S1: Daniel Avari here, please don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear that familiar theme music that normally opens this podcast, we’ve changed the music and the name of the show as well. You are listening to Big Mood, Little Mood with Danny Laborie. But if you were a regular listener of Dear Prudence, I still think you’ll feel at home here. We’ll still be answering a few questions from advice seekers at the top of every show so you won’t be left adrift. Hello and welcome. For the first time to the show, Big Mood, Little Mood with Danny Claverie, this is no longer the Dear Prudence podcast. There will be more Prudence’s to come. The tree that produces the Dear Prudence pods is almost fully ripe and is close to dropping a new one soon. But my time as an advice columnist formerly has come to an end. But I am luckily enough, able to continue doing this show here at Slate with only a slightly modified format. So from now on you can expect some advice still to come. So so people who have enjoyed the show for the advice format will not have to despair. I will still be having guests in the studio. I will still be Daniel M. Lavery. I’m done changing my name. I’m pretty sure I’m just going to change the name of the podcast, but I’m going to keep my name as is. And we’ll spend a while answering a few questions and then we’ll spend a little more time talking about what we understand to be sort of overarching themes of the questions that we have tackled. There are so often on the old show, I felt like I could have dedicated an entire episode simply to, you know, what do you do with the question, am I overreacting? Or how many different ways can I say you might want to stop talking to your mother? It’s kind of endless ways to say that one. Actually, I don’t know that I’ll ever run out of ways. And I’m really, really looking forward to getting the chance to try out this new format with my guests today, who is someone whose work I very, very much admire. Aubrey Gordon is a columnist for Self magazine and the author of What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk about that. She also co-hosts Maintenance Phase, a podcast that debunks and decodes weight loss and wellness trends. Aubrey, thank you so much for being here and welcome to the brand new show.
S2: Thank you so much. I’m so delighted to be like the happiest, fattest guinea pig.
S1: Thank you. That makes me very happy and it makes me want to build you a little nest of cardboard tubes.
S2: Yeah. If you could make that happen, that would be great.
S1: I will. I will see what I can do. I will bring my dogs along who actually look a lot like guinea pigs. I’m so excited that you’re here because, you know, Self magazine, I’ve been to the dentist. I’ve I’ve read that in many an office over the course of my life. And I love maintenance phase. That was, I think, one of the first ways that I entered into a relationship with your work. I’m nuts about the show. The episode that you guys did about Olestra set me in a time warp back to my grandparents house in the nineties when, like, one day all of a sudden just all the chips in there walk in pantry was Olestra and being raised in a very religious Midwestern home. And I had a flourishing relationship with secret eating at a very young age. So I was just like, yeah, me and my Olestra chips are here in this walk in pantry and we don’t need anything else.
S2: Right. No one will ever know except probably me if I eat too many of them.
S1: Yeah. The next day if I was like, where did all of the Olestra chips go, where are the wow chips, why isn’t our life full of wow anymore? And I would just say, oh, it must have been a dog.
S2: Yeah. I also had like Olestra chips came out when I was like a fat middle schooler or high schooler. And so I was just like, this is perfect. Now it’s my time to shine. And in pretty short order, they were pulled from the shelves because for folks who are not familiar with Olestra, there was sort of this big wave of media coverage saying that and like mostly like late night monologue jokes, talking about how it would give you sort of intestinal distress. And among other things, they used a phrase anal leakage to describe that intestinal distress. Real rough, real rough.
S1: You can see that that was low hanging fruit. It was pretty easy, like, oh, that’s what I’ll be doing my monologue about tonight.
S2: Yeah, that’s right. And for six months of future nights, you know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
S1: It is. And especially I’m so glad you used that phrase because that was, you know, that and snack wells. I remember being very prominently featured in my home in the home of my relatives. And I’m sure there were times when this had happened earlier. But this was sort of my first entry point into the promise of what is food that has as little food in it as possible, where the idea is because it’s barely food, you should eat until you have no more air in your torso like this is packing material that you should be eating ten boxes of. And we have designed it in that way because. This is a relationship to food we think you ought to have.
S2: I really like the idea of food as packing material like the little packing peanuts that sort of crumple under water. It’s totally right. I mean, we talked about this at one point earlier on in the show with Hailo Top that if you open Hailo top ice cream, which is like a low fat, low calorie, low everything, ice cream, if you open the top, they’ve got a little like aluminum, sort of like peel off sort of some top thing. And it says things like don’t stop until you hit the bottom and like eat the whole thing and stuff like that where you’re like, oh, I don’t know if that’s the message that I want from my ice cream is just like eat all of it right now. Do it.
S1: What are you, chicken? I was like they were in conversation with that old Alka Seltzer ad from, I think the 70s where the guy says, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. And it’s like 40 years on the sort of like prequel detailing his origins that nobody really asked for. It was like, this is why he ate the whole thing in reverse, engineered a way for you to do that. And so I’ve chosen our few questions for today, often around ideas about wholeness, gorging restriction, expressing concern for other people’s relationship to anything from food to the general idea of mental health. And and I think one of the things that I’m really interested to consider as we go through these is this idea of both what are ways in which that sort of messaging is not the most like peaceful relationship to food one can imagine. And also the ways that expressing concern about somebody’s relationship to health and especially food can be in its own way rather unhealthy and rather forceful and rather unending, like it can be itself a sort of binge. Like I’m going to express concern to you every time that you eat for the next 10 years, which to me feels a little bit like some kind of bingeing, but often doesn’t get discussed as a sort of bingeing habit.
