• H.R. Owen

Episode Forty Two

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Episode Forty Two

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Monstrous Agonies E42S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Forty Two.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-difficult to make out the words on the recording-” and a voice saying “-and quite frankly-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-the unholy slither of the present to the past.

Up next on the Nightfolk Network, it's time for our advice segment. Our first letter this evening asks how to deal with a colleague's unexpected comments.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I work in community outreach – specifically, going into schools and doing workshops for the kids to teach them about our community, answering the kinds of ignorant but well-meaning questions you expect kids to have – and uh, [laughs] some of the teachers too! Not everyone has the patience for it and I don't blame them but I think I do a pretty good job.

I understand that the reason I'm even able to do this job is because I have a huge amount of privilege. Sapios treat me like one of them, and with the exception of the few days either side of the full moon I could pretend to be one of them, if I wanted.

I thought that everyone in this line of work understood how much privilege we have, but some of the things I've overheard one of my co-workers saying to sapios when we're in schools... Eesh!

At first I thought I was just mishearing her, or didn't have the right context for what she was saying since I was only catching snippets of conversations. But last week I heard her say quite clearly that she's not surprised that some people in the community don't see widespread acceptance because “what can you expect with all of those teeth and claws, or when you have no skin? They're just asking to be outcasts!” I swear she even referred to me as-- Ugh. "One of the good ones". [shudder]

She's never like this at the office, which is why I've been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for so long. But now I understand what her beliefs are about some sections of the creature community, how do I approach her about it? What can I say to her to make her understand how much damage she's doing to members of the community who are less able to advocate for themselves than we are?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Listener, this is appalling behaviour and deeply concerning from a person in the position your colleague enjoys. That someone directly involved in community outreach should not just hold such biases, but considers them perfectly reasonable to voice in a workplace setting is completely unacceptable.

By all means, approach her if you feel comfortable doing so. Be clear about the comments you've overheard and why they're offensive, and firm about your expectation that she keep those opinions to herself during work hours.

This woman currently thinks you're "one of the good ones". Revolting as that is, she might be more likely to listen to you than somebody else of a different background.

But please, manage your expectations. She is extremely likely to stop considering you "one of the good ones" as soon as you say anything that makes her uncomfortable. After all, her definition of the acceptable creature is predicated entirely on not challenging her ideas of normal.

I recommend bringing the matter to your superior. It is not an over-reaction. It wouldn't be an over-reaction in any circumstances, but especially given the nature of your work. If you decide to approach your colleague directly, making your manager aware of the situation will enable them to support you – especially if things should go badly. But it also wouldn't be inappropriate for you to ask them to approach her instead, and might yield more immediate results.

I'm afraid I can't be surprised that somebody in the community holds these opinions. Unfortunately, some people consider liberation to be a matter of gaining more privilege for themselves, rather than dismantling the very systems that create such privilege.

You ask how to make her understand the damage her attitude does to more vulnerable members of the community. The fact is, listener, she doesn't care. She doesn't respect them. She doesn't respect us. And you can't change her mind just by saying the right words in the right way. That's a journey she can only make by herself.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter is from a listener going through a significant change.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I've been prophesying almost all my life. My granny was an oracle, and when I was about 12 my mum and dad started noticing that I had similar abilities. They got her to teach me what she knew, and I took to it like a duck to violence.

Not to brag but I'm considered quite a talent. Even as a kid, I never had any problem tuning my inner eye to the other realm, reaching through the web of potentiality and plucking out the most probable path.

I only got better as I got older. Obviously. [laughing] I mean, that's how practice works. I never wanted to go pro, but I'd do readings for my friends and family, advising them about big decisions or new relationships and so on. I became known as the Advice Friend - the one everyone turned to with their problems. I'm sure you know what that's like.

Over the last year or so, though, things have been changing. It's been harder and harder for me to connect with that other place, the lines of possibility less clear in my mind's eye.

It seems to be coinciding with the menopause. I've never seen a list of symptoms that included “losing one's prophetic vision” alongside the hot flashes and mood swings, but given when my powers started, i-it-- it doesn't seem impossible.

I haven't told my friends. Every so often, someone will come to me with a problem, and I'll burn the incense, inhale the smoke, chant the incantation - and guess. Most of the time they're just looking for some reassurance, or a bit of common sense. I make up a bit of doggerel, tell them to to stop looking up their ex-husband's new girlfriends on Instagram, and off they go none the wiser.

I really like being the Advice Friend. I like being someone my loved ones come to for advice, I like helping them and giving them somewhere they can talk about what they're going through. But what if I’m giving my friends bad advice now? What if I tell them to do something or not to do something and then it goes wrong and it's my fault?

And I'm... embarrassed. About losing my powers, and about lying about it. How do I even bring it up?

The Presenter (as themselves)

This may be a little controversial, especially given my usual emphasis on honest communication. But I don't think you need to come entirely clean.

I'm not saying you shouldn't tell your friends about your waning powers. But you needn't let on just how long they've been waning. After all it sounds like you've been giving perfectly good advice, regardless. They absolutely need to stop looking at those girls' Instagrams. If you'll excuse a brief lapse into sporting aphorism, it seems like a clear case of "no harm, no foul".

I hear your concerns about the impact of this revelation on your relationships. But it doesn't necessarily follow that your friends will stop turning to you for advice just because your prophetic vision is clouding over.

Quite apart from anything else, there's a lot to be said for habit. You've been the Advice Friend for so long. They'll likely keep coming to you for help as long as you're willing to give it. But now, you don't have to try and make it rhyme!

I hear your concerns about giving bad advice. I think being up front about the lack of prophecy involved will help mitigate that. But I suspect you'll find that years of experience and the wisdom of age will stand you in perfectly good stead to support your loved ones.

The menopause can be a period of significant emotional stress, both because of the symptoms themselves and the personal and cultural transition it marks. Losing one's powers of prophecy is indeed rarely found on lists of common symptoms, but I think that's all the more reason to discuss these changes with your friends, especially if they're going through the menopause themselves.

And here, we're back on familiar ground. Lean on your loved ones. Tell them about your anxiety about the changes you're going through. Let someone else be the Advice Friend for once. Your place in the web of connections you've formed over the years is not under threat. You still have a place in these people's hearts, and a role to fill in their lives, regardless of your powers.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

131.3FM. The voice of liminal Britain.

[End background music]

The Presenter

It's two o'clock on Thursday morning. Next, we speak to our special sports correspondent covering members of the creature community in the Premier League. Trent, welcome back to the show. This season has been one of revelations...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a crowd cheering, a voice speaking Irish, a voice saying “-beauty surrounds us all-” and classical music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Forty Two of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Ealasaid, the second came from Sophie, and this week's advert came from Dahlia. Thanks, friends. See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and ads.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporters on Patreon, Haley, Hazel Is Napping, Adrianna, and LyricPosting. Join them at patreon.com/monstrousagonies. You can also follow 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]