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Death, Sex & Money

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Death, Sex & Money is a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Host Anna Sale talks to celebrities you've heard of—and to regular people you haven't—about the Big Stuff: relationships, money, family, work and making it all count while we're here.

WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, The Experiment, The New Yorker Radio Hour and many others.
305 Episodes
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A few months back, Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut podcast from New York Magazine, reached out with a request to talk. About becoming a parent.  "I am strictly entirely on the fence about whether or not I want to have a kid," Avery told me when we talked. "And I guess I wonder, you know, you were almost in the exact same position that I'm in, working as a podcaster, being in media. And I'm curious how you went from my position to your position. Why did you make the plunge?" There's a lot to consider when trying to decide whether to become a parent. There's your biological clock. The environment. Your financial situation. Your romantic life. Your health. But today, in this episode, we're focusing on the decisions and tradeoffs we make around ambition, desires, and identity when we decide to become parents. I talk with Avery about how being a mom of two has changed my work life, and what I've let go of. We hear from artist Julie Mehretu about how being a mom has impacted her art, and comedian Margaret Cho about being at peace with not having kids. And we hear from one mom who decided to radically change the way motherhood looked in her life—and the price she paid for it. 
Last week, I talked with my friend and colleague Noel King, who is a co-host at NPR's Morning Edition, about my new book. It's called Let's Talk About Hard Things, and in front of a live (Zoom) audience, we talked together about why I've built my career on having tough conversations—and all the life stuff that led up to making that leap.  Noel and I first met more than a decade ago, back to when I was still married to my first husband. "You and I were supposed to go to Washington D.C. on a reporting trip together," Noel remembered during our conversation. "And I remember maybe a day before we were supposed to go...you walked over to my desk and you said very quietly, 'I cannot come to Washington, D.C. I need to stay in town this weekend and work on my marriage.'"  I talk together with Noel about the hard conversations that led to the eventual end of that relationship (and the eventful summer that followed), and the ones that helped build the foundation of my second marriage. And, I talk with Noel about why I believe it's important to engage in personal, vulnerable conversations both with people inside our orbits—and people vastly different than ourselves. — Hear more from Noel King on Death, Sex & Money, in the episode she reported about reparations to Chicago police torture victims, and in our 2017 conversation together about workplace harassment, including at WNYC. 
As the host of Death, Sex & Money, my job is to ask my guests to talk about the things "we think about a lot and need to talk about more." And sometimes, talking about hard things that you don’t have much practice talking about...can be unsettling and uncomfortable. It can also feel like the deepest exhale you didn’t know you were waiting for. I've experienced this as both an interviewer and as a participant in the conversations on this show.  We've been talking a lot about hard conversations recently, as my new book, "Let's Talk About Hard Things" is about to be released into the world. So today we thought we'd look back at seven moments in our show’s seven year (!) history that I remember as the squirmiest, most stomach-ache inducing, unsettling, powerful, hard—and, ultimately, some of the most meaningful—conversations that have ever happened on Death, Sex & Money.  Hear more of the interviews we excerpted in today's episode:  My Awkward Money Talk With Sallie Krawcheck Why She Steals: Your Reactions The Sex Worker Next Door Chaz Ebert On Life Without Roger A Son and His Mom Laugh Through Darkness (featuring Bex Montz and Katie Ryan) A Son, A Mother And Two Gun Crimes (featuring Dwayne Betts and Gloria Hill) Dan Savage Says Cheating Happens. And That's OK.
When I Almost Died

