Rad(icalized) Dad

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S1: This Ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello and welcome back to Big News and a little mood. I am your host, Danny Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Dylan Marron, the author of the book Conversations with People Who Hate Me and the Host and creator of the critically acclaimed podcast by the same name. He recently joined the writing staff of the Emmy winning television series Ted Lasso. Dylan, welcome to the show.

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S2: Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor.

S1: I am so glad that I didn’t see your bio until we started recording because I didn’t know that you had joined the hit television program Ted Lasso. So I thought at first it was like a joke because I was like, That’s.

S2: Not a joke.

S1: But you’re a person and I’m talking to you.

S2: I love the the, the what a what a beautiful joke that you put something in your bio that’s not real. I think someone should do that, you know.

S1: And frankly, I’m going to start saying that I have written for different TV shows and see how long I can pull it off.

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S2: You created Law and Order.

S1: A lot of people don’t know that about me.

S2: Yeah.

S1: No, not the Law Order that you’re thinking of.

S2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s an indie law and Order, but it’s a big hit. It’s a big hit with all who watch.

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S1: What was what was that short lived show that aired premiered around the same time, but it was an ill advised, like procedural musical. Was it cop rock? Am I remembering that right?

S2: Oh, my God. You’re. I’m. You just unlocked a memory chamber for me that I did not know was there.

S1: I feel like in the early days of YouTube, there was a lot of, wow, remember the late eighties and early nineties. And I think like, you know, along with like Gwen Verdeans, Mexican breakfast set to walk it out. That was like a big thing that everyone at like the same shitty college would send to each other. Why is that a cop rock? Lot of people don’t know that about me. It was me and Steven Bochco.

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S2: Thank you. Thank you for for your contributions to the arts.

S1: I am also glad that you’re here because I am totally by accident, apparently hanging out with one of your old high school classmates today. And he is in the next room reading Hamlet. And apparently you two were in Hamlet or read Hamlet together. So I don’t even know why he’s reading it again now.

S2: I know we should tell him to stop reading it. That’s the whole rule with Shakespeare. You read it once and you understand all of it. You never have to read it again. It’s the one.

S1: And done principal.

S2: So I think just to give a fact check, we actually were in Midsummer Night’s Dream together. That was the Shakespeare experience we had. But Hamlet, as it does, it floats around the high school experience. So I bet you there was a C there was a time when we were in the same building reading Hamlet together.

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S1: And I really like looking back over my friendship with James and thinking what I know of him. He has absolutely got Midsummer Night’s Dream Vibes.

S2: Oh, yeah.

S1: Yeah, yeah. Of of the different subtypes of theater, kid.

S2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s like, if BuzzFeed popped off at just a different time, it would have been like, Which Shakespeare play are you? And yeah.

S1: I’m sure they have. I don’t I don’t know that we would have needed a different time, I’m sure, among the many more quizzes.

S2: That’s true. Let’s get let’s get the fact checker who’s sitting in on this call to confirm that there’s a BuzzFeed quiz of that.

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S1: I will at some point try to get on that. I don’t have a good Segway for leading into our first letter, so I’m just going to go ahead and read our first letter.

S2: Take and take us.

S1: Imagine that I seamlessly transition from one subject to next. The subject is father issues. Over the past few years, my father has become increasingly supportive of a prominent right wing party in my home country. This party has been against all COVID measures, and he is now an anti-vaxxer who frequently shares alternative news content on social media. I recently found out that he will not be attending my graduation. I study abroad since unvaccinated people coming from my home country would have to quarantine. This is just the latest escalation of his dissent. I should fix that because you can’t really say that a dissent escalates. But that’s on me. The latest escalation of his dissent into right wing beliefs. I am hurt that he would choose these conspiracies over an important moment in my life. He’s the only parent I still speak to, and I’ve worked hard to at least maintain some kind of relationship with him in the past. He’s been relatively supportive of my transition and even helped pay for my top surgery. However, I’m really unsure how to deal with this radicalization, especially since he is very convinced of his rightness. I tend to downplay my queerness and transness around him, which feels like a shame considering that some of my proudest achievements and most important relationships are related. I don’t want to break off contact with him entirely, but I am unhappy with the rift between us and I don’t have a clue what to do about it. This is a kind of letter that I often get, like different versions of. But I think there’s an opportunity here for me to do something that I don’t always get to do because I feel like I usually lean into, you know, what you have to do and here’s how we can cut your your parents off. But I do think there is room here for, you know, with some clear eyed sense that it is not always possible to maintain a fractious relationship just by trying really hard on your end. There may be possible ways to maintain. A small working relationship with the letter writers, Father. And if that’s possible, you know, I hope to help them achieve it. Did you have any I mean, if this were me, I would at least give some thought to finding ways to mourn the loss and move on.

