Too Many Words
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: This Ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello and welcome back to Big Mood. A Little Mood. My name is Daniel Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Liza back, a writer, reporter and producer based out of Berlin, Germany. She’s the creator and host of the Audible Original Dear Poetry. Lisa, welcome to the show.
Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I’m so pleased that you’re here. I am really looking forward to answering some questions together today. And, you know, just generally feeling ready to make three people’s lives, hopefully a little bit better.
Speaker 2: Yes. Yes, me, too.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Anything in particular on your mind as we tackle this? Anything that sort of stood out to you and you got a chance to look these over.
Speaker 2: I think that they’re all they’re all quite heavy. They’re all quite serious dilemmas. And I really felt for each of these people, and I think in all of them there are sort of questions underneath questions as well. So yeah, it’ll be really. Yeah, I would love to delve into them and hear your thoughts.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: While I love giving my thoughts is not something that I have ever struggled with either on this show or elsewhere. So I do feel equipped for that today. In that case, I will go ahead and read our first letter so that we can dive into it. The subject is overwhelmed, but interested. I’m a queer woman in my fifties and I have begun dating again after ending a long relationship a few years ago. I’m trying to be more emotionally present and communicative. I’ve gotten to know someone new and I really like her. She’s smart, competent, interesting, and is usually a good listener. However, she also told me that she has ADHD and that this comes out as a form of conversation that can be extremely fast and tangential. When she tells me a story, I feel overwhelmed. This has made me feel more distant from her and less attractive as well. Is there a way to tell someone that they talk too much too fast? She does show interest in me.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So the issue isn’t reciprocity, but rather her rate of expression makes me anxious. Do I accept that this likely won’t change and just tell her I don’t feel interested in pursuing a sexual relationship. I feel like we could be friends and hang out once in a while. She’s a big quote processor, and I think she’d probably want to know why. If I said I wanted to lessen the intensity of our relationship, should I tell the truth?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: This to me feels so like. Part of it is just that I have been listening to Mansfield Park all week and so it has like slightly affected my speech that this feels like such an Austen like question, which is like, if I want to become slightly less intimate with somebody, is it, you know, thoughtful, helpful, kind to let them know why? Or is it, in fact, like presumptuous to assume that just because someone doesn’t suit me in this one issue, that they therefore need to change that aspect of their personality. And so I think that’s a kind of lovely place to begin. Like, is this a universal problem that requires correcting or is this just the work of dating is to figure out whether or not you and someone else suit one another and you started to figure out you don’t suit and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just part of the process. Where do you think you fall on this one?
Speaker 2: You know, it is this dating game of of trying to figure out are you compatible. But at the same time, it’s also this very tender thing. You know, I think, you know, they do like each other. And there’s so many parts of the letter writers of the woman, the letter writers stating that they like, you know, they say she’s smart, confident, interesting and is usually a good listener. And so, yeah, I think just this question of, you know, there’s this one big important part, though, that doesn’t fit, you know, this our communication, it doesn’t fit. So I think it’s also this this tender thing of telling someone, you know, the way that you you talk or the way that you tell stories is too fast or it’s overwhelming to me. And I think it’s it’s a hard thing. It’s a hard thing to tell someone.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. And I think this part was slightly unspoken, but I felt like implicit within this letter was also the question, because the the other person in question is at least somewhat aware that she sometimes talks quite quickly and goes on a lot of tangents because she’s the one who brought it up to the letter writer. So then there’s that question of if this person is already somewhat aware of this propensity enough that they mentioned it to me upfront and connected it to their ADHD. Is it rude, possibly ablest of me to bring it up because it is something that is totally fixed and cannot be changed.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So I think there’s also that question of, well, she’s a big processor, she’d want me to tell her, but I’m worried that telling her would still in fact be rude or inconsiderate or would simply draw her attention to something that she cannot easily change about herself. I don’t know that I have a really hard or fast rule there. I want to leave room for the possibility that someone can both have ADHD that leads them in a particular conversational direction, but they can also benefit from, you know, kind, careful, moderate criticism or suggestions to rein some of that in. So I don’t want to necessarily say either. Yes, you can just tell her and insist that she fix it and be done with it. I think that would probably be expecting too much, but neither do I. I think no one under any circumstances could ever bring this up as something that would benefit from a change.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So within those sort of confines, I guess my question for the letter writer is, does it sound more interesting or appealing to you to try to bring this up kindly and graciously and see if the two of you can make some headway? Or does it sound better to you to say no? You know, we went on a few dates and I’d like to look for something else because I think there’s, again, unspoken here this idea of if it’s possible for her to change this somewhat, is it incumbent upon me to stay with her and see if we can make this change together as opposed to simply.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I went on a few nights dates with somebody I like but don’t feel wild about and don’t necessarily want to, you know, work on something with. And I think that’s really important. I actually think that there’s value in saying you can like someone well enough, so you had a good couple of dates and that there may be other people who find this particular quality charming or workable. And to simply say to yourself. This isn’t evil, this isn’t horrible. This isn’t going to push everyone away from her. But I’m not crazy about it. And I don’t want to embark upon a project of self-improvement with somebody I’ve only known for four dates. And so that’s the sort of implicit question here. Like, is it okay to just say thanks? I had a nice time, but I’m not really interested in going on a fifth or sixth date. Am I allowed to do that? You know, to that, my answer would be, God, yes.
