Make Way For Tomorrow

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Danny Lavery: This ad free podcast is part of your slate Plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello and welcome back to Big Little Mood. I’m your host, Danny Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Hugh Ryan, a writer and curator, and most recently the author of the Women’s House of Detention A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison, which New York magazine called one of the best books of 2022. And so do I, frankly. His first book, When Brooklyn Was Queer, won a 2020 New York City Book Award. Hugh, welcome to the show.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Thanks for having me. And Happy New Year.

Danny Lavery: Thank you so, so much for being here and for writing such fantastic books. And I’m beyond thrilled to have you here telling people how to better live their lives.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I feel like I should probably get my life together before giving that kind of advice. But the nice thing about doing this podcast is I feel I get to ride on your coattails and you’re so good at giving advice that I’m just going to sort of like hope that people listen to me too.

Danny Lavery: And as always, you know, none of the advice that we give are legally binding and.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Nobody required to do what I say.

Danny Lavery: Exactly. I’m out of here and they don’t even know what your life is like. So you could be as big a mess as possible and they still wouldn’t even know that. I am hoping that you will read our first letter.

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Danny Lavery: What? By the way, I sometimes don’t think about my own reaction to this sort of thing until it pops up. What’s your feeling about somebody saying, I have such and such attachment style? To me, I find it I’m right up there with hearing somebody say like, I’m an imp. I’m just like, What is this? Don’t talk like this. Talk like a person. So I guess I’ve told you how I feel about it when I should have been asking you how you feel.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: It’s funny, you know, I hadn’t even thought about it. I think when I see something like that, I think, okay, well, this person’s definitely done some thinking about their relationships, maybe some therapy, maybe some independent reading. And that can be a really great thing, right? Means you’ve thought about it and have some insight, or it can be a really negative thing. Like you have convinced yourself this is exactly who you are and you know, that’s how you’re going to see the whole world forever on. I don’t know exactly how I feel about this, but it sort of similar to me of like when people say I’m a cancer and that means this or that, you know, I’m okay with it. It’s a great lens, but it’s not necessary. Mine.

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Danny Lavery: Yeah. Whenever it feels like something you could learn about yourself by, say, taking a quiz and I get the desire to take a quiz is an impulse that’s very, very strong. And many of us, I think, having like grown up in like Southern California evangelical culture, I like hit my limit in my mid-twenties and I now no longer want to hear anyone talk about a quiz result they got for their love language or their extroversion or their attachment theory. But I think you’re right that there can be some use in like you’re trying to figure out where the source of your fears and insecurities lie. And that itself can be useful. Even if I want to make sure nobody comes away from this thinking that like, you know, there’s like scientific proof that all human beings have one of four styles of attachment, and that’s just like intrinsically true across time and space.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Well, as we said in the beginning, all of this is legally binding. So if we do say that, then everyone must identify their attachment style from the four list and we’ll just be easier in the future.

Danny Lavery: You and I are going to have to start working on so many quizzes that we will publish next year so everyone can find out exactly who they are. And with that promise in mind, would you read our first letter?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Absolutely. Subject stuck in the past. I’m the first to admit I have a very anxious attachment style and don’t get over friendship endings slash breakups easily. People always say time heals all wounds. You have to find your own closure, and letting thing go is a strong thing to do. And usually this is true for me, even though it takes me longer to let things go than most people.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: However, I have this one friend I’ve known since birth. We’re both 22 now. Our moms have been best friends since university and until the summer of 2022 We were roommates and then things just fell apart. Both our moms and we got into really nasty fights. There was lots of backstabbing and gossiping on all sides, including from me. Our moms stopped being friends completely. We say we’re friends, but I still can’t look at her, talk to her in the same way. In fact, I actively avoid it. I feel like I was wrong in this situation, maybe even more than anybody else. But I’m still hurt and angry. Our friendship feels false. Both of us have a hard time facing situations directly. I think it would cause more problems if I expressed this to her. How do I get closure from this situation? Thank you.

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Danny Lavery: I would give all the hair on my head to know what the letter writer and their moms fought about.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, and how it started, because it did start with the roommate situation. Did it start with the moms? Where did this come from?

Danny Lavery: Right. Was there like a group vacation that went bad? Were the fights connected or were they totally different? Like, did your moms start fighting about something? And then separately, the two of you started fighting about like how often one of you was cleaning the kitchen. Like, this is important. I need to know these details. Not necessarily because it would help me decide like, which way to rule, but just because if you tell me that you got into a bunch of really nasty fights with someone else and their mom and your mom, I want those details because that’s juicy. That’s a very juicy thing to say.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah. And also, I think there’s something about I can deal with a lot if someone says shit about me, you know, and I can get over that, I can move on quickly. I can see why. But if you come from my mother, there’s a chance that I’m going to be a crazy person after that, you know? So I know myself.

Danny Lavery: If you want to be my friend, say something terrible about my mother. And I will just, you know, welcome you into my home and say, What can I give you?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: What sort of presents would please you? But I feel like this is why I think that you doing this. I’m so impressed. Because every time I encounter one of these situations or I hear one of these things, I find my first instinct is to be like, I need 4000 more pieces of information. Write me a novel on your situation. But when I read this letter over and over again, I because I also have a hard time with friendship endings and break ups. I’m a person who have moved a lot of times in my life. I’ve left behind a lot of situations, so not these kind of breakups, but other kinds of friendship endings. I’ve moved through a lot of them in my life and they’re hard and I hate them and they end up leaving me feeling guilty and all kinds of weird scenarios moving forward because you have friends in common and you have these touchstones, you know, all of that stuff.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: But what I kept returning to in this letter was just this one sentence. I feel like I was wrong in this situation, maybe even more than anybody else, because for me, I often think with friends, with moms, with families like I can’t control anyone else, you know, I can’t make someone become my friend again. I can’t make my mom apologize to your mom. I can’t control how you’re ever going to feel about me again in the future. But that like when I feel wrong about something, that I did something wrong. That’s like the one thing I feel like I can control something, you know? So that’s for me where I sort of fall on this one.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I know that the letter writer says it might cause more problems expressing some of this to their friend. And, you know, that’s something for them to judge. I don’t know her, but I know that when I can articulate what it is I feel wrong about and bring myself to say a real honest apology, like not an apology that’s trying to get them to apologize, Not an apology that’s trying to get them to tell me I was in the right not, you know, an apology. That’s actually a dig at them. But to just step up and say, like, hey, I have to say I did this thing and I feel shitty about it and I’m sorry. That to me often goes a long way towards like relieving the build up of anxiety inside me about the friend breakup.