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S2: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a little hope in in the way. There’s obviously like a a rift between the micro and the macro. It sounds like this father supports this letter writer and their journey and their, you know, sounds gender affirming. And I think that, like, you know, one of the things that. I often you know try to show with my work is like change often takes time and I also think that we have to recognize the tidal forces, the powerful tidal forces of conspiracy movements, and that oftentimes the kindest conversation and the most loving Collins and even the most aggressive call outs cannot compete with. A community being formed at breakneck speed around conspiracy. I think that whips people up. And so I ask that this letter writer release themselves from thinking that getting their dad out of that kind of thinking is solely their job and to maintain the part of the relationship with him that feels healthy for the letter writer, and to also recognize when they’re doing a lot of work that they feel is fruitless and to know when to release that.

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S1: Yeah. I mean, I really I do think that the letter writers sort of position here seems to be, you know, obviously I would love it if my father did not, you know, cling to these conspiracies. But I don’t have a lot of hope that I can talk him out of them. I just want to be able to maintain a small, warm, friendly, occasional sense of contact with him. And I’m worried even that’s not possible. Now, like, it doesn’t seem like the letter writer is like, I’m really trying to change his mind. I’m really we’re having a lot of conflict around it. I don’t know, maybe they have in the past. Maybe they just haven’t tried it for a variety of reasons. Maybe they tried it with other family members, and that’s why they don’t speak to anyone else. So so to that end, you know, I think if the letter writers hope is, I would like to be able to maintain some contact with him. I’m not going to try to change his mind. I think that’s reasonable. Like, I wouldn’t I also wouldn’t want the letter writer to feel like I’m only allowed to occasionally talk to the only relative who will still talk to me if I have also committed to constantly challenging him on his like anti-vaxx beliefs. Like I get it. You know, letter writer. Yeah. I would also encourage you to let yourself off the hook. Like you do not have to try to make that well, draw water by yourself. But you know, yeah, you also are running up against this sad reality letter writer, which is you might really want that and feel like I have the lowest expectations for my father. And even so, he might still fail to meet those very low expectations. Yeah. So then, yeah, the question that you are left with is not how do I try to change my father? I’ve kind of given up on that one, but just is there anything I can do on my end to make up for that little bit of willingness or effort on his part? And, you know, do you think that’s reasonable, understandable? Do you want to encourage the letter writer to think about this differently or try something different? Where would you want them to start?

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S2: Yeah. I mean, it’s also hard to prescribe excommunication because it’s so fraught and, you know, way more for restoring relationships than I am for leaving them. I think it’s like, as so many of us queer folk know, it’s like the beauty of leaning on chosen family when it feels like. The traditional family structure or relationships aren’t serving you. So I would say I would say try to salvage the parts you can. And if that feels like too much energy, you know, that’s not a failure on your part.