Speaker 2: Totally. Totally. And also, maybe the letter writer can also trust that if the person wants feedback or if they ask for reasons why, they can leave it open and maybe share some of that. Right. I mean, they they do seem to be very self-reflective. You know, they say, I want to be more emotionally present and communicative in my relationships. And in this particular or in these interactions with this particular person, I feel overwhelmed. And, you know, I think that maybe just trusting that if if if she asks for feedback, then maybe that is sort of a doorway to a conversation. And and if not, then it’s also okay to just say, you know, it’s it’s not working for me. Or maybe could we be friends? Yeah.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I am glad you brought up that point. Towards the end, I think it is useful to remember that the letter writer has said herself that she would like to be more present, more communicative. My guess there was probably also the direction of communication about slightly thorny topics because it’s it’s less often that you hear someone say, I really struggle with, you know, communicating when things are going great. It’s more often that they communicate or have trouble communicating slightly trickier subjects.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So there’s a question of, do you want to be friends with someone or do you want them to think well of you? Because certainly you can stay friends with someone you went on a few dates with. That can be lovely. But I think sometimes people feel like if I went on a few dates with somebody and we had a mostly okay time, but I don’t want to take it any further, do I then owe them a friendship as a sort of like consolation for the sin of breaking up because it’s rude to break up with people and you shouldn’t do it unless you have an ironclad reason, which again, most people won’t necessarily come out and state is their approach to dating.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But I think in practice often people feel like if we’ve gone on three dates and you haven’t tried to kill me and I want to break up with you, I’m being, you know, like at best, a little rude. And I just really, really want to stress it’s not rude to break up with someone. They’re not necessarily going to say, thank you. I feel great. It’s not necessarily the most fun part of dating, but it is okay. It’s normal. It’s it should be expected. You should do it for I don’t want to go so far as to say like Seinfeld or frivolous reasons necessarily, but gosh, especially when it’s only been a couple of dates like dating or even a friendship isn’t something you owe someone for being a generally nice seeming person. This is about finding somebody that you can feel really excited about.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And it’s the process should be fun, right? I mean, the the letter writer wrote that they were in a long, long term relationship and sort of they’re going out and trying this, you know, dating again. And it should also be fun and and just feel feel good to them.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. And so, of course, you know, I really as the letter writer does, I really like her. I don’t want to discount that. So if you really think you would love to be friends with her, she certainly can. But, you know, ideally, you’re going to meet a lot of people you like. And again, if if party feels like I should offer the friendship or rather than say break up, say I want to lessen the intensity simply because you are afraid to break up with somebody because you feel like it’s mean. This actually might be an opportunity for you to be more emotionally present with yourself and more communicative about something that isn’t as fun as Hey, I got you ten presents and let’s date forever. But I’d like to break up or I’d like to not go out again. That that also might be something that you struggle to communicate.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And so I would say friendship is not something you owe her just because she’s nice. And yeah, I would just I would be wary again. You are free to pursue a friendship if that feels really important to you. But if you feel like friendship is something you need to offer as a sort of way of removing some of the sting of a breakup, that is not a good grounds for being friends with someone. And friendship isn’t something you owe someone just because you had a few pleasant dates. You can just say we had a few pleasant dates. I don’t want to go out again. And that again to me is what’s tricky. Like the dance of increasing intimacy that comes with a few dates also invites this question of what do we owe one another? And how much honesty is caring, polite and frankly earned based on the fact that we really don’t know each other all that well yet?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: You know what? To one person might feel like, Oh, I would really love to know why somebody didn’t want to go on a fourth or fifth date, even if I didn’t love what I heard or I decided not to change it on the basis of what they. I’d still want to know where somebody else would much rather just hear a sort of polite, I’ve had a nice time, but this is the end of the road for me and would feel quite stunned to hear, you know, I don’t like this element of your personality that another person might like perfectly well.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So I suppose in that question where there’s so much subjectivity, where would you come down on the question of a sort of brutally honest answer to the question, why do you want to break up?
Speaker 2: Well, I mean, just going back to, first of all, what you said about friendship. I think that any relationship, be it a friendship or a romantic relationship, shouldn’t come out of guilt. Right. We shouldn’t. I do think that guilt is not a good basis for any sort of friendship. But I think that that sharing how I’m feeling when someone asks me, you know, what is it about? Like, why are you wanting to break up? I think that question of what’s going on here is also I think a lot of people will ask that, and especially if you are really liking someone maybe more than you sense they like you or if you want to take a step forward and they maybe want to take a step back. I think that question of what’s going on here is also very natural and a lot of people might ask.