Danny Lavery: I think that’s really, really useful, especially because it sounds like this letter writer feels fairly confident that they’re not going to be close friends with this person again or like that. While there is currently at least some sort of pretense towards things are roughly the same between us. They’re not actually spending very much time together. And so I think it’ll help maybe the letter writer to decouple like you can apologize to someone without saying and I want to get closer as a result of this apology. I wonder if part of the fear here is like, I think I’d feel better if I apologized, but I’m worried that apologizing would mean at the end of it we’d have to say, Great, we’re besties again. And then I wouldn’t know what to do with my own anger and my own residual resentment.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Or for me, the real fear is that I would apologize and then really be wanting an apology back. And that if I didn’t get that, that that might make me angrier, you know, that that. And so that’s often where I have to decouple. It’s like to let go of expectations. I can’t I can’t expect anything from that other person. And I can’t expect a friendship. I can’t expect an apology. I maybe don’t even want those things. But that’s I have to figure out what my expectations are and kind of try to let go of as many of them as I can.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful. I think especially if you don’t plan on continuing a relationship with somebody else, it’s especially a good idea to let go of expectations for a reciprocal apology just because this has more to do with getting something off of your own chest and like releasing something that’s been sort of weighing on your conscience. And it’s not as if. Not getting the apology is going to damage some future relationship because it sounds like you’re you’re both kind of already moving in different directions. And by my sense, reading this letter is that they stopped living together over the summer, in addition to things falling apart like it did not seem like they were still living together to me.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, I think so, too. And I have to say, the one other thing I would say in this situation is I know when I was 22 and just graduating, I had roommates and they were close friends and we were terrible roommates together. We just didn’t live well together. And we didn’t know that until we graduated from college. And we were like, Let’s live together. And then I was the messy one, and that was a real problem, you know, And it caused a lot of issues. And and it just happens, you know, like, I think that there’s a level at which at that time I thought it was the end of the fucking world. And 20 years later, now we can laugh about it and we’re friends and we text and it was it really bad or was there not a real friendship for many years?

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, but then things change down the line. You don’t know what’s going to happen. And particularly when you’re coming out of a situation like being in university together and now being in a whole new scenario and being new people, things are going to change down the line. And if you can at least deal with the part that you feel you did wrong, let that openness, you know, let it let this be what it is and say ten years from now, maybe it’ll be different. My whole life is changing. What happens in university is a small, contained world, and there will be more beyond this.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, the really struck me as well because I felt like I really could empathize with the letter writer. You know, if you’re 22 and presumably in your sort of first post-college living situation, you know, often people are not great at that right away. And there’s a lot of conflict. The part that had really struck me was their mothers were having a fight on, it sounds like pretty much the same level of 22 year old immaturity. And that felt really like that’s interesting. Again, like we don’t have a ton of details there, but like if there’s backstabbing and gossiping on the part of the letter writers, mothers who are presumably in their forties or fifties, that doesn’t speak really well of the sort of previous group dynamic.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, that is very true.

Danny Lavery: So I guess all of this also to say letter writer, you know, for all that I was a little dismissive of attachment style discussion earlier. It actually makes a ton of sense that you would feel pretty sad about losing somebody who was your best friend since you were essentially born. That that’s not like, Wow, it’s weird that you’re not over that a few months out, especially when it also involved both of your mothers and you have also felt this sort of residual shame over how you behaved, that that’s that’s all big stuff. So I guess I just want to encourage you to don’t worry too much about am I taking this too hard? This seems like a pretty big thing. Not that this is going to blight the rest of your life or that you’ll never be able to sustain close friendships with other people. Just that this is big. It makes sense that you are not over this quickly or easily, and that letting go of it is not just something you can wake up and do tomorrow.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, I mean, I think anger is something we’re always told to let go of for our own health and all of this. And you know what? Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you just have to recognize a memory about something. Something bad happened. I’m angry about it. That’s cool.

Danny Lavery: Mm hmm. And I think one possibility that I want to throw out, if you don’t feel ready for a big sit down, heart to heart or, like, a full apology, you know, might it be possible just to say to your former roommate something like, Hey, I just want to acknowledge things that felt a little weird since we stopped living together, and I don’t feel proud of the way that I behaved. I don’t either. I don’t yet feel up to discussing it really intensely either. And I’m hoping if I take a little bit of space or you don’t see me as often or I don’t check in as often, you’ll understand that I’m just trying to to decompress and to get a little space. So you’re just kind of letting them know you’re acknowledging that things are a little distant and uncomfortable. You’re not making any promises about when you might talk about it next. You’re not trying to, like, preempt your own apology. You’re not asking much from them either.

Danny Lavery: But it may feel less daunting than like, Oh my God, I got to have like this big apology with someone when we haven’t even really acknowledged the fights since it ended. And that might help you a little bit. But I do really think that while it doesn’t seem like resuming your former friendship is in the cards, that if you can put aside your feelings about how they behaved, how your respective moms behaved, and just be prepared to say, I’m really sorry for how I behaved, that you will feel better even if you don’t get an apology in return, because you will feel at least the lightness that comes from. I acknowledged my part. I said that I was sorry even if somebody else didn’t receive it in the way that I had hoped. I at least am no longer lying awake at night, kind of turning over my old behavior and feeling guilty.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, because that’s the stuff that sticks with. Me. At least I forget when other people have been, you know, shitty to me or I don’t torture myself over it. But my God, I can give you a litany going back to third grade of the terrible things I’ve done.

Danny Lavery: Hmm. Yeah. And, you know, writer, it might also help before you potentially have this conversation or send this message to. To write a little bit more. I mean, I realized earlier I was saying I wanted details for my own parents, but you don’t have to do that. But it might help you to kind of write down like where were the instances that you chose to gossip? What did backstabbing look like in this context? And do you remember in those moments, did you think to yourself consciously? I have a lot of options, but I want to do this right now? Or did it feel almost effortless? Like, do you remember consciously thinking this is not the best way to resolve the conflict, but I’m going to do it anyways?

