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Episode Sixty Seven

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Monstrous Agonies E67S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Sixty Seven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-and can't be reported-”, a voice saying “-thanks, Steve!-”, a voice saying “-sweet, sweet music-” and choral music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-bin-bag full of teeth, for some reason.

It's almost two o'clock on Thursday morning, and time for listener's letters in our advice segment. [sighs] On the subject of letters, thank you all for your kind words and messages regarding my health. I'm absolutely fine. It's just a little... week-long migraine.

And for those of you who very kindly tried to insist I take time off... [laughs] No. I feel better while I'm working. Especially the agonies, actually. Uh, less so the responses but really, listeners, I appreciate your energy and thoughtfulness. You're very sweet. But please, rest assured. I'll be right as rain in no time.

Um. Our first letter tonight is... Uh. A listener struggling with sibling rivalry. [deep breath and sigh]

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I'll just say it upfront: I'm jealous. Or maybe it's envious? I'm envious. Absolutely green to the gills. And I have good reason to be. You'd be too, if you were in my position.

It's my older sister. She's the golden child of the family. I won't put a name to her – I should probably try to keep this quiet, so please, even if you do think you know who I mean, don't say it.

But risking asking you, and my family finding out I asked you, seems better than trying to ask any of them. For one thing, you seem to give pretty good advice. For another, well, at least if they hear this and guess that it was me, they'll know I'm trying to do something about it, and not just looking excuse to complain about my sister.

Now, here was I? Oh yes – complaining about my sister! [laughs] I’m joking. Kind of. I love her. Or I did. Or, I want to. No, I do. It's... complicated. Mostly right now, I just wish I could be her.

She has everything. Fame and privacy. Looks and talent. A lovely freshwater home in the countryside and... Uh. Well, actually, that one’s enough on its own. I can’t even find a puddle without having to split it with a flatmate.

She's creepy but not threatening. She's internationally beloved. She's got more followers on Instagram than I've had wet dinners. She doesn't even have to do anything, at this point the world is so enamoured with her that she can just lie back and reap the benefits.

The family are all so proud of her. They say she put our genus on the map, got sapios interested enough in us to care about protecting our habitats and not completely flipping out at the sight of us. They say she’s a real champ for putting up with the media attention and keeping all of those the eyes off the rest of us.

She enjoys it though, I know she does, flirting with the cameras, teasing her public. And why shouldn’t she? She is, as they say, living her best life. I tried to get a little of what she had, and ended up nearly drowning someone. Several someones, actually. And none of them even had cameras, total waste of time.

I haven’t pulled any stunts like that in a while, but I’m starting to feel a bit desperate again. I’d be smarter this time, try to target a photographer or a journalist or something. Of course, with my luck the family resemblance will get my sighting put down to her as well.

The worst part is, she doesn’t know what this does to me. Every time there’s a blurry photo of her in the news, I swear my vision blurs too and I start seeing red. But when I see her in person, I just have to choke it all down, pretend that everything’s normal. Ask how she is like I don’t know. Tell her, “Aye, yeah, I'm doing well! Keeping busy, you know, not at all spending every waking second obsessed with the many ways in which I am not her.”

In a perfect world, I’d do my own thing. I have this wee fantasy, where I’m on one of those TV talent shows, and I blow them away with my incredible voice. But every time, the dream is shattered by the thought of someone in the crowd yelling out, “Och, I love your sister!”

I don’t want to hate my sister, or envy her, or be angry that she’s happy. But I am. How can I be happy for her instead? And how am I supposed to be happy myself, when I’m always being measured up against her success?

The Presenter (as themselves)

[wincing breath] You can't. Sorry, listener, but you can't be happy if you're always trying to measure up to your sister. Not because she's so much better than you – she's just a, a completely inappropriate yardstick. You may as well ask how to become the world's greatest accordion player by practising the guitar.

Instead, ask yourself this: what will bring you joy? Not success, not praise or fame or glory, not Instagram followers or money or photographers. Joy.

If you want to sing, sing. You don't need to construct elaborate fantasies or gather an audience in order to justify the desire. Sing in shower, sing in the car, sing to your cats, who cares if you're good? Who car-

[They break off, half laughing before it turns into a flinch.]

Sorry-- Sorry. [deep breaths] I apologise. And I understand, I do. You feel like you're being compared to her and that's upsetting. Of course it is. But I think you need to think hard about whether that feeling is rooted in actual fact, and if it is, whether that's something you need to care about.

You discuss in your letter how your family talks about your sister. But how do they talk about you? Are they proud of you? Do they enjoy spending time with you? Are they actually unable to look at you without comparing you to her, or is that something you've come to believe because of your own insecurity, independent of the actual evidence of your relationships?

