Death, Sex & Money

Death, Sex & Money

By WNYC Studios

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.


Ugh, Dating Right Now

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. 
03/03/2130m 19s

I Was Your Father, Until I Wasn't

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.
24/02/2129m 54s

Your One Night Stand Stories

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.
17/02/2118m 13s

Getting Real About Getting Older, Live

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 
10/02/2159m 49s

What The Border Taught Norma Elia Cantú About Being Free

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)    
03/02/2133m 55s

Beverly Glenn-Copeland's Gifts From The Universe

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.
27/01/2129m 40s

Marlo Thomas Is Her Mother's Revenge

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. 
20/01/2134m 4s

Just Ask Us: Your Stories About Life After 60

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...
06/01/2149m 25s

Death, Sex & 2020

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 and make a year-end contribution. Thank you! 
28/12/2030m 54s

All That 2020 Has Taken From Us

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. 
16/12/2026m 32s

Stuck Apart, And Falling In Love

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
08/12/2035m 27s

Living Alone and Liking It. Sometimes.

Living alone has its perks. You can eat what you want, wear what you want, and listen to show tunes as loud as you want. You can let your dishes pile up for days—or you can be a total neat freak. There’s no one to stop you. But there’s also no one to help foot the bill. Back in 2014, I asked you to send in your stories about living solo. More than a quarter of American households are home to just one person. And from what you told us back then, it’s clear that the way we feel about living alone can be complicated. Today, as many of us grapple with the isolating effects of the pandemic, we’re revisiting your stories about living alone. 
02/12/2025m 1s

Miguel Gutierrez's Strongly Worded Emails About Art and Money

This past March, choreographer Miguel Gutierrez posted a call on his Instagram. It asked performing arts institutions to honor their commitments to artists like him, who were no longer able to perform publicly because of the pandemic. "The first thing I noticed was all the cancellation emails and their complete, uh, lack of acknowledgement of a financial component," Miguel told me. "Like, you have the money in your budget, right? So pay me."  While Miguel wanted to make sure he was compensated for his work, he also told me that he's been reexamining his relationship to performing. "There's a whole other part of me that’s like, do I ever want to tour again, actually?" he told me. "I actually crave certain kinds of normalcy that are just part of other people's lives." We talked about the years it took for him to learn how to manage his finances as someone living gig-to-gig, how getting sober helped him get out of years of debt, and how he was able to make ends meet this year.
25/11/2031m 22s

I Killed Someone. Now I Study Police Violence.

Tom Baker is getting his PhD in criminology, and as part of his research he's spent hours watching and studying police shootings. "The goal is to identify...things that police are doing that could be changed in some fundamental way, or maybe just tweaked in a slight way, so that you reduce the number of officer-involved shootings and police related deaths," he told me. This research is personal for Tom. In 2009, while he was working as a police officer in Phoenix, he shot and killed a man while on an off-duty security shift. The killing was determined to be legally justified, but Tom has struggled with it more and more. "You live in a culture where taking a life is the worst thing you can do," Tom told me. "I was trying to do what I thought was the right thing....But then when I didn't feel guilty about it and I didn't feel bad about it, I think the initial thing was feeling, feeling wrong for feeling that way. So feeling guilty for not feeling guilty." Tom left the police force in 2014. But he remains connected to that community, while also forging new relationships within the academic world. "I feel like I'm sort of like straddling the fault line in our country right now," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to just fall into the chasm."  Police killings are not tracked federally, but are tracked by several organizations, including Mapping Police Violence, Fatal Encounters and The Washington Post. A recent study using data from Fatal Encounters examined the risk of being killed by police use of force by age, race-ethnicity and sex, and found that black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police. And while police killings nationally have remained somewhat steady since 2013, the number of deaths in cities have dipped, while the number of deaths in suburban and rural areas has risen. In 98% of cases since 2013, police faced no charges after killing someone. To read Tom Baker's article in The Guardian, click here. 
18/11/2039m 22s

51 Years Loving A Man Named Sissy

Last year, we met Sissy and Vickie Goodwin, a Wyoming couple who had been married for 50 years. Around the time they started their lives together, Vickie learned of a secret Sissy had been harboring since childhood: a preference for feminine clothing and cross-dressing in private. Vickie was accepting of it, until Sissy started wearing skirts, dresses and frills in public—something she says took her years to understand. "Sissy and I were kind of out here in the Wyoming wilderness figuring this out together," Vickie told me. "And I'm really glad we did."  A few months after we met the couple, Sissy started having problems with memory and fatigue. This winter, he was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer, and quickly entered hospice. He died on March 7—the same day the Wyoming State legislature recognized Sissy with a resolution, honoring his lifetime of achievements, including "bringing gender independence to the Equality State."  "I read it to him," Vickie told me. "I think it did touch his heart."  The resolution honoring Sissy from the Wyoming State Legislature. (Vickie Goodwin)  
11/11/2038m 29s

What’s Going On In Your Immigrant Family's Group Chat?

This past summer, as protests were erupting across the U.S. in response to George Floyd's death, racism and police brutality, producer Afi Yellow-Duke and I started talking about the conversations she was having with her family. Her parents both immigrated to the U.S. from other countries—Nigeria and Haiti—and Afi said that the discussions her family was having, about belonging and race and identity, felt complicated. And really interesting.  Afi was curious about what's been going on in other immigrant families' conversations this year. So we asked those of you in immigrant families to tell us. In this episode, hosted by Afi, we hear about how some of you are talking with with your immigrant parents, siblings and extended family about the Black Lives Matter movement, systemic racism in the U.S., the upcoming election, and more. 
28/10/2040m 34s

Alice Wong On Ruckuses, Rage And Medicaid

Growing up near Indianapolis in the '80s and '90s, Alice Wong wanted to leave. "I knew life was going to be so much better once I got into college," she said. Alice grew up in an immigrant household, and while she had a local Chinese-American community, she rarely saw people who looked like her in the mostly-white community of people with disabilities she was also a part of. In some ways, her new essay collection, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century, bridges that gap. The book is a series of essays by people with a wide range of backgrounds and disabilities.  Alice and I talked about how she learned to advocate for herself as a young adult, leaving Indiana behind, the complications of managing finances while on Medicaid, and how she's planning for her and her parents' futures.
21/10/2043m 48s

Audio We Love Fest: California Love

Interviewing people is hard. Interviewing a harder. But that's exactly what writer Walter Thompson-Hernández does in the final episode of his new podcast California Love from LAist Studios, in which he talks to his mom, Ellie Hernández, about her decision to immigrate to the U.S. from Mexico as a young woman. It's a beautiful episode of a show that's part audio memoir, part love letter to Los Angeles. Subscribe to California Love from LAist Studios wherever you get your podcasts. Then tune in tomorrow, October 16th, at 7 pm ET as we end the festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.
15/10/2046m 23s

Audio We Love Fest: Constellation Prize

When producer Bianca Giaever found herself feeling especially lonely, she decided to look for a stranger who was feeling lonely, too. In the basement of a Brooklyn church, she met Sophia, a former professor-turned-crossing guard. As they developed a relationship, Bianca recorded conversations with Sophia at her home and in her crosswalk, about everything from faith to divorce to gratitude for what we've been given. She chronicles their friendship in a beautiful episode of her podcast Constellation Prize, called Crossing Guard, and we're sharing it with you today as part of our first-ever Audio We Love Festival.  Subscribe to Constellation Prize from The Believer Magazine wherever you get your podcasts. They've also offered a special 20% discount to our listeners. Just enter the code "DSM" at checkout. Then tune in on Friday, October 16th, as we end the festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.
14/10/2054m 36s