S1: Yeah. And, you know, so to that end letter writer, it sounds like there’s sort of two things that are immediately on your mind. One is, you know, you tend to hold back talking about your queerness, your transness with him. And the other is that you’re not quite sure how to deal with his increasing radicalization and not sure how to tell him how sad you are that he won’t be coming to your graduation. And, you know, again, there’s such a a limit to how much of a difficult conversation you can have with someone, you know, when they’re halfway across the world. And you already don’t talk that often and you’re already estranged from a lot of your other family. So I can also really understand that sense of like I can’t, you know, start sawing into both of these load bearing pillars because the whole thing is going to collapse. So, you know, maybe it would help to sketch out an idea of given, you know, present conditions, given the person I know my father to be, given his current set of values and his current sort of, you know, ecosystem. What is the best case relationship that I can realistically imagine with him? That’s not just like, what if my father woke up tomorrow as a totally different person who was just like, Great. What does that look like? Is it he visits once a year? Is it we talk on the phone a few times a year? Is it? He listens to me more before he kind of puts his order in? Is it that I ask him not to share all of his conspiracy theories with me? And he respects that we talk about other things. You know, I try to try to sketch out a version of what you think that might look like, because then I think that will help you start to figure out how might I see if that’s possible? Because again, like, that’s your idea of the best case relationship. You might then try one or two different things. He may or may not meet you halfway. And so I can’t guarantee that any of this will result in like a tense but kind of loving relationship. It’s just the best that you can do on your ends. So to that end, you know, you say you tend to downplay your queerness around him and that this is difficult for you, given that you say he helped pay for your top surgery. Not that I want to say, like obviously that means he’s great, but maybe think about whether or not you would like to start sharing more of that with him. He’s at least got a little bit of a good track record there. So that seems like maybe the best place to start and see how that goes. You know, that’s that is something that you can do. And then on the other hand, you know, I also really appreciate like, you know, while you don’t necessarily think you can talk your father out of this commitment from half a world away, it also makes sense that you’re like, I would like to talk about it with him somehow. That is also, you know, again, I think like writing it down beforehand can really help, like is your goal. I want him to stop sharing these conspiracy theories with me. Is my goal to ask if he’s willing to hear me out while I express some concerns is my goal to like, have a kind of back and forth debate about it? And if so, so I feel up for that. I don’t know what the answer to those questions are, but presumably you might and then then you can think about doing that. But yeah, beyond that, I think maybe just say that you’re sad he won’t be able to make your graduation that you wish. He would, you know, again, that’s not like I hate you. You’re a monster. Go die. That’s just. Well, this is how this makes me feel. And see how he handles that. If he handles it horribly, you know, maybe you just saved yourself a little time trying to pursue that conversation further. If he reacts kind of okay, you know, take that next step. You know, again, all of this like is to say it may be that despite your best efforts, he reacts really badly to even mild criticism or pushback. And in that case, you don’t necessarily have to respond to that by saying, I’m cutting off contact with you now forever. But it can sometimes be really nice to say, let’s put a pin on this, you know, and just let things sit for a little while and to to take it take it a little easier, which is not the same thing as like doing a soft launch of In a Strange Man. It just sometimes feels like, well, there’s real limits to what I can and can’t say to this guy because he just won’t hear it. And that’s sad. And maybe that means we talk once a year about kind of nothing and even that stressful. A lot of people have that relationship with their parents. I’m sorry. It’s hard. You deserve a chance to mourn it. And I hope that you can talk about this a lot with other people in your life. Be open, be honest, have realistic expectations. Have an exit strategy for a difficult conversation that seems to be going nowhere. I think that’s all I got. Would you read our second letter?

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S2: Yes, I would be honored. Subject. Drowning in dishes. My husband and I are newlyweds, but coming up on her seven year anniversary as a couple, we are both neurodivergent in some similar and in some different ways with childhood trauma sprinkled on top. We are currently grappling with how to maintain our shared household space in ways that work for us and that ensure equitable distribution of labor. I work just shy of full time and occasionally from home while he works outside the home full time, so it is easy to feel like I should do more. But I also hold academic responsibilities on top of my job. Most advice I can find are for people with children and we are currently childless and plan to stay that way. I’m not interested in building silent resentment or replicating the dynamics of our respective parents. Do you have any words of wisdom or resources for keeping house and removing bickering from the equation? I can jump right in there and.

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S1: Just.

S2: Say. One of the. Well, I’m going to share a story in which I am the villain. I am the wrongdoer here. But I. My husband makes fun of me a lot that I share food like an only child. Because when a plate of food is put before us, I am so focused on my own hunger and my own insatiable appetite for food, especially French fries, that I will not realize it. But I am not good at sharing and I just eat as much on the plate as I want. And then if you were to measure it all out, I have eaten three quarters and leaving him with just a quarter because he eats at a normal and healthy pace.

