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  • Writer's pictureH.R Owen

Episode Twelve

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Monstrous Agonies E12S01 Transcript

H.R. Owen

Hello, friends. Hero here. Just letting you know that Monstrous Agonies is taking a short break for the next two weeks. We'll be back on 7th January, and picking up our usual weekly schedule from there. However you're spending the next fortnight, take care of yourselves, and we'll see you in the new year.

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Twelve.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static pop music, a voice saying, “-for Christmas-”, choral music, and a voice saying “-off this mortal coil-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-still screaming to this very day!

The time is 1.46AM. You're listening to the Nightfolk Network. Up next – our weekly advice segment, starting tonight with a listener who just can't get it right when it comes to their in-laws.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

We don't celebrate Christmas. Just getting that out the way – I don't want you harping on about Christmas spirit and [mockingly] the most magical time of the year. It's only that, my partner and I both work in offices that close over the Christmas period. Compulsory Christianity, dominant culture, blah blah blah. Doesn't matter. Point is, we get a bit of time off every December and everything's closed and there's nothing to do, so we go to her parents' place.

We've been together for four years now, with three midwinter visits under our belts. And somehow, I still manage to screw it up. Every time.

The first year I went, I managed to offend everyone pretty much as soon as I walked in the door. I introduced myself, and a chill ran through the room. They accused me of trying to trick them by using a false name.

I didn't really want to have that particular conversation, not the first time I'm meeting my new in-laws, but I wanted us to get off on a good foot. Or at least, an honest one. So I explained about dead names and social transitioning and that the name I'd given them was my real name. It's the name I use and call myself. Who cares if it isn't on my birth certificate?

They got it eventually. Bríd was adamant it wasn't a trans thing, but she let me know that if I wanted to leave, we could. She's good like that. We stayed, anyway, and things went... alright, I suppose. Still a bit awkward.

Then, the year after, guess who forgot to take off their Pandora bracelet. Bríd's dad came in for a hug and before you know it, it's stop, drop and roll in the middle of the foyer. Also, I think I offended them by not really expecting the hugs? We're not touchy feely in my family, and I hadn't seen them since Midsummer and I wasn't expecting it. The near-death accident thing was more of an issue though, I admit.

And then, last year, Bríd and I forgot to tell them we'd gone vegan. They had all this wonderful food ready, and they were so excited to share, when they saw the look on our faces...

It worked out fine – Bríd and I just gave ourselves the week off. It was all vegetarian, and we'd only been vegan for a few months, and in the grand scheme of things, a bit of eggs and butter once in a blue moon is hardly going to tip the balance in terms of our looming climate catastrophe. But still, it just felt like another thing I'd got wrong.

We're going back again this year and I'm already sick with nerves about it. I'm trying to anticipate everything I might do wrong, all the ways I might put my foot in it. Bríd's being so good, she says we don't have to go if I don't want to, and at the same time she insists her parents will be happy to see me.

But what if I mess it up, again? We don't see them very often – only about twice a year – and I don't want their over-riding impression of their daughter's partner to be a social klutz with all the grace of roller skating donkey. What can I do to better prepare myself?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Listener, you're being much too hard on yourself. As I see it, these are all honest mistakes with minor repercussions – with the exception of nearly immolating your father-in-law, of course. But these things happen! It's unfair to yourself to insist on carrying the burden of these mistakes long after they've been rectified.

The example of the meal you shared last year stands out in particular. It was a total non-incident, and at most only half your fault. Yet you present this as an example of your lack of social graces - “another thing you'd got wrong”.

I think you've fallen afoul of confirmation bias. Your hyperawareness of previous faux pas is making you register these things as far more significant than they actually are. Your partner's parents likely don't even remember them. Two of them, at least. The other, I confess, probably made an impression. But I'm sure you've apologised profusely and learnt an important lesson about being more careful with thaumaturgically reactive materials.

It's good that you've talked your feelings over with your partner. But now, you have to let her support you. Trust her when she says that her parents are looking forwards to your visit.

While you're there, try to concentrate on the positives. If this is difficult for you, you can ask your partner to help by letting you know what she's noticed going well, or things she's particularly enjoyed about your time together.

