Episode Twenty Two
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Monstrous Agonies E22S01 Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies: Episode Twenty Two.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static, country music, and piano music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-finally over and nothing hurts. It hurts so much.
It's coming up on two o'clock, and time for our weekly advice segment where I answer listener's questions about liminal living.
First tonight, a listener finding it hard to make room for a new addition in their social circle.
The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)
I've never been close with my family. It's nothing dramatic, we just don't really see eye to eye on a lot of things, so as I've got older and more independent, they've become less and less a part of my life.
My friends are my family, really. They're the people I turn to when things are difficult, and the people I celebrate with when things go well. There's a nice little group of us here in the city. We've all known each other for years and ended up living close enough for impromptu visits and popping round for a cup of tea. I don't know, it's just nice, the way our lives intertwine like a blanket or something.
Things had been ticking over great, until one of my friends decided she wanted to start a family of her own. I couldn't believe how fast it all was – seemed like one moment she was just saying she was thinking about it, putting down roots, whatever. And next she was introducing him to us – everyone, meet James, my new sire.
They met online, apparently, there's websites for people to match with potential sires. I didn't even know that was a thing.
And he's fine. I mean, you know what new turns are like – so excited to be part of the community, getting giddy at the clubs and trying out their new powers. I don't begrudge them that – I was turned myself, first thing I did was get a haircut and a new wardrobe, as if that's what makes you part of the community.
That's kind of nice, actually. It's refreshing, to be with someone still so excited by it all. Reminds me of why I love being what I am.
So, yeah. I've got no real quarrel with the guy himself. But I haven't seen my friend on her own for months. She spends all her free time with James, going to art galleries and shows, cuddling on the sofa, going out to feed. And she brings him everywhere, you can't invite her to anything without James tagging along.
And look, I get it, alright? At first I was very understanding. New turns take a lot of looking after, they need to learn how to feed and how to control themselves, not to mention all those... emotions. But surely she can leave him on his own by now?
I just want to go and have coffee with my friend without feeling like a third
wheel. I miss her. Is that so wrong? How do I bring this up without sounding needy?
The Presenter (as themselves)
I think, listener, you may be missing some of the emotional nuance in this situation.
I can't help wondering if your own sense of disconnect from your family is interfering with your ability to empathise with your friend on this matter. I don't mean that unkindly – it's one of the hardest things in the world, to see a situation from a different perspective to your own.
I think it very likely that your friend has been considering this addition to her circle for some time before she brought it up with you. When she talks about “putting down roots”, it suggests that for her, sireship is fulfilling a emotional need that wasn't otherwise being met.
Perhaps she wants to create something of a legacy, or feel she's made a more permanent mark on the universe. Perhaps she was close with her family and wants to emulate that relationship, or it might be the reverse – she wants to build the family she didn't have the opportunity to have in her earlier life. Whatever the reasons, sireship is not something people generally undertake lightly.
You're right that, after the initial shock of turning has worn off, most new sires are able to become fairly independent after a month or two. Have you considered that perhaps your friend is keeping her sire close not because she needs to, but because she wants to? It sounds as if they genuinely enjoy each other's company, and she's excited to spend time with her sire and her friends.
That's not to say I don't understand your frustration. But it's important you see things from her perspective before taking the next step. This is because, in a stunning departure from my usual habits, I'm going to suggest you... talk to her.
It doesn't have to be a confrontation. Simply tell her that you'd love to spend some time together, just the two of you, and ask when she might be free.
I'm glad you can find things to enjoy about her new sire's company. You might try to develop that relationship a little more. It sounds very much like he's going to be a long-term fixture in your friend's life, and it will make things easier for everyone if you can get along.
But that doesn't mean you can't ask for a bit of time with her to yourself. Be sensitive to her feelings, be honest about your own, and who knows – perhaps you'll come to consider her sire part of your family as well.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
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[End background music]
Continuing the theme of different perspectives tonight, our second letter this evening asks how to deal with a friend who has a radically different point of view.
The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)
I need some advice on how to handle a situation which may not be entirely in my lane. I'm a member of the community, more specifically the Somatically Non-Static sub community. Ugh. I think we're still allowed to refer to ourselves as 'shape shifters', aren't we?
My changes are binary, and relatively predictable. But one of my best friends has significantly more control and flexibility in their physical appearance. They can basically change everything about themselves, though they mostly use these abilities to do extended comedy bits, which I admit, [laughing] always have me in stitches.
