Martyr Manipulator

Listen to this episode

Danny Lavery: This ad free podcast is part of your slate Plus membership. Lucky you.

Danny Lavery: Hello and welcome back to the Big Mood. A little mood. I’m your host, Danny Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Amanda McLoughlin, the CEO of Multitude, an independent podcast, collective and production company. She’s also the longtime co-host of the podcast Spirits. Amanda, welcome to the show.

Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me back. Danny Hello.

Advertisement

Danny Lavery: I’m so glad that you’re back. And thank you so much for trying to help me remember earlier. I know I’ve recently listened to an episode of Spirits, but in my mind it was about like Celtic myths about Drowned Cities. And so I was like, right or right. I listen to the episode you guys did about Lioness, and it’s like, No, no, you didn’t. And I’m like, What did I listen to an episode about? So now at least hopefully I can force you to do an episode about it. So I will not be a liar.

Speaker 2: Or you should come on and talk about Drowned City myths. That sounds super fun. One of my favorite roundups we ever done is all about mermaid and like water person and more folk tales from around the world because it happens everywhere where there’s hot people living under the ocean that we want, that we are fascinated by and want to get to know.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: That’s fantastic. I am super, super onboard for that. Does it always have to, like, relate back to spirits more broadly, or is it just sort of and there’s liquor, too?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yes. So our no. So we basically have a cocktail with every episode that we talk about, including mocktails. And so every episode is about something around mythology, folklore or urban legends from, you know, Mara Wilson was on recently. She grew up in a haunted house, and her sister is extremely convinced that they did, in fact, grow up in a haunted house all the way to, you know, the ancient myths of Stephanie and Hades and the cannons that classical folktale horse girls like me grew up with.

Advertisement

Danny Lavery: That feels like actually a really great premise for a horror novel, because I feel like it’s fairly well known that, like siblings often have really differing, sometimes even very contradictory ideas of their childhood. And I feel like, yeah, just like a remembering of a haunted house where one sibling is like, this is how haunted we were. We were the Amityville Horror House and the other like, What are you talking about? We have asked normal childhood, You’re out of your mind.

Speaker 2: One of my favorite genres of letters that we receive for our calling shows is I was the haunted child where people realized that they were the creepy child or they were the ghost in the story from their hometown where they did something innocuous and the leader realized they become an urban legend. It is really just a study of like sociology and kids gossiping and wanting desperately to be haunted.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: I mean, I love that right now. I want that show.

Speaker 2: It’s good stuff. I don’t know why urban legends are not endlessly iterated on in horror, like, you know, more, more boring tropes.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, more, more birth order. Horror, please.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Exactly. Tell me about the the parent to vacation to a creepy child or haunted child trap.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. And also middle children at the best.

Speaker 2: I think middle children are inherently the spookiest or liminal, you know.

Danny Lavery: We’re just the best ones. That’s all I have to say about that is where the good ones, we’re right about things and we’re just the best ones. It is possible to be so see to it that you are one. That’s just blanket advice for everyone listening to the show right now.

Advertisement

Speaker 2: I love it. Good, good advice. Epitaph.

Danny Lavery: I’m glad we’re all on board and I’m wondering if I can interest you in reading our first letter.

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

Danny Lavery: I love this one because it starts with something that I don’t actually think it is, but it just has such a fun, gossipy tone that I want more people to begin their letters with this line.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. So the subject is master manipulator, and the letter goes, I know this is bad. When my boyfriend and I moved in together, we had been together for over a year. I’ve seen his apartment many times and it was always reasonably clean and well-stocked. But once we started living together, he said, I should do the cooking and cleaning for both of us, saying I was, quote, better at it. I pointed out he’d always done those things for himself before and accused him of implying that I be quote, better because I’m a woman. We had a few fights about it and even tried making a chore schedule, but he didn’t follow it, so I stopped doing any choice for him. I did my own dishes and laundry, but left his alone, cooked meals for myself, use my single serve coffeemaker in the mornings and didn’t offer him any other help. I don’t his passive aggressive and I regret it now, but at the time it felt like my only option besides taking care of him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Now, months later, he is not only cooking and cleaning for himself, but sometimes for me. When he does the dishes, he clears the whole sink. When he cooks, it’s for both of us and he picks up his stuff off the floor. He doesn’t pointed out when he does something like clean the tub. Even though I take more baths than he does. He hasn’t said anything about any of this either. Just started doing what needs to be done. I feel awful. I was petty enough to manipulate him into the cleaning schedule I wanted and he took it up with no complaint. I’m of course now cleaning equally and started including his messes once he started cleaning mine. But I feel like I was manipulative. I don’t know how to talk about this either. What should I say?

Advertisement

Danny Lavery: I mean, I kind of love this one just if only because I very rarely hear from someone who was like, I did something kind of passive aggressive and it worked.