Danny Lavery: And if so, why did you ever fight with your friend before? Was this the first fight you’d ever had? Like, did you have any history of, like, handling conflict when it was still at a relatively low grade level and you could talk about it reasonably without getting really heated? Was there like a series of resentments you’d kind of kept to yourself that all of a sudden when the fight broke out, you were able to like pull out as justification, like and there’s six other things that you do that I don’t like that I’ve been like keeping to myself. But now that we’re fighting, I’m going to use them all against you. Like that’s just useful information for you so that you can kind of think about in the future.

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Danny Lavery: If I have other roommates or close friends that I do start to get frustrated with, how do I identify like those signs that I’m getting close to a breaking point where I start to behave in a way that makes me really ashamed later so that I can do something else? Because I think even more than I want you to be able to make this apology to your former roommate. I want you to feel confident that you’re not going to do this again with your other friends.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Mm hmm. And it might also be a good moment to think a little bit about your relationship to your mom and how this all went down and what that means for the future. Because, like you were saying, we don’t have a lot of information, But if this is a situation where perhaps this writer felt compelled by their mother to step in on her behalf, or conversely, feels like her mother did something terrible that she now has to defend or, you know, whatever that kind of relationship with your mom and what those boundaries are, I think are good to think through in terms of how this might reoccur in the future and how you feel about how you and your mom either helped each other through this scenario or egged each other on to be their worst or, you know, it’s it’s another part of this that’s probably going to continue moving forward. It sounds like from this letter, sounds like there hasn’t been a falling out with the mom. So maybe a chance to consider what went well and what didn’t go well and how you and your mother can support each other in the future.

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Danny Lavery: Right. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to then have a conversation with your mom where you kind of rank her behavior during this conflict so much as just it might be a useful opportunity to kind of step back and think, oh, maybe there’s some things my mother does that I’ve sort of assumed is just how any person might handle conflict that I actually don’t want to do again in the future. And that doesn’t mean I have to try to change her necessarily, but it might mean making some more conscious decisions about how I handle difficult situations.

Danny Lavery: You know, I think that sentence, both of us and not not the letter writer in their mother to the letter writer in their former roommate have a hard time facing situations directly. And I really get that, especially at that age, especially with like a historic family friend. But I think a useful thing for you to remember letter writer is it sounds like you had a really hard time this summer and probably that like two or three month period of things blowing up, getting into nasty four way fights, backstabbing, gossiping, acting in a way that you were ashamed of. That was probably a lot harder than facing a situation directly, a little bit sooner.

Danny Lavery: So I think sometimes it can be helpful to like if you just have this idea in your head that not facing things directly is the highest good, it can help to kind of look back and think like, well, actually that would have been a lot easier than this. Like three months free for all this was way, way, way worse than having like a kind of difficult, embarrassing conversation back in April. And so it might be kind of useful to think like, have I been so afraid of something a little difficult that I actually put myself through way more pain and stress and strain and effort than if I had just done it in the first place, because that might help you in the future realize like, well, if I have like the patience and energy and like confidence to go through a three month all out war, I probably actually do have the strength to say to a roommate, Hey, this is kind of driving me crazy. Can we talk about it?

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Danny Lavery: But yeah, I think that’s kind of all I’ve got on this one. Just I think it would cause more problems if I expressed this to her. I get that right now. It just feels like anything is better than a return to where we were. But I think letting somebody know, Hey, I just want to acknowledge that I really fucked up this summer and I’m really sorry for the way that I treated you. That’s like. Brief, succinct, clear doesn’t necessarily invite a conversation where you both review the entire summer and assign one mother like points. But if if she reacts really badly, you can always just say, I’m really sorry that this has brought things back up. Let’s not let’s not keep talking about this. Let’s let this one go. Because again, just you don’t have much to lose at that point.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, it feels like the letter writer has sort of said that this is is not a real friendship anymore. So the problems may be a bad conversation or an argument. There might be unpleasantness, but it feels like the stakes of what could be lost, at least from what we have in the letters, is low.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, I would love to hear back from you letter writer. If you get a chance. Whether you do or don’t decide to talk to your friend just to hear about how you’re doing. A few months further on, please let us know if you get the chance.

Danny Lavery: We’re going to go into a slightly different take on family conflict that I’m very excited about because I don’t think I often get letters like this. And it’s it’s fantastic. I mean, not fantastic at the difficult situation, but it’s really interesting, I think. So the subject here is childish perspective. My boyfriend hates his family, but they’re not actually that bad. Ever since we met, my boyfriend has called his parents terrible names, but never went into much detail about his trauma. I’ll admit I assumed the worst as a result. Violence, neglect, homophobia, sexual abuse. But the more that he opens up, the more just seems like they didn’t really get along. His mom was a housewife looking after five kids, and he says she didn’t spend enough time with them letting the kids play together while she cleaned and cooked and that his dad worked too much and didn’t know anything about his interests.

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Danny Lavery: I’m not saying that can’t be harmful, but my boyfriend’s clarified with me that this is what he’s so angry about and he throws it back in his parents faces on the rare occasions that he sees them. He doesn’t really call or text except around major holidays when he goes to their house and makes what I consider pretty inflammatory comments whenever they speak. If they try to talk to him, he’ll snap and say something about how it’s rich that they want to talk to him now since they ignored him as a kid.

Danny Lavery: The part that bothers me the most is his dad is always trying to ask him questions about his life. Do an activity with him or invite him to help with something. I understand that doesn’t make up for the past, but his dad is at least trying. I asked my boyfriend why he keeps going to see them if he’s not going to try to work on their relationship. And he asked me how I could take their side. I generally just try to listen when he complains about them and I get that. Parent relationships are complicated, but I don’t really see what he’s trying to accomplish, holding on to this anger and punishing his parents.