Audio We Love Fest: Goodbye To All This

Every week in the Death, Sex & Money newsletter, we share some of our recent favorite listens with you in our "Audio We Love" section. There are so many great podcasts to listen to...but so little time to discover them. So this week, we're taking our recommendations a step further, and sharing episodes of some of our favorite new shows with you, right here in the feed. First up is Goodbye To All This, a brand new show from the BBC World Service, written and hosted by Australian producer Sophie Townsend. It's a beautiful series about losing her husband to lung cancer, quickly and unexpectedly, and how she and her two young daughters grieved him. The show launched this week, and all twelve episodes are going to be released weekly wherever you get your podcasts.  Subscribe to Goodbye To All This from the BBC World Service wherever you get your podcasts. Then tune in on Friday, October 16th, as we end our festival week with a live Zoom show with Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn, hosts of one of our favorite new podcasts, Back Issue. Josh and Tracy are going to tell me about some of the things they're turning to for joy in a year when that's hard to come by—it's going to be a really good time. More info here.  
13/10/2036m 20s

Getting Real About Getting Older

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. They’re also working later, living alone more frequently, and facing financial hardship. And of course, there’s now the pandemic. 80% of COVID-related deaths in the United States have been among people over 65. I see these statistics a lot, but I don’t hear much about what it’s like to be over 60. I don’t think that as a culture, we talk enough about getting older, and when we do, we don’t often do it well. It's time to have better conversations about aging—and we're going to do it with the help of veteran public radio anchor Jo Ann Allen. Jo Ann is the host of the podcast Been There Done That, a show about and for the Baby Boom generation. As she tells me, even as she's learned to navigate 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." Over the next few weeks, Jo Ann is going to be stepping into the host chair and recording some interviews with older listeners in our audience about what it's like to be aging, and what questions are coming up for you—especially in this moment. I can't wait for you to meet her. Jo Ann and her dad, who lived to 103. (Courtesy photo)   Are you over 60? We want to hear from you! What's your life look like right now? How are you feeling your age differently this year compared to last year? You can send an email to us, at You can call us and leave a message, at (917) 740-6549. Or you can record a voice memo on your phone, and email it as an attachment to And if you're not over 60, you can still help us by spreading the word, and sending this episode to someone in your life who is. And make sure to check out Jo Ann's podcast, Been There Done That. We particularly like the episode "Betty," in which she talks to her older sister about surviving coronavirus.
07/10/2025m 6s

Game Changer: A BMX Olympic Hopeful Looks To 2021

As soon as it was announced in 2016 that BMX freestyle would become an Olympic event, Chelsea Wolfe knew she was going for a spot on the team. "Growing up as a woman in BMX, you don't really get that opportunity to see a future for yourself and doing it professionally," Chelsea told me when we talked this summer. "As soon as they said the Olympics are involved, it just changed the game for all of us."  Since then, Chelsea has been working hard to make the Olympic team—enduring big training injuries and a lot of paperwork along the way. As a trans woman, Chelsea had to have her testosterone levels checked and documented regularly before she could even start to compete in qualifying events. "I spent from 2016 to 2018 just purely training and then doing the behind the scenes work of getting all of my paperwork in order," she told me. "And then right as soon as things start to look great, just, boom! Coronavirus happens and everything is shut down."  Want to see Chelsea in action? Watch her competing at the BMX Freestyle Park World Cup in Japan last year. This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Make sure to check out the previous two episodes, about a high-risk NFL player's decision to participate in this year's season, and a Minor League Baseball player who's dealing with the fallout of a cancelled season and contract. 
30/09/2024m 1s

Game Changer: Whether To Play, And Protest, In The NFL

Shelby Harris uses inhalers daily to treat his asthma, and worries about what getting COVID would do to his lungs. But when he was given the choice to opt out of the 2020-21 NFL season, the Broncos defensive lineman—now on his seventh season in the NFL—knew he wouldn't take that path. "That could be the end of your career," Shelby told me. "It's just going to be young players that come in and perform, and that's how you get your spot taken."  Shelby is now getting tested for COVID almost daily, and wears a tracker while at NFL facilities to monitor whether he's exposed to anyone who tests positive. But his season looks different in other ways than he thought it would too—including the amount of money he's making, and the way he's protesting racism and police violence during games. Shelby is currently wearing Elijah McClain's name on his helmet, and as the National Anthem played during the Broncos home opener this year, Shelby took a knee for the first time since 2017. "I'm doing this because I need to be able to look my kids in the eye when I get older and told them I fought for them," Shelby said. "I want to figure out something that's actually going to make a change."  This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Look out for the next episode in the series on Wednesday. 
25/09/2023m 26s

Game Changer: A Minor League Pitcher's Lost Season

Mitch Horacek started the baseball pre-season in Florida, at minor league spring training for the Minnesota Twins. He'd just been signed by the team months before, after seven long years of playing on a low-paying contract for the Rockies. And he felt like it was going to be a big season. "I was probably slated for AAA baseball this year, which is the closest level to the big leagues," Mitch told me when we talked in August. "I do believe that if the season happened this year and I was pitching well right about now, and there was a spot open, it could have been my number that was called." But the minor league season didn't happen—it was cancelled this spring. Mitch wasn't invited to make his major league debut with the Twins, as he'd hoped. And rather than making the salary Mitch had negotiated with Twins—one that paid him much more than he'd been making for the past seven years—he ended up getting paid a weekly stipend that amounted to $400 a week before taxes. "It is something," he said. "But it's a long shot from what I was expecting."  This episode is part of our series Game Changer, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives and livelihoods of athletes. Look out for the next episode in the series on Friday. 
23/09/2024m 13s

How Maria Hinojosa Learned To Fluff Her Feathers

Maria Hinojosa is best known as the host of the public radio program Latino USA, a role she's occupied for over 25 years. But getting to that point in her career required navigating newsrooms at CBS, NPR, CNN, and PBS at a time where she was often the first and the only Latina journalist there. As she writes in her new memoir, Once I Was You, that meant having to walk with confidence and believing in her work when, she says, her mostly white colleagues didn't. But, as Maria told me, the confidence she built while working in media didn't totally translate to other parts of her life. "You know, my marriage almost broke up because of my ego," she said. And as her career became more successful, she told me about the times she says she didn't prioritize her husband and her kids, about the crisis point that led her to reevaluate her role in her relationship and as a mother, and about how, these days, she is practicing listening and self-love.
16/09/2026m 3s

A Broadway Actor Turned Stay-At-Home Dad

Last week, we released an episode about the many challenges of childcare in America right now. We talked with a childcare provider in Pittsburgh, Lesely Crawford, whose centers are currently open. And, we heard from a parent, Cara Moody, who’s depending on Lesely's daycare centers so she can go back to work.  But we’ve also heard from a lot of you who haven’t had access to childcare in recent months. And who have had to make big changes in the way you’re taking care of your kids. One of the people who wrote in to us is named Bill Army. He's a Broadway actor who lives in Queens, New York, and has two daughters. We're sharing his voice memo with you today, about the adjustments his family has made, and about the ways he's kept his kids connected with the world outside of their apartment.  Find more photos of Bill and his family at our Instagram page. Looking for our Pandemic Tool Kit? Click here.
11/09/204m 59s

Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor On Racism, Insecurity and Negotiation

"Through and through I'm a lawyer and a judge," says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "But my life experiences do permit me to see things that others may not." Before the Justice became a lawyer and a judge, she was a young woman growing up in the Nuyorican community in the South Bronx—just a few years behind Death, Sex & Money guest host Sonia Manzano, who also grew up there. The two didn't meet until a few years ago, but their childhoods had some similarities: Money was tight, their parents' relationships were troubled, and both of their fathers struggled with alcoholism. But unlike Sonia Manzano's father, who lived well into his 80s, the Justice's father died when she was nine years old. "I’ve often wondered if the outcome of my life would have been the same if my father had remained alive," the Justice says. "I think the absence of that constant battle made a big difference in my self-perceptions." Sonia asks the Justice about facing and overcoming insecurities throughout her life—including on her first day as a Supreme Court Justice. "Anyone presented with a new challenge has to always have that moment of insecurity, of not knowing whether they can do it," the Justice says. "I live with that. I've lived with it my entire life....The first day that I was on the bench was for the now quite famed case, Citizens United. And my knees were knocking even then. But what got me over that moment...was to become totally engaged in what was happening before me, and the knocking finally stopped without my realizing it."  This episode is part of our 2016 Great Guest Takeover series, when several past guests took a turn in the host chair during Anna's maternity leave. Check out Sonia Manzano's 2015 interview with Anna on Death, Sex & Money here.  To listen to our 2016 Other Americans call-in special, click here. And to add to and browse our Pandemic Tool Kit, click here. 
09/09/2035m 25s

Drop Off: A 24-Hour Daycare's Struggle To Stay Open

Lesely Crawford runs two daycare centers in Pittsburgh—both of which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. "It's like a hodgepodge of craziness," she told me, as she described their sleeping arrangements and what each age group of kids likes to do while they're there. "But it's so awesome when we have the whole space filled with everybody."   These days, though, Lesely's daycares are operating at less than half of the capacity that they normally do. Many families haven't returned, since the centers reopened to children of non-essential workers. There are additional costs, for things like thermometers and cleaning supplies. And in order to accommodate new families, Lesely needs to hire a few new employees—something that has proved difficult during the pandemic. "I don't know what we're gonna do," Lesely told me, when I asked about their financial situation. "I'm really giving it like six to eight months."  But for the essential and frontline workers who are sending their children to them, Lesely's daycares are providing a critical service. Cara Moody has sent her five-year-old son Colton there for the past two years, and depends on their evening and weekend hours while she works her shifts at a local restaurant. Especially now that her work hours are limited by the pandemic, she can't afford in-home care. "Even just having a babysitter come for a couple of hours is expensive and unreliable," she said. When I asked her what she would do if Lesely's daycare closed, she responded, "I have no idea."
02/09/2030m 37s

Books We Love: Inside The Bubble With Akwaeke Emezi

The third conversation in our "Books We Love" live Zoom series is with writer and artist Akwaeke Emezi. In the last two years, they've published three books: their critically-acclaimed debut, Freshwater; a young adult novel, Pet; and their newest novel, The Death of Vivek Oji. Their latest book tells the story of Vivek, a young gender-nonconforming person growing up in Nigeria, and how his loved ones grieve him and what they learn about him after his death. Akwaeke joined me on Zoom from their home in New Orleans to talk about their own childhood in Nigeria, why they now identify as "based in liminal spaces," gardening as a form of self-care, and how the act of dissociation has become a powerful tool for them.   You can watch the video of this live conversation here, thanks to our friends at The Greene Space. For the first two conversations in this series, you can watch or listen to Michael Arceneaux here, and watch or listen to Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman here. And be sure to check out Akwaeke's home on Instagram.  To find out about the next conversation in our series, and to get more recommendations from the Death, Sex & Money team, subscribe to our newsletter.
26/08/2056m 32s

"They Rely On Me": An Update From A USPS Mail Carrier

The United States Postal Service has been in the news a lot in the past week, as national anxiety rises about the upcoming presidential election, mail-in ballots, and the Postmaster General's recent cost-cutting changes to the mail system.  Our listener Beth is a mail carrier in rural Maine who first wrote to us back in March about being an essential worker, and her fears of contracting and spreading COVID-19 on her route. "I don't know if this virus is on the mail," she said then. "The packages, the mailboxes. I touch everything."  When we checked in with Beth more recently, she told us some of those fears have lessened for her. But now, she's facing new pandemic-related challenges at work, including childcare issues, and delivering a lot more packages. "I definitely run from my truck to a house to drop off a package and I run back to my truck and it's go, go, go, go, go all day long," she said, adding that because she gets paid a set rate for her rural route, "I get paid for 43 hours [per week] no matter what." Listen to our episode about essential workers, including Beth, from earlier this spring.   
19/08/2014m 17s

This Senator Saved My Love Life

You have to give it to some elected representatives—they really will respond to the letters you send. Or at least, Alan Simpson did when my boyfriend (now husband) Arthur sent a plea for help. We were in love, but I was a reporter in New York and he studied wildlife in Wyoming. I didn’t think it could work. He did. And he thought that if a U.S. Senator intervened, our relationship could turn around. That’s how I wound up in the kitchen of Alan and Ann Simpson, getting advice on maturity, commitment, and of course, sex. This episode originally aired in 2014.  Correction: During the Clarence Thomas hearings, Anita Hill testified that Thomas described porn movie scenes to her. They did not watch pornography together as former Sen. Alan Simpson said in our interview.
12/08/2026m 50s

What Keeps Wendell Pierce Up At Night

Before the pandemic hit, actor Wendell Pierce was jetsetting around the world, filming scenes for the Amazon series Jack Ryan and starring in a London production of Death of a Salesman. But in March, as the realities of the pandemic set in, he decided to head back to his hometown of New Orleans, where his 95-year-old father still lives in Wendell's childhood home. "I'm going to look on the bright side and say, this is an opportunity to spend this time with my dad," Wendell told me. "I was raised to believe that family is the greatest connection to your past and most likely to be there for you in the future." Wendell worked hard to get his parents back into the home where they raised him and his brothers after it was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "My goal was to get them home before they died," he said. "They were in their seventies, eighties, and I said, I'm going to get you home." Wendell achieved that goal, and his mother was able to spend the last few years of her life living there before her death in 2012. Wendell told me he's been thinking about his mom a lot, as he's been pondering whether or not to have children. "We had conversations about this. She would always say, 'Oh, by the time you have kids, you're going to be too old!'" he told me. "I love my mother so much and I respect her opinion so much. And I trust her opinion so much that it's her voice that echoes in my head saying, 'Oh, you do not know that joy you're missing out on of having a child.'" Are you a new listener? Welcome! Check out our starter kit, which includes some of our favorite episodes of the show. It includes profiles of people like Bill Withers and Ellen Burstyn, stories about how race and class come up in our relationships, and some of our past series — like In New Orleans, which profiled five people who lived in the city during and after Hurricane Katrina. 
05/08/2031m 17s