Speaker 2: And in that case, if if she does ask what’s going on here, I would say, you know, yeah, share how you’re feeling. Share some of the things that you already wrote in this letter, which is, you know, I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious and keep it with yourself. Don’t you know, don’t point fingers, but but just share how you’re feeling. But like you said, I don’t think I don’t think we owe it to that person. And they might not want to know and they might not they might be okay with also just with that answer of, no, this isn’t working for me.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I think that’s useful. Yeah, I think if it were me, if I’ve been dating someone less than a few months and they say I don’t want to go out again, I don’t want to know why. You know, there’s there’s I wouldn’t want to press that conversation any further. I would just say, thanks for letting me know. We’re still just getting to know one another. If I’ve been dating somebody for, you know, six months or a year, I would maybe want to have a slightly more involved conversation. But yeah, I think less than a few months my tendency would be at least just hope we’re just getting to know each other. Makes sense, you know?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Thank you. I would not want to know more, partly because then I just think I would have it rattling around in my head all the time. And also just. It would feel very like. I’d still be on sort of company manners with that person. And so the thought of like asking would make me worry that I was sort of trying to bargain as opposed to just like taking a loss with good grace and saying, you know, you be well. So that’s my own preference in that sort of situation.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And I do think, you know, having having just thought about what you were saying, I am now rereading that line. If I just tell her I don’t feel interested in pursuing a sexual relationship, I feel like we could be friends and hang out once in a while. That to me does feel a little bit like bargaining, like the letter writer does feel guilty and would maybe want to offer being friends to sort of placate her. Hopefully soon to be ex. And I would just encourage this letter writer. You know, you can always just break up and wish her well. And then six months from now, when things aren’t so fresh and you’ve both kind of moved on to reach out and say, do you want to grab coffee sometime? Like you can leave that door open without making a promise or a commitment in the moment. And I think therein lies the way to make sure that you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself if you promise someone, let’s be friends while you are breaking up with them.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I think that’s putting too much pressure on yourself. But you can always you know, it’s only been a few dates. It’s not like you’re going to be breaking her heart and blighting her future. So you can always pick that back up later. I would say that to me. I hear we’ve been on a few dates. I like her, but she has this pretty big part of her personality that makes me feel actively turned off sexually. I just think that’s a great reason not to go out again, because it suggests to me that even if the two of you were to like even if she was like, Oh, thank you for telling me that it bothers you, let’s work on hand signals or something that would tell me that you were already kind of like trying to force yourself to gin up attraction that you don’t feel. And that is a recipe for for not feeling good and just.
Speaker 2: Frankly, of wanting her to change. Right? You’re wanting her to change, which is not a good start to a relationship and to getting to know each other.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah, it’s it’s too soon for such a substantial. Oh, I’m really turned off by this to be something, I think, worth trying to overcome. I think this speaks to a broader incompatibility. That, again, doesn’t mean that you hate each other. It’s just I think it’s a sign to say this is the end of the road. You had to a fun couple of dates. But this is this is pretty substantial. So my my advice would be just let her know you’re not interested in going on another date. Thank her for the time that you shared together. If she says I’m a big processor, I want to talk about this a lot. I want you to feel a lot of freedom to say no, thank you.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah, I.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Don’t I’m not, you know, like she if she’s a processor, that’s one thing. That doesn’t mean that I think, again, like we’re getting into sort of like my own personal bugbears, which is like I think when you’ve been on 3 to 5 dates with somebody, they don’t owe you much beyond a polite breakup if they don’t want to go out again. And if somebody says, I love to process, that’s sort of as relevant as saying, I love Halloumi like, fine, that’s none of my business. I don’t care.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I Yeah. So I would say just break up with her if pressed and you feel like you’ve got to say something, I would just go with, I don’t think that we’re suitable for one another. I don’t feel interested in going on another date and I feel uncomfortable about being pressed for details because I think sometimes maybe part of what you’re also responding to with that stuff about her being a big processor is a fear that she’s going to try to pry excessive attachment or intimacy out of you and that you would like to hold a little something more in reserve.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And I know you want to be more present and communicative, but I also don’t want you to feel like the new rule for dating is three dates, and you owe somebody a four hour long break up conversation where you submit your arguments and they either approve or don’t approve. Like I really think that a few dates and everybody should be able to hear thanks, but no thanks to another one with a real good sport attitude.
Speaker 2: Yes, yes, definitely. And by the way, I think the same is true for friendships, too. Right.
Speaker 2: So just to your point that the letter writer, if if they actually want to be in relationships that are emotionally president communicative and that isn’t the case with this person, do they actually really want to be friends with them? And I think just yeah. Just back to your point, I think in the beginning when getting to know someone, it should it should be fun and it should feel good and we should walk away happy.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. And I think especially like she knows this aspect about herself, if it were a smaller problem for you, if it just felt like slight, I might have different advice, but it sounds like it really just doesn’t drive well with your personality. And that doesn’t mean you, you know, disapprove of her as a person or that no one else could find the way she tells stories. Charming and interesting. It just means the two of you don’t suit. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad sign on either of your characters. So I would encourage you to treat this lightly without encouraging you to be rude or disrespectful.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And yeah, just generally I think I think there’s a limit to how much asking someone like why they want to stop seeing you absent. Like we’ve been together for years and years and like I don’t know a strong yeah because it’s just often like well I don’t want to, I don’t know if the reasons why are very important because again unless like you’ve done something really wrong that I urge you to reconsider, it’s just I don’t want to keep seeing you. And there’s limited ability on your part to do anything about it, to change. So I think the kindest thing to do usually in those situations is to be general rather than specific and not to press someone for the gory details. Yes.
