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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, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Nancy, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin and many others.
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260 Episodes
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I always love talking with writer Michael Arceneaux. Last year, he joined me on the show to discuss his bestselling collection of essays, "I Can't Date Jesus," as well as growing up gay in a Catholic family in Houston and striking out on his own to become a writer when many, many systems were stacked against him. A few weeks ago, he joined me again—this time, on Zoom from his apartment in Harlem—to talk about his new book, called "I Don't Want To Die Poor." He told me what it feels like to be slowly paying down his student loan debt, and how he's creating joy for himself in the midst of "three pandemics." (Hint: it involves luxury seltzer.)   You can watch the video of this live conversation here, thanks to our friends at The Greene Space. Click here to check out my 2018 conversation with Michael about his first book, "I Can't Date Jesus." And tune in this Tuesday, July 14th, at 4 PM Eastern for the second in this series of live book interviews! I'll be talking with authors, podcasters, and best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (Call Your Girlfriend) about their new book, "Big Friendship," and how they've stayed close as they've gotten older and moved away from each other.
What Money Can't Solve

What Money Can't Solve

2020-07-0831:461

On November 2, 1983, Darrell Cannon was woken up by the Chicago police banging on his door. He knew the drill. As a longtime gang member, run-ins with the cops were common. He'd already served more than a decade behind bars for a murder conviction. But that day, something unexpected happened: Darrell says the cops tortured him while they were questioning him. During the torture, Darrell confessed to a crime that landed him back behind bars for 24 years.  This didn't just happen to Darrell. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, more than 100 people—most of them black men—say they were tortured too, and the city of Chicago has officially acknowledged that this happened. In 2015, the city council approved a $5.5 million reparations package to 57 of the people who suffered at the hands of the police.  NPR's Noel King interviewed Darrell soon after he picked up his reparations check, back in 2016. We collaborated with her and the team at NPR's Planet Money on this episode, after she shared Darrell's story as part of a larger Planet Money episode called "Paying for the Crime." Planet Money just re-aired that episode last week, along with an update from Darrell.  To view the documents from the Invisible Institute's Police Torture Archive referenced in this episode, click here. 
Skin Hunger: Part 2

Skin Hunger: Part 2

2020-07-0129:281

A listener we're calling Elle ended her relationship a few minutes after 2020 began. And she describes it as a pretty devastating breakup: "Basically I was on quarantine for two months already before all this happened," Elle told me. "I was not going anywhere. Not seeing anyone. Being around people...felt too painful."  Elle says overall, she's glad she wasn't in that relationship when the pandemic began. But it did mean that she's had to figure out other ways to get touch—including "germ bonding" with another couple. For a listener we're calling Dennis, who separated from his wife of 37 years last fall, it hasn't been so simple. He'd started getting into contra dancing pre-pandemic—something that was really helping him get through his divorce. But the weekly dances shut down in March. "I think it's going to be the last thing to come back. And also the, the crowd is, a lot of us are older," he said. "So it's going to be a long time. And it's really sad."   Plus, we hear from a listener whose relationship ended during quarantine, after a long-distance conversation about grooming.  Thanks to the team at Love + Radio for their work on this collaboration.
Skin Hunger: Part 1