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S1: So this sounds like he should get his own fries is what I am.

S2: You know what? And then this is this is the alternate take away. But again, this is the story in which I am sharing where I’m the wrongdoer. And I just wanted to say one of the biggest things that has helped me is that we get separate plates and then we pre we pre split it onto our separate plates. And I share this. You say you say, how is this related to my beautiful and nuanced question? And to that I say it’s invoking an outside mechanism into this to help you distribute either the fries or, in your case, the chores. And I think that something that is really helpful is just having super clear expectations set of who is doing what and who is responsible for what. And talking through it and making sure that it’s, you know, household work that feels feels right. And also kind of delineating. I’m also seeing. I think I misread the equitable distribution of labor to mean like household duties. But I’m also realizing that that could mean making sure that everyone has space to work.

S1: Yeah, I think I agree. It was a slightly open ended phrase or ambiguous phrase, but yeah, basically to me I read this is just like how do my husband and I split chores? What’s a good way to do that?

S2: Okay, we are reading it correctly is yeah. I think having external expectations that preset expectations of what everyone is going to do kind of makes the household world go round.

S1: Yeah. And I think that also goes a long way towards minimizing the possibility of silent resentment, which the letter writer mentions as one of their kind of biggest fears. Like my biggest anxiety is that there will be some unspoken or unacknowledged disagreement or tension, and we’ll just be sort of like heavy with it. And I think, you know, there are obviously problems with over processing or like writing everything down or having like extremely minutely agreed upon rules that can also, you know, go too far in a different direction. But one of the advantages that like a written, you know, a written kind of like reference point is that, you know, you’ll never be able to get rid of resentments in a in a shared living space, no matter how much you love the person you’re living with and how well you both do your part. Like some resentments are inevitable, but you can at least make them concrete and visible and audible, and that you can do a lot more with that. Like the goal is not no resentment. The goal is having a pretty good system for dealing with resentment.

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S2: I just want to share that. I lived with a roommate for five years, still one of my best friends to this day, and she was uniquely good at just saying what she felt when she felt it. And it was such a joy because it minimized any fear of passive aggression. And it was just like, Oh, she’s absolutely right. I haven’t done the dishes, I need to do the dishes. And she would be so beautifully blunt about it. You know, she would say like, oh, it’s it’s it’s really bothersome to me when you don’t do the dishes because I’m trying to cook my next meal and. Like I know that hearing that quote can sound like, oh, that was blunt. And it’s like, yeah, but it avoided all of the, like, sidestepping around each other and the like backhanded comments. So sometimes bluntness and just explicitly saying what you feel when you feel it. Chef’s kiss. Beautiful.

S1: Yeah. And, you know, beyond that letter writer, I would say that my guess is, given the situation that you’ve described with you and your husband, you two would probably benefit from having like a slightly formalized, like, we’re going to have a family meeting, even though it’s just the two of us. And it’s a little arbitrary, you know, the, the work in the business of living in a home and with somebody else, you know, that’s a lot. It’s a lot of work, you know, and it brings up questions of like what downtime looks like, what private time and unwinding time looks like, whether or not, you know, if somebody doesn’t feel relaxed unless the house is relatively clean and somebody else can feel relaxed no matter what, there can be real tension in like, you know, you want me doing chores all the time versus you want me to feel comfortable in our home when it looks like a pigsty. And so I think it’s just really useful to like lean into the narrative neurodivergent stuff like lean into like let’s overprocessed like not to make stereotypes like let’s process the hell out of this. Let’s keep like written minutes of this fucking meeting if we want to, let’s write down, like, our least favorite chores. The chores we don’t mind as much things that feel really important to each of us and then just review it together. Like does a lot of stuff line up? That would be nice. Is a lot of stuff wildly different. We’re fact finding. It’s good to know if we have really different expectations because that way we can think about possible compromises.