Speaker 2: Yes, I agree with that.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Again, if I if I’d been listening to a different audiobook this week, I might have like if I’d been listening to I Don’t Like Patricia Highsmith, I might be full gory details. Rip out your report, your chest shall each other, your heart go nuts. But that’s not what I did this week.
Speaker 2: Pump your arteries dry. Exactly.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Steal their clothes. Steal their identity.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I think that’s a sign that it’s time to move on. In which case, would you mind reading our second letter?
Speaker 2: Yes, of course. Subject, single target, estrangement, my fiancee and the love of my life. June is a Korean trans woman. Before I introduced her to my extended family and at her request I told them she was trans so she wouldn’t have to field any surprise or thoughtless questions. They all met her respectfully and warmly, except for my cousin who made a crack about eggrolls complete with sexualised gesture. I was so shocked I asked them to repeat what they had said, and they did. We left the party quickly. This had happened at my aunt’s birthday party. She heard the comment but didn’t see the gesture and thinks it was just a stupid racist microaggression from her socially clumsy child that Yoon handled, quote unquote, so gracefully.
Speaker 2: Eun wants to forget about it and just avoid chatting with my cousin in the future. I’m livid. I don’t want my cousin at our wedding or near us without a major apology. We’re not close. They’re college aged. I’m in my late twenties. I don’t even have their number. How do I avoid putting you in the middle of a conflict? She doesn’t want. A man.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Whose doggy, as they say.
Speaker 2: Oh, man. I mean. First of all, I just want to say, when I read this letter, I totally understood the anger that the letter writer was talking about. You know, they say I’m livid. And I just thought, you have every right to be. I mean, the fact that the cousin made that comment and repeated it and that the odd excuse there, racism and transphobia, is completely unacceptable. I mean, I just I understand your anger.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. I think especially that line about it was just a stupid, racist microaggression for her socially clumsy child’s like. It’s kind of remarkable to hear someone downplay something so dramatically like, Oh, it was just a horrible, racist piece of shit thing that my dumb ass kid did, which is like that’s not a just that’s live.
Speaker 2: Yeah deserves to use that word rage.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Or just like if you’re going to say just actually downplay it. You just described why it’s terrible.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And of course, you know, I also am really angered by the and then sort of like pushing things in the direction of oh, but, but Yan was so graceful about it, which has its own like weird racist ideas about like Asian femininity. That’s kind of like gross all by itself, but it’s also just like a really unpleasant trick of like, oh, I’ve turned it into a weird compliment. That also sort of implies that I expect her to be graceful again in the future. Like this is actually a great sign of character for her and shouldn’t you feel proud, which is a really impressive gross one to stab. So yeah, I, you know, I would say feel free to be just as livid at your aunt for trying to turn this into a series of niceties as you are at your cousin. It’s like two really unpleasant sides of the same coin. I think they’re very much working in concert with one another, definitely.
Speaker 2: And then I feel like a also at the core of this letter is, you know, are these like two very different emotional responses to the situation, like the letter writer is feeling this anger and it sounds like you and wants to sort of avoid can avoid the conflict and move on and I thought about this question you know, how do I avoid putting you in the middle of a conflict she doesn’t want? And I feel like part of that is to ask her what she needs to feel safe and loved at the wedding and going forward. You know, because of the family. To really ask her what.
Speaker 2: Yeah. What would make her feel safe. And I also feel like part of it is also this question of, you know, how do you how does the letter writer deal with the anger towards their family, right toward about how they treated their fans say? And yeah, I just think they’re wanting a major apology, but they might also not get that. And how do they move forward with their family, given that?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah, so I think that’s a really useful place to begin as well. And I would encourage the letter writer to think of this in terms of not I you don’t need to feel like you have to lock into simply saying T and I will do whatever it is that you want. But I think it is important, as you had said, Lisa, to check in with her first, ask what she thinks she needs to feel safe and to run your own thoughts or feelings by her before you take other actions so that the two of you at least know what page the other is working from.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Because I think there’s a balance to be struck here between it’s understandable to me why your fiancé does not want to make waves, in part because I think she’s probably aware that these are your relatives of long standing. And if she says, Yeah, I hate those two and I want you to stop talking to them, there’s a chance you might not do it. And I don’t mean that as a slight against your character letter, but I just think she’s in a difficult position. And so that’s really understandable. And it’s also understandable that you might say, I am committed to not speaking like flippantly and in anger and saying really out of pocket things that might cause unexpected blowback onto you.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But this is also substantially changed my view of my cousin and my aunt’s character. And so I might no longer be interested or available on having the same kind of relationship with them that I used to want. And I want your input, and I want to let you know about what I’m thinking, but I might no longer respect or esteem them. And that is also, I think, real.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But but yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense letter writer that you don’t want to react so angrily that you make anything more difficult for young or put her in another difficult position. Because I think that’s often a risk of getting angry on someone else’s behalf is that you do too much. And then they say, Well, thanks for getting real mad, but you just made this day worse for me and that’s unfortunate.