Skin Hunger: Part 1

2020-06-2926:183

A few months ago, Nick van der Kolk, the host of the podcast Love + Radio, tweeted: "If I were @annasale, I'd be asking my listeners how they're coping with a lack of physical touch in their lives." So we did! And our inbox was flooded with responses—mostly, as we expected, from people living by themselves, or, at least, without any other adult humans. "Every point of contact with another human is a little electric charge...little human exchange from person to person that really does fuel you," a listener named Billy, who lives alone, told us. "And then when it's all taken away so suddenly you realize that, oh my gosh, that is, that was necessary. That was needed. That let me know that I wasn't alone on this earth."  In this first of two episodes, we hear from several listeners who've been deprived of touch during difficult moments during the past few months: new parenthood; racial trauma; the loss of a partner. "I have a feeling, the first person who I do hug, they're going to have a mess on their hands," a listener named Angie told us, whose partner recently died. "I can mostly talk without crying now...but I'm wondering if I'm going to go through that all again, once I actually am able to physically touch people, am I going to relive that whole experience?" Thanks to the team at Love + Radio for their work on this collaboration.
As parts of the country start to reopen and some people consider venturing out of their homes more often, there are millions of people who haven't been able to socially distance throughout this time—specifically, the 2.3 million people who are currently incarcerated in the United States. Lawrence Bartley was first on the show back in 2014, when he was still incarcerated at Sing Sing. Now he works at The Marshall Project, and as part of his job editing their publication News Inside, he frequently gets letters from incarcerated people and their loved ones. "The letters are desperate," he told me of what he's hearing right now. One of the people who reached out to him was a woman we're calling Dana—and I talked with her, too. Her husband "John" is currently at Sing Sing, and while they talk almost every day, not being able to see him has taken a toll on her. "The anxiety level that I've reached has me physically ill," she told me, "because I don't know if he's really okay."   We first spoke to Lawrence Bartley back in 2014, which you can listen to here. Our other follow-up episodes with him and his wife Ronnine are available here and here, and be sure to read his recent essay for The Marshall Project , called "How 27 Years In Prison Prepared Me For Coronavirus," here. You can find our WNYC colleagues' work here: "Dispatches from People Stranded in Place," "Inside the Prison Pandemic," and "Keeping Released Prisoners Safe and Sane." And don't forget to check out the latest season of Ear Hustle.  
Back in April, we shared stories from our listeners who are essential workers. They described what they were seeing on the job, how they were feeling, and what they were doing to cope with not being able to shelter at home.  One of the essential workers in that episode was Sharron. She's a certified nursing assistant at a hospital in northern Virginia, and she suffers from chronic asthma. And she told us she was worried about what would happen to her and her 13-year-old daughter if she contracted COVID-19 at work. "If I were to get the virus, there is not a good outlook for me," she said at the time. "So just getting things in order is the only thing that's keeping me sane." Many of you have reached out to see how Sharron is doing, and we've been thinking about her too. So I called her up last week to find out what’s happened since she sent in that voice memo. What unfolded was a conversation about deciding to take some time off, caring for her teenage daughter, coping with personal grief and loss, dreaming about the next steps in her career, and preparing to go back into the hospital again. 
We like to think of our romantic lives as pure and unbothered by the cold business of spreadsheets and tax documents. But here's the thing: serious relationships are both romantic and financial partnerships. That can come as a shock to a lot of people. In 2014, I asked for your stories about love and money—and here's what you told us.
"I'm struggling. I’m not doing well." "I cry, it hurts my heart, sort of physically it hurts." "I want to scream." "Friends ask if I'm okay. And I tell them I'm not, because I'm not. How can we be okay when we live in a state of terror?" We asked you what you needed to say in this moment of reckoning with police brutality, structural racism, and grief. Here's what you told us.    We want to keep talking with you. Send us a voice memo about what's on your mind right now, to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.
Right now, Frenchie is feeling secure in her job as an administrator at a Texas college. But that's not the case for her dad and her three sisters. They're all experiencing various levels of financial fallout from COVID—and as she thinks back on past family crises and the ways she stepped in to help, Frenchie wonders if she'll find herself gravitating towards a familiar support role in this moment, and how sustainable that would be. "Because I also ask if something happens to me, is anybody going to be able to support me?" she tells Amanda. "And right now, I feel like the answer is no."  This episode is part of a special Financial Therapy series here on Death, Sex & Money, hosted by Amanda Clayman. If you have a money anxiety weighing you down, send an email or a voice memo to financialtherapy@wnyc.org. Find the entire series at deathsexmoney.org/financialtherapy. We'd also love to know what you thought of this series. Give us your feedback at deathsexmoney.org/ftsurvey. And stay in touch with us! Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you up to date about what's happening behind the scenes at Death, Sex & Money. Plus, we'll send you audio recommendations, letters from our inbox and a note from Anna. Join the Death, Sex & Money community and subscribe today.
What do you need to say right now? As we take in the anguish that's surfacing today—about the fact that COVID19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color, about the violence of police brutality against Black people, and about all the different ways that white people are not stepping up to say those things are wrong—we want to hear from you. Record a voice memo with your thoughts and send it to us, at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. And tune in to WNYC (or your local public radio station) tonight, June 1, at 8 pm ET, to listen to and participate in a two-hour live radio special in partnership with Minnesota Public Radio. It’s called America: Are We Ready: A National Call-In about Racism, Violence, and our Future Together. 
Two years ago, Mathew* quit an executive job and struck out on his own to start an independent consulting firm. After months of bringing in "90% less than what [he] used to," business was finally starting to pick up earlier this year—and then the pandemic hit. With clients pulling contracts and invoices being paid late, Mathew is back to square one, wondering if the risks he took were worth it as his family deals with the consequences of his decision—and whether the need for emotional control that served him so well in his business career is still the right strategy for this crisis. *Name changed This episode is part of a special Financial Therapy series here on Death, Sex & Money, hosted by Amanda Clayman. If you have a money anxiety weighing you down, send an email or a voice memo to financialtherapy@wnyc.org. Find the entire series at deathsexmoney.org/financialtherapy. And stay in touch with us! Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you up to date about what's happening behind the scenes at Death, Sex & Money. Plus, we'll send you audio recommendations, letters from our inbox and a note from Anna. Join the Death, Sex & Money community and subscribe today.
Before the pandemic, Dale ran an event space in Knoxville, Tennessee. After cancelling every booking this month—which was set to be their busiest ever—she finds herself wondering how to share the burden of her financial anxiety with her husband—and how to square the fact that after years of hustling to make her business a reality, she's really enjoying having some time alone.     This episode is part of a special Financial Therapy series here on Death, Sex & Money, hosted by Amanda Clayman. If you have a money anxiety weighing you down, send an email or a voice memo to financialtherapy@wnyc.org. Find the entire series at deathsexmoney.org/financialtherapy. And stay in touch with us! Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you up to date about what's happening behind the scenes at Death, Sex & Money. Plus, we'll send you audio recommendations, letters from our inbox and a note from Anna. Join the Death, Sex & Money community and subscribe today.