S2: So totally. And also, I think there are ways in which we get so caught up in what we think are our feelings about other people that we don’t often stop to reflect on our own behavior. And I think we’ll have some opportunities to ask people to stop and reflect on their own behavior today
S1: because so hard, I never want to do it. I know easily get caught up and like, hang on, this conversation is going to solve it. I know we’ve had this 90 times before, but ninety one is the charm. This strategy is working.
S2: Totally. Absolutely. I mean, I think that’s the other thing that comes up in this sort of stuff about concern and I imagine will come up in our questions today is just that we get so hung up on strategies that we think will change another person. And boy, oh, boy, that’s a real mixed bag you reach in there. And you might come out with some great candy and it might work great. And often you will come out with like a handful of rusty nails or something like really rough.
S1: Yeah, it can be helpful to apply the message of that old YouTube channel. Will it blend? And if you’ve had this conversation 90 times, it might not lend money time to put something else in that blender. On that note, would you please read our first letter?
S2: Absolutely. So the subject line of this one is unsure about my relationship with my husband. I’ve been married for 18 years, but I have sacrificed a lot, my job, my dreams to fulfill my husband’s professional dreams. It’s been 18 years and he still feels his career goals are not fulfilled yet. I have also found him hiding his lunches with his female managers. Recently, I found a card from his female manager with a very long message congratulating him on his promotion. She also gave him champagne and chocolates and took him out to a celebratory lunch. Anyways, I found this card but wanted to test if he would tell me about it himself. In his presence. I tried to open his bag to take his lunchbox out and he jumped and started blaming me. He said that I nagged him about not taking his lunchbox out and he will take it out. He clearly didn’t want me to find out about the card. Then I left the room, still hoping that he would tell me about the card himself, but he removed the card from the bag and hid it. Later that night, I asked him if he was hiding something from me, he swore on my life and said that he was not. At this point, my heart just broke because he clearly thought that the card is more precious than my life. Later on confronting him, that I actually saw the card. He then told me that he hid it because he thought I would be angry. If there’s nothing sinister going on behind my back, why would I get angry? He’s hidden three other things like this over the years where I found out about lunches with his female managers. But this time I am totally heartbroken. I don’t even think he feels guilty for doing that or breaking my heart repeatedly. I sacrificed so much for him and I cannot even get a bit of honesty from him. I also feel that he doesn’t even care about my happiness. Whenever my friends come over for dinner, he sleeps on the couch in front of them. Recently we went to my friend’s house for dinner and he slept at their house too. I find it very embarrassing. Please help me to understand if what I feel is right or wrong, as I have been sad and crying over so many days and he is just busy preparing his work. Slide’s going out for coffees and lunches and building his career.
S1: This one was tough because it felt like such a case to me of wrong about this battle, but right about the sort of bigger war or like the bigger question. And so I want to try to find a way to I really think the letter writer is pretty far off on her assessment of this situation. But the key thing here is for 18 years, I’ve sacrificed not only my job, but just like unspecified numbers of dreams in order to fully support his career. And that makes me miserable and that’s huge, that’s so significant and so important to think through, but these specific things, I think the letter writers just way off base on.
S2: Yeah, I had a similar response, which is like there are sort of two things going on here. Right. One is the stuff about the card and the coworker and that pretty narrow kind of band of storytelling. And then there’s a much bigger set of patterns here that are totally cause for concern to me. I mean, I’ll say on the card and coworker stuff, I have definitely been the coworker who has given people very flowery cards, talking about how much I appreciate working with them. I’ve totally brought people flowers that work. I’ve totally brought people bottles of booze if they’re drinkers. Right. Like all of that kind of stuff. I don’t actually see that as being out of bounds at all. Yeah, and it does feel like a particularly sort of straight relationship coded question here, which is like because those coworkers are women, they feel like more of a threat.
S1: And at the manager. Right. Like specifically, if your manager is celebrating your promotion, that’s really customary. That’s really appropriate. That’s really fine. There might be industries where champagne would be a little extravagant, but nothing about what the letter writer described in terms of a manager celebrating somebody who is a direct report getting a promotion sounded, oh, wow, that’s off. And so that line of like, why would he hide it if there wasn’t something awful going on to me? Sounds like, again, for other what sounds like good reasons, which is the sense of I’ve sacrificed a lot and my husband still just wants to follow his career and kind of not pause and think about mine. There’s that fear of these like especially female colleagues or female managers. But I think the reason that he’s hiding this from you is because it sounds like when he has gone out to lunch with a woman colleague or a woman supervisor, you get really upset in a way that I think is just unwarranted. And so I think the reason he’s hiding them from you is because you say things like this has broken my heart. He must not really love me. And I think that’s coming from something else. I really do. I think it’s coming from the whole I gave up my dreams for him.
S2: Yeah. I will also say, like, just in the interest of making the implicit explicit right, there is no way for you to know. There’s no way for us to know what’s happening between your husband and his coworkers at work every day. The only way to find that out for sure is either for him to tell you in a way that you believe in that lands for you, which seems pretty clear that that’s not actually happening right now, and or to go into, like, extreme boundary crossing territory. And like what I would love to beg of this letter writer is not to be that guy. Don’t be the guy who starts going through stuff. Don’t be the guy who starts talking to his friends. Don’t be the guy who starts sort of like digging around and being a little bit of a private investigator in your relationship. Like that way lies heartache. So it’s not going to be good for anybody.