Speaker 2: Yeah, you got the desired results and, you know, maybe you could have talked about it directly with better communication, but everyone’s okay.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. Like, well, then, like, wait, with a dream, Like, I did a lot of passive aggressive share in my relationships in my twenties, and if it had worked half as well, I would have been sitting on Easy Street, frankly.

Speaker 2: Rarely does passive aggression lead to an equitable and like, pretty loving arrangement of household duties, right?

Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Which of course makes me suspicious like that. He’s now playing a long game and he’s eventually going like, this is just a lull you into a false sense of security and then wham, he’s going to do something really passive aggressive to you in return. But ideally he won’t do that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Ideally not. And ideally you. I don’t know that you’re even damned if you think any action is necessary here. I think if this is weighing heavily on the letter writers conscience, she can maybe say was and I am carrying around a lot of guilt. This is all great, but I feel horrible and like I mistreated you in some way. Like, let’s talk about it. But how do you know if you have to?

Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s fine to talk about. I would also just say like, yeah, this probably will not be like the greatest way you ever handled conflict. And so it might be kind of useful to talk about it now that things are more settled and try to figure out in the future if you two have really different or even contradictory expectations that you will be able to have that next fight better than you had this one.

Danny Lavery: But I really don’t think you need to put on a hair shirt for this. I don’t think this is that bad. Again, like it’s not ideal. It’s not what I would have necessarily advised you as your first reaction. But it’s also like I think what he asked of you was pretty unreasonable. And you very understandably tried to disagree with him in a conversation first. And then when that didn’t work, you were like, Well, I’m not going to like dump him tomorrow for this, but I’m just not going to do it. Like, I think that was like, you know, you were kind of making the best of a not great situation. And so I would say maybe at most do a conversation now of like, Hey, this seems to be working. You and I are kind of both pitching in now. You may have noticed I now no longer only do my stuff. I’m pretty happy with how things are going. This works better than before when we were fighting over a chore wheel. Do you agree?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: And presumably he’ll say yes because you have no reason to think he’s not enjoying this. And then you can just say like, glad we didn’t go with that first idea. And, you know, let’s let’s try to find better ways of getting to this moment sooner in the future. But you definitely want to be like, Oh, I was a monster. I only made myself my own coffee. Like, that’s not wrong. You didn’t like to me. You doesn’t apologize for if, like, you would make your own coffee and then you put the used coffee filter on his pillow, or you did your own dishes, and then you put his dishes on his, you know, pile of clothes in the corner and, like, smeared food all over it. Like, that would have been shitty and passive aggressive. This was just I’m doing my own shit. You handle yours?

Speaker 2: Yeah. You didn’t gaslight him into saying, like what? What? Missing spoons. Because no one’s done dishes. And, you know, in four weeks, like, this is this is really a non problem. I think. That being said, if you want to institute sort of policies to improve your communication, like you were saying going forward, that’s a great idea. It’s normal to have a household meeting with your significant other, with your live in partner. You know, every so often to say, Hey, how is the house generally? Are there any improvements? Do you want to, you know, replace our couch or is there a chore you’re currently doing that you hate that I can take over instead? Like that is a a very usual thing to do. And maybe you can have your first annual, you know, the household keeping household planning meeting and make a space to talk about this kind of stuff in the future.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Yeah, but like, let yourself off the hook. Like, yeah, don’t throw the guy a fucking parade for, like, cleaning the sink, like, together. That’s normal. You should both be doing that. He’s doing what he should have been doing in the first place. And instead of doing that, at first he was like being weird and shitty. So this is like, better? Certainly. And you don’t have to dump him, obviously, but like, don’t. Don’t think that he’s like actually doing something incredible and fantastic and that you are there for an asshole for not having like, waited for him to blossom into this, you know, beautiful next iteration of who he can be. Like you pointed out when he cleans the tub fine. Like, good, Nice. That’s not. He’s not like, I don’t know. Knitting you a Pulitzer Prize from scratch or anything that needs to be written home about. That’s just nice. That’s really nice.

Speaker 2: Yeah. When he goes grocery shopping, my husband does not go. You’ll notice I thought your oat milk and my almond milk like that is a that is a normal thing that happens. And I think it’s really okay to employ the time tested strategy of a strike where you strike against doing extra cleaning services because, you know, not.