Danny Lavery: I’ve had to pull him out of conversations, especially with other gay men, when they’re commiserating about traumatic childhoods. He’ll say stuff like, My dad didn’t get home until bedtime some nights. Then other people will get mad at him because they feel like he’s derailing or even mocking them. He’s pretty well-adjusted otherwise, but I’m getting increasingly frustrated when this comes up. He’s been to a few therapists but always quits after a few sessions. Usually he did that. The therapist didn’t seem upset enough or didn’t want to do trauma therapy. So I keep pretending to be sympathetic. Or is there a better way to give him perspective and hopefully stop him from flying off the handle at his parents who are obviously trying? Oh, man.

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Danny Lavery: What would you do in this situation?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I Yeah, this one is hard for me. Really hard. I read this one I think the most of all of them. And it’s not clear to me, you know, I think it’s like the letter writer says parent and family relationships are so difficult, and it sounds like the letter writers really tried to clarify that this is the truth. This is exactly the thing. You’re complain that there isn’t something more or deeper. I just think that with family is often impossible to know, you know? So that’s one level of this question to me. You know, is there more going on here that the letter writer doesn’t know about and that perhaps the boyfriend can’t speak about or bring up?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Right. Are there are there stakes that are unknowable in this situation? I don’t know. But that makes me think about it a lot. And I worry about giving advice. But I have to say, when I sat down with this after a couple of times, I don’t know what what you were thinking, but my big question was what is the concern of the letter writer? If that makes sense. Is this a situation where this is their their new family and that they see this as an a family argument that they are now part of because they are part of this family?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Right. And they’re they’re worried about how this will affect their Christmas five years down the line. Or are they worrying that their boyfriend is going to do something similar to them at some point, that this is actually showing that this person doesn’t have a real sense of conflict or harm and that this may be turned around on the letter writer or have said there was a level at reading this where I start to wonder, is the real issue here that this has made the letter writer look negatively upon their boyfriend and that the real issue is that they can’t get past this. Yeah. Or the other. There’s just so much swirling around on this one. I don’t know. What do you think?

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Danny Lavery: Yeah. I’m so tempted to, like, suggest that the letter writer start by, like, showing his boyfriend, like, make way for tomorrow. Mm hmm. Like, just. Just go in strong. It’s a it’s a great movie if you’ve never seen it. It’s from 1937. It’s Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, and it’s just about this elderly couple who lose their home during the Depression. And they’re sort of like terrible, ungrateful children keep trying to, like, pass them around. So they’re separated and they, you know, slowly, gradually come to realize that they will never live together again. And it’s just one of those like, you know, four handkerchief movies where you just sob in your guts out by the yard and it’s just like all these sweet little old people who did their best and their goddamn ungrateful children consigning them to hell.

Danny Lavery: Mm hmm. And I think that might be a great thing to show your boyfriend and see if he see if he breaks down or not. But yeah, my my sense for the letter writer was that there was a sort of twofold sense of both. Like one, it’s potentially embarrassing for him, right? Like when I’m with my boyfriend and his family and he acts badly in front of his parents, I feel embarrassed in the same way that I might if he were like, not like, I don’t know, displaying really bad table manners. But in that sort of like embarrassment by proxy, like when my partner acts childishly in a public setting, I’m sort of at a loose ends. I don’t really have a way that I can politely intervene. But his behavior reflects on me, and I feel bad for these people who are doing their best.

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Danny Lavery: And then also, sometimes when we’re with other guys who are talking about traumatic childhood in ways that do involve trauma, abuse, serious neglect. And my boyfriend says something like, well, my dad didn’t come home until bedtime and doesn’t seem to have any awareness that these are not in the same category. Other guys think badly of him. And again, that reflects on me. So this sort of sense of I’m both concerned about his ability to accurately weigh grievances and find a distinction between how I feel about someone versus the actual things that they’ve done. But also, like I’m concerned about his ability to register degrees of harm in like social settings and that he’s offending other people. Maybe in our social circle who I’d like to be close friends with, and that’s maybe like getting in the way of my ability to make friends as a couple, as part of a couple.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And I have to say, though, I think in in the undertones, the emotional undertones of that part, particularly about pulling him out of conversations, it feels like it’s not just that I’m worried these other people are going to feel these sort of ways, but it feels like the letter writer is is mad at the boyfriend or maybe thinks that the boyfriend is like. So it feels to me like a little bit like in that moment there is a putting off of negative emotions towards the boyfriend onto these other friends. But I, I felt a little bit like some of that is probably definitely true, you know, but also that there is some negativity towards the boyfriend on the part of the letter writer that this to me it started to make me think like regardless of what is the right or wrong thing for the boyfriend to do, the letter writer kind of has to step into feeling like I’m the sentence here.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I asked my boyfriend why he keeps going to see them if he’s not going to try to work on their relationship. And he asked me how I could take their side. Well, the way that’s written, it makes it sound like, well, it’s ridiculous. How could your boyfriend say that? But it actually is true that the letter writer has taken the side of the parents. And so the boyfriend isn’t incorrect in saying that. Now, he may be incorrect about the whole relationship and the issues, but I. I feel like there’s a level here at which the letter writer needs to ask themselves, like, has this made me look down on my partner? And is that what I need to deal with more than dealing with how to get him to do the right thing with his parents? Do you need to agree with him to validate his feelings? Do you need to talk about these feelings? Is this something that has gotten to be a block for you to have a relationship with this person? It feels like there’s a lot more swirling under here.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. I had kind of a different read on that line, which I agree is like really textured and interesting. You know, the letter writer was basically asking his boyfriend if you could either just choose to say, I don’t like my parents, I’m angry with them. I don’t forgive them. I don’t want to have relationships with them. You could honestly stay at home and not put yourself through this. But if you’re going to go, why would you go? And then every time they try to meet you in the middle, you push them away. Like the going just to punish them seems futile and that your boyfriend would kind of take that question as, Oh, you’re taking somebody else’s side is, I think, a real indicator of how closed off he is on this subject.

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Danny Lavery: And again, I don’t want to make a ruling of like exactly how angry any given person is entitled to be with their parents or like, what scale of like absenteeism qualifies as like damaging versus merely harmful versus merely annoying. So I don’t want to do that. But I do think it’s a really worthwhile question. Like if somebody goes to visit their parents once a year and just snaps of them the whole time, I think to kind of like lovingly ask like, What are you getting out of this? Like, are you just going because you feel like you have to? And do you want to actually consider whether or not it would be more in line with your feelings towards your parents to stay away? It is worth while. Again, that’s not to say that you’re going to necessarily find a lot of luck in trying to convince someone else to change how they feel about their parents and their. I think that’s where it’s really useful to get into.