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S2: We love chore negotiation. I just wanted to chime in and say I love doing laundry and I claim laundry every time. When it’s time, I’m like, I’ll take that chore.

S1: Yeah. And you might find that that changes. There might be some chores that you’re like, I’m fine doing this some of the time, and, and no one’s ever going to, like, come up with a division of labor in the home. That’s just like, I fucking love this. I can’t get enough of it. Even the person who likes chores the most sometimes would like to not have to do a chore. So it can also help to just, you know, acknowledge, like we’re talking about work that neither of us would like to do, given our druthers. But that must be done if we want our home to be a pleasant and relaxing place. And so, you know, with said druthers in place, how do we handle it? So really my best advice here is talk extensively about your hopes and your expectations and your goals about your sense of like what does a clean bathroom look like to me? What does a clean enough bathroom look like to me? What seems reasonable to me about laundry, what seems reasonable to me about dishes and just writing it down and not then getting so married to whatever you’ve written down that you are constantly like monitoring each other and yourselves and saying like, well, I adhered to the, you know, previously agreed rules 51% of the time last week, and you only adhere to it 48% of the time. So, like, I get to assign you a new chore, you know, certainly look out for that kind of scorekeeping because I think that can often lead to unpleasant and un harmonious places. But yeah, if the thing that you’re kind of worried about is this sort of like default, well, because I happen to work just shy of full time, I feel like my partner sort of assumes I should just take on a vague, more sense of the household chores, which is like, yeah, you’re afraid of like default thinking what seems easiest. Rounding up and vagueness, which I agree are often like that can lead in a direction of like I look up and it’s 20 years later and I’ve been doing the dishes the whole time. So, you know, talk about, well, how much more time like, you know, when you’re working from home, you’re working from home. It’s not like I could technically be folding laundry and doing a spreadsheet. Like, I think that’s important to discuss with your partner. Like, your time spent working from home is not time. You should also be doing chores. I think the commute should be part of what factors into this. But like again, this is not about establishing who spends technically the most time in the house and then they have to do most of the chores. Like you both live in this house. You both benefit from, you know, the garbage being taken out on time, the sink not always being full of dishes like it’s a shared burden, not a sort of just like I by default, only have to do, you know, half the chores you do because my job is outside of the home. I think that, you know, is worth articulating. And then beyond that, you know, you say you don’t want to replicate the dynamics of our respective parents. Good. I mean, I don’t mean this flippantly, but like good fucking luck. You might sometimes, I hope not often. And sometimes that just means you’ll be replicating the opposite of those dynamics with all the problems that that entails. But just, you know, can maybe in that conversation say, like, what’s my biggest fear? What’s the thing that my parents did that I really hated? And how can we talk about trying to avoid that together? I don’t really know how to address the sort of childhood trauma aspect of this just because I don’t know what kind of trauma that means. Maybe that just means you you want to start these? Conversations by being like extra patient and loving with one another or just sort of like. Say, I don’t know. Just say, like my childhood was fucked up. Now let’s talk about hand towels. Maybe that’s good enough. But, yeah, I think all these things are, like, relatively possible. Maybe your because some of the time I don’t know what bickering looks like for you, but you always, I think, have the option when you catch yourself bickering with a partner to like pause and say, like, I, I get that we are like not on the same page yet and I want to get there. So I like pause and start this over like we are on the same team. I would like us to feel like we are on the same team. Maybe we won’t both get what we want out of this conversation, but like can we just try approaching it as if it’s a problem that we’re trying to solve together rather than a problem we’re trying to hand off to an opposing team?

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S2: Yeah. Stepping outside of conflict is one of the best things. Stepping outside of it, like it’s outside of your bodies, outside of your souls. And to understand what it is going on between you is is a beautiful thing.

S1: Yeah. And, you know, good luck. Even again, like the most loving and well-intended people over the course of a lifetime together can get furious or resentful at somebody else. For any number of just. It’s the vagaries of day to day intimacy. It’s sometimes very difficult, even if you adore someone. So I just want to, again, kind of like our first letter, relieve the letter writer of some of the burden of obviously you don’t you don’t want to be fighting every day, but it’s it’s not necessarily a sign that you are replicating like, you know, cycles of trauma. If you’re like, I love my husband, but sometimes I’m annoyed with the way that he uses Tupperware or something. So yeah, yeah. I think that’s all I’ve got on that subject. And unless you have any final thoughts about chore wheels.