Speaker 2: Yes. Yes, exactly. Which is not to say, don’t, you know, keep that anger all inside, you know, do what you need to also do to get it out. You know, it might not be attacking your your cousin and aunt, but but but I can understand how how much anger you feel and take care of yourself, that you can release that somehow, you know, whether it’s kickboxing or screaming or what you need to do. But I agree with you. I think that hurling that at at their family might not be the best way.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. And I think I would certainly encourage the letter writer to really write off their cousins and aunts at a bare minimum. I think you have good reason to. But I’m also aware that sometimes people, when they first run into racism, transphobia, trans misogyny from their relatives, that they either maybe didn’t have occasion to see because in the past they mostly also moved around in like a white or racist milieu together or that they didn’t want to see necessarily when it didn’t primarily affect them. Which is not to accuse this letter writer of like having on rose colored glasses up until this particular incident.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I just mean that might also be part of what informs Jones like let’s just keep our heads down perspective, which is like you’re mad now, but if you push back and you find that your entire family kind of rallies around your cousin and says like, sure, they shouldn’t have said that, but like, what are you going to do? You might eventually give in to that pressure because that’s a lot of pressure. And people often do end up, you know, if the entire family says don’t make waves. People often start making waves.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And so one of the outcomes that she might fear is that you come out hot out of the gate and then when everyone says, hey, just get over it, you eventually feel guilty and give in, or everybody in the family is suddenly problematize ing her for like leading you out of the bosom of the family. Again, that’s not to say you don’t get to think about your own anger right now, just that those are, I think, two possible long term outcomes that I. Want you to be aware of. Which is, you know, maybe will surprise you.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But it sounds like you left the party quickly. It doesn’t sound like anyone else said anything. It doesn’t sound like anyone else has checked in with you and said, Hey, I heard what happened. How awful. How can I support you? So. I think I have good reason to suspect that at best everyone’s going to be on the side of Gosh, they shouldn’t have said it, but what are you going to do? And I’m sorry.
Speaker 2: And I mean, which I think yeah. Which also is connected to this question of, you know, the letter writer wrote, they would want a major apology. But, you know, what would that mean? I mean, would that mean that the cousin and aunt really educate themselves about transphobia and racism and, you know, get back to them and say, you know, we were wrong for this and this reason or, you know, what? What would it look like to heal that relationship? And yeah, and I think I think that’s that’s another question, too, for me, is that, you know, Justin, I’m sorry. I don’t think it cuts it.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I’m glad you brought that up, too, because part of me also thinks like if your cousin and aunt came to you tomorrow, unprompted, with, like, a remarkable apology, would you feel like that was settled? Would you feel like, okay, that makes up for it? Or would you still feel like, nope, doesn’t cut it? Because that’s important to, I think, to really consider. I mean, as you say, Luisa like. There’s a reason that that was the very first thing that your cousin said. That was, I think, a pretty strong stance. I don’t think it was an accident.
Speaker 2: And they repeated it right when asked. They repeated it.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I think that’s what your cousin wanted to make pretty clear was I think of you as trans and I think of you as career, and I think those are bad and shameful things. And I want you to know that. And even if afterwards they don’t say it again. I want that to be the first thing you heard from me. And I want you to always know in the back of your mind that that’s how I see you and that’s it.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And so, yeah, I think if I were in your position and the cousin in question came back and said, I’m so sorry, what I said was so wrong. I’m doing this, that and the other. At best, I would say, you know, I wish you well in like turning around the project of your life. And I appreciate the apology. And I would ask that you continue to leave us a lot.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Like. You know, I want now a slightly warmer estrangement where, like, you and I don’t talk, but I don’t mentally kill you every day, which is like, that’s not nothing, frankly. Like, I’m thinking of, like, the separation of Jacob and Esau, you know, for the first segment of their relationship when it was an angry and a strained one. And then the second one after the meeting across the river where they don’t see each other again, but they think of each other more warmly. And it’s like, hey, good luck with your whole deal. And that’s, I think, a meaningful example of a sort of like reproach ment that isn’t itself a reconciliation.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But yeah, so the question I think that you should ask yourself, letter writer, is do I want to ask or demand an apology from my cousin and my aunt? And if so, what am I going to do when as I think is likely to happen? I don’t get it. What’s my next move at that point in my prepared to say to my other relatives, Here’s the situation as it stands, I invite you to say that you disagree with what my cousin and aunt did and say that it was fucked up and agree that I shouldn’t have to be around them. And then if they don’t do that. I mean, I think again, I think that’s probably why Allen has been like, I don’t want to rock the boat because, like, are you prepared to if everyone around you suddenly disappoints you and says, like, sure, it was fucked up, but let’s not make a big deal out of it.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Are you really prepared to reconsider your perspective on all of your relatives characters? I would love to be disappointed here. You know, again, I’m thinking very much of my own family estrangement and like the opportunity that I gave all of my relatives with like a direct question. Do you want to? Do you want to come out and say, this isn’t good? Do you want to try to find a better solution here?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I didn’t hear anything from anybody, not even from like my beloved grandmother, whom I had spent like most weekends of, like my youth and college with who I talked to, you know, multiple times a week and who often referred to me as her favorite. It was like I didn’t even get a response. There was not even a question. And so, you know, and I think that’s more it’s not that it always happens, but I think it happens a lot. I think it happens a lot. I think more often than not, families come together around somebody who tried to reject an outsider. Yeah. Than. Than otherwise.