Rent Is Due Tomorrow

Today is July 31st—which means that for many of us, rent is due tomorrow. But we know from watching recent data that a lot of people won't be able to pay by that deadline. According to a recent survey, nearly a third of Americans were late on their housing payments in July—or missed them altogether. And other research suggests that as many as 23 million renting families are at risk of losing their housing by October. That's 20% of all renters in the U.S.  So if you’re worrying about how and if you're going to be able to stay in your place, we want to hear from you. If you’re managing to make rent, but it’s tight, what tradeoffs are you making to be able to pay? And if you think you might need to leave your place because of money, where do you think you might go? Tell us what’s going on for you by the end of the weekend. Record a voice memo and send it to us by Sunday night, at
31/07/201m 30s

Books We Love: A Big Conversation About "Big Friendship"

The second conversation from our "Books We Love" live Zoom series is with authors and longtime friends Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. They're the co-hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, and authors of the book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close. The book tells the story of the first decade of their friendship, and also shares expert advice from other close friends and researchers on how to prioritize and maintain friendships as adults. A couple of weeks ago, on the day their book was released, Aminatou and Ann joined me on Zoom from New York and Los Angeles to talk about the ups and downs of their (mostly) long-distance friendship. Plus, they gave our listeners and viewers advice on their biggest friendship dilemmas and questions.   You can watch the video of this live conversation here, thanks to our friends at The Greene Space. For the first conversation in this series with Michael Arceneaux, you can watch it here or listen to it here. And to find out about the next conversation in our series, and to get more recommendations from the Death, Sex & Money team, subscribe to our newsletter.
29/07/201h 8m

How Bobby Berk Became A Boss

When Bobby Berk left his deeply religious home in rural Missouri at 15 years old, it meant dropping out of high school and figuring out how to pay for everything on his own. "I lived in my car, I lived in people's basements on their sofas, you know, couch surfing," he told me. "At one point I was working three jobs." But he says it wasn't until much later in life, when he'd become successful in business, that he started telling the truth about his early adulthood. "I used to lie and say I went to college," he said. "I would lie about it for employment applications and to people, because I was horribly ashamed."  Bobby now is one of the stars on Netflix's Queer Eye reboot, and over the past two decades he built his own interior design brand. But he says it's only recently became possible for him and his husband, Dewey, to buy their first home, and despite how much is in his bank account, he still thinks of himself as "poor." "I don't want to think of myself as wealthy," he told me. "I don't want my world to revolve around money." 
22/07/2029m 57s

A Widow’s Guide To Grieving

Five years ago, Leslie Gray Streeter's husband, Scott, had a heart attack and died. And in the immediate aftermath of losing her husband, who was just 44 years old, she says she found herself being hyper-aware of how she was performing her grief. "I remember hearing myself saying the words, 'So he's gone then,'" Leslie told me, about the moment doctors let her know that Scott had died. "And I also remember thinking...'I wonder if I sound - is that what you should say? Is that a normal thing to say?" Leslie chronicles all of this in her new book, "Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like Journey in the Title." And, she told me, part of that journey has been dealing with her anger at "everything and everybody," including her husband. "My therapist told me that it was okay to be mad at him for dying whether or not it's rational," she told me. "Even though I know that he never in a million years would he have chosen not to be with us, and it's really not fair that he's not...he's not. So [laughs]. And...I'm pissed."    Looking for more Death, Sex & Money conversations about grief and loss? Check out our playlist. Loading...
15/07/2027m 39s

Books We Love: Michael Arceneaux’s “I Don’t Want To Die Poor”

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.
10/07/2051m 25s

What Money Can't Solve

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. 
08/07/2030m 10s

Skin Hunger: Part 2

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.
01/07/2029m 3s

Skin Hunger: Part 1

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.
29/06/2024m 27s

When Six Feet Isn't An Option

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.  
24/06/2025m 55s

An Essential Worker, Going Back In

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. 
17/06/2030m 55s

I Love You, But There's This Money Thing...

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.
10/06/2027m 38s

"This Has Been A Long Time Coming."

"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
05/06/2021m 47s

Financial Therapy: How Much Should I Help My Family?

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 Find the entire series at We'd also love to know what you thought of this series. Give us your feedback at 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.
03/06/2031m 48s

What Do You Need To Say Right Now?

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 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. 
01/06/201m 36s

Financial Therapy: Why Did I Take That Risk?

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 Find the entire series at 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.
27/05/2028m 37s

Financial Therapy: What Is Our Savings For?

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 Find the entire series at 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.
20/05/2028m 14s

Financial Therapy: Meet Amanda Clayman

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. 
18/05/2014m 59s

Madeleine Albright On Ambition and Obsoleteness

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." 
13/05/2033m 12s

What Is A "Good Death" During A Pandemic?

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 
08/05/204m 6s

Samantha Irby Is Prepared To Gracefully Bow Out

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. 
06/05/2032m 3s

Student Loans And The Pandemic: Your Questions, Answered

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. 
27/04/2025m 6s

They Were Managing Their OCD. Then Came The Pandemic.

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.          
22/04/2029m 19s

An Immunocompromised Love Story

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. 
15/04/2032m 21s

A Weekend Homework Assignment From Tayari Jones

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 Tayari Jones first joined us on the show in 2018 and returned in 2019 to interview Carrie Mae Weems for our Maternity Leave Lineup.  
10/04/209m 9s

Goodbye, John Prine

"I get these thoughts, and I like to make them into songs. They might sound odd at the time, but then people connect to them throughout their life," John Prine told me when we talked together in 2018. "And it turns out I’m doing something that may resemble something solid." There was no one like him. We will miss him. He leaves a legacy of incredible songs, and of loving well. "You got gold inside of you," he wrote in one of my favorite love songs of his. "Well, I got gold inside me too."  
07/04/2023m 20s

"Nobody Comes Here To Hide": Remembering Bill Withers

When I spoke with songwriting legend Bill Withers for the very first episode of Death, Sex & Money, we talked about what it is to be a man. He told me it might not be manly to say "I'm scared," but that being a man isn't about ignoring fear. "To me, courage is not not being afraid," he told me. "It's what you do in spite of being afraid." Bill Withers died this week, at the age of 81. At the end of our conversation, I asked him about what he was proud of, looking back at his life. He told me, "I could have done better but I did alright. That's the way I look at it." And he added, "The best advice anybody ever gave me was very simple: go make something out of yourself. So we do the best we can with that. But the whole goal of this is to try to make yourself interesting because nobody comes here to hide." 
03/04/2022m 47s

"We Are The Glue": Stories From Essential Workers

A few weeks back, we created a Pandemic Tool Kit for those of us who are staying home during the COVID-19 crisis. But we also wanted to hear from those of you who can't stay home right now because your jobs have been deemed essential—about what's on your mind right now, and what's helping you cope. So we asked essential workers to record voice memos and send them in. We heard from so many of you—from postal workers to flight attendants to nurses to grocery store employees. Some of you told us that this scenario is what you've always trained for. But others of you told us that you never imagined yourself on the frontlines of a health crisis. As listener Randi put it, "I don’t think I thought about myself as an essential worker until this moment, and now I realize how much we’re part of the glue of the community."  We also are thinking about those of you who are suddenly out of work. Or, who may have a paycheck now but you’re not sure how long it will last. If you are in financial flux right now, tell us what’s going on at
01/04/2024m 32s

A Surgical Nurse On Being Essential

A few days ago we asked to hear from those of you who are essential workers—those of you who can’t stay home right now. We wanted to know what you are thinking about, and what’s helping you. And since then, so many of you have written in—thank you. We're working now on an episode that represents the range of workers we heard from that’ll come out later this week.  But today, we wanted to share just one of those voice memos that came in, from a listener named Jennifer. She's a nurse in Ohio, and the mom of six kids. And we loved taking this walk with her in the woods. 
30/03/205m 6s

If You Can't Isolate, What Do You Need?