And if they are treating you so appallingly, why on earth should you care about their opinions? If a person cannot see you for what you are – a whole and precious person in your own right, quite apart from any happenstance of birth or familial connection – then they have no place in your life.

[wincing] You might want to unpack this more with a professional. They'll be able to help you work out what your tangible steps will be towards a healthier, more rounded world-view.

But the crux of the matter is this: leave your sister to deal with the challenge of being your sister. You need to focus on being yourself. Nobody can do it for you – and nobody can do it better than you.

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

The Presenter

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[End background music. The Presenter takes some deep breaths.]

The Presenter

[wincing] Our second letter tonight is, um. Oh, God, what is that? Um. How to manage mementos of one's past. OK. Here we go.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I must admit, I was rather hesitant to write to you. The matter at hand is not particularly urgent or dramatic, as some of the letters on your programme can be. But it's private and- Well, I'm not embarrassed, actually, I don't want you to think that. It's just...Oh, see for yourself.

My husband and I have been married for 526 years. And six months! [laughs] We were so young when we met, he was barely twenty and I only a little older. I couldn't believe at the time that I should ever love anyone as much I loved him. But it turns out, that was only the beginning. I love him more today than I ever have. It's been an incredible journey, with the best of companions.

And it is reaching an end. We are of the same genus and only relatively long-lived compared to some others. We're entering the twilight of our lives – quite happily, quite contentedly. We've had a wonderful life together.

The matter is this. Throughout our marriage we have acquired a number of images. Of ourselves. Performing certain... acts. It started when we were first married. My husband and I shared a close, mutual friend who made his living as a block-cutter and he gave us a set of beautiful and very tasteful personalised woodcuts for a wedding present. And, um. We rather enjoyed them. [laughs] So a few years passed and we thought perhaps we'd like some more. So we commissioned another set of woodcuts. And then some etchings. And a, a small, very small, barely a metre across, uh, tapestry. Followed by a series of bronzes, a few lithographs, a set of watercolours, two soup bowls, a number of oil paintings, a zoetrope, some darling pieces of scrimshaw, a Fabergé egg, countless sketches and cartoons, uh... Well. Needless to say, we've built up quite the collection. It's brought us a great deal of joy over the years, both as a project to share together and as a source of, um. Inspiration.

We don't want these items destroyed. They're very dear to us and it seems a dreadful shame to deprive ourselves of these mementos of our life together for such a silly thing like decency.

At the same time, I'm sure you can imagine, they're not the sort of thing we're keen for other people to see – particularly our children. But time is ticking on. There will come a point where the matter is rather decisively out of hands. So – what do you suggest?

[Beat. Then, a fumbling sound as the Presenter gasps and catches their breath.]

The Presenter (as themselves)

[wincing] Uh, yeah. Uh. Uh, donate it to a museum. They'll love it. Um. One- [sighs] One dedicated to the history of sex, e-especially – there are quite a few in Europe, and-and more in the rest of the world. And I think any number of them would be interested in a multi-medium collection of erotica dating back to, what, 14... 90-something?

You're sitting on a gold mine. You could sell it, if you liked, but it doesn't sound like that would meet your emotional needs – this is, as you say, a precious and private collection. You may not feel comfortable selling it off, piece by piece, to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, uh, donating the collection to a museum – either before your death or as a legacy – would honour the collection's significance to you, as well as recognising the cultural and historical significance of these works.

These images might not be things you want your children to see. But as you say, they're certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, let them stand as artefacts of your long and loving life together.

And if you're feeling really squeamish about letting them go on display, you can always archive them away somewhere, not to be opened until a comfortable amount of time has passed. Um. Yeah. Hope that helps.

[The Presenter groans. Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

[muffled] The Nightfolk Network – everywhere, every when, on 131.3FM.

[The Presenter winces, breathing heavily.]

The Presenter

We, um. [clears throat] Uh. We were supposed to have a piece about goths and cultural appropriation, but, um. I'm afraid I don't think I'm up for it. Sorry. Have some, uh, ocean floor sounds instead. I'll, I'll be fine. I just... need a minute.

[The click of a keyboard followed by ocean floor ambience. The ambience fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-waiting to discover-”, pop music, a voice saying “-to carry the West-” and more pop music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

Episode Sixty Seven of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was from Leslie and tonight's advert came from a suggestion by The Real Toni. Thanks, friends! Submissions are now closed for this season but will reopen ahead of Season Three.

Big hello to our latest supporters on Patreon, Kiki and Elizabeth. Join them at, make a one-off donation at, or show your support by sharing with your friends and familiars, and by 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]


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