S2: I don’t know. I love, I love I think I think there’s a theme in what we were saying, you know, a chore wheel externalise. Is it tasks the chore on someone else even if it’s a piece of paper and it’s your past self who wrote it and stepping outside of your self to view conflict. So it feels like it’s a conflict between other people that you’re observing in the audience. I think that’s a that’s an interesting theme throughout all of this advice.

S1: Well, I know that you think at least a good chunk of the time about conflict. You’ve written a book called Conversations with People Who Hate Me. Who Who Hates You? How do you find the people who hate you?

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S2: Oh, interesting. So, yeah. So this whole project began five years ago. I was making very popular and very political satire videos on Facebook, and this satire was expressing my point of view, which is the progressive queer point of view. And so because this is Facebook, you know, the Internet writ large, a lot of people were sharing the videos. And then the videos were also getting a lot of hate from exactly the places that you would expect from people who were on the other side of the political spectrum, which is to say conservative folks. And sometimes it was apolitical, homophobic hate. And then sometimes, you know, holding space for this, it was people who were on my side of the political spectrum, but felt that I was going about expressing these ideas in the wrong way. And I think I became so consumed by the hate that I was getting that I decided to look at it head on. I started calling some of the people behind these comments and messages that I was storing in a desktop folder that I called the hate folder, all caps. And I started calling some of the people behind these comments and messages. And that turned into the podcast conversations with people who hate me. I have to say that now the majority of my episodes and the majority of episodes I’ve made since starting this project are me moderating conversations between people just so we can get new stories, get new voices in there, and explore new things that have blessedly nothing to do with me.

S1: That is, I knew it could go on like one of a couple of different directions, and I was like, either it’s just like conversation with, I don’t know, all of your relatives that you hate or so was it mostly then people that you did not like? I don’t I don’t assume it was like, Oh, I called up all the friends I’d had, like a really bad friend breakup with. It was like strangers who hate me. Is that the.

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S2: Yeah. So it definitely grew out of gaining Internet popularity. And then of course, the flip side of popularity, which is Internet negativity. So it was it was mostly strangers. I’ve explored some twist episodes. In one episode. I speak to someone I went to high school with who in freshman year had made this was Pre-Social media had made a quiz and one of the multiple choice answers on the quiz took a dig at me. And, you know, we talked because that was like, I suppose my first piece of digital hate as we as a species were understanding what digital hate even was. And but yeah, I think I, I’ve done a few like I recently moderated a conversation between a mother and her son and her son is, is trans and she had a really hard time accepting him for a really long time. So they got to retrospectively narrate their relationship and all of the resistance she put up to that. And then I’m also to to finish out this most recent season, I hosted a conversation between a conversion therapy survivor and the man who ran the conversion therapy clinic that he escaped from. So still I’m mostly this grew out of and remains interested in the way we express animosity to each other online and what can be gained from turning that into a voice to voice conversation.

S1: Yeah, that’s so interesting. I’m curious, did you you know, obviously so much this project clearly just kind of like grew as it grew. But did you see like a conversation being facilitated between a survivor of conversion therapy and a former conversion therapist? I assume former hopefully for me, very much.

S2: A person, very much into their atonement, acknowledging the harm phase. And yeah, I think a person who has had an over many years long journey of understanding themselves and the harm that they caused.

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S1: Did it feel like with a conversation like that, this is sort of moved beyond like a term like hate or online hate and falls more into the category of just like conversations about like harm or oppression or, you know, institutionalization. Or did it feel like that’s kind of a useful umbrella term for me? Like, was there a moment when you feel like, Oh, we’ve moved out of just like online trollish ness and more into bigger questions or not bigger, like, as if that’s a small question, just different.