Speaker 2: So where the family’s silence is them taking a stance, too, right? I mean, they’re making a decision to not speak up, and that’s incredibly painful to to see and experience.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Right. And, you know, to say they all met your fiance respectfully and warmly. And again, like maybe your cousin did this in such a remote corner of the party that nobody else saw. Well, my guess is that’s not what happened. And certainly I think by now word has probably spread if everyone was respectful and warm, but then totally silent and distant in the face of such a like hideous comment and gestures that that that all the all the previous respect and warmth doesn’t amount to shit. So. As you say, we’re not close. I don’t have their number. You can get their number like that’s not going to be a real problem. I get why it feels weird because, like, you’ve never talked about anything else. One on one. But you can get their number. You can make that happen.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: The bit about their college age. And I’m in my late twenties. Fine. College age, I. Who cares? You would. You would have my permission to scream at them for this if they were 14. I don’t know why. I was just like, I’m giving you permission to scream at imaginary 14 year olds. But, like, that would be the level of, like, intimidation that I would let you off the leash for. So college age to me is nothing.
Speaker 2: 14 year olds are very sensible beings and very empathetic to you. Yes, I think you can trust that. Yeah. It doesn’t have anything to do with their age. I agree with that.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. This is not one of those things like, oh, you know, they’re in college. It’s okay to do something extremely hateful. It’s not. No. And so the question about how do I avoid putting in in the middle of a conflict she doesn’t want, that is, I think, the thing to kind of come back to you, because I’ve asked all these questions about possible difficult conversations and ruptures that you might be facing with your relatives. But your your primary question is, I think, the right one, which is how do I avoid putting her in the middle of a conflict she doesn’t want?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Good question. That’s the right question. Your heart’s in the right place. I’m glad to hear it. So I would say, number one, don’t bring her around any of your relatives who haven’t taken a clear stand. So that means even if your parents are sort of hedging and saying, gosh, I don’t know, don’t put her in a room with them. Don’t put her in a room with anyone that you worry might be trying to come up to her and say, hey, you know, maybe you can work on the letter writer to just calm down a little bit about this because that would be a horrible thing to happen to her. I’m not saying you have to go and take the temperature of everyone else in your family. Certainly, I would encourage you to bring this up with some of your onions, mutual friends, maybe ask for their feedback, their support. But yeah, I mean, just to say to her, I don’t want to put you around anyone in my family unless and until I know that they have said that that was wrong and you deserve better. How does that strike you? Is that okay?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: And again, that doesn’t mean you have to only do the things that she says if they really don’t line up with your own commitments or abilities. But you do really have to pay attention to that here. And again, that’s what’s difficult. It’s like it affects her far more closely than it does you. And yet it’s also your family. And it also makes sense that this might change how you think about some of them.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So hopefully everyone else can get real clear, real fast and say, That was horrible. I’m so sorry. I didn’t see it at the time, but I hate it. And if I saw anything like that, I would have stopped it or I’m sorry that I didn’t stop it. That was wrong and I’m ashamed and I should have like those are apologies you could work with. I think even if it’s not like, great, I immediately forgive you. Let’s all go to the beach. But an apology from your your aunt and cousin, even if it were immaculate, would only mean a slightly more peaceful distance than I would suggest. It means that you should, like, have a second barbecue.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
Speaker 2: And I also think I, I hope that this letter writer also seeks support from other people who have also become a stranger to their family or who have dealt with similar conflicts with their family. Because it is it is a very weighty question. And here are people, you know, who you thought cared about you and the people you love and and you face this, you know, racist, transphobic attack, frankly, by one of them.