Over the last week, we've loved watching many of you use our Pandemic Tool Kit and learning how you're coping with social distancing. But not all of us have the ability to stay home right now. A listener named Mary, who is a nurse in upstate New York, emailed us this week and told us that she's looking for whole different kind of tool kit. Like many other essential workers (healthcare workers, grocers, delivery workers, janitors, warehouse workers, trash collectors and more), Mary is at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and wants to know how people like her are coping right now. So this weekend, we're asking essential workers: What’s on your mind right now? and What’s helping you? And for those of you that have loved ones who are essential workers, we're asking you to do something nice for them, and tell us about how great they are. Record a voice memo and send it to by Monday morning.
27/03/202m 45s

Confessions of a Nashville Power Couple

In 2014, I talked with musicians Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires⁠ when they were a year into marriage, and two years into Jason's sobriety. But their new life didn't come without its challenges. Jason was learning how to be a feminist husband, and Amanda was figuring out where her own career fit in amid his success and their plans to raise a family.  Hear our conversation about love, liquor, trust, and staying connected when everything in your life is changing. Jason and Amanda have joined us on Death, Sex & Money a few times since this conversation:  Live from the Internet: Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires & You: The couple took listener calls along with Anna about relationships, faith and music.  Jason Isbell & Will Welch: Somebody Needs Me: Jason guest hosts Death, Sex & Money, and talks with his best friend and GQ Editor in Chief Will Welch about sobriety and mental health.  What Rockstars And Sober People Already Know About Quarantine: Jason talks with Anna from his home in Nashville during the COVID-19 pandemic, about how coming on and off of tours has helped prepare him for sobriety in quarantine, and about the music he and Amanda are listening to right now. 
26/03/2029m 20s

What Rockstars And Sober People Already Know About Quarantine

As social distancing becomes the new normal for all of us, it's affecting us in different ways. For a listener we're calling Chloe—who stopped drinking a year and a half ago—it's impacting the way she maintains her sobriety. "For me personally, it's really balancing my extreme fear of isolation...with my concern about spreading a virus that can turn fatal," she told us about weighing the decision to attend in-person AA meetings versus staying home. "Which one do I prioritize? And it's really hard." Last week, I called her from my makeshift studio in my closet and talked with her about where she's finding support today—and about the lessons she's applying to life in quarantine that she learned during her early days in recovery. Plus, I call up musician Jason Isbell, to talk about what he's learned about his sobriety while transitioning on and off the road, and to hear about the music he and his family are listening to at home right now.  Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires first appeared on Death, Sex & Money in a 2014 episode, Confessions of a Nashville Power Couple. Since then, the couple hosted a live call with listeners in 2017 and Jason guest-hosted one of our 2019 Maternity Leave Lineup episodes.  We've also made you a Spotify playlist with all the songs Jason and Amanda are listening to during their self-quarantine. Enjoy!      
25/03/2025m 46s

We Made A Pandemic Tool Kit

In the past, we've created collaborative spreadsheets with your suggestions for getting through traumatic life events like breakups and pregnancy loss. So when one of our listeners suggested we make another one for the current pandemic we find ourselves living through—we got to work. This week, you've been helping us fill up our Pandemic Tool Kit with suggested things to read, listen to, watch, think about, and more. You've added suggestions about everything from watching meditation videos and making nachos to hosting singalongs and donating to service workers. So this weekend, we want to challenge you to check it out, add ideas to it—and give something in the tool kit a try. Tell us how it goes. Send in your field reports from your activities—pictures, voices memos, emails—to by Monday morning. We’ll share some of them in our newsletter, which we're sending out a few times a week now. You can subscribe at
20/03/201m 55s

Ben Sinclair Is A Fan Of Endings

For fans of the HBO series High Maintenance, Ben Sinclair is practically synonymous with “The Guy,” the laid-back New York City weed dealer he plays on the show. And while a lot of the show is inspired by Ben and his co-creator and ex-wife Katja Blichfeld's personal life experiences, these days, Ben's trying to separate himself from some of his character's most well-known attributes. "I'm starting to grow out of smoking weed," he told me. "I feel joy at the anticipation of getting stoned, but once I'm stoned, I'm like, ugh, why did I do this?" Ben talked with me about his childhood in an Arizona suburb, struggling in New York in his 20s, what he learned from his divorce, and what he's turning to now that he's smoking less.  If you're new to High Maintenance, here are five of my favorite episodes. I only picked from the last four seasons of HBO for ease in finding, but the whole web series is amazing, which you can find here. "Dongle" (Season 3, Episode 7): A Puerto Rican man who just arrived in New York starts work on a road crew and starts a flirtation with his bodega guy. "Googie" (Season 2, Episode 6): The Guy is recovering at home after a bike injury, and after smoking a lot of pot and streaming a lot of television, he goes out for a walk. "M.A.S.H." (Season 3, Episode 1): A wake brings together a collection of people in upstate New York, who join together in an inspired music jam.  "Adelante" (Season 4, Episode 6): An encounter with ex in an Uber pool, and a dental hygienist goes on a date with a patient and then returns to her home in the Bronx. "Scromple" (Season 2, Episode 5): The Guy and his ex-wife run into each other in a hospital.
18/03/2026m 3s

Alone Together: A COVID-19 Call-In

Over the last few weeks and days, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reshaped many of our lives. For some of us, we're working from home, our kids aren't in school, and we're worried about our own health, or the health of our elderly and immunocompromised friends and loved ones. Right now, it's not clear if or when things will feel normal again. We wanted to know how you all are coping right now, so I took your calls along with Kai Wright, host of WNYC Studios' The United States of Anxiety. We heard from those of you who have had to cancel major plans; who are navigating dating in the midst of a pandemic; who are balancing working from home with childcare; and who are living abroad far from family and friends. We even got some home cooking tips from Samin Nosrat, writer, chef and host of the Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.  We’ve also pulled together some resources and articles that we've found helpful and soothing. And as we all move through this together, we're going to be in touch more often. If you're not already subscribed to our newsletter, sign up now. We'll be reaching out a few times as week, and hope that you'll write to us too. Our inbox is at 
13/03/201h 15m