When I Almost Died

2021-04-2136:065

A few years ago, I asked you to share your near-death experiences. You told us about car accidents...plane crashes...illness...suicide. And, you told us what happened after, when you didn't die. Ellen's near-death experience ended her marriage. Kelsey's forced her into sobriety. And Paul's left him feeling impatient: "Every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t." We also heard from some of you about near-death experiences that weren't your own, but that deeply affected you just the same. Rachel* had only been in a relationship with her boyfriend for six months when he was diagnosed with lymphoma and hospitalized. She was terrified that he was going to die. But she was also terrified to admit that she wasn't happy in the relationship. "He didn’t miss me, the way I missed our closeness, because he was so preoccupied with the disease taking over him," she told me. "That really, really hurt me." And many of you told us that coming close to death changed the way that you think about dying. "It’s not as horrific as I thought it would be," said Elizabeth Caplice, who described her life as "one big near-death adventure." A listener sent us a link to her blog, Sky Between Branches, where she wrote about her life with stage 4 colorectal cancer. When I talked with her, she'd just been given an estimate of three months to live. "It obviously is a really terrible and rancid thing to happen to anyone," she told me. "But in a lot of ways it’s simultaneously been worse and not as bad as I thought it would be. It is a natural process. It’s a very human thing to have happen to you, is to die."  This episode was originally released in 2016. To read updates about some of the people featured in it, sign up for our newsletter here.
A few years ago, a 27-year-old listener we're calling Tessa was about $19,000 in credit card debt. An unexpected windfall helped them pay most of it off in one fell swoop. But even then, they weren't sure it would stick. "I'm worried that I am going to mess this up and end up exactly where I was before," Tessa told me they were thinking then. "And that is what happened. It ballooned back up to 16 [thousand] in less than a year."  Tessa's been keeping all of this a secret from their family and friends. But a few weeks ago, they decided to reach out to their older sister for help. "She's a really great point in her career," Tessa told me. "She's really financially savvy." But before Tessa could even ask their sister to borrow money—she offered to pay it all off for them. But instead of it feeling like a relief, Tessa told me, "I just felt like I really failed." I talk with Tessa and their sister, who we're calling Rose, about how they eventually made the decision for Tessa to file for bankruptcy—and the ways that talking about money more openly together has led to some unexpected questions and answers about Tessa's spending habits.  If you're struggling with consumer debt, check out these resources. 
Before the pandemic, poet and professor Claudia Rankine traveled often for work. Her acclaimed 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric brought her unflinching perspective on race relations to the mainstream. And in her latest book, Just Us, Claudia examined her own personal interactions with white friends, family, colleagues…and even the strangers she'd meet on those work trips. While Claudia's made a name for herself with her reflections on these types of conversations, she told me they're not always easy to have, including with her own husband. "I might say, 'You're only doing that because you're a white guy.' And he'll say, 'Well, you do the same thing.' And I say, "I may do the same thing, but I don't have the same reception,'" she said. Claudia also told me about growing up in predominantly white spaces in the Bronx during the 1970s, and how a cancer diagnosis in her 50s allowed her to reassess what she wants out of life.
This week, we’re sharing an episode of a new podcast called The Experiment with you. It’s a show about America, and what happens when the big ideas and forces that have shaped our country collide with everyday lives.  The Experiment is produced by our colleagues at WNYC Studios and The Atlantic, and as they were putting together this episode, we here at Death, Sex & Money heard about it. And we thought it would be something that you all would want to hear, too. It’s about a man who stepped up to participate in an American process that he doesn’t agree with. And it’s a really powerful story about duty, faith and humanity. Subscribe to The Experiment wherever you get your podcasts. 
Donna Perry, who lives in Brooklyn, recovered from COVID-19 a year ago. That’s when producer Yasmeen Khan first interviewed Donna for a news story. At that point, Donna had lost several people to COVID. And as the virus spread through New York City during the past year, she lost many more. Donna estimates that she’s been to at least 15 funerals on Zoom—all deaths related to the coronavirus—mostly for her fellow members of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. And she's also grieving the loss of one of her best friends, Selisha. They had been close since childhood and talked on the phone every morning.   Still, Donna is adamant about what she calls the “blessings of COVID.” She’s had a chance, she says, to hunker down with her family, to refresh her marriage, and to think with clarity on what’s most important to her. Donna caught up with Yasmeen over Zoom a couple of weeks ago. "I'm really starting to believe that now more than anything, that every day that I have is a gift and I have a responsibility to live my life in purpose," she said.  Donna learned the importance of picking up the phone and calling her loved ones this year. So we're inviting people to do this together on Friday, March 26. We've declared this day “Pick Up the Phone and Call Day.” If there's someone you've been meaning to call in the past year, get on it. Text "call day" to 70101 and we’ll send you text reminders and tips leading up to our newly declared holiday.
Whenever Josh, a 32-year-old commercial truck driver, passes through El Paso, he usually pulls off the highway and heads to the Red Parrot—a topless bar where he goes to have some human contact after hours by himself on the road. "I'm a social butterfly," he told me. But after the club was shut down for long stretches last year, he tells me, the vibe there has changed. "The main thing that I've noticed is that it's a little tamer," he says. "What was a party is now a library."  Live adult entertainment has been hard hit during the pandemic. Like most non-essential businesses, strip clubs have dealt with closures, social distancing restrictions in place and smaller crowds. But on top of that, federal rules have deemed them ineligible to receive federal aid, like PPP loans. "Nobody is even caring about whether you've gotten assistance," Red Parrot owner Darius Belcher told me, as he described utility and rent bills piling up. "Any day...could be our last day."  I also talked with Jessica Barrera, a stripper at the Red Parrot, who worries about what she'd do if the club shut down. "Other clubs...they don't care about your well-being," she told me. "At least at the Red Parrot, if I fall, they pick me up. I couldn't imagine going and dancing anywhere else." 
Ugh, Dating Right Now