Danny Lavery: Has this changed my sense of my boyfriend’s character? Like, I could see this being kind of one of a couple of different things. One, I could see you kind of ultimately settling on. I really like my boyfriend. He doesn’t have this level of like defensiveness around other people or other conflicts in his life. So it doesn’t make me, like, worry that he’s going to do this to me someday. If we, like, disagree about how often to walk the dog or whatever. And this is just going to be like one of his character flaws that I’m kind of aware of as part of, like, you know, the complex person that he is.

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Danny Lavery: And I’ll do my best to cultivate some, like patience and distance around this, but just say like, well, this is one of his less great aspects. Or does it feel big enough that you start to think, you know, it’s been a nice like year, year and a half. But I find the way that he handles his anger towards his parents really offputting. And I kind of feel like maybe we’re reaching the end of the line. That would be fine, too. Like there’s there’s no rule that says, you know, I really want to steer the letter writer away from feeling like he’s got to make a ruling about his boyfriend’s anger. It’s more just a question of how does it make you feel, You know, what happens to your relationship when you ask questions or encourage him to pursue therapy and he shuts down further or gets more defensive? And does it feel big enough that it changes the way that you feel about the relationship overall?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, And I do want to say, though, that when I read this, like I see what you’re saying about that read on the line that it’s a fairly innocuous ask and that the boyfriend is in some ways saying, how could I think their side is a big jump? But the tone of this entire letter to me actually says that the letter writer has taken the parent side, you know. So I keep pretending to be sympathetic. The parents are obviously trying. That to me, that’s why I think for me, I have to go with starting from a place of like, how do you feel about your boyfriend? Not everything else. Because I have to say, if I wrote this, this final sentence about someone, should I keep pretending to be sympathetic? Or is there a better way to give him perspective and hopefully stop him from flying off the handle at his parents who are obviously trying?

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: If I got to a place where I was writing that oof, I think that would be one of the things where future me would look back on past me and be like, You knew how you felt when you wrote that and you need to like come to terms with your own feelings about this situation. If I feel like I am pretending to be sympathetic that someone needs perspective. Yeah. I got to say, for me, the most important part of this is to start with a real look at, like, how do I now feel about my boyfriend after all of this? Not what should I do in terms of my boyfriend’s relationship to his parents.

Danny Lavery: Right. Yeah. And, you know, again, I think it’ll be useful for you letter writer when you do have these conversations with your boyfriend to really like, whenever possible, you can really steer away from like, you do not need to tell your boyfriend how to experience his childhood. So don’t even worry about trying to do that. But it’s a really separate question from what do you want to do with the anger you have about your childhood and asking, I think, pretty legitimate questions like does visiting your parents once a year and snapping at them? Feel good. Like, is that is that a good use of your anger now as an adult? Is there something else that you’d like to have a serious conversation about with your parents outside of the holidays over? Or would you like to stop visiting?

Danny Lavery: And again, you can’t force him into a crisis point, but you might decide to say like, I don’t like the way that you treat your parents now. And again, that’s not to say that the way they treated you as a kid was great and that you need to feel good about it, just like I think you should either have like a respectful fight with them where you speak clearly but without like snippy ness or you should like, make different plans for Christmas. I think that’s a legitimate thing to bring up. That doesn’t rise to the level of like, Hey, I’ve decided, having assessed your childhood from afar, that you are not entitled to anger and that in fact you’re wrong. Like that would be a bridge way, way, way too far for the letter writer to take. But yeah, I think that’s a really good point, which is just like if you’re really at the level of feeling like the best thing you can do for him is either pretend to be sympathetic or convince him to feel differently about his childhood. That might itself be an indicator that you’ve got part of a foot out the door.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah. And the other thing that just I was noticing in this letter that I would want to sit and think about if I were the letter writer is not only is it the parents, but the letter writer mentions that the boyfriend, when he breaks up with therapists, is usually heated, that they don’t agree with him. And so now that makes me think, Oh, so is this someone who when someone has a different perspective on events, they get angry and they they cut off communication. And how does that make me think about our relationship moving forward?

Danny Lavery: Mm hmm. Especially when you consider like. It’s not difficult to like weigh the information you share with a therapist to try to make them feel as sympathetically towards you as possible. So if, like even on his best day where he’s like painting it as black as possible, therapists are still staying, like, professional. That says something. I mean, again, like, no, now I’m getting caught up in trying to make a ruling about this guy’s childhood. I just think it’s really interesting that even when he’s telling his side of the story in a way that sort of like maximally designed to get a certain outcome from his listener, he’s still not getting it says something about his ability to discuss reality and what he wants. So and again, like you can say to someone, it seems like there’s something you really want when you discuss your childhood with other people that you’re not getting.

Danny Lavery: That might be an interesting question to ask and to think about. That’s not the same thing as telling him he’s like wrong all the time. It’s just it’ll depend on how defensively he answers that question or whether or not he’s able to talk about this pattern of his non defensively. And I don’t know if that’s possible. It’s certainly worth potentially pursuing. But at the same time, if you’re just like, I just don’t like the way that he handles his anger, even if some of it’s justified, that’s a perfectly good reason to break up with somebody. Yeah.

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Danny Lavery: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think that’s all that I’ve got. I think for someone who also complains a lot about his parents on this very show, I can also really relate to Sometimes when you get angry, you can get so attached to that anger you’ll look for reasons to, you know, restock the fuel. And that can be that can drive a lot of people away. Like, there’s days when I you know, I’m really just like mad and I’ll think like and this wasn’t great either. And then I’ll stop and I’ll think, you know, it doesn’t harm me at all to say in some ways they were really good parents or that, you know, they did something that was like kind or loving. That doesn’t take away from the other reasons that we don’t have a relationship or the justified reasons for anger. I don’t need to think of them as 24 seven monsters in order to say what they did was wrong. And I’m glad that we don’t have a relationship as a result of it.