Why You're Not Having Sex

A 34-year-old listener we’ll call “Marie” emailed us back in 2015. She’d never dated anyone seriously. She'd never been kissed, and she'd never had sex. She wasn't opposed to any of those things. They just hadn't happened for her yet. And she worried that if she told a potential partner about her sexual inexperience, he'd walk away.  Many of us aren’t having sex, for all kinds of reasons. When we asked you why you're not having sex, you told us about abstaining for religious reasons, or because of lingering fears based on what you learned (or didn’t learn) about sex growing up. We heard about not having sex because it hurts too much, or because you could hurt someone else by doing it. Some of you aren't having sex because you can't find the right partner or keep running into narrow societal standards about what’s “attractive.” We heard from people in relationships, too, like a couple who can't agree on how much sex is enough—so they're not really having any. And a man who says everyone thinks his life is full of three-ways and orgies because he lives with his wife and their girlfriend. But in reality, he says they're not having sex at all.  When we asked for your stories about why you’re not having sex, you also told us that not having sex can be really difficult to talk about. But by talking about it, what becomes clear is that our idea of what's "normal" might in fact be a myth. 
11/03/2035m 15s

Sugar Babies Cost Me $8,000 And My Marriage

A few months ago, a listener we're calling Ethan sent us an email. The subject line was: "Sugar babies cost me $8,000 and my marriage."  Ethan told us that he hired sex workers from the website Seeking Arrangement for over a year, while also going to couples counseling with his wife as their marriage struggled. "My justification for it initially was, you know, I'm going to have a good time so that I can have more energy to try and fix my marriage," he told me. "'Cause I think, you know, when I first went on to Seeking Arrangement, I was exhausted. But I wasn't ready to give up on the marriage yet."  Ethan says he started going on Seeking Arrangement after hearing more about it on our show, from our episode "When 'Daddy Dates' Pay The Bills." And while we aren't proud that this story of the end of a marriage includes our show as a key plot point, we wanted to hear more about why Ethan decided to cheat⁠—and to understand what hard conversations he was trying to avoid. 
04/03/2031m 57s

Maria Bamford Didn't Wait For It To Be Perfect

When comedian Maria Bamford moved to LA in her early 20s, she struggled to cover her food and rent as she was breaking into the comedy world. "Although I had a college degree, I just did not know how to get and keep a full time job, much less a part time job," she told me. When an unexpected medical bill landed her in debt, she almost moved home to Minnesota—but found the support she needed from a money-oriented 12-step program. She eventually held down a job working as a secretary at an animation studio, which led to her getting voiceover work—and, importantly, health insurance through the Screen Actors Guild.  Since then, Maria has developed a signature brand of comedy that leans into her mental health struggles, the quirky characters in her family and the anxieties of everyday life. I talk with her about the unconventional way she learned to manage money, her memories of psychiatric hospitalization, and how she's working on having better arguments with her husband.  Maria's new comedy special is called Weakness Is The Brand. Listen to this This American Life episode to hear more about the Gottmans, the husband and wife psychologists Maria has turned to for marriage advice.   If you or someone you love is at risk of suicide, please go to to find resources and someone to talk to. 
26/02/2029m 10s

Cancer Changed Ken Jeong's Comedy

Ken Jeong described his role as Mr. Chow in the 2009 blockbuster The Hangover as "the most obscene love letter to a spouse one could ever have.” He peppered his dialogue with bits of Vietnamese as an inside joke with his wife Tran.  Ken met his wife while they were both practicing medicine at the same hospital in Los Angeles. Ken had always done comedy on the side, even performing midnight stand-up while he was working long hours during his residency. But after he and Tran married, he quit medicine to pursue acting full-time. Then, a year later, Tran was diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. At the time, they had young twins, and Ken had just gotten an offer to play an Asian mobster in a Las Vegas buddy movie — the role that would be his big break. Tran encouraged him to take the part. "You're kind of burning out right now," she told him. So he channeled his anger about her illness into his character's comedic rage.  Back in 2015, he talked to me about raising a family in the shadow of cancer, and how his careers in comedy and medicine converged in unexpected ways.
19/02/2023m 34s

No Slumping With Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp's mother first put her in dance classes when she was a child living in Southern California. "I've always been highly programmed," Twyla told me. But when she got to New York and realized her ballet skills weren't "top drawer," she decided to dig into modern dance and began studying with legendary dancers like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. "I said to myself, 'Well, okay, Merce does great what he does, and Martha does great what she does, but I don't want to do what they do,'" she said. "And I think ultimately that's how I became my own dancing person."In the six decades since, she's done exactly that—and she's not done yet. Now 78, Twyla joined me from our studio in New York to talk about the start of her prolific career back in the mid-60s, the logistics of raising her son as a single parent while touring internationally, and how now, at 78, she's learning to deal with new physical limitations. Here is an excerpt of Twyla's first work, Tank Dive (1965): And here is a bit of The Golden Section (1983): You can check out more of Twyla's work on her website.  Looking for our Valentine's Day project? Go here!
12/02/2029m 31s

Carmen Maria Machado Is Using The Word 'Abusive'

When author Carmen Maria Machado was in her mid-20s, she had her first relationship with a woman. She was in graduate school at the time, and in the beginning, her ex made her feel special. "I just wanted somebody to like, look at me and be like, 'I want you,' you know? And that's exactly what she did," she told me. While Carmen says the relationship quickly became abusive, she was only able to start describing it that way once their relationship ended. Carmen went on to chronicle this relationship and how she deals with its aftermath in her new, critically-acclaimed memoir In the Dream House. She sat down with me to talk about coming to terms with the relationship, and complicating common narratives around abuse. You can find the fact sheet Carmen mentioned in the episode here. It was put together by Hyejin Shim and Graywolf Press specifically for queer survivors of abuse, but it offers insights and resources that are useful for everyone.
05/02/2032m 50s

Who Are Your 'Quick And Deep' Friends?

Last week, we partnered with the NPR podcast Code Switch to bring you two episodes all about race and friendship. If you haven’t heard those episodes yet, definitely go back, and take a listen to those first.  As part of that project, we also put out a survey about how race has factored into your friendships. More than 1,000 of you have taken it so far, and we’ve gotten some really interesting responses. And we’ve also heard from some of you that taking the survey felt...ill-fitting; that answering questions about the number of friends you have outside of your race feels like an experience designed for white people.  We wanted to talk through some of this with Dr. Deborah Plummer. She's a psychologist and professor, who’s studied cross-racial friendships and helped us create our race and friendship survey. Her latest book is called “Some of My Friends Are…: The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits of Cross-Racial Friendships.” 
29/01/2013m 43s

Ask Code Switch: What About Your Friends?

