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Monstrous Agonies E82S03 Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eighty Two.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-thank you-”, string music, a voice singing in Irish, a voice saying “-dispute about pay and conditions-” and rock music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
Time now for our advice segment, where I answer listener's questions about all things liminal. First tonight, a couple concerned about conflict on their big day.
The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)
My partner and I are both members of the creature community, though it probably isn’t obvious when you first look at us. We grew up in the same small town and through our adolescence, socialised mostly in the nearly underground circles of young creatures.
We started dating long distance after I started university. Now, after many happy years together, we have started discussing plans for an engagement. And wedding, of course! [laughs]
We've found a planner who is also part of the community who I’m sure will be able to help us plan a small gathering that is perfectly us. You know, a-a suitably shaded venue, caterers familiar with our dietary needs, some charming stained glass elements...
I’ve never actually been a fan of weddings. I hate being the centre of attention, not to mention all the arbitrary social expectations surrounding weddings in particular. But I’m actually starting to look forward to it!
However, the real question we have for you pertains to our guest list. The majority of our friends belong to the community, in various genuses. I work in theatre tech so most of my friends are theatre ghosts or other vampires. My beloved attended a prestigious university near our home town and kept in touch with most of our childhood creature friends.
Our families, though, particularly extended families, don’t particularly approve of the community. When I first turned I initially tried to talk about it with my parents but it was very poorly received. Nowadays it's something we just don’t talk about. My beloved, on the other hand, has no intention of ever telling his family, especially after a cousin of his was... [sighs] driven out.
I’m worried that our families will be inhospitable to our friends. I’m not worried about any sort of violence, just snide remarks, even if it’s behind their – and our – backs.
I’m not opposed to not inviting a particularly tasteless aunt or a certain cousin. But I’d like my mother to be there, even if we don’t see eye to eye on certain matters.
How do we ethically include our friends in our celebration without feeling like we’re potentially setting them up for something... uncomfortable? Thank you in advance for any insights you can provide.
The Presenter (as themselves)
I'm glad to hear you don't feel obliged to invite anyone you think will be particularly disruptive, listener. Your wedding is a day for you to share with the people who love and support you both, and you don't owe anyone an invitation if they can't be trusted to behave themselves.
Your first option is to trust in the social pressure around the event to keep everybody in line. The “arbitrary social expectations” you mentioned might here be something of a boon. People don't generally like to make a scene, or break social conventions.
This won't stop your guests from making comments behind you and your friends' backs. Unfortunately there's really nothing you can do about what they think, or what they say about you when you're not present. But it might be enough to keep their tongues from wagging on the day itself.
For guests with whom you have a strong, communicative relationship, I recommend talking to them about the issue directly. Let them know that you have some concerns about your various communities colliding, and ask for their support.
Try to frame this as a request for their help. Asking your mother to bite her tongue is not likely to go down well. But asking her to help your other sapio guests stay on the right side of good manners reinforces the message that you want her there, and that she has something tangible to contribute.
It also gives you the opportunity to talk specifics. You could give her a few pointers on what to watch out for, and use the conversation as a chance to draw her attention to matters she may not herself be aware of.
This approach is best for people whose attitudes are a little out of date, or who may not be au fait with the nuances of proper terminology and polite conversation. The sort of person who might ask someone their genus, for example, or holding sapio-normative body standards.
It also depends on your having a decent enough relationship to begin with. I've used your mother as an example, but you need to use your own knowledge of your various relationships to discern who might benefit from this approach.
For guests who you can neither trust to keep their ignorance to themselves nor with whom you have a close enough relationship to speak to directly... [sighs] Well. I think you need to seriously consider the message you're sending by inviting them to share space with your creature friends.
Imagine being told that your friend is inviting you to a party where there is a non-zero chance some of the other guests might verbally abuse you. Would you feel comfortable attending? And how would you feel about your friend in the light of that invitation? After all, they are, in essence, telling you that your discomfort is less important to them than their guest list.
You say you're not afraid of violence but there are many forms of violence, and there is a vast difference between being slightly socially uncomfortable and being made to feel unsafe. It would be deeply unfair to your friends to ask them to spend time in a space with people who don't respect their basic personhood.
If your family are any more aggressive than 'accidental rudeness', I urge you to consider an alternative – perhaps two celebrations, or inviting certain people to the reception or the ceremony only.