Danny Lavery: Even a strike, just like he asked you to do something kind of nuts and you declined. Something like a strike at least implies that you’re withholding some of your own work. But she was just doing her own work and not doing his. So I guess I just want to be careful about that because I’m like, I really understand why she was feeling nervous in the beginning of like, is he just trying to like, rope me into doing way more than my fair share of the stuff at home because I’m a woman? And so, you know, you didn’t actually go on strike. You were always looking after yourself. Very true. But yeah, you know, he took it up with no complaint. Well, he kind of did complain at first because at first he said you should cook and clean for me, which is terrible.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, I just. I don’t think it’s passive aggressive to take care of your own mess in a shared living space. And like you’re saying, you know, decline to, like, go above and beyond and now, you know, doing the thing where you both do a little extra for each other because it’s reciprocated is usual. And it’s not like I think the letter writer is assuming that it is her duty to do these things, either because she’s a woman, because he asked, or because, you know, she has standards of living that she wants to sort of stick to that are usual, such as clean dishes or, you know, a back. And that’s clean periodically. And that’s just not unusual. And you’re you’re really okay.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. And like it is not unheard of for people to have like terrible ideas and still be like an overall decent partner, especially if they let go of the terrible ideas. So again, if you’re happy with your boyfriend, if you like him, if that was just like the one dumb idea he had and then he let go of it, great, by all means. But I don’t. This needs a conversation much more than just, Hey, things right now are really great. Aren’t you glad we didn’t do the stuff that we did in the beginning? Are you also enjoying yourself and then let it end there?

Speaker 2: Agreed.

Danny Lavery: Do you have any other thoughts? Do you feel at all like, I don’t know, like I’m just inclined to be like, yeah, he had like a wacky idea. It’s fine. He got better. Do you feel at all like, I don’t know, I’m a little worried about a guy who moves in with you and then asks you to cook and clean for him, even if he does later, let it go.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: It’s a good question. I’m thinking about when I was a kid, I claimed not to know how to vacuum because it was a chore that I just really hated and didn’t want to do. And I just lied and said I didn’t know how. And my parents say, We’ll teach you. And I said, No, no, I just don’t know how. I just I can’t vacuum. Sorry. And I did lots of other chores, but, but I lied about not knowing how to vacuum.

Danny Lavery: I love to like. And I couldn’t possibly let.

Speaker 2: No, no. I decline your offer to to take a lesson. I simply am constitutionally unavailable to vacuum. And so I think it is it is okay to say, I mean, like you’re better at doing laundry or you’re better at grocery shopping like that. That may be true. I, I don’t think it like betrays a fundamental sort of bias or inability to compromise to to say, you know, I notice your home is very tidy. And whereas we’re putting our homes together, I find all of these things, you know, difficult or challenging. And I want to you know, the letter writer is not telling us that. The boyfriend then said, Oh, and I’ll do all the grocery shopping. You know, I’ll be our quartermaster of the house and make sure that we have all our supplies, things like that. But, you know, maybe that was implied. I don’t I think it’s a silly idea or an embarrassing thing, looking back to have said. And not like a red flag.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, like if if he is inclined to say anything else in the future that strikes you as like, oh that seems kind of sexist to like maybe bear that in mind, but if that was just like the one aberration and he got over it, he’s better now. Great. Great, Fantastic. I’m sure I had some wacky ideas in my toes. I don’t think anything quite on the level of move in with me and then make all my food and pick up after me. I guess. Like at least you admire the husband. Maybe like you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Like, maybe she was going to say yes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah. The worst I could tell is letter writer is maybe like if this is a thing you see other people modeling in your life, maybe, you know, improve your friends or challenge it where where you see it. Meaning like improve the quality of friends you spend time with that improve the friends you already have, which is often a losing battle. But ever, you know, I wonder. I wonder why the letter writer expected her boyfriend to say things like, You know what? It’s like clean my bathtub, even though you take, you know, twice as many baths as me. If that’s just a sort of self-protective cynicism or if that’s the thing that she’s seeing modeled around her, it strikes me as very like, I don’t know, like the sitcom, you know, hetero couple humor to do something like that.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. So just, you know, you don’t need to feel bad. You didn’t do anything harmful. You were like, maybe it wasn’t the, like, most mature way of handling conflict on the planet. But also, like you, you had tried having fights with him in conversations with him and he wasn’t really listening. And so this was the next step and it worked. So, like, well done. Congratulations. I really wish all the times that, like in my twenties, my boyfriend said, like, are you mad about something? And I said, No, but it had worked. And he been like, But I think you might be. And so I spent I stayed up all night thinking about anything I could have possibly done that would have harmed you. And I’ve made a list that’s also a poem. And, you know, I’m going to, like, recite it for you now. I would’ve been great if I had worked, but it didn’t, and I’m fine.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: You figure it out.

Danny Lavery: I figured it out. Yeah, I think that’s all I’ve got there. Any any last thoughts before we move on?

Speaker 2: No, I think that’s all. And if this is the biggest conflict you have run into in the first year or two of living together, I think that is a pretty good track record.

Danny Lavery: So I think this is kind of a this next letter is a slightly similar circumstance where the letter writer feels a lot of guilt over something that I don’t think she actually should feel very guilty about, possibly zero amount of guilty about. So maybe that’s kind of the theme today is just like people feeling guilty when they don’t need to be. I’m loving her when they don’t need to.