We're thinking about race and friendship on the show this week. Yesterday, we brought you stories about the moments when race became a flashpoint in your friendships. And today, we're excited to share a partner episode from NPR's Code Switch podcast—it includes expert perspectives on why our friend groups tend to be made up of people who look like us, and advice for their listeners about the uncomfortable racial dynamics they’ve encountered in their own friendships.  If you missed our episode featuring your stories about the moments race became a flashpoint in a friendship—and what happened next—head over to While you're there, take our survey to think more closely about how race plays into your own friendships, and learn how your responses compare to national averages.
23/01/2049m 53s

Between Friends: Your Stories About Race and Friendship

A text message gone wrong. A bachelorette party exclusion. A racist comment during the 2016 debates. When we asked you all about moments when race became a flashpoint in your friendships, we heard about awkward, funny, and deeply painful moments. "The fact that she could drop me so easily really stung," one listener, Ashley, told us about a childhood friendship that suddenly ended because her friend's parents didn't want her "hanging out with black kids." Another listener, who we're calling Kathleen, wrote in about the regret she felt about not confronting an ex-friend who posted a racist comment on Facebook. "I don't know if I could have changed her mind," she told us. "But at least [I could have] let her know that what I thought was so wrong about what she was saying, instead of just quietly clicking 'unfriend.'"  Today, we're sharing your stories about how race, identity, and racism have impacted your friendships. And listen to the episode from our partners at the NPR podcast Code Switch, featuring expert advice on navigating those flashpoint moments around race—and explaining why it's so hard to make, and maintain, cross-racial friendships. Take our survey about race and friendship here. Afterward, see how other people answered the survey questions, and get our list of recommended reading on race and friendship.  Click here to read a transcript of the episode.
22/01/2047m 42s

Inside Planned Parenthood

The first thing that greets you when you step off the elevator at the Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn is a metal detector. "I didn’t necessarily expect it," a first-time patient told me. "But as soon as I saw it I was like, 'Oh yeah, that’s right, that makes sense.'"  Many Planned Parenthood clinics across the country rely on security measures like these. The services provided by these clinics—specifically, abortions—have long been at the center of a raging political debate in the U.S. But it's not very often that we hear from the people who rely on these clinics for health care.  Over a number of days in late 2015 and early 2016, we collected interviews at the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Brooklyn. Patients volunteered to talk with us while they were waiting for their appointments. They were there for STI tests, pap smears, birth control prescriptions—no one seeking an abortion talked with me on the days we were there. But for many of the people I met, abortion was an important part of their history with Planned Parenthood.  "Here it was just very reassuring," a patient named Sarah, who was at the clinic for her annual exam, told me about her abortion three years ago at Planned Parenthood. "No one wants to do it, but life, you know, happens." We also talked with some of the abortion protesters who stand outside the clinic every Saturday, rain or shine. And I interviewed several staff members and volunteers at Planned Parenthood—like Rhea, who greets patients as they walk in the door downstairs. "If you’re wondering if this is the right choice and you’re there and you’ve made the appointment and you’ve been thinking and you’re like, crossing the line...somebody being a jerk to you could totally just melt you down," she told me. "Or, somebody with a smile and somebody who holds your hand, could just make you feel calm and make you feel good. At a time where maybe you don’t feel good."    We originally released this episode in 2016. Since then, there’s been a big change in how Planned Parenthood pays for that care. The Trump administration banned clinics from receiving Title X federal funding--money that covers things like STI treatment, cancer screenings and contraception for low-income patients, if those clinics also provide abortion counseling (with a few narrow exceptions). In response, Planned Parenthood stopped taking those funds altogether.
08/01/2027m 59s

Saeed Jones's New Year's Determinations

When I talked to writer Saeed Jones, he told me about his late mother, Carol Sweet-Jones, and how she always made New Year's "determinations"—not "resolutions." He recently wrote about the differences between the two in an essay called We Are A Determined Household, and about what he learned from years of watching his mom "summon her determination like clockwork." This week, Saeed reads that essay for us. And we want to hear your New Years determinations, too! Record a voice memo telling us what you want from 2020, and send it to us at We'll share them back with the entire Death, Sex & Money community soon, so we can all get a little inspiration from each other. Want more Saeed? Subscribe to his newsletter, The Intelligence of Honey, where this essay was originally published. And be sure to check out his memoir, "How We Fight For Our Lives," which was one of our favorite books of 2019.  
01/01/206m 48s

Death, Sex & Money's 2019 Year End Spectacular

We put 46 episodes of Death, Sex & Money in your podcast feeds in 2019. We talked together about everything from STIs and drinking to stillbirth and big workplace transitions. Today, the team gathers together to share our favorite on- and off-the-air moments from the year that was, from the tape that stuck with getting stuck in tapings.  We're able to do the work we do because of your support! If you want to help our show grow in 2020, please consider supporting Death, Sex & Money with a donation. The first 250 people to give at any amount during the month of December will receive a limited-edition Maternity Leave Lineup poster, signed by Anna. Thank you!  
25/12/1931m 17s

Liz Phair's Rebellious Streak Works For Her

In 1994, musician Liz Phair was 27, fresh off the runaway success of her albums Exile In Guyville and Whipsmart, and on on the cover of Rolling Stone under the headline "A Rock And Roll Star Is Born." And she was miserable. In her new book, Horror Stories, she writes about the uncertainty and the restlessness of that time in her life. And in our conversation, she tells me that her decision to then get married and "retreat into domesticity" at that point seems, in hindsight, like an overcorrection. "I was trying to pull back into a self that I recognized," she says. "And I just pulled back too far." Today, she tells me about cheating in that marriage as a way of finding herself again, and how years later, finding herself on the other side of a betrayal helped her feel like the karmic score had been settled. Thanks to Random House for making a chapter of Liz's memoir Horror Stories available for us to share with you. Click here to read it. We've also built a Spotify playlist of our favorite Liz Phair songs. You can find it here. "Customer Experience" excerpted from Horror Stories by Liz Phair Copyright © 2019 by Liz Phair. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
18/12/1927m 48s

The Children Of Heart Mountain

The Heart Mountain Pilgrimage⁠ is an annual reunion for Japanese Americans who were imprisoned at Heart Mountain, a WWII incarceration camp in Wyoming, and their families. "I haven’t been back here since we used to live here," a woman named Esther Abe told me, as we got off a bus together outside the museum that now stands on the grounds. "Something happened that I didn't expect. I saw that Heart Mountain, and I kind of choked up."  The people at this gathering who once lived here are now in their 80s and 90s⁠, but they were young children during their time at Heart Mountain. "It sounds idiotic, but as a kid, there was no fear," another former incarceree Shig Yabu told me. "We didn't think about all the barbed wires. We wanted excitement." I heard about a range of emotional experiences when I talked with the descendants of former incarcerees—including anger. "I have been angry and I probably still am," said Shirley Ann Higuchi, whose parents were both imprisoned at Heart Mountain. Shirley told me how she learned new details about her mother's experience at Heart Mountain after she died in 2005. "I think the Japanese culture is very complicated. I think there's sort of something there where you need permission to speak, or need permission to talk out on things," she told me. "I think in reality [my mother] was angrier than I was, but she just suppressed it and managed it differently."
11/12/1933m 33s

Cheating Happens

People cheat. But they don't often talk about the aftermath, and how they and their partners decide what comes next. When I asked you to send in your stories about infidelity, I heard from so many of you. Listener Sasha* told us about how she suspected that her partner of five years was having an affair -- and later, after they broke up, discovered that he had been been posting online ads for casual sex throughout their relationship. Andy in Connecticut remembered being a 12-year-old trying to convince his father not to cheat on a girlfriend. Joe* in Texas talked about having a relationship with a married woman as a single man, and the feeling of being a sideshow to the main event. Listener Chrystal* began her email to us about the cheating in her relationship: "Spoiler alert: we made it."  Numbers about cheating vary from study to study, but indicate that 20 to 40 percent of straight married men and 20 to 25 percent of straight married women venture outside their marriages. When Dan Savage joined us on the show in 2014, he put that number even higher, at 50 percent of women and men in long-term relationships.  In this episode, you'll hear from men and women who've cheated and been cheated on. Nobody's proud of it. But we learned that when a secret affair is revealed, it’s a moment for us to finally and fully be honest about what was missing from a relationship, and what’s worth saving. *Name changed for privacy reasons 
04/12/1941m 39s