Speaker 2: And here is also someone you love, your fiancee. And, you know, it’s it’s you want a relationship. You you love I presume you love your family. But I think it’s it’s a tough thing to be confronted with that. So I, I would just yeah, I would encourage a letter writer to go seek friends and people who are committed to you and John to yeah. To just seek support because I think it’s a tough thing to, to face your family like that.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Yeah. And I do think in some ways Onion are more on the same page than I might have feared at the beginning, which is like she wants to avoid chatting with your cousin. That’s great because I want you to avoid that too. It sounds like you’ll be able to do that. Certainly your your cousin and your aunts and any partners of theirs, they’re not coming to the wedding. If you’ve already sent them invitations, get their number and call them up and say, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear this, but you are no longer welcome at the wedding. Do not attend. And again, I say that one. That’s not a negotiable one. That’s not if you give a really good apology, you can come. You’re not coming. You’re not going to be there. But that’s just real straightforward. And if if people in your family get more freaked out about you uninviting a cousin, you barely talk to you than they were about the like hideous thing that he said and did.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Again, you know, don’t go off unhinged and say anything that first comes into your mind. Like, take a minute, take a take a breath, take a walk. But you might want to say I’m troubled by the fact that you are more bothered by my not inviting a cousin I’m not close with than you were at the thing that he said. And I invite you to fix your hearts or die, as they say on the TV show. I think that’s all I’ve got on that one. Whenever I like quoting the Fix Your Hearts or Die line, that’s actually a sign that I.
Speaker 2: Think that that’s a great ending.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: How you doing? How you feeling? How. How are these letters striking you. Now that we’ve started trying to address them.
Speaker 2: Oh, I mean, it’s so interesting to. Yeah. To just peel back all these layers of them. And I think, you know, these conflicts with family that we have, they’re they can be so disappointing and so disheartening and, you know, raise all those questions also about where we come from and the sort of people we’ve grown up with. And yeah, I think it’s it’s tough, but I really I agree with you. I think I think taking taking some taking distance and and setting also clear boundaries is really is really good. So yeah, no, it’s it’s really great to just sort of peel back the layers of these.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So I know, of course, that on your own show, Dear Poetry, you often advise people with similar problems or questions with a particular like poem or poet that you think might address their situation. Not necessarily in the sense that it will fix it or provide them with an immediate solution. So much as just that can be sometimes nice to feel your problems or your situation echoed by someone else. Do any poets come immediately to mind on either of these fronts for you?
Speaker 2: Um, you know, there’s the, the poet Paul Tran, who wrote an amazing poem about Judith, the biblical figure slaying Holofernes. And it’s a poem that was introduced to me by Luther, who’s one of the guests on the show. And it’s written from the perspective of Judith, and it’s based on this painting by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi.
Speaker 2: And it’s this incredible, it’s this incredible painting where you see, you know, Judith selling Holofernes and Holofernes is bleeding on the bed. And, and the poem itself has this great line that says, I am that bitch. And it’s basically about Judith sort of claiming her space, claiming what she’s going to do and standing up to Holofernes, you know, the the general.
Speaker 2: And there’s a sort of power in that poem that I thought about for the second letter, which is about, you know, claiming your identity and your love for your fiancee and claiming your space and standing up to your family. So that is that is one poem that immediately came to mind just because of the power in it.
Speaker 2: But yeah, I mean, I think that there are there’s so many poems that could speak to this because it’s such a complicated question as well. I mean, there are poems about family and about yeah. About conflicts with with people we love. So, yeah, I love to turn to poems as sort of this source of inspiration and, and this reminder of things that we can do and sort of like the secret weapon that we have to turn to something that, yeah, that gives us comfort or power or whatever it is that we need in a particular moment.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: It’s a lovely idea and I wish so much that it weren’t the case that the most recent poem I just read, I just finished a four week course at Besser about Spenser’s, the Faerie Queene, which I’d never read before. And so all I can think is like, Well, that poem is not really applicable to any of these situations. If you were going to like nine jousts and meeting 30 different people whose stories you all had to remember, I would have such a solid poem for you. But as it is, it is. It is one that I think is more like characterised by its remove from any sort of modern scenarios that I can envision. And I enjoyed it immensely. But it’s the only poem that I can think of right now, which is mostly just how my attention span works. I only remember what I’ve most recently looked at.
Speaker 2: And I haven’t read it. I’m going to have to read it. Do you recommend it? Do did you like it for what it is?
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: It’s dense. I mean, part of the reason that I’d always avoided the fairy queen is like he’s writing in an incredibly archaic style, even for the 1590s. So it it’s rough going like he’s he’s doing whatever the 17th century equivalent was of adding like old in front of everything.