Danny Lavery: So the subject is who fixes the fixer? I’m a 16 year old trans girl. My mom has been really supportive, which means a lot, especially because I feel most comfortable in jeans and flannel and consider myself to be a butch. I know that can confuse lots of people since I want to be seen as a girl, but I’m really not into makeup and dresses. But my mom has just gotten it without questioning.

Danny Lavery: However, my mom is also the eldest daughter in the family and she’s always the one who mediates between her parents and siblings, making sure that everyone is comfortable and resolving arguments. Her parents and siblings are always in some kind of conflict, but she considers herself too close to them. When my grandpa didn’t accept my transition, this all changed. She’s literally never talked back to them, but has pushed back multiple times against their ignorant comments to me and even left his house once when he and my aunts got mad and started yelling at her. She’s keeping some of it from me, but I know that the extended family is giving her a lot of backlash. I feel like I’m putting her an impossible situation where she has to choose between the rest of her family and me. I’m at a loss. I feel great that she stood up for me. But now me being me is isolating her, which feels unfair. The only thing I can think of is to tell her it’s okay to let them say ignorant stuff to me. But selfishly, I don’t want to. How do I fix this? And is there a way to do so without pretending not to be trans?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: That’s always a caveat, right? It’s like if I. Okay, let’s take pretending not to be trans off the table. Right. What options are.

Danny Lavery: Available? I’m not going there.

Speaker 2: This letter writer, I just want to hug her. And then her mom. Everyone is doing so well here. And. And you are. You are okay. And your mom is great. And I, as the eldest daughter, you know, in all ways all stereotypes, the eldest daughter, that is me. I so feel for both the letter writer and her mom.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, I mean, letter writer. I’m so glad you’ve got your mom in your corner. I think on some level you probably do know this already, but like, it’s not that confusing to be butch. People, like, might choose to be confused because people really like imposing their ideas about gender on other people. But like, there’s nothing like, wacky or like, bananas or crazy about like, I’m a I’m a girl and I don’t love dresses. I’m not super femme. I’m butch. That’s like, fine, cool, ordinary. Easy to understand. I just understood it in, like, 2 seconds. It’s like a pretty normal, cool thing. So I just wanted to offer that as a corrective. If a lot of people are doing like, Why do you want to be a girl? What you don’t wear and wear like 75 pink bows on your head at all time? Well, then how do you expect anyone to agree with you? It’s just like they are being silly. They are. And you don’t have to be silly.

Danny Lavery: I have kind of another take on this one letter writer, which is that I think perhaps your mom has let a lot of shit slide with her family over the years. Maybe not even always consciously, but just kind of always like, I can handle this. It’s okay if they do something that bothers me. I can just swallow it and move on. And then something happened to someone else that she loved. And she was no longer just dismissing it because it was only happening to her. And now she’s really realizing I am so goddamn sick of bending over backwards for all of these people who take and take and take and never give. And I am finally, like, ready to stand up for myself and someone I love and I am not going back to before.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: And she’s like, actually not necessarily enjoying this, but really realizing that, like, what I considered closeness before was actually me doing whatever they wanted all the time. Mm hmm. And so this is, in fact, like, not necessarily easy, but maybe feels kind of great after years and years of no problem. You got it. How can I help?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that the letter writer is correctly identifying that she was a catalyst for change in her mom’s behavior. But that’s not your fault on something you did wrong. It’s not something you chose. It’s something that your extended family has chosen to make a point about. And the thing that your mom, in my mind, correctly chose to no longer kind of take lying down. That was my first read to Dani where I was like, Oh, good, I’m so glad that, you know, this this is something that is too, you know, acute or painful to someone else and not painful to herself. I’m sure painful to herself as well. But, you know, this is something that that the mom couldn’t let slide anymore. And I think, in fact, if we asked what writers, mom, about this, she might say, I’m so glad I you know, I had the chance to do this or I had the excuse to do this or this is something that, you know, I’ve chosen to do. And I feel really proud about my choices and my conduct. I hope she’s saying that because I’m proud of her.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. So. Yeah. Letter writer. I get that, like, conflict is hard and getting yelled at by a bunch of people is not, like, pleasant. But I think maybe part of what you’re feeling is, like, if only there weren’t this issue of my transition. She could go back to the way things used to be, which is I’m sure what she wants when in fact I think like. She might not want to go back to that. Like knowing what she knows now. She might feel like I’m so fucking sick of that. I’m not going back to just saying whatever they want to hear. I would much rather like be an honest conflict than just like, fix it, fix it, fix it, mold all the time. And like, maybe she’s kind of relieved to let go of some of that, like eldest daughter caretaker stuff.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Also, like, I would encourage you to, like, bring some of this up with her totally and absolutely say, I’m really like, sad to see that it’s been so hard for you and that they’ve been yelling at you so much. How are you doing? I mean, again, she seems like a pretty reasonable, emotionally healthy, inappropriate parent. So I’m not worried that she’s going to, like, dump it all out on you and like treat you like a therapist. But obviously, if you are worried about that, you don’t have to ask her that question. But like, yeah, just kind of check in and say like, it means a lot to me to see you defending me. I’m really sorry that they’re being so hard on you, you know? How are you doing?