Danny Lavery: But I can really relate to, you know, and I just want to be like, and they didn’t know how to dust either and the sang off key and, you know, just that, that whole like I want to recast everything as like maximally bad in order to match my anger as opposed to saying sometimes my anger gets out of control. And the anger is not because the justifications are mounting up higher and higher, because anger can be kind of intense and can reinforce itself like that.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And I think truly, any time, any relationship that is like a legacy relationship, you know, the ones where you haven’t seen that person in 20 years, but there is a hold and you go back, I often find myself slipping back into earlier cell selves. I don’t even like that much anymore when I go into those situations. So it’s it’s possible that there may be some buildup of of that sort of like teenage asshole, you know that that is just how they relate to each other and maybe talking about it will help him to snap out of that. Not to say that he is going to reconsider who they were or how they treated him, But it might just be a moment to say like, you know what, I still think they were awful to me, but I don’t have to behave this way if I don’t want to.

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Danny Lavery: Oh, well, I think that’s all I’ve got for this particular letter writer, although now I’m really curious and I would just like out of everyone you’ve dated, who do you think had the best and worst relationship with their parents?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Oh, gosh. I had a guy I dated who did tell me very early on in our relationship that he was really just waiting for his parents to die. They’re very rich, very shockingly rich. And it seemed like they had been you know, we were not together long. But I will say that it seemed to confirm every sort of like rich family s or stereotype I had seen on like soap operas. Everyone was mean, but perfectly dressed. Every picture was everyone was smiling but waiting for someone to die to get the trust fund. And that was just so weird to me. I never been in a situation like that, and I didn’t know a lot about their relationship. But his not even vehemence, but sort of like he saw them less as people to be angry about, about or loving towards and more as a fact of his life that someday there was money. And the only thing that was in the way was his parents being alive.

Danny Lavery: If you ever someday write an Agatha Christie novel, this is going to be how you open.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And that a horse farm to such great setting.

Danny Lavery: That’s like some golden age of detective fiction level frankness about value and money, isn’t it?

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just another world. And I have to say, I love that even when I don’t understand the perspective. Like any time someone opens up to me and lets me to understand this, like what to me is a totally bizarre way of thinking, I’m always like, Yes, this is great. I mean, I don’t want to think that way ever, but thank you. Thank you. Now I feel like my mind is opened a little more.

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Danny Lavery: I hope very much that your next book is about historical gay people who have murdered their relatives for their inheritance. I don’t know how big that category is, but I want you to find out.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: You know, the research at least, will be a lot of fun.

Danny Lavery: It would just be like I wouldn’t exactly be watching rope, but it would feel like watching rope, if that makes sense.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yes, very much so. And I hope there would be at least one or two pairs of like either a rope pair of toxic best friends or a heavenly creature’s toxic best friend pair. You know, I love that kind of like friends who are too intense and maybe it’s sexual, maybe it’s not sexual, but they’re going to do crazy, violent things over it. Well, my favorite genres.

Danny Lavery: Yes. Yeah. It mostly involves a lot of, like, incredibly intense, like shared Fantasia’s. Yes. And then like one murder that they, like have framed in their minds as the perfect murder. But that is in fact one of the most, like clumsily carried out murders and badly covered up murders of all time.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: It’s always super obvious they’re the only ones who have a reason to do it.

Danny Lavery: I mean, that’s one of the things that I do love about rope. Like in the.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: In the movie, it’s so unbelievably.

Danny Lavery: Like tense and cat and mouse and highbrow. And in reality, here’s just like in the backseat with the cops, you know, dropping the kids glasses and saying things like, well, you know, if I was going to murder anyone, it would have been him. It’s just like, Well, yeah, I could see why you got caught. This was not the perfect crime by any stretch of the imagination.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Well, when I do the research, I will definitely let you know what I find.

Danny Lavery: Fantastic.

Danny Lavery: Well, I look forward to your take on the true crime genre, which is so weird, because all crime is true.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I guess that’s.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. Calling Biography’s the true life genre.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: I mean, I would say a lot of biographies are not true, so maybe we do need that genre.

Danny Lavery: Please tell me the biographies that first came to mind that you would like to call out.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Oh, God. Now I’m going to have to look at my shelves. I just feel like there’s a lot of biographies I read that are hagiographic. Do you know the person’s come to the subject because they care so much and I don’t care that much. And you read them and you’re like, Well, you seem to have made that person sound like they were at the center of everything that’s ever happened.

Danny Lavery: It does seem like a really difficult element of writing biography, which is like you have to be convinced of the importance of this person. Otherwise why would you write a book? But then how do you not turn it into just like how this like it all comes back to like that salt book, right? Like salt changed the world. Ireland changed the world. You know, this person or that person is the center of everything. And it’s like they can’t all be.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Do you have someone you would write a biography of?

Danny Lavery: Gosh, no. But that’s I think because I’m too self-absorbed to be a biographer. Like, I would just start to feel like, Why am I writing about you? Who are you? You’re not me.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Charette The biography of yourself as though you’re a third person.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. Then I’m not quite self-absorbed enough for that. Like, I mean, I’m in the biographers gray zone. I want biographers, but I don’t want to, you know, I guess I have written a biography of sorts, so I’m not in the gray zone. I am self obsessed enough to have done it, and that’s it.

Danny Lavery: All right. I, I know that we’re probably already close to time. But I do really, really want to get this book club question in. So if you’re up for it, I’ll just keep you around for a few more minutes.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Oh, yeah. Book club.

Danny Lavery: I’m there because it’s so good. Okay, so. So who’s coming in cold to this one? This is. This is one that only I have seen. So the subject is book club breakup. And this also feels very like on the nose that this is happening on the same day that there’s been this story about Susan Meechan, an author who apparently faked her death two years ago, only to return to her own Facebook group today and say, sorry, I didn’t die. Like, this level of like book world drama is it’s right there, right there, right around there.