S2: It’s a good question. I learned early on in the show and this is, you know, part of the book. Like what that the word hate actually means. I also think we use it as an umbrella term when referring to online animosity. You know, in the hate folder, when I went back through it, I was finding, you know, truly vile things said to and about me alongside, you know, more benign things like Dylan Marron is so annoying. And troublingly, I also found some constructive criticism in there, which I thought was like a devastating metaphor for how our brain sorts through negativity. And I just want to say it’s understandable, right? Like we’re dealing with such a volume of information online that I get that we miss sort things into hate. You know, we colloquially all use the word hate very loosely. But I also think we have to honor the feeling of what it’s like to to receive even constructive criticism. Is your mind reads it as hate because it’s almost like our brains haven’t evolved to sorting all of the input we’re getting online all of the time. And only through investigation can you be like, Oh, wait, no, no, no. That’s actually helpful, constructive criticism I want to take to grow and get better in terms of what these conversations end up being about. And, you know, you’re right to say that it’s like it could be a conversation about harm. A lot of these conversations end up going in those directions. You know, sometimes it’s definitely about like what caused the animosity and what let it grow into either a comment or running a conversion therapy clinic. And and I think the reason that I’m interested in these non Internet based conversations or non Internet based relationships, such as a mother and son, such as a former conversion therapy clinic runner and conversion therapy survivor. Is that the themes are there. It’s it’s how long change takes. It’s the change takes time. It’s how shame is a cycle and how sometimes when we are shamed, we turn that into the mistreatment of other people. And so it’s been a really interesting laboratory, almost, to explore all of those different avenues that you can go from when it when it starts with a negative interaction, an antagonistic relationship.

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S1: Yeah, that makes so much sense in terms of the difficulty of sort of filtering through huge levels of feedback that might include everything from like harassment and and straightforward hatred to, you know, stuff that could be categorized maybe better as like bitchy asides from someone who might be like otherwise generally on your, on your side of the fence to simply stray thoughts, to possibly useful observations phrased painfully. And it’s interesting, I was thinking about like Charlie Mike writer’s recent piece about like trans assimilation ism and cringe and like all the different kind of like writing that that I’ve been noticing lately about like the specter of crunchiness or the sort of like dysphoric moment of seeing yourself through somebody else’s eyes and notice that you’re not living up to your own self-image. And that strikes me as a really interesting like element of this particular project, which is if one of the unspoken rules of being called cringe, which is what I took that line about being annoying to, to be, and particularly from somebody who might otherwise have thought of themselves as being part of your community or maybe wanted to make it very clear they didn’t see themselves as being part of your community, that the work that cringe is doing in that moment is like immediate, propulsive distancing and yeah, you know, kind of can’t miss it. You know, if you’re going to use the Internet, you’re going to encounter different people’s ideas and values about clinginess. And there’s a lot of value, I think, to looking at it directly and taking a long time to turn it over and talk about it.

S2: Yeah, I think Crunchiness is also a cousin of or maybe, you know, the kind of umbrella term that also encapsulates the Internet’s total hatred of earnestness. Because, you know, earnestness is essentially like an under stilled feeling. You know, like and and I think people often run from those under distilled feelings because sometimes it’s laid so bare that it’s so, like, unmissable that you’re like, oh, I see myself in it. And just as you said, I think a lot of times when we cringe, it’s also there, but for the grace of God go I, you know, like who.

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S1: I could.

S2: See making that comment. But I stopped myself from making that comment because I know the social norms of this digital space and I wouldn’t do it. But you did it and why did you do it?

S1: So yeah, you know, like I.

S2: I think my relationship to. Cringe is kind of that. Look, I don’t feel cool on the Internet anymore. And so I think that aligns me with the people who are labeled as cringe. So like the you know, I think I’m pretty sincere. I don’t feel fluent in the language of the Internet as I once did. And, yeah, I I’m so fascinated by that. I mean, cringes is something I’ve often wanted to explore in an episode and and why we cringe and why we externalize that cringe that we feel into something that we think we want to share out loud and often share it with the person who made us cringe. So yeah, I think a lot to unpack there.

