m sure you really, really wanted it, and you’re going to take good care of it if you if you buy it. But I then, like, went through and talked about in my latest newsletter, like all the remaining items from his estate sale. And I got one person to buy one of the last things because the only things left were like there was a pewter dish that was like $200. And then there were these incredibly tall pillars for $10,000 and somebody somebody bought the dish.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: So I’m really excited about it, but I’m just letting it be known to you and everyone else out there. There is another famous person’s desk available on First Dibs Still, and it’s Sir Michael Caine’s executive desk and it’s 50% off for a mere 2300 $38.80. They get very exact on this website.

Speaker 2: That’s a very specific amount of money.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: It is because it means also before it was four, six, seven, seven and $0.60, which is like, why.

Speaker 2: Does it sound like it’s also not an even number?

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, like what’s the $0.60 for? I don’t know. Although also, I should point out that the shipping on this one is 20 $900. So, you know, that just ate up the 50% off fee. And I should also mention, it’s a very ugly desk. Gore Vidal’s desk was beautiful. It was walnut, it was Victorian. It was gorgeous. This is the ugliest, most generic looking eighties like mauve colored desk I’ve ever seen.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Is it is it like one of those like like metal office desks? Is it like a like a fiberboard situation? Like, what does it look like?

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I’m going to send you a link.

Speaker 2: I want to see this now.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: So, yeah, it’s important.

Speaker 2: Oh, that’s not that. No, I would never do that. Yeah, like, not what I pictured.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: But listen to the about section because that part is so charming that I think it’s worth the ugliness. Sir Michael Caine, the personal collection, magnificent, large and imposing Big Boss Executive Desk.

Speaker 2: I love.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: That. And there’s no comment. It’s just one magnificent, large and imposing.

Speaker 2: Like, I actually really love that. That, in a way makes it sound like it’s referring to Sir Michael Caine.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: It does. We turn to this big boy into a desk. It’s yeah, it’s ugly, but it does come with a letter saying Michael Caine really owned this. And that’s like nothing.

Speaker 2: I have an irrelevant question, but it says it ships from long. Do you think that’s a typo or is that a place that. I don’t know, because it says it ships like it’s from London.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: It does seem like someone just misspelled London, especially because I had thought his estate was being, like, handled out of L.A.. So I’ve never heard of London, England, but I wouldn’t I wouldn’t put it past them to have a long.

Speaker 2: Distance was his. I imagine if you lived in London, you would just frequently be correcting people.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Well, perhaps to to shepherd me back in the like relevant categories. My Internet has like stopped. It won’t tell me what London, England is. And so I think maybe this is a great opportunity.

Speaker 2: Trying to tell you something.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, yeah. And why don’t you tell me something about your next book?

Speaker 2: Okay, that’s quite a segue way.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: So I know if it helps. London is a real village. It is Staffordshire.

Speaker 2: So maybe it is really from London.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: It’s from the West Midlands.

Speaker 2: Could be okay. So my next book is a novel. It’s called Are Missing Hearts. And it is it takes place in what I’ve heard people call is a dystopian near-future America. But as we get closer to publication, I really sort of wonder how how future it is because many of the things that I sort of imagined are happening now and I wonder how dystopian it is because again, I feel like reality. Is is curving closer to to the sort of world that I imagined.

Speaker 2: But it focuses on a 12 year old boy named Bird. And in Bird’s world, he’s living in a time of huge anti-Asian fear and sentiment. In particular, the government can take away the children of anybody who they deem to be acting un-American, which in this case is often people of East Asian descent rising out of fears of China and anyone else who speaks on their behalf.

Speaker 2: And Bird is mixed race. His mother is a Chinese-American poet, and his father is a white American man. And when the novel opens, Bird’s mother has has left the family some years before, and he doesn’t really know much about her, but he gets a letter from her. And it kind of sends him off on a quest to try and find her and to not only understand why she left the family, but also about how he can kind of keep going in this world that’s that’s so unfriendly to him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Oh, thank you so much for walking us through. And it’s coming out in a month. Are you. Do you have anything exciting planned for you?

Speaker 2: I’m great. I’m going to go on book tour. COVID willing. We’ve arranged to have a masked book tour so that hopefully, you know, people can come and be reasonably safe but still still gather. Because I feel like that’s that’s one of the things that I’ve I’ve loved about getting to put books out is to actually get to talk to your readers and to start conversations among people who love books and want to talk about books. So I’m going to be doing a launch event here in Boston where I live, and then I’ll be doing some events in New York and then moving around the country, doing some virtual events in the United Kingdom. And then I’ll be going to Germany in November. So hopefully I’ll get to go out and and talk to some readers and get to have some conversations.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: That’s so cool. And, you know, far be it for me to tell you how to celebrate, but I really feel like owning Michael Caine’s desk might be an amazing way to commemorate your third novel.