S1: Yeah, I think especially the part that struck out for me was I wanted to test to see if he would tell me about it himself. And part of the reason I think that really hit home is I’ve certainly done that in relationships in my own life. It doesn’t work when somebody doesn’t know that they’re being tested. They don’t know what they’re being tested about. They don’t pass ever, because it is a secret test that only, you know the parameters yourself. So it can feel perhaps as you’re doing it like this is how I will find out through the objectivity of anonymity and secrecy what my partner really thinks of me. It is, in fact, I think, a strategy designed to hurt your own feelings and to corroborate a fear that you have, which is that your partner doesn’t really love or value you. So I think whenever you give someone a test that they don’t know about, you are going to get the answer you are looking for, which is you don’t really love me. So I, I don’t think that is a good strategy. I say that knowing full well there were times in my twenties when I was like, you know, it’s going to be a great way to make this relationship work, is never directly talk about what I want or need and say a secret task before you as if like I am Gideon in the Book of Judges. And like, if you would only like sudden with do this sheep’s fleece while I sleep, I will know that you are with me as I go to fight. I want to say the Moabites. It was maybe Midianites. One of the two is so bad, it’s so bad. So the conversation that you need to have with your husband I think is. I’m unhappy that I haven’t worked in 18 years and I’ve given up on some dreams and I want to change that not. You didn’t tell me you had lunch with your manager.
S2: Yeah, I mean, I think that feels like the straightest forward way to get at it, if you feel like I mean, I, I do feel like there is this undercurrent through out of like it really seems to come through to me in this letter that, like, there are a lot of things that maybe are not working in this relationship. Right. It seems really clear that the letter writer is really frustrated at having made so many sacrifices. It’s really clear that the letter writers husband feels really frustrated at having to answer for things that are, to his mind, like inconsequential, right or unavoidable.
S1: Write like, what are you going to do, say to your manager, we can’t go to lunch, don’t congratulate me on my promotion. My wife thinks there’s something inherently sexual about that. I mean, that would make him look rightly unprofessional at work. He could not say such a thing.
S2: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, it also just feels like, you know, the letter writer inserts some like way big feelings into this letter. Like the card is more precious than the letter writers life or the husband doesn’t care about their happiness and so on and so forth. Write like that all feels like to me like a clear indication of a relationship that needs some pretty urgent attention and kind of decision making. Maybe the other way that I would say, in addition to like I’m unhappy, how do we change this? Which feels like a very valid and grounded conversation. I mean, if you feel like there’s more going on there, then it seems like a series of pretty structured conversations about like how do we all communicate with each other? Like what’s feelin good and what’s feelin bad. Right. Like doing some assessment of like what’s the State of the Union at the moment. Right. And what is it going to take for both of you to feel not just like you’ve addressed this sort of challenge, but like you’re really happy and all in? And I would say, in my experience, different people have different experiences with therapy. Minhas Therapy can be a really good way to have some built in structure and sort of a third party mediator help you work through some stuff. So that also feels like another option to consider if it feels right for you and your relationship.
S1: Yeah, and I think my last thought here is I don’t want to dismiss the importance of the letter writers, clear emotional investment in her husband, like she’s heartbroken because she feels disconnected from him. She feels like he doesn’t care for her the same way that she cares for him. That makes a lot of sense. And I don’t say any of the following because I think you should just stop caring. But this letter is full of what did he do today? What is he doing right now? What has he been up to? And you don’t see letter writer much about what was the job that you gave up? What jobs might you like to try to have now? What dreams might you want to pursue now? Because I think if your goal is I want to get him to sufficiently appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made for him such that they feel worth it, I don’t know that you could ever extract that from another person, even if, frankly, he he was incredibly grateful and appreciative. I’m not sure that he could offer you a sort of, like, emotional connection that would make those things feel like the right decisions. But you can start thinking about what would I like to do now? What jobs might I want to go apply for now? And I say that knowing if you’ve been out of the job market for 18 years and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, I don’t mean to suggest like and you’ll just be able to get a great job by calling somebody and showing up tomorrow. But what are some other dreams like? What are things that you can pursue while you have these conversations with him, but that don’t require his permission or even necessarily participation so that you have something that you are doing that is not just why won’t he notice me? I think you should tell him what you want him to notice, because I think if you wait for him to pick up on it, you will never get what you want. And, you know, you cannot go back and undo the choices that you made eighteen years ago. But you can start thinking about, like, what would I like to do today? That is not about supporting his dreams. Like if I’ve given him that support for eight years and he still doesn’t feel like he’s there, you know, I’m going to let him handle that. He just got a promotion. He’s at least fulfilling some dreams. Right. Well, what is my dream for today? What is my dream for next week? What are some things that I would like to do that I couldn’t do? Even if we’re in the middle of a difficult conversation, even if we’re not on the same page, that I don’t need his buy in in order to start pursuing?
S2: Yeah. I mean, it also feels like telling that it is an 18 year gap, right. That this has been happening for him. Like, well, when parents have kids, that’s often as long as folks sort of envision having a child living in their home. Right. In sort of the culture that we’re in. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to start at that point building toward a life that you’re really excited about and, you know, sort of thinking through the ways in which you want to continue to show up for someone that you love, but that you want to prioritize your own sort of life and future and wants and all of that kind of stuff.