Ugh, Dating Right Now

2021-03-0334:016

Recently, I asked those of you who are single and looking for a relationship to tell us how dating has been going for you during COVID. You told us about messed up momentum, lots of new rules, wrenches thrown into your plans, and a lot of frustration and longing. "I feel a sense of cautious desperation," one listener told us, while another added, "There's no spontaneous kissing. There's none of that sparks flying situation." While some of you have found some unexpected upsides to dating during a pandemic, most of you are pretty burned out. So today, we're airing your grievances about dating right now—and following it up with a pep talk. Logan Ury is the director of relationship science for the app Hinge, and author of the new book How To Not Die Alone. "Love is this natural thing, but dating is not," she told me. "Dating is a skill. And so like anything else dating is something that you can actually learn about, get better at and improve." Even, she says, during a pandemic. 
Tony* wasn't sure what to say when the woman he'd slept with told him she was pregnant. First, he says, there was a long pause. They weren't a couple, and he didn't want to say the wrong thing. "I told her that it was her choice and if she chose to keep it, then I would be a good dad," he remembers. "I was freaking out."  At the time, Tony was in his mid-20s, working as a bartender and photographer in a college town out west. Tony started paying child support for his daughter near the end of the pregnancy, went to prenatal appointments, and took parenting classes along with the baby's mother. On the day his daughter was born, Tony cut the umbilical cord.  And Tony was an active father. As soon as his daughter could take a bottle, he says he started sharing custody of her, sometimes watching her three or four days a week. "We were really just good buddies," he says. "It felt good to have purpose, and it felt amazing to love something so much, in a completely new way."  Money became a source of tension, though, between Tony and the baby's mother. So did the fact that as his daughter got older, she started looking less like him or her mother. Tony decided to get a paternity test when his daughter was about a year old. "I couldn't play it dumb forever," Tony says—but he also feared the results. "That's not something that you want to know, especially when you love something so much." Tony quickly learned the truth: he had a zero percent probability of being the biological father. He called the mother to tell her, and soon after that, he met Victor*, the man who is his daughter's biological father. Over beers, they talked about Tony's shock, Victor's suspicions from the sidelines, and their plan for the little girl they both considered a daughter. More than two years later, they joined me to talk about the logistics and emotions of the transition that followed, which included packing up a pickup truck with nursery furniture to move it from Tony's place to Victor's.  This episode first aired in 2017.  *Last names have been withheld for privacy reasons.
We just got through Valentine’s Day, our annual celebration of romance. Usually of the long-term sort...or if not long, at least, the sort where you’ve committed to be someone’s sweetheart.  This week, we want to celebrate another important kind of romance: the very short term. The one night stand. Those moments in your life when someone appeared in a flash, you connected, and then, you went your separate ways.  The possibility of a one night stand feels so remote for so many people right now, because chance meetings aren’t really happening much. But the memories are potent, as you told us when we asked you to tell us your stories about one night stands.
Concerns about ageism. Dreams of moving in with roommates, Golden Girls-style. Desires to slow down, while still working 12-hour days. Worries about missing out on precious time with grandkids during the pandemic.  When we opened up the phones to talk with listeners over 60 about life today, we heard from people across the country about big changes and small ones; loneliness and the joys that solitude and independence can bring; and why there are as many ways to experience aging as there are people doing it. Here are some highlights from our national call-in special, co-hosted by Colorado Public Radio's Jo Ann Allen.  This episode is part of our ongoing series of conversations about aging. Find the rest of the series at deathsexmoney.org/aging. 
When Dr. Norma Elia Cantú was growing up in Laredo, Texas, on the U.S./Mexico border, she was the oldest of what would eventually be eleven siblings—so she stepped into the role of coparent early. "When one of my younger siblings got in trouble at school, they called me," she says. "They [didn't] call the parents because my father was working, and my mother, who didn't speak English, was not able to go." Norma lived at home and continued to help support her family when she went to college, but left after two years, when she became the primary breadwinner of the family. She finished her degree in night school while working at the local utility company, but even now, she says, she "wonders what would have happened had [she] not been so dutiful a daughter." She eventually completed her degree and went on to get her PhD. Now she's 74, a writer, a professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, and the president of the American Folklore Society. I talked with her about how she's supported both her family and her own ambition at the same time throughout her life, as well as about how she processed the deaths of her parents, and her younger brother Tino, who was killed in the Vietnam War when he was only 19. Head over to our Instagram page to see some photos of Norma's family that she shared with us. And Norma graciously agreed to read some of her poetry for us, all from her 2019 collection Meditación Fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life and Labor:  My Mother's Hands    Song of the Borderland (English)   Canto A La Tierra Fronteriza (Español)    