Speaker 2: Oh, man.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: So that was partly why I was really excited to read it with a group. And we did a lot of the readings out loud, which was really helpful because a lot of it sort of looks indecipherable on the page, but when you sound it out, actually does sound to your ear fairly intelligible. But I really needed like the support of multiple people in a room to keep going.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: But once I did, you know, I found it really like charming, really vivid, really compelling. And it’s great. I didn’t realize there was a lot of cross-dressing in it, which is always a great sell to. And I didn’t realize that at least as best as I can tell, it’s one of the earliest examples of like a beautiful lady and basically like a motorcycle helmet takes off, her helmet shakes out her hair and it moves like what? That was a girl, which is such a like wonderful, cheesy moment and happens constantly throughout the fairy queen. And every time it’s the same. Like every time that it happens, even if it’s someone who’s seen her take her helmet off before, they’re like, Wow, she’s so beautiful. And I just I get no end of pleasure from that. So I guess it would be nice and cheerful if you’re going through a difficult rupture with your family to to read through some some comical moments where everyone says Britomart is a beautiful lady.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Sometimes it’s it’s helpful to just get your mind off of it and just, like, delve into a poem with lots of juicy details.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: It’s also been really funny because I hadn’t realised either just because I grew up in a very evangelical context. So I’m primarily familiar with C.S. Lewis is like explicitly Christian work, but I guess he was like a big Spence area and wrote a ton about the fairy queen. And one of the things that I have found sort of fascinating is so much of the fairy queen is about like female partiality, which again, makes sense. It’s dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. There’s there’s a lot of ladies running around wielding swords and that despite being such a huge Spencer Ian, for whatever reason, Louis felt like his biggest contribution to that canon was, Well, battles are ugly when women fight. And I sort of wonder where he how it felt kind of like lopping in between those two dimensions when it comes to thinking about, I don’t know, characterization or impartiality or anything like that. So but I have to actually like read his work on the subject now because you know.
Speaker 2: Yeah, you gotta because those are really interesting questions. Yeah.
Speaker 2: What prompted you to take this course? It’s so great that you’re taking approach because.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: It is sometimes. So I do occasionally like attend the courses there. It’s like the Brooklyn Institute of Social Research and it’s just like a nice in-between thing of like four weeks. It’s a class taught by people, like with academic credentials who know what they’re talking about, but you’re not signing up for a college course. And so, like, I knew if I ever, ever do want to actually read something like proves to the fairy queen before I die, I cannot just one day like sit up and say, you know, I don’t feel like playing Civilization six on my laptop till my fingers hurt and I have to get arthritis compression gloves. I feel like reading Proust.
Speaker 2: So that’s tough competition, tough competition.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: It’s the tension between like I genuinely want to like it’s not just, Oh, I feel like I ought to or it’s something that I must like. I don’t I don’t feel like I have to learn to play the harpsichord, even though that’s a fancy thing to do. But I would really like to, but I rarely on any given day think I would rather read Proust than anything else. So I took a course on. I’m Bruce and I got to read like Book five and enjoyed it immensely. I don’t know if I’ll ever read any of the other books, but I read that one and I got a lot out of it and I really liked it. So I think it was partly the sense of I think if I get these like assembly blocks in place, I will end up reading something that will ultimately bring me pleasure but that I might never just decide to do on a whim when I have a free afternoon.
Speaker 2: Hmm. I mean, one thing I learned too from, you know, making the poetry is just how a poem, when you when you read it together with someone like it really comes alive in a different way because each word and each image is going to resonate with with everyone so differently. And just to talk about that is really joyful and to see like what to make of these, this weird set of words that you have no idea what they mean. And it’s yeah, it’s a great it’s a it’s great to be in conversation about poems. So I feel like taking class was a good call. Yeah.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: I have one last question for you before we dive back in to our own advice giving project, which is what do you just hate? Like what is your least favorite poem? Because I’m sure you get to talk about very often the poems that you love, and that means nothing to you. But I always want to know people’s bugbears, and it’s fine if you don’t have one, by the way, I’ll just make one up in my head that you hate.
Speaker 2: Oh, my God. Oh, that’s a tough one. Which one do I hate? Hate is a strong word. Sure, it is a very strong word. You know, I can’t remember which one it was, but I was trying to get into itI Cummings recently and I also wouldn’t say I hate them, but man, they are tough. I was sort of in the mood for, you know, I really wanted something that was going to uplift me. I had just like finished listening to the radio like news and I wanted something super uplifting.
Speaker 2: And it was it was not that, you know, he has this one great poem that is all about I think it starts. Something like thank thank God for this amazing day. You know, thank thank you to the trees. And it’s like this very uplifting poem. And I was sort of expecting his whole repertoire to be like that. But they are they are. They are cryptic motherfuckers. So he you know.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Things are a little bit.
Speaker 2: Yes. Yes. But I want to give it I want to give him another shot. I feel like I might need a class to to to get some of his poems and to really appreciate them.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Sometimes it’s really fun to hate things or even just say, this isn’t quite for me. Luisa thank you so much for the attention and care that you brought to all of these problems today. I’m so glad that we got to have you on the show.
Speaker 2: Thank you so much, Danny, for having me. It’s been so much fun.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, a little mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Surkis, 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, a 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 big advice.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: 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. Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.
Speaker 2: It’s a very strange sort of triangular situation. I honestly I hadn’t thought about the threesome option before that. That may be what’s going on. I mean, if.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Someone’s making me muffins and calling me bestie and I’m sleeping with their partner, I assume they’re angling for a threesome. But maybe that’s just me and my depraved lifestyle.
Speaker 2: It. Yeah, but the.
Danny Lavery, Daniel Lavery: Other loves you or she hates you. She really wants to have sex with you. And she knows it. Or she really wants to have hate sex with you and doesn’t really realize it yet. Or she just hates you. I guess those are the three options to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com. Forward slash mood.