S1: Yeah, and that’s hard to do. It’s especially hard when you have spent eight years not having that conversation. And and I, I really do. Letter writer. Understand that pain and isolation that you’re feeling, and that’s real, not serious, but you do have to it and you do have to speak up about it. And I really don’t think that his manager is the reason that you feel disconnected from him. I think the problem lies within your marriage, not outside of it. At any rate, we have wandered far enough from the field of the topic, so we’re going to go back into our last letter and I’m very excited for you to get to read it, because it’s all about how much you’re ready.
S2: It’s a big one. This is a big one. The subject is picky eater. My partner, Ron, of nearly 25 years is an extremely picky eater, the only food he says he likes are cheddar cheese, peas, white bread, corn pretzels, chocolate cake, soda, chicken, lemon drops and mashed potatoes. I knew about this in the beginning, and I didn’t care at all because people like what they like and I didn’t want to pressure him into eating things he hated. A month or so after we began dating, he suffered a health crisis and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. He told me that he’d always thought people just wanted to trick him into eating vegetables because they don’t have any impact on your health. I was shocked that this health scare had no effect on him and tried to cook vegetables in a way that he might find appealing. His taste did eventually expand and he began eating more vegetables and other kinds of food. Then, through a series of bad luck, I myself became really sick. I was often bed bound and couldn’t cook for him as much. He begins going back to his old eating habits, despite there being easy to follow recipes that I’ve got around the house. He’s gone back to drinking soda like it’s the cure for boredom. His health is suffering again, and my health is the worst it has ever been. I’m not sure what to do if I don’t take care of Ron. He gets worse. How can I help Ron without hurting myself? I really do love him so much and I want to help him. I’m hoping there’s some strategy that I have overlooked. This is the one thing that we consistently argue about. He’s on three different blood pressure meds now, and it is likely a result of his picky eating. We have discussed therapy a few times, but he always says there are no therapists in the area. I have looked and there are several that take our insurance. I’ve offered to go with him. I don’t want him to feel alone or unsupported. I’m running out of ideas. Well, this one, so I will say last one, full body tension, this one, just like every muscle in my body, feels so sad. Just feel real sad about this one.
S1: Well, yeah. Where do you want to start on this one?
S2: I will say I want to start from just an acknowledgement to the letter writer that this sounds like a really hard and tricky situation and feels very, very human to care deeply about the health and, you know, life span of someone who you’ve sort of built your life with, especially around unknown health issue. Right. And knowing that they may be doing things that exacerbate that health issue, super troubling. I would also feel concerned. And that’s also extra nervous making that that’s happening while your own health is failing or is sort of in choppy waters. The place that I want to start is on the last sort of little chunk about like we checked into therapists and you don’t want to go, that feels like where this letter writer gets closest to my own read on this situation just based on the content of the letter, which is I sort of want to offer a gentle reframe here, which is that will often talk about, quote unquote, picky eating. That is sort of something that we say when we think of folks sort of attitudes and behavior around food as being sort of a behavioral issue, someone who’s like being kind of difficult and they’re not willing to do the thing that they know they need to do. Right. It sets up this kind of push me, pull you kind of dynamic about like you don’t want to eat this, but that’s just because you’re unreasonable. And I want you to eat this again. Like, I don’t get that tone from this letter, but it is like often the sort of like overlay of talking about picky eating amongst eating disorder researchers and clinicians. There is a very quickly growing conversation about an eating disorder called refed avoidant, restrictive food intake disorder. So there is this sort of push now to reinterpret many cases, not all cases, but many cases of quote unquote, picky eating as like an extreme avoidance of particular foods and profound fear around those foods. So, you know. The letter writer will be able to decide to a certain extent, and Ron will be able to decide ultimately whether or not that feels like a fit for what’s happening here. But it does feel like we’re thinking about this more in terms of like a mental health issue potentially than a sort of like willfulness or refusal to do what he needs to do and to do that, because, again, that will set you up for these kind of adversarial conversations. Right. If that’s the sort of frame that you bring into it. Again, I don’t necessarily get that tone from this letter, but I do think that that sort of like framing around picketing in this case really misses the mark.
S1: Yeah, I think that’s really useful. I mean, this may very well just be my own bias here. I am often inclined to think when someone writes to me about a picky eater that there’s either something that they feel really intensely that they need to avoid, that it’s not. I’m less inclined to see I mean, I can certainly see the ways in which it can become difficult and frustrating as a roommate or a partner, and I don’t want to discount that. But it seems likely to me in many of these cases that it’s like there’s something going on that like what feels pretty straightforward or easy for many people is either whether it’s to do with texture, with sensation, with just sensory processing in general, fear of vomiting, fear of choking, what have you like there’s something big often happening, possibly on a level that’s not even conscious. And because it’s so often gets framed as behavioral, I think people often cultivate a number of defense mechanisms around it that have to do with like shame and frustration. So I kind of took that line of like I always assumed people were trying to trick me because I don’t think vegetables are actually good for you. To me, I felt slightly like that’s one of his defensive lines. I could be wrong there. It could very well be that he was genuinely under the mistaken impression that there’s not fairly conclusive evidence that eating some vegetables is pretty good for pretty much everybody. And more to do with just the sense of this is something that people have always kind of been on my case about and they’ve always maybe like tried to sneak these things into my food in such a way that I feel really like like people are just kind of arbitrarily coming after me. And I don’t say any of that. By the way, a letter writer to say that you’re responsible for that. Are you doing that? Just that that was my read here. So then the question is like, what do you do? You’re sick, you’re exhausted. You don’t know what to do. I think you were right, letter writer, to not try to manage your husband’s meals on a daily basis. You just can’t I get that part of that feels really scary because you feel like, well, when I don’t do that, he gets worse. And I’m not suggesting that you stop trying to manage his daily diet and then just like never think or talk about it again. I don’t mean, like, just stop caring. I just mean I don’t think you can take on that work right now without risking your own health. And I do think you need to prioritize your own health right now. And then I think on top of that. You can encourage Ron to talk to his doctor, which it sounds like at least he’s fairly consistent about going to and seeing his doctor, even if he’s resistant to therapy. And there might be an opportunity to say, I wonder, Ron, we’ve always talked about this as a behavior thing, a therapy thing. I wonder if when you think about other types of food, if there’s something that feels really, like distressing or awful about the idea of textures or, you know, kinds of food, that maybe I have overlooked that maybe other people have overlooked that might be worth talking about your doctor with maybe recommend outfit again, I would do that in a sort of like it’s your call way, because it’s just really clear that, like arguing with him, really trying to drive the point home, saying stuff over and over again. Doesn’t get you what you want, and so I think at least leaving the ball in his court would possibly provide him with an opportunity to. Make that choice for himself, but, yeah, I just if all you do is stop fighting about this, at least you’ll be saving yourself that part of every day where you’re already exhausted and sick and then fighting. You know, he does have the medications. He is talking to his doctor. I’m not going to say that that’s a great situation, but he’s at least doing that much. And if his doctor is monitoring the situation, that’s better than nothing.