Many of you are in financial transition right now. You've lost jobs, income, stable housing. And you're worried about what's to come. And this time of uncertainty isn't just bringing up thoughts about financial survival. It's also making us question our values, our identities...and whether the way we’ve done things in the past is still going to work. All of that can be difficult to process, especially as we're in isolation. So we're calling on an expert for help: financial therapist Amanda Clayman. For the next three weeks, Amanda's going to be talking with some of you about those issues that are surfacing around money in your lives—and helping you process them and figure out a path forward.  "It's not a luxury to think about and to pay attention to the meaning of losing 80 to 90% of your income because for some of us, that's enough to send us into such a, an emotional tailspin that we aren't able to do...practical things," Amanda told me. "We, we are just stuck in feeling like, 'I'm a failure. This is never going to get any better.'" Listen to Financial Therapy with Amanda Clayman, starting on May 20 in the Death, Sex & Money podcast feed. 
Madeleine Albright was in her early 20s when she wrote in an essay, "I am obsolete." She'd just become a mother to twins, and since graduating college had moved several times for her husband's jobs in journalism—a career field that she too had wanted to enter. "All of a sudden these things that I thought I was going to be able to do, I couldn't do," she told me. "Everything...was different than I had thought."  It was her eventual divorce two decades later that Secretary Albright says put her on the path to becoming U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. Since leaving that position in 2001 in her mid-60s, she's stayed plenty busy⁠—launching consulting and investment firms, and continuing to teach at Georgetown. But when I talked with her recently, she'd been self-isolating at home for weeks. "Because I'm in my eighties, and because of what's going on with the virus, all of a sudden I'm beginning to feel obsolete again," she told me. "I have been fighting gravity. That’s what I’ve been doing." 
We recently got an email from a listener named Lindsay. She's a nurse who normally works in pediatric oncology, but right now is working in an adult ICU with COVID-19 patients. And even though, as she wrote to us, she's "been surrounded by death" in her regular job, she says the way her current patients are dying from COVID-19 is far from what she would call a "good death." "You can't be in the room with them as they pass. You can't expose yourself that often," she wrote. "There is no time to know the people who slipped through your fingers—whose hair you washed, whose body you bathed, who you talk to during your shift to soothe yourself and them." She added, "It's simultaneously the most intimate and most anonymous relationship I've ever had."  Lindsay ended her email to us with a question: "How do I as a nurse, or how do we as a healthcare community, give patients a good death during a pandemic?"  Let us know if you have thoughts or answers for Lindsay. Our email address is deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. 
Writer Samantha Irby currently lives what she calls "a pioneer woman kind of life." Most of that is due to her wife, Kirsten, who is into things like canning tomatoes and pickling vegetables. "I'm not going to eat that shit," Sam told me, "but it is very cool to, to see someone who knows how to do all of that stuff."  Sam's 40 now, and along with her wife, lives with her two stepsons in Michigan. In addition to writing bestselling books like her latest, Wow, No Thank You, she also writes for TV shows like Shrill and Work in Progress. But for a long time before reaching this level of success, Sam worked a variety of hourly jobs in the Chicago area while getting her writing career off the ground. And Sam told me that she'd be fine going back to those jobs if writing stops paying the bills. "The minute this feels like it's over, I'm going to be bagging groceries or like working at the gas station or working in another animal hospital," she said. "I refuse to do that desperate thing where you can tell somebody’s career is kind of over but they're like scraping and scrabbling to try to stay relevant and try to keep selling things."  I recently called Sam to talk about some of those hourly jobs she held, and how they helped her cope with her grief after her parents' deaths. And, we talk about why she doesn't regret dropping out of college, and about how similar her routine in isolation is to her usual one. 
Even in pre-pandemic times, student loans were confusing. And since our lives flipped upside down a month ago, a lot has changed in the world of student loans, especially for the types of loans that are covered by the CARES Act. But how do you know what loans are covered? And what kind of relief is being offered? And what about for everyone else, whose loans aren't covered by the CARES Act?  In this special collaboration with NPR's Life Kit, we wade into the student loan weeds with student loan expert Betsy Mayotte, who founded The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, or TISLA. She's been closely tracking student loan developments over the past month, and answers listener questions about everything ranging from forbearance and interest rates to private loans and scammers.    Check out more of NPR's Life Kit here. And for more stories about student loan debt, check out our special series and website all about student loan debt. While you're there, add your student loan story to our interactive map, and take a quiz to find out where you fit into the student loan landscape. 
When COVID-19 first hit, listener Diane Davis thought she'd be able to handle it—despite the fact that she's been managing a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder for over two decades. "I know what it is to be really afraid of contamination and I thought I was going to be okay," she told me when I called her recently. "And then it sort of came out of nowhere and just knocked me sideways again."  In my recent phone conversation with Diane, she walks me through her keeping pandemic anxieties in perspective and how she avoids passing them on to her young children. Then, author John Green remembers John Prine and discusses finding new ways to cope with his OCD when the old ones fail—including walks in the woods (see above), and daily baths.  I first spoke with John Green on the show in 2018. Listen to that conversation here, and be sure to check out this excellent video he made a few weeks ago to help us all take a virtual walk in the woods while we're self-isolating.          
We've been thinking about Alana Duran, whom we first met two years ago in an interview about getting a kidney from her brand-new girlfriend at the time, Lori Interlicchio. In addition to being a transplant recipient, Alana has lupus, which means her immune system is compromised. "I take medication that suppresses my immune system and people with lupus are already at a higher risk of getting viral and bacterial infections," she told me when I called her up recently. "So knowing that, if I were to get coronavirus, I don't think I would make it."  Alana told me about deciding to quit her new job as a pastry cook so she can stay home and self-isolate, and about the other ways she's trying to stay healthy right now. And we're also sharing our original conversation with Alana and Lori with you too. It’s an extraordinary love story about sacrifice and taking care of each other in times of illness. 
When I checked in with writer Tayari Jones recently, we talked about how the past few weeks of isolation have been a time of self-discovery for her. "I feel that I'm living more for myself," she told me. "I think that is the positive thing that I'm learning about who I am." One of the central things Tayari has learned is mastering different forms of connection, from how to teach her college students over Zoom to sending money to friends in need. The simplest way she's connecting? Greeting cards! "People love to receive cards and I have so many of them and I just imagined that if people are at home alone feeling isolated, wouldn't it be nice to get a card even if it's the wrong holiday?" In that spirit, this weekend we're asking you to send a greeting card to someone in your life. Send us pictures, record a voice memos and emails about what happened and send it to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. Tayari Jones first joined us on the show in 2018 and returned in 2019 to interview Carrie Mae Weems for our Maternity Leave Lineup.  
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Comments (52)