S1: Well, and not to not to be to like Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, but like, as Charlie pointed out, you know, like to cringe, you know, like historically means to flinch away from a blow. So there’s this idea of like, you know, changing your position, changing your embodiment, and also a sense of some sort of relationship to power and some sort of way of of modifying the movement and the shape of the body in order to accommodate or deflect it. And I think that’s interesting, too. And, you know, there’s so many it’s so interesting to thinking about all the different types of like different subcultures, both on the Internet more broadly and then particularly on social media or on Twitter, where like there are some economies where earnestness is like prized and rewarded. But those are also often some of the most like vicious places. Like, you know, I’m thinking of like the sort of like libs of tick tock like type of economies where like earnestness is actually like welcomed. But the earnestness is we’ve got to get rid of these fucking deviants. But like earnestness, like there’s not an ironic remove, although those are certainly present in other like kiwi farms types of places. So it’s interesting to think of like earnestness is in some places the currency is in some place a liability in some places is paired with warmth or positive sentiment and affect in other places is like correlated with cruelty. And that’s yeah, I can see why that’s like a rich subject for, for an ongoing project.

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S2: Well, I think it’s I kind of never know where the conversation is going to go when I begin it. You know, sometimes the conversation leads to a discussion about past trauma that someone has experienced. Sometimes that leads to the way that someone has been taught to think about the world. Sometimes that leads to writing a misunderstanding. Sometimes, you know, like I think online negativity or negativity is just the starting point. And I just, as you said, like exploring cringe and where it comes from and why we cringe. And I think it cracks open so many different paths that could be taken from that.

S1: Yeah. Well, Dylan, thank you so, so much for coming on the show and helping us wave through all of these different issues.

S2: Thank you for having me.

S1: Have a fabulous rest of the day. Before I sign off, I’ve got a letter from a listener about a recent letter that I’m going to read first. Well, I think your answer to the letter writer in gay or nay was excellent. I also think that you missed the mark about a significant part of her question. The letter writer expressed doubt about her sexuality because she doesn’t believe that she experiences spontaneous attraction and is questioning her sexuality as a result. I’m writing in with a resource the letter writer might find helpful for thinking through that experience. That book is Ace What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society and The Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen. I suspect that you might not find distinguishing between experiencing attraction or between different kinds of attraction particularly useful. But as a person who has spent years working through my bisexuality in addition to my asexuality, I hope you’ll understand that this distinction can be very significant for those of us whom the lack of experience of sexual attraction is more important to our experience of attraction overall than the gender of the people to whom we may sometimes be attracted. I experienced similar cognitive dissonance to the letter writer when I’ve heard friends describe spontaneous sexual attraction, a thing I’ve never experienced for the first time. I think Angela chan’s book is an excellent and accessible guide to the whole asexual out of sexual spectrum, drawing on lots of interviews, her own personal experiences and academic researches by way of conclusion. I want to say that I deeply appreciated the kindness of your response to the letter writers ambivalence, since the letter writer also directly expressed doubt about the validity of her identifying as a lesbian. I hope she finds this book useful and that whatever I didn’t label, she chooses that she does so above all because they are helpful. I couldn’t put it better myself. I hope the same thing for any identity labels for this letter writer or any other, and thank you so much for writing in with that recommendation. Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, a little mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Surkis, who also composed our theme music Don’t Miss an episode of the show, had the Slate.com slash mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Thanks. Also, if you can please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, you should join Slate. Plus, Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations with the guest. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com forward slash mood plus to sign up. It’s just $1 for your first month. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, maybe need a little advice, maybe some advice, head to Slate.com slash mood to find our big mood, a little mood listener question form or find a link in the description on the platform you’re using right now. Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. Think about the possibility of talking to your current partner. And like, you know, even if they were on the same page with you about a lot of this, I’m not suggesting that they would be like, oh, this is great. I’m so glad you feel really strongly about an X. This makes me feel good. Like I get that might be a difficult conversation, but I just also feel like these things happen. They really, really do. I hear so often from people who are like, I love my partner and I feel strongly about somebody else. I can’t believe this. I feel terrible or like I must be the worst, or I must not know what love is. And it’s just like this seems to happen a lot. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate Plus now at Slate.com, forward slash mood.