S2: Yeah. And I think, like, if you all have had conversations explicitly about Ron’s blood pressure, you could say, hey, we haven’t checked in about this lately. How’s it looking? I know I can’t cook for you currently, but is there stuff that I can do to be supportive, sort of broad blanket? Like, is there something that you need from like what can I do sort of given my current sort of state of affairs? What can I do? How can I show up for you? I would say if you do decide to take on a conversation about potentially disordered eating, I would say in this situation in like almost every situation, I would strongly recommend actually talking to a clinician yourself before having that conversation, because I will say as a person who has had eating disorders in the past, there have been times when folks have dug in with me and been like, that doesn’t seem right. What are you doing right now? And it feels more like surveillance and a reason to pull away from that person than a caring gesture or something that can help. Right. So I think just treading really carefully around sort of what that conversation looks like if you decide to take it on and getting some input from someone who is seriously sort of seasoned in this particular arena feels feels really important to me.
S1: I think so, too. And yeah, part of that is just also like the pain of loving someone who is mortal, which is just like most of us do not perfectly optimize our health one hundred percent of the time. And certainly there are ways in which that can become more or less drastic. But part of what’s also just hard here is you really wish that you could handle this for your husband because you want him to live a really long time. And it can be hard to convince yourself that, like arguing about this is is not the best way to get to where I want to be. But it just seems pretty consistently true that arguing does not result in change. And one of the things that you’ll also, I think, want to do here is how do I let go of the fact that I love this person and I want him to like, you know, eat kelp and minnows all day such that he lives to be a billion or whatever it is that the latest study is like, eat this if you want to live to be a billion. How how do I look of the fact that I love an adult who sometimes might make choices that prioritize other things over longevity, that can be hard and be really hard. And I mostly just want you to feel as little stressed as possible so that you can rest and follow your own treatment plan and take care of yourself as best you can. Good luck. I’m sorry. I hope you both feel as good as possible soon. I feel so cheesy and just cheap. I think it’s just like, oh, best wishes which have never helped anyone. Or maybe they have. I don’t really.
S2: But also it is genuinely a really hard situation to see someone that you know and love going down a path that you feel is a threat to them in some way, their physical health or their mental health or whatever may be happening there. I totally, totally get that. And also part of the hardness of that is just accepting, as you said, that like this is, you know, a separate person who has their own doctor, who’s getting medical attention for this thing. And as much as it might hurt you to see it, like their actions are their own, you know, and they can and will get help if and when they’re ready for it, if and when they feel like they need it. And they are sort of the ultimate decider of that thing, which is part of the heartache of the situation. Right.
S1: All right, I’m going to take us out of the heartache of this situation because we’ve spent some time there and I want to move into a completely different situation, which is just to talk to you a little bit about how the book came out this last year. I saw it presumably toured on it during a pandemic by which I imagine you went on a lot of Zoome calls. How was it how was the writing process? How was the touring process? What’s it been like?
S2: It’s been great. I think I was really nervous going in. So, listen, the book is about fundamentally about the ways in which we sort of interpersonally, interpersonally, culturally and sort of like systemically decide to sort of discredit fat people and push fat folks to the margins and sort of the ways in which we all sort of participate in that. That’s a pretty heavy, critical conversation to have, especially in media. And I was so nervous about getting a bunch of interview questions that were like, OK, but don’t you have diabetes? OK, but what about your health? OK, but blow-by-blow right. Like that kind of stuff. And what I found was like the loveliest and most pleasant surprise, which is that almost everybody that I talked to came to the conversation with a genuine desire to understand more and better and a genuine drive to sort of do right by the fat people in their lives. And that felt like the most wonderful, refreshing, sort of like healing kind of thing that could happen. I was sort of imagining media tour that was going to be not unlike, like the worst messages in my inbox. And that was like so far from the experience it has been it has been really, really lovely. I mean, I feel like you have also published a number of times on some real thorny issues, like I
S1: have to write about issues,
S2: you and me both. But I’m curious about how all that turned out for you in terms of like media tours and all of that kind of stuff.