Use your judgement, and remember – you don't owe anyone an invitation, but you do owe it to your guests to keep them safe and ensure their dignity is respected. Good luck, listener – and congratulations.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
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[End background music]
Tonight's second letter is from a listener feeling helpless in the face of future loss.
The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)
So, my genus lives for a really long time. A really, really long time. Like, thousands of years. I'm still pretty young, even by sapio standards, and the whole 'functionally immortal compared to most beings' thing hadn't really hit me until recently.
You see, a close friend of mine died. She was my age, and again, for her genus, she was still young. Young enough that her death falls under the category of 'tragedy'.
Losing her... really did a number on me. I'd never lost anyone so close before, and, well. It just... tore me up. I was in a lot of pain for a long time. I still am. I still think of her every day. It's getting a little easier, though, uh, slowly.
But it started me thinking about the whole life and death thing, and I realised – this is what my life is going to be like. If I live even half my expected lifespan, I'm going to go through multiple centuries of losing people. People I care about. People I love.
I have a lot of friends, from all kinds of genuses, but none of them will live as long as me. Sooner or later, I'm going to lose every single one of them. Sooner or later, it'll be their loss tearing me apart.
I don't know if I can handle that. I'm terrified of what that will do to me. Just, the reality that I am going to experience this kind of pain over and over and over again...
It makes me wish I wasn't going to live so long, because what's the point if I'm just going to keep losing the people I love? I think of all the heartache I'm going to accumulate over the centuries and it makes me feel so heavy, and hopeless.
How do I cope with this? I don't want to push away the people I love, but I'm terrified of losing them and living with that pain forever. Any advice would be deeply appreciated.
The Presenter (as themselves)
My dear listener, I am so very sorry for your loss. I'm glad your grief is becoming a little easier to bear, and I hope you can be generous with yourself as you heal. One small comfort is that you will not “live with this pain forever”. The load will lighten, in time.
Unfortunately, grief is not a thing that can be practised. There is no knack to it. You cannot learn its shape or predict its patterns. Each loss is unique, and must be picked up and carried anew.
But neither can you let your fear of grief hold you back from connecting with the world around you. You are going to lose people, and it is going to hurt. But it would be far, far worse to try and avoid that pain, cutting yourself off from the love that makes all life, long and short, worth living.
Whenever you feel yourself seized with horror at the thought of a friend's death, I want you to sit with that feeling. Acknowledge it, breathe through it, notice how it makes you want to act. Your mind is trying to protect you, after all, flooding you with a powerful, emotional reaction to try and keep you safe.
Notice this reaction, and the behaviour it suggests. Give it the time and respect it deserves – but no more. This fear is a real and valid emotion, but it's not a helpful one and you can choose not to act on it.
Instead, let that emotion carry you into something positive. When your fear tells you to pull away, do the opposite. Connect. Text a friend, write a letter, go through old photographs – anything that will recentre the joy these relationships have brought about.
Instead of ruminating on the pain of grief, practice gratitude for the time you've shared. How wonderful that, against all probability, despite how short their time on this earth, you got to know these people, and love them, and be loved by them? How gloriously unlikely!
The goal here is not to make their deaths less painful. There's nothing you can do to protect against that. But in that pain, you will be able to look back on the time you shared with them, and see something beautiful. Something that changed you, forever, that you built together and that you will carry with you for the rest of your days.
Your friends may come and go, but nothing can take away the time you've already shared. Spend that time wisely, allow your feelings the space they deserve, and know that when that loss comes, you can take comfort in knowing that time spent with love, no matter how brief, is never wasted.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
The Nightfolk Network on 131.3FM – the voice of liminal Britain.
[End background music]
Next tonight, we talk Exit Stage Fright, the community theatre group giving classic works a creature twist. Their upcoming production of Nosferatu tells the chilling tale of an elderly sapio man who preys on haematophagic innocents...
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-violent death-”, a voice saying “-in over 50 stores!-”, choral music, and pop music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Episode Eighty Two of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.
Tonight's first letter was from Megan and Nathan, the second letter was submitted by Elizabeth Pendragon, and this week's advert was submitted by Fyre. Thanks, friends.
Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Fester's Lampshade! Join them at patreon.com/monstrousagonies, or make a one-off donation at ko-fi.com/hrowen. You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.
This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
[Fade to silence]