Juliana Meowth

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

May 18th
Reply

BC

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

May 10th
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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
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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
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Allison Bothley

Love this guy. Seems so devoted to true love.

Feb 23rd
Reply

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
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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
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Mae Lee Arant

legos forever!!

Jan 5th
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

the greatest victims are the children

Jan 2nd
Reply (1)

BC

This story is so full of pain.

Dec 5th
Reply (1)

L K

Only religion can make totally rational people think and talk like delusional psychopaths. She's not afraid of death because she hasn't faced it truly. To her its merely the next step to paradise. In other words, her ignorance is bliss.

Nov 29th
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BC

I liked the part where Hasan talked about broken trust and talking to his wife afterward.

Nov 26th
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Mae Lee Arant

for those offended by the honesty that Ms. Gill Morris shared need to remember that autism is a spectrum disorder. There are vastly different behavioral social cognitive abilities within this diagnosis and noone should be affronted by Ms. Gill Morris's personal truth of her experience. She and her husband love their children and work daily to ensure their well being. Don't judge someone who live life in the trenches.

Nov 17th
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Jean-Francois Combe

Wow. In the same conversation she explains that people should pay their debt because they agreed to those debts in the first place and then explain that SHE shouldn't have to pay her debts, that she won't pay them, even though she agreed to them in the first place. The whole conversation was disgusting.

Nov 12th
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Keira

fuck this woman, she's such scum

Nov 6th
Reply

Coco Rylee

Great episode. Enjoyed listening to Saeed discuss how he handled his grief over his mother's death. Will def pick up his book!

Oct 21st
Reply

Mae Lee Arant

lost all empathy when she said she didnt know if she was going to take her animals with her

Oct 4th
Reply
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