A week or so ago we were up late, scrolling through some god-awful dating app in the middle of the night and giggling like idiots. All was well with the world. They ended up matching with a guy, and really hit it off - they were still messaging him with a big grin on their face when I finally decided to head home.
The next day I was grabbing some much, much needed coffee when I saw the guy my friend had matched with. [beat] On a date. A date that was clearly going well, with someone I did not recognise.
I got my order and left, contemplating whether or not I needed to tell my friend what I'd seen. It's not like they'd actually started dating yet, after all. I needn't have worried. A few seconds later I got a tap on the shoulder and turned around to find the mystery datee standing uncomfortably close to me.
You've probably guessed it by now. They flashed me a quick glimpse of their 'real' face - it was, of course, my friend. My expression must have been hilarious because they chuckled the whole way back into the coffee shop, without a word of explanation.
I didn't find it so funny. Everything about them had been different. Their gait, their mannerisms, even their accent. I couldn't get over it.
It all fell into place. They never have any face pics on their dating profiles – they barely have any info at all, they don't even bother stating their gender identity most of the time. I thought it was about privacy, but it's all part of their dating strategy. They match with someone, launch a charm offensive to get their foot in the door, and then do some social media sleuthing before they choose an appearance which they judge to be most advantageous.
We had a huge row about it. When I asked them why they were using a fake identity for their date, they retorted that it was no more fake than the identity they used for their friendship with me.
I was stunned. I asked them if I'd ever met the 'real' them, at which they rolled their eyes at me, and said, “That's not how it works for us.”
I had to leave. We haven't spoken since. The idea that one of my best friends isn't who I thought they were...
And maybe for them it really is normal and I'm just being ignorant. But this way of life is so at odds with everything I thought I understood about relationships. I don't even know how to start the conversation. Please help. I... I just want my friend back.
The Presenter (as themselves)
Let's start with the practicalities, shall we? In terms of your friend's behaviour on the dating scene, there is not much you can do. It's not something you can control, and it's not appropriate for you to try. Your friend is an adult and will conduct themselves according to their own moral lights.
You need to decide for yourself if this behaviour constitutes a serious enough breach of your own moral code that you cannot turn a blind eye. If that's the case, you need to end the friendship now, lest your disappointment in your friend's actions festers into resentment. Otherwise, draw a line under it, and concentrate on the work of rebuilding this relationship.
Your ability to change your body has certain finite limits – there are things you can see in the mirror and recognise as yourself, and things you cannot. This is not true for your friend. The relationship between their body and their sense of self is radically different to yours. Indeed, it sounds as if their entire conception of what constitutes 'the self' is founded on quite different ground.
At the core of your letter is a question. How much can we change and still be the same person? Will a new face be enough? A new walk? New opinions, new outlooks, new wishes and fears?
Or is it the speed of the change that makes the difference? Replace the boards of a ship one by one over years, and it remains the ship. Where do you draw the line? If your friend changed themselves over months rather than moments, would you consider their changed self more authentic?
I don't have an answer to these questions, listener. But it seems like your friend does – at least, for themselves. It doesn't sound like they have a singular, cohesive core to show you. There is no real self. Or, alternatively, there are infinite real selves, endless iterations each as true and as false as the next.
The person you've been friends with all this time is still there. They still exist, with all the traits you've come to love about them, and all the memories you've made together.
You're not talking to a stranger. You're talking to somebody whose experience of the world is wildly different to yours – who has been given different facts and come to different conclusions.
Reach out to them. Let them know that you're ready to talk, and that you want to understand how they feel. And if things get difficult, remember – you're also talking to somebody who loves you, and who you love in return. Whoever they are.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
The Nightfolk Network – the voice of liminal Britain.
[End background music]
Next tonight, with Mother's Day around the corner, we give our top picks for thoughtful gifts for all the mums out there, from hive queens to sires...
[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-I presume-”, a voice saying “-give you broader context-” and static before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Episode Twenty Two of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.
This episode's second letter was based on a submission by... Assface. Thanks, friend.
To submit your own letters and suggestions, head over to our website at MonstrousAgonies.co.uk, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies.
If you'd like to support the show, head over to patreon.com/monstrousagonies. You can also show your support by leaving us a review on iTunes 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]