Shortly after college, musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland walked away from a classical singing career to create experimental music. "The great thing about youth is that it isn't afraid of anything," Glenn told me, "and the difficulty about youth is that it has no idea what it should be afraid of." 2020 was supposed to be musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s breakthrough year, after decades of quietly putting out albums while also working for children's television programs. A collector resurfaced his music five years ago, and at 76, Glenn was releasing a new album, embarking on an international tour, and moving into a new home with his wife, Elizabeth. But then the pandemic hit, his tour was cancelled and he lost his housing. In our conversation, I talk with Glenn about what happened next — and about how his new fans stepped up to support him, a Black trans elder. And we talk about his complex relationship with his parents growing up, finding new audiences later in life, and how he relates to his younger bandmates. Listen to Glenn's latest album, "Transmissions," here.
As a young woman, actor and activist Marlo Thomas thought marriage was not a good idea. After watching her mother abandon her own successful singing career to support her father's career in acting, "I thought [marriage] really was a place for one and a half persons," she told me. One person, a man or woman, could live their lives fully, "and the other person would be the half person that would support the other person in their dream." Marlo's views on marriage were well known, too. "Marriage is like a vacuum cleaner," she famously said. "You stick it to your ear and it sucks out all your energy and ambition."  So it came as a surprise to some that, at age 42, Marlo married TV host Phil Donahue after dating for several years. "I had to understand that I could define my own marriage," she told me. "I didn't have to have somebody else's model." And her own model worked: she and Phil have now been married for 40 years. I talked with Marlo about how her beliefs about marriage shifted, and about how her own marriage has continued to evolve as she and Phil have entered their 80s. 
A few months ago, we asked our listeners over 60 to tell us about their experiences of getting older, especially during the past year. And it turns out, you had a lot to say about it.  The United States is a country that’s rapidly aging. According to Census Bureau estimates, the number of people over 65 in the U.S. will nearly double over the next 40 years. Americans are also working later, living alone more frequently, and facing greater financial hardship. And of course, there’s the pandemic. 80% of COVID-related deaths in the United States have been among people over 65. But despite all of these commonly-cited statistics, we don't hear much about what it's actually like to be over 60. We don't talk enough about getting older in our society, and when we do, we don’t often do it well. So in this episode, we hope to break down some of that silence around aging. We hear from listeners about unexpected health challenges and financial instability; feelings of isolation, invisibility and freedom; the responsibilities that come with being caregivers to parents, children and grandchildren; and shifting relationships with friends and loved ones.  Hear Your Stories About Life After 60: We're having these conversations with the help of veteran public radio broadcaster Jo Ann Allen—who also hosts her own podcast, Been There Done That, all about the Baby Boom generation. As Jo Ann told us when we had her on Death, Sex & Money back in the fall, even as she's navigated uncertainty about financial stability and her fears of COVID-19, she wouldn't trade this period of life for anything. "I am 67 years old, and I am really into older people!" she says. "I love, without a doubt, up and down, over and under, in and out, being an older person and getting older." To read a transcript of this episode, click here.   If you're not yet 60, but know someone who is and might not know about our show, please forward it on to them! Click the link below to send them a special email with a link to this episode.      Share this episode with a friend!     Did you know only 22% of people over 55 listen to podcasts regularly? Let's change that!  We've rounded up some of our favorite recent reading and listening about people over 60 here, including reflections on living through the pandemic, a handy guide on how to care for older people in your life right now, and a deep dive on ageism.  All month long, we've also been featuring conversations with guests over 60. Listen to actor and activist Marlo Thomas reflecting on her 40-year marriage, musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland talking about the realities of touring and making a living from his music in his 70s, and 74-year-old writer Norma Elia Cantú on growing up in Laredo, Texas, and the three family deaths that changed her.  We wrapped up this series about life after 60 with a live national radio call-in hosted by Jo Ann and Anna on February 3. Listen to highlights of that show here. And if you still want to hear more, here are a few of our favorite episodes with guests over 60 from the Death, Sex & Money archives:  Loading...
Death, Sex & 2020