Danny Lavery: But yeah, Yeah. Don’t offer anything to fix this. Like, this is something that’s been broken for a while, and it’s. It was only looking not broken before because your mom was willing to take the l for the team and pretend she could handle it. And now she’s not willing to do that anymore. So it looks a lot worse, but it’s actually kind of just roughly it’s actually getting a little better. Everyone’s just more aware of it now. Does that make.

Speaker 2: Sense? It does.

Speaker 2: And Danny, I’m glad that this this sweet trans teen is listening to this show because I think she is picking up something that I have taken from your work in your podcasts that, you know, a relationship that is calm and placid based on a lie or based on somebody’s suffering or based on just like never addressing a lot of underlying things that, you know, really are our festering word, you know, are predicated on somebody else’s suffering is not a better, healthier, more sustainable relationship than one where there is, like you’re saying, honest conflict and where you say, hey, I know this is how it was before, but I am going to say something that I know we can’t come back from, not because I want to break the peace and enjoy being a troublemaker, but because, like I really need that for me. And in order to know me better, to have a more honest relationship, this is the thing that we need to address. And that is better, actually, that makes you a stronger person with better relationships in the future.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Right. And so you say, like her parents and siblings are always in some kind of conflict. So even that I think letter writer, you know, on some level, it’s not actually that things would go back to being peaceful. It would just be there would be a slightly different focal point for all the conflict. So you couldn’t even go back to like a fully peaceful thing because there’s no amount of like bending over backwards your mom can do where nobody ever fights.

Danny Lavery: And again, I can appreciate that. Like in your position, it’s easy to, like, blame yourself and say like, Oh, if it weren’t for me, she’d be like, in this easy relationship with them. Like, take seriously the fact that your mom’s not just, like, trying to do you a favor, but that you actually really matter to her. And it’s actually incredibly important that anyone she’s close to respects and treats her kid like a human being.

Danny Lavery: And so it’s not even like, oh, she’s doing you a favor that she’d be relieved to stop doing if you gave her permission. It’s like she no longer wants to make the peace with her dad or her siblings because they have just, like, violated one of the most important relationships in her life. And it has changed the way that she sees them. And that’s sad, but it wouldn’t feel good to her to, like, pretend that never happened and go back to before. Like this is categorically changed how she relates to them. And it’s necessary and important for her to push back. And hopefully she doesn’t have to put up with too much more yelling because she will either like give them an ultimatum or she will stop taking their calls or they will get over it.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: But, you know, don’t don’t kid yourself into thinking that like you’re causing the problem here. The problem here is that your grandfather and the rest of the extended family are choosing to be unnecessarily and like antagonistic transphobic about a teenage girl. And they could stop anytime they fucking want it and get along with your mom beautifully. All they would have to do is say, I’m really sorry. I won’t say that again. And then they can all go see a movie or talk about books or go on a walk or make a casserole together or do whatever peaceful shit they want it.

Speaker 2: Yeah, just watch the TV without talking like side by side. There are there are a lot of options and letter writer. I so feel for you wanting to care for your mom in the way that she’s caring for you. But I. I feel like you’re carrying guilt that isn’t yours. You know, in your letter, you say things like, you know, me being me is isolating her, which isn’t like her family’s shitty behavior to her. About you and to you is causing her to, you know, set boundaries that they are choosing again and again to violate and to isolate themselves like they are. They are being hit with reasonable repercussions for actions that they can very clearly stop doing any time they want to. And also, it’s not selfish not to give your family permission to say ignorant shit to you. It’s it’s not your responsibility to fix this. This is stuff that your behavior that your extended family is doing that is not your fault. And both of you sound like you have been. Super generous understanding, interested in teaching them. It shouldn’t be your burden, but is, you know, all of that stuff.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: And in fact, I would say that if you want to say to your mom, not just, you know, I so appreciate you and love you, which I hope you were saying a lot, but also, mom, I feel really guilty. Like I wish I didn’t. I feel like I put you in this position and I so love how you’ve come through for me, But I feel horrible about it. You know, it’s it’s your mom’s job to take care of you and to keep you safe. And that includes, you know, reassuring you emotionally. And so if you wanted to, I think your mom would really appreciate the chance to reassure you that, you know, she is is happy to do this. And it’s it’s not a thing you’re making her do, but a thing she sees as like her job as your mom. So if you are carrying this around and hearing reassurance from her would mean something, I would consider doing it.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. And just, you know, I think we’ve said variations on this already, so I’ll try to keep this part relatively short. But, you know, you say letter writer now me being me is isolating her, which feels unfair. And that’s not actually what’s happening because you being you is is not forcing the rest of the family to behave. Transphobic transphobia is not a natural involuntary reflex that somebody can have by accident. They are choosing to be transphobic about your transition. And so that’s really the thing that I would encourage you to to flip your thinking about.