S1: Yeah, I mean, as as as I think you you experienced yourself, there’s such a difference between the type of conversation where someone is genuinely listening and curious about your experience or what you have unearthed through research rather than someone who is like nodding their head and waiting to say, but hang on a second. Which yeah. Who would have guessed that conversations with someone who’s actually listening go better than conversations with people who don’t. But but yeah, I also I also really appreciate getting to choose the terms of a conversation that you want to have about your own experience or your own demographic as opposed to. Well, then we have to first have the conversation that we all have to get out of the way about fat people first or about trans people first. Like, I have to address these five questions that I know you all want to ask me first and then finally being able to set those terms. You know, it’s your tour, it’s your book and being able to say we’re actually not going to do any of these like. But what about questions? Unless I choose to. In which case. Great.
S2: Totally. No, I had there was one interview that I did at one point, and that was a radio show that took calls from callers. And I was genuinely like, Jesus, take the wheel. Here we go. Right. Like, no. And we got through the entire, like, hour long show and finish the interview. And not one call came through. And I talked to the producer afterwards and was like, I know you guys didn’t not get colorants. Like I know people called in. What what happened with callers? And the producer just said there were a lot of people who didn’t need to be on the radio. And I was like, I love that answer so much. I love that answer so much. And I think it was, you know, not like a level of care and a level of like investment and having a conversation go well and having a good experience and all of that kind of stuff that I just did not anticipate one bit. Yeah. So, like, overwhelmingly, it’s been really lovely.
S1: Good. There’s a reason, I think, that it’s such a cliche when people talk about like Q and A’s and someone references like the person who asked the first question and says this is more a statement than a question and you can feel just everyone’s energy leaving their bodies like everyone’s just like, oh, that’s how tonight’s gonna go. There is such value not in, you know, siloing off certain topics or questions permanently, but in saying this type of question or this type of question, asker often muscles their way to the front of the crowd and doesn’t stop talking. And that takes away room for people who might take a little longer to formulate a more thoughtful or interesting question. And then they think, well, that guy just went. So probably no one wanted to hear my question anyway, when many times that question is the most interesting one. And I like that approach. If, like, he didn’t need to be on the radio today, not to. This is a forbidden topic, just like. You could maybe try the radio tomorrow. The radio is going to be here.
S2: Yeah, you’re not in the place at the moment to be on the air. We’re just going to like, oh, thank you. And let you go on your way.
S1: We’ve we’ve we’ve heard that one. I I promised you a particular topic of conversation at the top of the show before we started recording. That made you very happy because, you know, again, like a lot of this is very predictable. But like I spent this last year, you know, spending a lot of time, like with my body inside of my home and, you know, with all that can entail. And two of the things that I think were some of the most surprising sources of like genuine affirmation and joy when it comes to like my body and like the condition of flashiness that wasn’t just about like, well, now it’s my job is like a queer person or a feminist. I love my body. So I got to add that to the list of shit I don’t want to do. I’m just like, you know, drink your water, love your body like God. That sounds like a deeply unsexy and unfunny
S2: and also like something that I’m never really going to actually do. Right. I’m never like I’m never going to get to a point where I’m actually drinking eight glasses of water every day like clockwork. I’m never going to actually get to a static point of just like I always love my body all the time. It’s the first thing that I do when I get up in the morning is the last thing I do before I go to bed. Really, it’s just way more of a moving target than that.
S1: But seeking like joy, appreciation for the self pleasure, freedom, those, I think are all things that I can sign off on quite easily and I think are what often people try to mean or do mean when they say love your body. And so those are all things that they can really get by. The thing I think actually this last year that really struck me, I don’t remember now who it was, but there was some sort of op ed in The New York Times that was sort of like I never saw this wave of like criticizing diet culture or body positivity or fat acceptance coming. And I feel like it’s too late for me. Like it was very Barney’s video on The Simpsons when he’s like, don’t cry for me, I’m already dead. Like, it was just like it is too late for me. I will always be mentally on a diet. I’m enough of a feminist to know not to tell other people about it or to like make a big stink about it. But I’m always in the back of my head counting calories and planning to lose weight, and that’s just how it is. And like, good thing the next generation is not going to be like this, but I’m done for and it was by somebody in their late 30s, early 40s. And I remember just feeling this like like Scrooge looking at Marley just like, oh, that can’t be the rest of my life. Like what you know, and I say this with like a lot of I felt grateful to that, that author for their honesty and their candor. I don’t mean to suggest like your life seems like a bit to me so much as just like that has been on some level a mental bargain I have often made with myself. And just the sense of like, oh, that’s never going to bring joy, happiness, freedom, pleasure or anything that I want like that. When someone puts it that way. And I think about all the years lying ahead of me, that just sounds grim. I can’t do that. I can’t live like that. And so if I let go of the idea that, you know, just managing these things a little bit better is going to discipline me into joy, I’ve got to find something else. So, among other things, I started watching a lot of old Orson Welles videos and I started playing a lot of Warhammer age of Sigma’s, specifically with Maggette kind of Nergal. And it is the silliest game of all time. You create a lot of very ridiculous miniatures which have outrageous backstories. And it’s all like, oh, the other guys, you thought they were chaotic. These guys are even worse. Like those guys just drank blood. These guys swim in it. Like just each one is just like these guys. They like bad stuff
S2: earlier than the last
S1: show. Maggette kind of Nergal is just like a combination of like the death figure in like Death and the Maiden and Falstaff. So it’s just like I’m the living capering embodiment of passingly and my belly has been split open and I love it. And I wear a cropped up and oh my God, tumble before me and I pipe on my own brains like it is.