Death, Sex & 2020

2020-12-2833:2610

In 2020, we put out more than 60 episodes of Death, Sex & Money—far more than we've ever put out in a year before. We decided early on in the pandemic that we wanted to be there for our listeners during this especially difficult and isolating time.  This year, we heard from essential workers, from Black listeners processing police violence and injustice, and from many people losing loved ones and missing important milestones, all while isolated from each other. We also shared the books and the podcasts we love, came up with a tool kit for how to pass the time, and tried to find moments of joy. Today, the Death, Sex & Money team reflects on highlights from this year’s episodes, and we check in with a few of the listeners we got to know this year.  Want to revisit some of our favorite episodes this year? Here's our essential workers episode, our Financial Therapy conversation with Frenchie, the live conversations with Back Issue hosts Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn and author Akwaeke Emezi, our episode on conversations in immigrant families, part one of our Skin Hunger collaboration, our update with Sharron, and our Game Changer episode featuring Shelby Harris. And if you want to support our work in the new year and beyond, go to deathsexmoney.org/donate and make a year-end contribution. Thank you! 
When we asked you about what 2020 has taken from you, you told us about jobs, travel opportunities, relationships, milestones. Physical objects and feelings. Irreplaceable moments and loved ones.  Today, we're taking some time to sit with those losses, mark them, and reflect on all that has been taken from us this year. 
Marcy has had Joe* on her mind since she went to the prom with him during her senior year of high school. “He kept coming up in my, in my brain, like, well, I wonder whatever happened to him,” Marcy told me. “It seems like he's always just kind of been with me.”  Earlier this year, Marcy—who’s now 69 and divorced—decided to track down Joe. And months after sending him an email, Joe responded. Since August, they’ve been talking on the phone every day. Marcy says they’re in love. And Joe lives only 15 minutes away. But Marcy and Joe... still haven’t seen each other. Not even over Zoom.  This week on the show, we’re partnering with our friends at NPR’s It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders to talk about two very different sides of being stuck during the pandemic: together and apart. Find their episode, about being stuck together, wherever you get your podcasts.  *Name changed
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Comments (60)

Dove Hex

A trash human being that everyone around her is paying for. This person has zero self awareness all for slime and jewellery What a fuck whit. Needs to grow tf up.

May 11th
Reply

Allison Bothley

Sad story.

Mar 9th
Reply

Mercy Waterleaves

that last story was my favorite 🤣

Feb 23rd
Reply

jackieblue361

One of my favorite stories that you've done Anna. 💙

Nov 17th
Reply

BC

what a wonderful man

Nov 11th
Reply

BC

Oh I love this episode

Oct 18th
Reply

Lucy Sharf

Such a wonderful episode and person. I related to so much. Thank you.

Aug 30th
Reply

f350

you are not poor, you live in north america, you are married to a doctor, you are not poor.

Jul 25th
Reply

Juliana Meowth

she is a greedy, amoral predator with no conscience or empathy, she sounds like a psychopath

May 18th
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BC

This was very good for being so short. So much was packed into these 4 minutes.

May 10th
Reply

BC

God, hearing that someone wrote a will for their child and their mom because they're an essential worker with chronic asthma is so hard. They're fully prepared to die and people are still going out every day with no regards to the safety of people around them. If we can stay at home, we should. Staying at home protects these workers.

Apr 3rd
Reply

Peg Benson

this is the biggest load of horse sh*t. He excuses and justifies his behavior as "self-care"?

Mar 12th
Reply

robert rich

Wow. Glad you called Ethan out on his behavior, Anna. I appreciate the guy's honesty about his actions and motivations - but above that, I didn't hear a true note of contrition or accountability during the whole interview. It actually sounded like he was trying to flirt with you. This was really cringeworthy - and that's coming from a guy.

Mar 5th
Reply

Allison Bothley

Love this guy. Seems so devoted to true love.

Feb 23rd
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Les Knope

This is a good simple example of a white person confronting unconscious bias publicly. More of this, please.

Feb 6th
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BC

these two women at the end are really wonderful to listen to.

Jan 29th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

where the heck is the dad to support his daughter's college costs? ugh!

Jan 11th
Reply

BC

this is a particularly interesting episode on women's choices and the services Planned Parenthood provides.

Jan 9th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

legos forever!!

Jan 5th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

the greatest victims are the children

Jan 2nd
Reply (1)
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