Danny Lavery: So my book club has boiled over into what feels like a morass of secrets. There are ten of us, and we’ve all become friends through regular messaging, plus the occasional non reading meet up. One friend in particular, Jane, recently leaned on me for emotional support. During a hard time, she disclosed child sexual abuse, poverty, job insecurity, family alienation, illness, dating and being ghosted. Medical problems, mental health crisis shelters. And her issues with her prescriptions. We were in a coffee shop and I’m not sure she realized how audible all of her private distresses were and mostly just listened, then steered her outside before offering some support. We could take care of your pets for a while. I could get you some rent money right now. I can drop a food, etc.. All of which she rejected.

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Danny Lavery: I did drop off some food several times and had her over for dinner with another one of her confidants, during which she rapidly cycled through another catalogue of hurts. I would describe it as crisis stacking. She also wanted to try magic mushrooms at night. I declined to be her safe person while she tripped since I thought she had too much going on to be using hallucinogens.

Danny Lavery: Next, she texted me to tell me that she was beaten by the police during a welfare check triggered by a crisis line. She has a broken arm and bruises from head to toe, but I’m not supposed to tell the book club what happened. Her story is that she fell. I can understand wanting confidentiality, but I didn’t trust my poker face in such an event. I called the help line myself to learn more about how they actually respond to callers in distress. I didn’t line up with her story. I’m trying not to get devoured by her crisis. She expects me to participate in a rota of friends listening to her. How do I distance myself compassionately? She’s already accused me of a ghosting slash placating combo. I feel frozen, but I’m also running like a rabbit on a wheel inside.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Who?

Danny Lavery: Book club.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Right. Like, we didn’t even get to hear what book they were reading.

Danny Lavery: I it’s. It sounds like we left reading behind a long time ago. I think whenever someone says I accuse you of placating me, they’re kind of aware that they’re behaving unreasonably. Yeah.

Danny Lavery: What advice would you have for a person in this situation? I think I’ve got, you know, my own kind of idea. But yeah. Where do you think this letter writers should start?

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: It’s a tough one, right? Because it’s an existing social situation, but it also sounds like these two particular folks, until this discussion in the coffee shop with Jane, didn’t have a very robust or strong relationship. At least that’s my read on this, that it kind of all got dumped at once and then escalated from there. But there wasn’t a lot of build up of their relationship separate. And that, I will say, is often a red flag for me in terms of how someone is relating to me emotionally if I feel like we don’t have a strong relationship. But you are constantly putting a lot of your emotional needs on me and having those conversations. It tells me that maybe you don’t have the support you need elsewhere, but also maybe like you’re not that interested in developing a relationship with me so much as using me for support. And I may have different feelings about that depending on who you are.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: But if that were someone in my book club, I would probably be a little annoyed, frankly. I would probably want to continue distancing myself. I know it doesn’t feel good when someone says something like You’re placating me or you’re ghosting on me, but I think it’s okay to sometimes say like, Hey, I can’t deal with this. I don’t want to ghost you, so I’m going to tell you directly. Or if you’re a person who does want to ghost, you can ghost. I don’t often think in these situations where there is not a lot of reciprocity, not a long standing relationship that exists. And there is, as the letter writer said, a sense that there is maybe some dishonesty happening here, some manipulation. I say step back fast. Whatever is comfortable for you, step back.

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Danny Lavery: Just I think a little bit like our second letter writer. I want to give this letter writer the freedom of like, I don’t want you to do any more, sort of like detective work. So I can absolutely understand the desire to get more information from the crisis line when you heard a story that sounded really suspicious. But if you’re at this level of like following up to check on things that she has told you, I think that’s a real indicator that you don’t trust her and that you don’t want to become closer. And so I think if you were to continue doing stuff like that, it might start to feel a little bit rewarding to investigate her dramatics. And that might suck you in a little bit more.

Danny Lavery: And I agree that what you want and need is distance. So again, like, you don’t have to worry about making a ruling about. It sounds like she’s got a lot going on. It also sounds like she has a slightly free and easy relationship with the truth. But regardless of how she was injured, she is injured. You know, like she’s got a lot going on. And so that doesn’t mean I think that you can be helpful to her. And I also agree, it sounds like she is probably looking to violate boundaries by getting people really, really intimate with the details of her suffering really quickly so that she can make demands of them unexpectedly. And then when they don’t, you know, say, oh, yes, you and I are best friends.

Danny Lavery: Now, after that one time that you, I think is actually a good time to use the phrase trauma dumped like so often. It’s not this actually is one that she can then kind of like play off of their guilt again. She might be doing that and also have gone through all of those things. It’s not like either all these bad things happened to her and therefore her behavior now with her friends is okay, or none of them happened to her. And she’s a totally bad actor. Like you just don’t have to worry about that adjudication.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And if you are entirely wrong, right, if you let her right are absolutely in the wrong. And this is all, you know, above board. And that still might mean that your feelings about this are a good reason to step back. Right. If you are in a place where you this is the you’re like you said, digging into the story that you already feel sort of put upon that you’re trying, then it doesn’t matter whether the story is true or not, you’re going to not be the best person for them to come to.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. So I think it would be totally appropriate for you to say to her, you know, I’m actually not available for this kind of conversations. And in the future, I just need you to know, don’t ask me to keep secrets for you. That’s not something I’m comfortable with, because that kind of makes it clear if she wants to try to share information with you and then say in the next breath, don’t tell the book club you’re not feeling trapped by some sort of, like, implicit promise. That’s something that’s fine to say. Just because someone gives you information and then demands you keep it a secret. You don’t have to agree to that. You can tell someone even after the fact, even after they have chosen to disclose something to you. I’m not comfortable with that. I cannot. Do that for you. They might get mad at you, but, you know, that’s a that’s okay. It’s okay for someone to be mad at you sometimes.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah, absolutely. And if for whatever reason you decide actually you want to continue being this person’s support, I would recommend the one you have supports of your own. You know that you have people who you can talk to through this. And also because you have expressed this idea that maybe there is some lack of truthfulness going on, I, I would say, you know, write in your diary, see if there are red lines for yourself that you can establish now that would make things not okay in the future that make you want to change or to keep notes of the things you’re told so that you can be a helpful friend. And sometimes that being a helpful friend might mean pointing out like your story has changed several times.

