The first episode of Linda Marigliano’s new podcast, Tough Love, starts with a dispatch from her childhood bedroom, a space which remains fixed in time. She describes her dusty DVDs and the photos with her Year 12 best friends, including their then-fashionably thin eyebrows.
Living back in her parents’ house at the age of 36 was not what she had in mind for 2021, Linda explains in episode one, which dropped on Tuesday.
“This is not where I thought I would be right now,” she says. “I had grand plans to be somewhere else. I had grand plans to be with someone else.”
But Linda is interrupted by the approaching – and very familiar – sounds of her mother wielding a vacuum cleaner, an intrusion that illustrates both the playfulness of the podcast and establishes the work as a document of a time and space for growth.
After quitting her job at triple j at the end of 2019, Linda Marigliano’s plan for 2020 was to live in LA to pursue career opportunities and to finally cohabitate with her partner, Magnus, after three years of dating long-distance. But then COVID-19 happened, and after just a few short months building a life together in West Hollywood, Linda found herself back in Australia in March as international borders closed.
Linda had kissed Magnus goodbye in LA, expecting to be back together in three weeks after a gig at a Japanese music festival and a trip back to Sydney to see her family. And then suddenly it was, “Fuck, everything is gone, every single thing that we planned for this year is gone.”
So the couple shifted the goalposts to maybe seeing each other in June, and then in September for Linda’s birthday, and then further back again as the virus spread in the United States.
“We really didn’t know how well it was gonna pan out in terms of our relationship,” Linda told PEDESTRIAN.TV, “and whether we were gonna crumble under the pressure of just not knowing what was gonna happen next.”
She continued: “Somehow through sitting in it and through really working hard at reflecting and working on extra communication skills, we’ve survived thus far.”
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Instead of starting a new life overseas with her partner, Linda has been living back in her childhood home for the last ten months. “I’d said goodbye to all of these people, my family and my friends, and kissed goodbye to Australia and I was so happy to get out and start a new phase,” Linda said.
But that new phase was shortlived. It became, “Hi Mum, hi Dad, I’m back, I don’t know how long I’m gonna be here for, and I love you and I’m really grateful that you’re here for me, but I fucking wish I wasn’t here.”
Linda Marigliano is talking to P.TV from her car, parked outside of Harris Farm. She’s there to buy yoghurt and goji berries, a “treat” to celebrate the successful launch of her vulnerable new project. She described Tough Love as her “audio journal” of this time, a “self-learning memoir in real time.”
“That’s the risk and the beauty of it,” Linda said. “We don’t know what happens.” We don’t know, for instance, if she and Magnus will be reunited; if their relationship will be able to withstand the uncertainty of the pandemic world.
Linda laughed that the podcast itself could come between her and Magnus, as she shares details of their private life together in order to illuminate larger ideas about relationships and womanhood in 2021.
The couple don’t usually even share photos of each other to social media, and now their intimate conversations will be available to a global audience. “I’m so conscious of making sure that Magnus is comfortable. Because he’s a total introvert and I would never want to do anything that compromises our relationship,” she said.
“Wouldn’t that be so ironic if the thing that I am creating in order to make us all better and be better partners or better daughters or better versions of ourselves actually is to the detriment of [my] most important relationship?
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In making Tough Love, Linda Marigliano has had to navigate that fine line between sharing raw details about her personal life as a lens to speak to bigger issues, and oversharing for its own sake.
Linda explained that she’s never spoken about her personal life publicly before because she worried about coming across as narcissistic or egotistical.
“I never wanted to make what I do in the media about me. I’m really self-conscious in that way,” she said. “I don’t like the idea of oversharing. I don’t enjoy the idea of ever doing anything as an exhibitionist.”
Yet, she felt compelled to speak about her own experience for Tough Love, because she wanted to give audiences a real piece of herself, something coming from a genuine place, that could spark a sense of community.
“Like, what is the fucking point? You can’t just share for the sake of sharing or for the sake of venting. It’s not meant to be just cathartic for me.”
Instead, she hopes that her personal story is relatable to other people’s lives. A piece of work that speaks to people, Linda said, “gives you context to what’s going on in your own life.”
“If it’s really good and if it’s done fucking well, it gives you a reason to feel inspired and apply it to your own sphere of living. It can make you live in a better way and see things in a different way.”
The questions at the heart of Tough Love go to what gives our lives meaning and what we value when our world becomes smaller – when, say, Australians living in Europe can’t travel on the weekend or people at home in Australia can’t spend the night at the pub or go dancing.
“For so many people our age and in this generation, exploring and travelling and discovering and being the butterfly that spreads its wings, that’s just been torn down,” Linda said. “So how are you happy without having that stuff? How can you reset in a way that you can sit in a room or in a small apartment in London or in Brooklyn and go, I have to be enough?”
This collective experience has been “formative” though, Linda notes, an opportunity for people to become stronger and more compassionate. “You figure out who you’ve got time for, who has time for you, who your real friends are, who the family is around you,” Linda said.
She herself has had to reconsider how she defines herself without the “dynamic self-esteem boost” of a national radio broadcast. “I’m learning who I am,” she said. “It was time for a fucking reset, because I was rushing from one thing to the next for the last few years. Now I’ve had to sit in it and I know who I am.”
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Every fortnight Linda Marigliano will release a new episode of Tough Love “as real life unfolds,” featuring guests like media personalities, sexologists, Magnus, friends and family. At the same time as it is a document of a moment not just Linda’s life but in wider society, the podcast plays creatively with its format and the way we can tell stories through sound design, drawing upon styles of audio documentary and narrative non-fiction that give it an authentic feeling.
“If you respect the craft [of audio production], people listening to it might not necessarily know why they’re feeling certain emotions but they’ll fucking get it, because the idea you’re trying to come across will come across so much more clearly.”
She continued: “For me, the content is as important as the sound design.”
Linda Marigliano has been buoyed and overwhelmed by the way the podcast has resonated with people, admitting she underestimated the kind of “collective loss and self-reflection” of the pandemic.
She expected people to potentially react by saying, oh, “It’s nice to hear you again.” But instead, she received messages from people all over the world sharing their own stories of either being separated from a partner or feeling adrift in these so-called “unprecedented times.”
“I just read an email from a woman that’s in Belgium that’s separated from her partner and another woman that’s alone in London and has just gone through a breakup. Another woman that’s stuck in New Zealand and really misses her mum, a guy that was meant to move in with his boyfriend in 2020 who lives in Canada and is now stranded in Australia.
“Or people that are not even stranded from their partners but just understand that everybody has their own shit going on,” Linda continued, “everybody has their own troubles that you try to overcome and not let get the best of you.
“This is exactly why I wanted to make this. This is exactly why it feels like the most important work I’ve ever done.”