It will take a bit of time to retrain your patterns of thought in this direction. Until then, try to accept that people make mistakes, miscommunications happen, and that really the only thing your partner's parents care about it how you treat their daughter. And that you really, very much do not set fire to them again.

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

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network, in association with Boooooooooks! – the UK's premiere haunted bookshop.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second listener tonight asks how to handle difficult relationships in the family.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

My family's a bit complicated. Most are, when you get into it. I once heard families like ours referred to as 'blended' families – I suppose it's more PC than 'broken home'. Or, more accurately, the broken home is the one that's left behind after the eh... schism. The blended family's what you get when you take the itty bitty bits of two or more broken homes and slam them together in the hopes they make something new. Well, we're new alright.

Dad's kind of a big deal in our corner of the community. As a rule, we're non-hierarchical – you won't see us panting over alphas and so on. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In our circle, money talks. And Dad is old money. Very. Old. Money. Think, denarii.

Long story shot, after knocking about by himself for a while, Dad decided to start a family. That's when I came into the picture. My little brother came next, and our youngest sibling makes three.

We were happy for a long time. A bit of an adjustment period with every new addition, but overall I'd say we were happy. And then Dad met his new boyfriend.

I'm an adult. I've been an adult for a very long time. If my father wants to take up with some American floozy, then more power to him. I don't even mind that he's younger than me. Most people are. It would be a very limited dating pool if we didn't all agree to take those sorts of things with a pinch of salt.

And really, the man himself is perfectly fine. We don't have much in common, but we don't need to. He's not my boyfriend. And he can hold up his end of a conversation, for the most part. Provided it doesn't have too many long words.

His daughter, on the other hand, is a nightmare. She's so obnoxious, and cheerful. And while, alright, her father may not be the brightest button in the box, at least there's no pretence there. I don't think he could spell the word, for one thing. But she's all fluff and façade.

She's invited us all to her 'chateau' – a glorified wood cabin if you ask me – to celebrate Christmas, despite the fact our family has never gone in for the festival. It has limited appeal when you predate it, not to mention the fact our relationship with the church has historically been... tense.

Dad says he expects us all to attend. And what my father expects to happen, happens. How am I going to survive two weeks with this insufferable, chirpy, all-American, Frappuccino, Harry Potter, slogan tote bags, messy bun, men's shirts, “holding space”, quinoa, hot yoga, Instagram nightmare?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I don't see that you have to go at all, listener. You are, as you say, an adult. Your father can certainly let his feelings be known, and I'm sure he has, but you're not under any obligation to put his wishes ahead of your own.

Setting boundaries, especially new boundaries, especially with difficult relatives, can be a daunting prospect. But your father needs to understand that you are an independent adult, and just because he “expects” something, doesn't mean he gets to have it. If you feel you need permission to refuse, consider it granted. He might be “old money” but it would do him well to remember that there are other things out there that are much, much older...


[cheerful] Alternatively, is there any way you could attend the celebration, and still find time to spend by yourself or with your other siblings? Carefully planning your time away now might help limit the discomfort you have to go through. You could even try to connect more with your step-sister. She does sound rather unfortunately American, but they really can't help it, and usually mean well.

Regardless, I really do recommend only visiting for a few days at the most. Two weeks is a significant amount of time to spend in the company of people of whom you are not fond, celebrating a festival that holds no meaning for you, in a manner you are unlikely to enjoy. There is really no need to put yourself through any more than you absolutely have to. Good luck, listener, and I hope you find a solution that suits you.

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

The Presenter

You're listening to the Nightfolk Network. Every where, every when on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

It's just after two o'clock on Thursday morning. Now, how to stay safe while shopping during the festive season. With the near ubiquity of religious music and sentiment in public spaces, antihistamines are a creature's best friend as Christmas looms ever larger...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-travel updates, check-”, a voice speaking Irish, a voice saying “-together-” and static before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

To submit your own letters and suggestions, head over to our website at, email us at, or find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies.

You can support Monstrous Agonies by rating and reviewing us on iTunes, supporting us on Patreon at, and sharing the programme with your friends and familiars.

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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