Danny Lavery: The problem here is not that you’re being you and that if you stopped, everyone would be cool and she’d be able to forget all the shit they said. The problem is that they have chosen to be transphobic, which is something people decide to do on purpose and because they want to control and hurt other people. And it’s not something that just like happens, like a rainbow or a sunset, like, oh, there’s a trans person. A natural upsurge of transphobia has like, swelled within me, like a swarm of birds going south for the winter, and I have no choice but to release it.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: You know, your transition doesn’t affect them. They don’t have to be dicks about it. They’re choosing to be. So that’s what’s causing distance between them. It’s isolating her because, you know, she’s got other people. There’s the whole rest of the world to go be in. It’s they’re choosing to damage their relationship with her because they would rather be transphobic about you than close with someone they love. And that sucks. But it’s not something that you can fix by transitioning or saying, no, I actually love it when grandpa says hateful shit to me. Like, that’s totally cool. Let’s go over to his place and play cards.

Speaker 2: Exactly. I can’t imagine anyone you were talking of, like somebody opening a bag of peanuts on a plane where somebody has disclosed like severe nut allergy like that is not you walking into the room being trans. And it’s an involuntary response. Like you’re saying. They you know, they’re choosing to do it. And that’s why I completely understand and think it’s really natural to feel like, God, I must be doing something wrong. God like I, I must be doing it because I don’t know, at least to me, in my own brain, it feels a lot safer to think, what did I do wrong here? Versus why are they choosing to hurt me this way? It it sucks and it’s a betrayal. And it it hurts to look at almost more than saying this must have been something in my control, because at least that you can choose to stop or you can, you know, turn your guilt inward instead of your anger outward. So I completely understand. I don’t think you’re being silly by asking these questions, even though, you know, to me, it’s it’s so clear that you’re doing absolutely nothing wrong here.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Yeah. I’m so glad your mom’s in your corner. I hope you have a lot of other, like, close friends and hopefully other one or two people in your family who are in your corner as well. But I’m really glad that your mom is pushing back. I hope she continues to shield you from this stuff because, like, you don’t need to know the nitty gritty of all the crazy shit your great aunt are saying right now. Like you’re 16. You need to be able to be 16 and like relax and live your life without worrying about, like all these older relatives who are, you know, being cruel. So good for your mom, good for you. Talk about it with her as much as you want. Just because I think it’s good to be on the same page and, like, help each other out. But please do not feel guilty or responsible for this in any way, because that’s just that’s just not what’s going on here.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. I hope that the next time you go to a thrift store, you find a bunch of cool vintage flannels in exactly your size. And then when you wear them to school, everyone’s like, Oh my God, where’d you get that? And you get to go, It’s vintage.

Danny Lavery: I still remember this incredible flannel shirt. I found it like a savers in high school that I kept for years and years and years. And that was a perfect shirt. Thank you so much.

Speaker 2: Like it.

Danny Lavery: You. How’s your family? Any anybody, Anybody wacky in there? You recently got married. You want to let us know who’s your least favorite relative?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yes. Someone did wear white to our wedding, which was really funny and made me laugh. One of my aunts got too drunk. That was you know, that was kind of the worst that that happened, which was good. But having a wedding is a really useful kind of social catalyst for for setting all kinds of boundaries with family that I hadn’t had the chance to do before, where I said, no, actually, I, you know, I. I do think it’s reasonable that, you know, I make this choice or I do this thing or I ask you to come through for me in this way. It you know, I did have to have a couple of conversations about you do realize this is about me and Eric, right? Like, this is, you know, our day and I’m going to give all the info I can to you. And I’m sure you think it’s weird. We’re getting married in a farm brewery in the woods, but, like, that makes us happy. And there is a town 5 minutes away where you can, you know, have, like, all the fine dining you want before and afterward.

Speaker 2: So, no, it was it was fascinating and made me believe in the social ritual of it, like standing up there, getting married for the people, you know, who are witnessing that by a rabbi who who knows us well, made me think like, oh, yes, the human ritual of marriage and like, moving from one family to another. Like, I get the symbolism of it all, which which I didn’t expect to find so touching, but I really did. Oh, it’s.