S2: I just like to really thank you for reading out my bio correctly this time. Yeah, that’s yes.
S1: Correct. I was like I was really struck by because there’s so many different types of things you can play as. And I was like Maggette kind of Nergal, bring me grandfather Nergal, bring me his blessings like Lamebrain Pui dressings down on me. I was just like delighted by it. I found it so joyful and delightful. Oh, now I have I want to show you all my different. I have the Golovkin, I have the great unclean one. I have articular slime looks is coming there are just outraged and they’re just like terrifying caricatures of like various fears about embodiment. And I was just like I love them and they love me. Yeah. Yeah. And I was really surprised that that was one entry point for me that felt again not like ha ha ha, this is funny. Like now I’m being self-deprecating. It felt genuinely like what a relationship to embodiment that I could really get behind. That is perverse and. Lethal and capering and delightful, and then the other one was, as I said, Orson Welles was just insanely hot and incredibly hot man and specifically the John Candy impression of Orson Welles that he used to do on the old Billy Crystal talk show, which I don’t know if you knew that Billy Crystal used to have just a TV show in the 80s, but he did.
S2: Oh, my God. So I knew that he had a TV show. I did not realize that John Candy was on doing impressions. Like what? Yeah, that sounds magical.
S1: Sorry. Not a talk show. Like a comedy. I like a variety show, but I will send you the links later and I will include them in the sort of liner notes for the show. He doesn’t get the voice down like perfectly. I have to say. I think Marisela Marsh does the best Orson voice because I’ve started to cultivate my like Orson guys, as you might imagine.
S2: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
S1: But he just comes out and he’s got the glare, he’s got the awesome glare, just like I’ve been doing this since I was 12. Why are you all amateurs like let’s do this. And he just comes out and he’s like, come on, come on, close up, where’s my camera? And then somebody says like very quietly offstage, like, we need you on your mark. And he just says, Son, I’m always on my mark. And just that kind of like. So I’ve been thinking a lot about like Orson Welles playing putt putt golf lately. And he brought me to tears, just like his combination of like charisma, gravitas, flashiness, delicacy, grace. Falstaffian pleasure in food and drink is just like I love this guy and he’s so attractive to me and I wish he was alive. So I could be like the weird, creepy trans guy interviewer who was like, I I love you. Can I kiss you? And you just like I don’t know what you are, please leave me alone. But that’s like the relationship I imagine myself having to have.
S2: You know, I totally hear you. I mean, I feel like so unlike both of these counts. Hmm. I’ll start with Orson Welles and say I recently had an argument with a good friend who was like people always say they’re super into Jack Black and they’re not. And I don’t like it. And it feels tokenized. And I was like, why does it feel to organize into you? And why do you not believe it’s like Jack Black similarly, like unbelievably hot as a human being, like unbelievably hot. And like it was just a really fascinating moment of like, oh my gosh, this person’s sort of attitudes around fatness in fat people were so sort of eroded that they couldn’t actually trust when someone was just saying, like, no, I’m like really attracted to this. So, like, it’s great. Yeah. And it feels like there’s like a little bit of that with Orson Welles, too. I sure do wish we could get to the place of normalizing talking about how hot certain fat people are because. Boy, oh boy. Orson Welles top of that list for sure.
S1: Yeah. I mean, I really appreciate, you know, that point of your friend, because I think it was not unlike reading that piece about, you know, Diet Coke. The anti diet culture came too late for me. It’s just this sense of like, sure, sure, sure. We all know what we’re supposed to think and feel, but we don’t really mean it. Right. Like in the back of our heads, we all secretly think, not really, this is bad. I should be on a diet. I’m just not allowed to say it anymore. And I think when you’re in that mindset, the idea that other people don’t just feels like I don’t really I can’t believe that that can’t be true, because if that’s true and it could be this is going to sound goofy, it puts me in mind of the end of whatever happened to Baby Jane, you know, right, right before the end. And she has that moment of you mean all this time we could have been friends and just that like that gut punch, like, it’s both really funny after all they’ve done to each other and really devastating of just like. Are you telling me there could have been a version of this movie where we didn’t keep trying to run each other over with cars and killing each other’s birds and just that sense of like, are you telling me like there’s actually a version of the world where like something besides abjection and like pity fucking is possible? Because if so, I have kept myself out that gate for so long. The idea of all the things that I might have missed out on feels like it would end some conception of myself that I can’t let go of. And it’s really hard and scary to believe. Like, yeah, some people, some people, not only me, that some people actually do like some people actually have had sex with Orson Welles and Jack Black and I hope with a lot of people in both cases. And they had a great time.
S2: Totally. I mean, I’ll say the other thing on the is it Warhammer? Is that the name of the game it is working out there? If you. Oh, my God, it’s so Delanoe. So this is like a joy in my life. I feel like I need to look up all of these characters and be totally delighted by.
S1: I will send you anything you want.
S2: Anything you want. Yes, yes. Yes. I will say your sort of relationship with Warhammer to me sounds a little bit like my relationship with like I have a collection of old diet books. I just troll through antique stores and thrift shops and wherever I can find them, including titles such as Help Lord the Devil Wants Me Fat and the Preconception Gender Diet. And the cover is genuinely like Diet A equals girl. Diet B equals boy
S1: if it was that easy.