Speaker 2: It’s true. I e this is just opening up a question that I hadn’t thought about very much, which is if you were going to have the desk of just one person, whose desk would you want it to be? And I don’t know. It’s like a version of that question. Like, you know, if you could only have one book with you on a desert island or if you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would it be? And this is when I get seized by indecision and cannot narrow down to a list of shorter than about 50 people.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I mean, you want it to be somebody who has like a beautiful desk, I think is at least for me, that would be the first consideration. Like this is just like a beautiful vintage desk that also has a name attached to it. That will be fun to tell people about. But you wouldn’t want to get like, I don’t know, Danielle Steel’s desk because that, I think just has her name all over it. And it would be like, Well, who are you? Why are you why are you at this desk that’s covered in Danielle Steel?

Speaker 2: It’s tricky because I feel like you want the desk to be beautiful. But you also I mean, there is going to be some kind of like feeling like a vibe around the desk. Right. And so you want it to be somebody who who’s going to bring good things to all of the work you’re going to do sitting at that desk. Right. And so you got to have both of those things. And I feel like it’s I will admit that, like, I’m currently working at like a desk from IKEA that I have owned for like 15 years because when I bought it, I, that was the desk that I could afford and I have not found one that I like better just because I’m apparently very picky about my desks. I need it to be very functional and it also needs to fit up the stairs in my very narrow Boston apartment. And when it comes down to it, I’m like, Well, none of these tests are better than the little IKEA one that I’ve got, so I’m just going to hold on to it. I feel like this is this is probably more of a window into my writing psyche than than you might have expected.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I think, by the way, my vote would be for Marjorie Hillis. I don’t even know if she, like, had a desk of note or she might’ve just had a bunch of, you know, various pieces of furniture that she wrote on. But I feel like both because I love her style. And like the thirties are a huge decade for me, at least when it comes to like writing style and tone. But also because she was able.

Speaker 2: To say that they’ve got nice at.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: My desk and she was just like also such a great sort of like making the most of your environment type person. I bet she would have a really beautiful desk.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Do you feel like there would be pressure in having the desk of somebody sort of that you really admired? Because I feel like you’d want to live up to that. And I feel like every time I sat down at the desk, I might be sort of paralyzed. So maybe like I’m maybe I’m better off with, like, the IKEA desk or like the my dad used to be a big fan of the desk. That was like two filing cabinets with like a door on top.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. And I think that’s part of why no disrespect to Marjorie Hillis, but that’s part of why I was going with her, because she feels like aspirational but achievable. I would not. Feel the same way about like, oh, here’s like Anthony Trollope’s desk. Here’s Proustian. Enjoy.

Speaker 2: Peruse desk. Yeah. You know, like, you’d feel a lot of pressure there. I feel like. Yeah, there’s something in that sweet spot of being like, okay, I can. This is this is going to give me good vibes, but not feel so intimidating that I cannot write a single word.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Exactly. Exactly. Celeste, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me on.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Be honest. What would you say is the likelihood that you’re going to put in a bid on the Michael Caine desk? You can say 040 like.

Speaker 2: It might be zero just because it’s not. I don’t like how it looks.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: I know.

Speaker 2: But someone out there is going to find it and is just going to fall for it and is going to buy it and have it shipped to them from London and love it and be really happy. And I’m really happy for them. And the desk.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah, I. The Gore Vidal desk was really beautiful, and I should have told you about that. But it’s too late.

Speaker 2: It’s too late. But somebody out there has it and loves it and I hope is doing wonderful work.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Yeah. So right now I want to hear from you if either you’ve been getting weird Regent University ads or if you were the person who bought the Gore Vidal desk, or if you are going to buy the Michael Caine desk. So if any of those things describe you, please be sure to get in touch with the show. Celeste. Thank you again so much. Have a fabulous rest of your day.

Speaker 2: Thank you so much, Danny, you two.

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, a little mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Circus, who also composed our theme music Don’t Miss an episode of the show, had the Slate.com slash mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Thanks. Also, if you can please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, you should join Slate. Plus, Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations with the guest. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com forward slash mood plus to sign up. It’s just $1 for your first month. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, maybe need a little advice, maybe some advice, head to Slate.com slash mood to find our big mood, a little mood listener question form or find a link in the description on the platform you’re using right now.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Murray, Danny Lavery: Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. Look, again, this is an all have to take place in the exact same conversation. But if you want to say to your partner, you know, I would love to someday talk about the possibility of like seeing whether or not all three of us might be compatible as like a throuple or. I would love to talk about the possibility of doing like a Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn style duplex where we’re like in the same building and like in and out of each other’s pockets a lot of the day, but not necessarily all in the exact same bedroom. How does that strike you? And again, maybe it would feel really devastating and crushing for them to say, that doesn’t sound good to me. But if you already feel that way, like, what’s the other option? Pretend you don’t want that, and then hope someday they change their mind like that’s not really better. Yeah. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate Plus now at Slate.com, forward slash mood.