Danny Lavery: Lovely. I mean, I’m happy for you. I do wish for just like the sake of my own entertainment that you had a more like, comically dysfunctional family. But, you know, for you, I am happy.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Thank you. You know, all of our parents are divorced. And so we did have to you know, there’s like there’s eight parents plus partners who we did have to seat strategically and like the different four corners of the tent and, you know, kind of buffer with like our different friends and relatives. We ended up seating one of my like Dad’s coworkers who sort of didn’t fit in to any other table with some of my, like, overflow cousins, my older cousins, who I thought would be fun enough to sort of take care of him. And now they all call him Cousin Sal and they have a group text without me and they’ve invited him to to Easter and to Christmas and to the 4th of July to the next christening. So those unexpected crossovers of of family and friends is something I didn’t expect. And one of my husband’s aunts, who was a strange for her family for a long time, greeted me by saying I never met her before. She greeted me and said another bisexual finally been waiting 30 years for this. And I said, Aunt Tosha, you’re my new favorite. So that that was that was great.

Danny Lavery: That’s either like one of those things that you’re, like, immediately at ease or like, oh, my gosh.

Speaker 2: No, I’m immediately at ease. We invited her with no expectation because, you know, there was a lot of estrangement coming from Erie, Pennsylvania, you know, in the seventies.

Danny Lavery: And then you’re like an especially fraught place. I don’t I don’t know, Pennsylvania very.

Speaker 2: I mean, it’s kind of Rust Belt and, you know, Midwestern. So that’s that I would that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Can be challenging.

Speaker 2: It’s a real Allentown situation and Billy Joel parlance. Sure. Sure. Yeah. But but no, I was immediately at ease and she sent us a homemade card with like confetti in it. And I just I was like, You’re my new favorite. Thank you. This is great.

Danny Lavery: That’s beautiful. That’s really beautiful.

Danny Lavery: I was thinking about this earlier today, and I’m curious if you have an answer for this. And I want you to just interpret this as broadly as possible. But do you remember, like, how old you were the first time you had, like a truly like, insane thought or like a deranged thought that you were, like, maybe aware rather than just like, you know, three year olds are all like, little megalomaniacal tyrants. Like, they’ll they’ll kill you if they could be like, Yeah, yeah, I’ll stop. Also explain it. Oh, yeah. My question, I want to hear your answer.

Speaker 2: No, this this is a great this is a great conversation starter. I definite or continue where I definitely remember at like five or six learning the number of books that were published every year. I saw it on like a Newsweek or a Time or something, and I was like a, you know, shy like sort of early reader and learning that there were, you know, let’s say, 100,000 bucks a year published in the US in the, you know, late nineties and being like inconsolably sad that I would never get a chance to read every book in existence if they’re kept being published, 100,000 of them every year until I died. And it was a real kind of like facing my mortality, you know, head on. And like I was really inconsolable, you know, crying and in grief for days and days. And I remember thinking to myself, like, why isn’t everybody else extremely acutely upset about this constantly? Like, there must be something different or wrong about me that everybody is saying, Oh, honey, it’s not a problem, don’t worry about it. It’s true. But like, you know, you’ll get over it. I’m like, I don’t think I will.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I think mine was in fourth grade. And I remember that my teacher, Miss Hart, had, like, lightly scolded me or reprimanded me for something, and I, like, walked back to my seat, and I remember thinking, like, you, you know, I could destroy you. In my mind, I can imagine universes and, like, you’re nothing. Like, just this fall like I am.

Danny Lavery: God. Alec Baldwin What’s the movie where he delivers that monologue about I am God from Malice, from Malice, where he’s being deposed and he’s like, You ask if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something. I am God because he’s a surgeon. But like I was that level of like insane in my head as a eight year old with no surgical skills or really I couldn’t even do first day like And again, I think whatever she reprimanded me for was totally reasonable, like I was disruptive or like, didn’t do something I was supposed to like. She was totally right and being appropriate. And then in my head, I was just like, I will call up Centurions to kill you, and I will watch deaths at your mouth like a. Hung.

Speaker 2: That’s incredibly lyrical. And mine was just more like, you know, I remember saying it’s seven or eight. Like, I don’t think in common with kids my age, like what they’re interested in, in like playing. And I just want to read like, what am I got to talk about? Or at ten or 11 saying to a priest like, Well, what about evolution and the priest and thinking like, Aha, I’ve outsmarted them. I’ve said the one thing that they have no rejoinder to and I’m sure that happened to the priest, you know, three times a month.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: I mean, I did like playing, to be clear, it wasn’t all just like I can destroy you in a grain of sand moments up in there. But I was definitely aware, like, that’s a lot of anger to be carrying around, and I wonder how that’s going to go for me, you know?

Speaker 2: Yeah, it took me a long time to realize that everybody else’s interiority and inner universe is is as complex as mine, even if it sounds or looks different. I was, you know, a full teenager by the time that I realized that that’s.

Danny Lavery: One that honestly, like, I should just like you write that down or like set a calendar reminder and just like check in every couple of weeks. Like, reminder other people have interiority. You just don’t get to see it.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Danny Lavery: In a in a recent episode, I was polling people to see if they were familiar with the expression game and mentally and trying to figure out like where it fell on the, like, folksy Americana scale. Yeah. Is it an expression you’ve ever heard of? You ever heard someone say, Imminently?