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Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And I don’t know what the truth of it is, but I want you to be aware that this is how you’re coming across to me, someone who wants to support you. But, you know, like make sure that even if you go down the road of supporting this person, you don’t have to be like Danny you were saying you don’t have to be their patsy. Just because they tell you don’t share this information doesn’t mean you don’t have to share it. You can take care of yourself and still try to support them.

Danny Lavery: Yeah, and I just I really think maximal distance is the way to go here, because even even just like looking back over the handful of times you’ve interacted with this woman outside of book club, like when you offered her meaningful support, like helping to take care of her pets, dropping off food, getting her rent money, she didn’t want that. What she wanted was for you to watch her do drugs and then listen to an improbable story and promise to keep it a secret for her So she’s not actually coming to you for support. She’s coming to you for intrigue and drama and intrusive demands. So it’s not even like, oh, I’ve got to be sympathetic and give her a listening ear because she needs support. Like she doesn’t want support. She wants like a weird audience for her dramatics.

Danny Lavery: So that might also help you, even just from the slight amount of guilt that might make you feel like I should keep in some touch with her in case she needs me. Like this is a person who, as long as you’ve known her, has basically never expressed any interest in you or your life, has never offered any sort of reciprocal interest, support curiosity, and has never once behaved reasonably.

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Danny Lavery: So this is not like, oh, it’s a friend who suddenly acting in a troubling way, How can I help? This is this is a person who acts really weirdly towards me, and I don’t need this. And again, it’s whether she’s experienced everything she’s described to you or not does not make her behavior safe, healthy, supportive or anything like that. So I think for you, just like not actually available to talk. Best of luck finding somebody who can and keeping it just incredibly short and to the point and just cheerfully saying, no, I can’t do that. Because again, I think what she’s really counting on is having enough, like guilt ridden monologues that people that they say, oh, sure, okay, yes, I can I can do this. I’ll hang. Yes, I’ll tell me your wacky story. And you just don’t need to buy into that.

Danny Lavery: Implicit in some of this is maybe the worry that, like, if I don’t give her some of what she wants, she will make book club a worse place to be. And I’ll just say, if she’s if she at some point decides to blow up the book club, she’ll do it. There’s no amount of like placating that’s going to get her to stop. And there’s just a limit to how much you need to worry about potential reactions on her end. But yeah, don’t go into like, Hey, I called the hotline. Here’s what they said. Don’t try to call her out on the details of that story because that’s like a guaranteed blow up.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And that’s just going to pull you back in deeper. If it is a set of stories they’re going to have a story for why that story doesn’t match that story. And then there can be another story on top of that story. And yeah, it won’t end. And also, the great thing to remember is just like we don’t make the rules about who’s queer. She doesn’t make the rules about book club. Your book club could decide to continue meeting on a whole other day with a new group of people and a different email list if it gets there.

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Danny Lavery: And if you decide that’s not for you, you might find another book club in the future. Or you might just decide to read more books on your own. It sounds like the letter writer has enjoyed her friendships with the other members of the book club, But it’s not sounding to me like this is my big lifeline. These are my only friends, you know, so I’m not too worried about this blows up. It blows up. But yeah, just give give Jane a lot of really, you know, the kind of like classic grey rock give her boring knows. No, I’m sorry. No, I can’t do that. I’m not comfortable with that. Those are going to be your classic Goto’s. Any attempts at, like arguing or justification that’s going to give her, like, a big juicy conflict to sink her teeth into. And what she wants is drama and excitement. And what you want is for her to leave you alone. So be boring and say no all the time. And she will she will go searching for Chummy or Waters.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. I just I’m sorry. I like I both feel so much for this letter writer. And also just like, laughter, Like she’s accused me of placating and ghosting her, and she’s like, Yeah, you know, I’m actually allowed not to talk to people. That. I don’t want to. I’ve hung out with you one and a half times, and it was very unpleasant. You’re damn right I’m not kidding.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Is a hilarious like, did you want me to pick a fight with you or what did you what would you do instead of just hitting you? Because I could just not show up.

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Danny Lavery: You know that placating is what people do to unreasonable people. So it’s like she’s already aware on some level that what she’s demanding from you is not appropriate, it’s not helpful, it’s not genuine support. You are not like walking away from a dear friend in distress or like failing to be a good Samaritan. You, you, you listen to her litany of woes. You offered her meaningful support. She didn’t want that. She wants to be the center of a soap opera. And when you fail to give her that, then that’s the problem. But it’s not actually a problem. It’s not real.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: No, you can totally stop placating her by never talking to her again.

Danny Lavery: Yeah. You have my full permission. Hugh, thank you so much for being so wise and charming.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: This was so fun, and it was really great to get to hear your thoughts on all of these. I’m just going to be sitting with these all day now. I think just thinking about like, what would I do? I know high.

Danny Lavery: Replicated issues, right? Yeah.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: And also just the idea, you know, as as writers, how do you take a complicated issue and write it into a two paragraph letter? That’s so hard. I know. I my heart goes out to everybody who writes into your show, who has spent that time sitting down and trying to say, like, what do I feel and what do I need and what’s happened to me? Like, that’s my whole job and it’s really fucking hard. So thank you to everybody who opened yourself up to do this.

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Danny Lavery: Yeah. And thank you so much. You did fabulous. And I think you’re even greater.

Hugh Ryan, Hugh: Oh, well, mutual support club right here instead of book club. Because I think you’re fabulous. And this was really fun. Thank you for having me.

Danny Lavery: Of course. Thank you so much.

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 had the Slate.com slash mood to sign up, to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you are 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.

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Danny Lavery: Just that line to me that felt like the heart of this letter is I wouldn’t go looking to date men again if something happened to my husband. That’s a really interesting formulation of if he died, I would be doing something differently. And I don’t at all get the vibe from this letter that the letter writer is like, I kind of hate my husband. And if he fell off of a bus tomorrow, I’d be thrilled. It was more like, There’s something I can imagine, but I’m so afraid of it, or I feel like it’s not allowed to me that I can only imagine it in the context of the death of my husband. That’s the only way I can imagine anything other than our marriage exactly as it is. And so I just want you letter writer to think, what would it mean if nothing happened to your husband? And you said, I’m not even sure that I want to do this, but I want to talk to you about the fact that both of us are really interested in women to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com forward slash mood.