S2: Right, sorry. Well, they are so fascinating to me, I think often when I tell people about them, I get very sort of blank looks about like what I don’t understand.
S1: That must be.
S2: Right. Right. Oh, another one. Ed McMahon has a diet book called Slimming Down.
S1: I listen to your episode about Ed McMahon. How dare you suggest I have a listen to every episode of Maintenance Pod.
S2: I’m just telling you, like, just have a cup of Sanka and a glass of tab and enjoy yourself some Ed McMahon. I mean, but the thing that is really lovely and sort of funny and healing about them to me is that they just take the air out of the tires and have like so many of the diets that are sort of commonplace now that you can sort of look at Ed McMahon’s diet or I prayed myself slim or diet, crime and delinquency or whatever the. Oh, yeah. Oh, I’m going to send you the picture to feed your
S1: criminal sloping
S2: forehead. So the cover of diet, crime and delinquency, I wish I had it on my desk right now is someone who very genuinely looks like an extra member of The Strokes, just like leaning over a table full of donuts, stabbing a switchblade into one of the most nonsensical, wonderful thing I’ve ever. And it’s totally just like it seems like criminals eat these foods and all the quote unquote criminal foods are just like, oh, so the foods that poor people eat, the cheap foods are the ones. The cream, huh?
S1: It’s like the music video for Billy Joel’s uptown girl, just like Billy Joel. Think that like a dangerous guy, it’s like donuts and switchblades and snapping in time for sure.
S2: For sure. But I think there’s something really wonderful about just going there with body fears. Right. With sort of our own anxieties about embodiment and just going like, OK, let’s really, like, crack open the chest of fears. Right. And like, look straight into him and go, OK, what if you were sort of like, oh my God, any of those characters from Warhammer like, OK, what if you did do this wild diet? And also if this diet from 40 years ago is so wild, who’s to say that the one that you’re being talked to a lot about now isn’t also pretty wild? Right. There’s something about it that just sort of like takes all the pressure out of those conversations and just kind of skewers them little bit in a way that’s like really lovely and joyful to me. And I’m so glad that you have that at Warhammer. I have to
S1: figure out what I was looking for. Like I started playing it because my wife is British. And so she grew up kind of familiar with their whole vibe. And then like eight months into quarantine, we were like, let’s play Warhammer, you know, let’s go on eBay and find a lot of pre painted figurines from people looking to downsize and then get ahead of the game.
S2: I’ll tell you what that was. You’re eight months into quarantine. My eight months into quarantine was I found a copy of Richard Simmons deal, old game on eBay. Oh, buddy. I went down some paths.
S1: I went down some paths. We might have to save up for a future episode because obviously the next time you come on the show, it’s going to be all Warhammer. We’re only going to answer questions from Warhammer players. We have questions about like, am I collecting too many heat, get points for my splenectomy? And that’s all we’re going to talk about.
S2: We’ll do that and just a bunch of clips from Billy Crystal show.
S1: That sounds great. Yes, it’s going to be like a reunion of TV. Very much looking forward to this. I will hold you to it. Thank you immensely. This was so much fun. And I hope that you also enjoyed it. And if you didn’t, you know, let me know and I will try to change the format again because we’re starting over from the beginning. So Obree, just thank you so, so much. You were a delight and your eyeliner looks so good. I wish that our our listeners could see it, but thank you. You should also know listeners that this whole conversation I’ve been wearing a hat.
S2: It’s really great. You look like someone who’s about to say I hacked into the mainframe.
S1: Thank you. I might. Yeah, it’s a
S2: little bit of that. Look, I’m very in the
S1: new casual air to the show, and so I thought, I’ll put on a hat. I like it.
S2: It’s an extra casual because it says Hawaii on it.
S1: Yeah, it’s backwards. I mean, you back your baseball cap that I got at the airport a few years ago. This is Hawaii on it. That’s with lots of boy, if you had told Mallory Ortberg of the toast in twenty fifteen, hey, six years from now, you’re going to be like a cool fat guy living in Brooklyn talking about Warhammer with a wife and a girlfriend. How do you feel about that? She would have run for the hills. She would have investigated that guy. Are you kidding me? Her whole thing was about like work, appropriate Spanx and like not looking foolish. Oh, my God. I sometimes enjoy that, just like. Oh, she would across the street to avoid. Wait till she finds out I don’t talk to my family anymore, we’ll say that
S2: there are layers and layers to get through
S1: it. Have I got news for you? All right. Thank you so, so much. We’ve had so many to treat. Some big, some little. I’m so grateful to you. Have a fabulous rest of your day. Back at you, too. Thanks for joining us on Big Mood, Little Mood with me, Danny Laborie, our producer is Phil Cercas, who also composed our theme music. Don’t Miss an episode of the show. Had to slate dotcom mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Thanks. Also, if you have a moment, please consider leaving us a review on Apple podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, 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 conversations with our guest. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, head to Slate Dotcom Mood to find our big mood, little mood listener question form. Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I don’t know why this is the thing that stuck with me, but I was just like his tick tock. The first thing that’s made you feel out of touch with people like you. It’s just it’s just videos, short videos. You know, Vine did that a few years ago. And before that, there was the Smothers Brothers, like short videos,
S2: I guess the Smothers Brothers, famously the godfathers of Vine.
S1: Yeah. Unbroken chain between the two. I don’t know. Laughing Whatever. Something else in the middle. America’s Funniest Home Videos. There we go. That’s something closer to the 90s.