Speaker 2: Never. I am from Nassau County, Long Island. So about as anti folksy as you can possibly get in the U.S. So that’s a firm no from me.

Danny Lavery: You come from wasps, I take it?

Speaker 2: No. Irish Catholics, bricklayers? Sure, sure, sure. Of the of the sort of Easter egg break bricklayers have of the Easter egg set. So I was familiar with the idea of a wasp. But my my town was all Jewish and Catholic growing up, which I thought was the 5050 split of the US demographics until I got to high school and read a diagram in a textbook. And why that’s not right with the Protestants like this.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Danny Lavery: That does make sense though, because I think, you know, you can be folksy if you’re Irish, Irish, but Irish-American somehow folksiness drops out of it.

Speaker 2: Yeah, no way too practical for that. Far too far too concentrated on like, you know, making a living now and cooking potatoes well and, you know, talking about relatives who drowned in wells, which I don’t know about you, but every Irish person I’ve ever known is like, Oh, yeah, my aunt who died in the well, like, it just it happened apparently all the time in the old country.

Danny Lavery: You know, falling over. It’s a real danger. So the two people who wrote in about it, the first one just said you asked about folksy sayings. I grew up with a mom from Indiana who used crime in Italy. So maybe it’s an Indiana, Michigan thing. Interesting. And then the second one with a little bit more in-depth, which was reading eminently, I never heard it, but my mother used to say Crime in Italy, Born in 1939, she spent the first 30 years of her life in southwest Michigan among people of Dutch ancestry involved in the Dutch Reformed Church. But I don’t recall any other family members using it. And then they wrote, What is Google have to say? Jim in Italy and crime in Italy and crime Annie and Jiminy Cricket, too, are all nonsensical euphemisms for Jesus Christ. An exclamation.

Speaker 2: Yeah, my grandpa would say like cripes or Jiminy Cricket, but. Right.

Danny Lavery: I think cripes and Jiminy Cricket, you can kind of see how they’re minced oath that like do lead back to Jesus Christ. But you know, it’s fun to see like how far off the track they can get because like Jim in Italy does not immediately strike you as, Oh, right, Jesus Christ, Someone said a long time ago and then someone said, Whoa, whoa, whoa, watch your language.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yeah, I. I spent most of the last year and a half becoming Jewish, which has been very exciting and rewarding. And there is no there are no things. Thank you so much. Like, like Yiddish has folksy sayings and words which are. We’re profligate on Long Island, and I grew up, you know, with all of those all those words as the things I thought everybody said about, you know, tactics and for Cockburn and, you know, all those things. But my favorite part of Judaism and of studying to become a Jew is that, you know, in rabbinical arguments that that version of like, okay, well, how if we have to avoid saying God’s name, like, what do we say instead? And like, how off base would a sort of nonsense word have to be in order to not offend God? Like those would totally be arguments that like centuries worth of rabbis would have with their full, you know, like meaning and power that have been documented and commented upon for the last thousand years. That is what Judaism is all about. And the way we roll, which makes me feel very at home as a person who loves footnotes and scholarly argument.

Danny Lavery: Very cool. Very cool. All right. I think that’s enough about folksy sayings. Although if anyone else wants to write in with various folksy family expressions that they might have grown up hearing, I would love to hear about it. So please do keep writing it. And with that, thank you so much for joining me today and I very much look forward to coming on your show and talking about whatever it is that we’ve already promised to do. It’s drowned 30 left my brain.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: We’re going to do it for me.

Danny Lavery: Fantastic. And enjoy the next. Oh, no, This one’s already said, Son of a bitch. It’s going to be dark when we get out of here. All right, Well.

Speaker 2: That them’s the breaks. That’s living.

Danny Lavery: That’s. Sometimes bad things happen to us, and I hope you.

Speaker 2: Get a complete rest.

Danny Lavery: Of your horrible day that’s ruined.

Speaker 2: Thanks, Danny. Next time you have a times unrelated complaint, feel free to get in touch.

Danny Lavery: Oh, I don’t think I won’t.

Speaker 2: Bye. Bye.

Danny Lavery: Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, 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. Head to 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 big 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 Lavery: Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.

Danny Lavery: It is so I think, such a critical social skill to be able to offer up light and universal complaints, but with just the right touch so that people don’t actually feel like they’re with someone who believes that all life is like just constant misery and inconvenience, like when someone can complain, Well, that is like a top tier social attribute.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it really is. Like my mother in law. At our wedding, her toast was like, Yeah, you know, I knew Amanda was a keeper when she beat me in Scrabble the first time we met, which was like both a burden and also, like, a little bit of, you know, a little bit of a compliment and like, a flex of me saying, like, Oh my God, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have beat you. I knew that was a bad call strategically. But it all worked out.

Danny Lavery: To listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com forward slash mood.