Anne Lamott: Death Sucks, And It's Holy

I recently joined writer Anne Lamott on stage in San Francisco at the Reimagine End of Life festival. Anne's written a lot over her 40-year career about death and grief, as well as about addiction, recovery, and parenthood. We talked about what it means to be sensitive, how to sit with someone in hospice, and whether Anne was thinking about death when she recently decided to marry for the first time at age 65.
27/11/1922m 44s

Hasan Minhaj's Honest Mistakes

Hasan Minhaj started doing stand-up sets during college, drawn to comedy by its "radical honesty." "I remember seeing Chris Rock's [special] Never Scared, and I remember him talking about George W. Bush, politics," he told me. "I worked at Safeway at the time...bagging groceries and stuff. Like, I can't talk about this at Safeway, I'll get fired. And that is what I loved about it." But as Hasan was experimenting with being radically honest on stage about everything from his family to his political beliefs, he says he was being less honest in his personal life. After moving to Los Angeles post-graduation, he says he started lying to his parents, and to his then-girlfriend, Beena, about a lot of things. Even though he's worked to repair those relationships, Hasan says it can still be tricky to navigate honesty, both on stage and off. On his Netflix show, Patriot Act, Hasan has taken on controversial topics like the elections in India or the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia's involvement in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But sharing his honest opinions on stage can come with serious personal ramifications. "I have a duty to my loved ones and to my family too," he told me. "And figuring out that has been the new challenge for me."
20/11/1931m 54s

Who's Driving Your Uber?

I’ve learned a lot about the Bay Area from Uber drivers since I moved here a few years ago. Some of them are relatively new arrivals, like me, but others have watched the region change dramatically over the last few years. When I'm stuck in a car with a stranger at the wheel, I've been surprised by how personal conversations can get.  So in 2017, producer Katie Bishop and I took our microphones and recording gear along on a bunch of Uber rides all around the Bay Area. The company has been in the news a lot, but we set out to learn more about the drivers and what keeps them on the road. We talked about money, competition from other drivers and how they spend their long hours driving and waiting for rides. They also told us about domestic violence, grave plot sales, and the long ripples of the financial crisis. And we heard why one Pakistani driver has decided it's better to not talk to his passengers. Today, we're bringing you those conversations again.
13/11/1928m 24s

A Former Debt Collector's Unpaid Bills

When Angela first started working at a debt collection agency, she says she barely understood what her job was. "I was so completely awestruck that people didn't pay their bills," she told me. "I thought this was going to be really easy. Honestly, I don't even know how I kept the job the first couple of weeks."  It wasn't easy. But Angela finally did start getting consumers to pay, and worked her way up in the industry. And then, 15 years into her career, she and several colleagues were sued for illegal debt collection practices by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General. Angela eventually settled, and as part of the agreement was banned from the industry for life and ordered to pay $4.4 million⁠. She says she's not sure she'll ever pay that off.  Now, Angela also has medical debt that's gone to collections. At first, she says she would pick up the phone when collectors called, just to critique them. "Now I just block the number and move on," she told me. "I will eventually get them paid off and until I can, there is no point in wasting their time."  If you're getting calls from debt collectors who you think might be breaking the law, find out how to contact your state's consumer protection office here. 
06/11/1931m 29s

When Breast Cancer Pauses Life At 35

Kate Pickert was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A longtime healthcare policy reporter, she understood a lot about medicine and the healthcare industry. But even with all that insight, Kate wasn't prepared for what the experience of being a cancer patient could be like. So, she started researching⁠—and found that the book she wanted to read, about the history of breast cancer and the way we treat it, wasn't out there. "The fact that this book didn't exist and women didn't know this story is like...something went wrong," Kate told me. So she decided to write it, and included some of her own experiences too. The resulting book is called Radical: The Science, Culture and History of Breast Cancer in America. Kate talked with me about the choices—both expected and unexpected—that she made to maintain a sense of normalcy in her life during her treatment, including not telling her young daughter about her illness, and paying extra to keep her hair. And we talk about the trauma of her shock at her initial diagnosis—and why she still thinks about her breast cancer coming back at least once a day. 
30/10/1930m 3s

Scattered: The Camp

About a year ago, we put out an episode that was actually a pilot of another show, by comedian Chris Garcia. It was his story about grieving his father's death from Alzheimer's, along with a conversation he had with fellow comedian Karen Kilgariff about her mother's death from Alzheimer's. We called that episode “Alzheimer's and the World's Saddest Comedy Club.”  At the time, we asked for your feedback about the pilot. And thanks in part to your enthusiastic response, that pilot has become a new podcast from WNYC Studios. The new show is called Scattered. In it, Chris explores his father's illness and death, but he also goes deeper into his father's Cuban roots, a history Chris can no longer ask his father about.  So we wanted to share some of that new show with you. This is episode two, called The Camp, where you'll hear about Chris's father's life before he left Cuba, when he was forced to work in a labor camp because he wanted to leave for the U.S. 
23/10/1927m 12s

Saeed Jones Talks About Sex. And Death. And Money.

Saeed Jones' mother, Carol Sweet-Jones, died in 2011—six years after he came out to her over the phone from his college dorm room in Kentucky. They were close, but when Saeed walked into her hospital room the day after she had the heart attack that would end her life, he says he barely recognized her. "My mom was always very - she was very beautiful. She was elegant, chic," he told me. "And that was not the woman I saw in that bed." Saeed was raised by his mother in Texas, where he recognized early that he was gay, but was afraid to be open about it. He writes about the complicated and sometimes lonely sexual experiences he had with other men during his teenage years in his new memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives—and about dealing with the aftermath of his mom's death as an only child. I talked with him from Columbus, Ohio, where he recently moved, and even more recently turned on his dating apps. 
16/10/1932m 37s

The Student Loan Nerd Helping Borrowers One Email At A Time

A few years ago, Betsy Mayotte stumbled upon the student loan subreddit—a section on Reddit where users ask each other questions about student loan debt. "I can't afford to pay. What should I do? I'm in default. What should I do? I'm trying to see if I qualify for forgiveness program, my servicer told me this, is this right?," Betsy remembers reading. "It took me aback that these borrowers⁠—and a lot of them⁠—were so desperate for help that they were willing to ask strangers on the internet that they had no idea what their credentials were."  At the time, Betsy was working at American Student Assistance⁠, a non-profit guarantor for the federal student loan system. But after recognizing that borrowers desperately need advice about managing their student loans—and can't always turn to their loan servicers for reliable help—she left and started a non-profit called TISLA, or The Institute for Student Loan Advisors. In addition to advocating for student loan reform, she now spends much of her time answering individual borrowers' emailed questions. "I've had to make myself close down my email at night and not open it until I've done human being things in the morning, like take a shower," she laughs.  We also shared with Betsy some of the questions we received from you about student loan debt. Hear her take on whether Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is going away, how to track down all of your loans, and what to do if think you're being scammed. 
02/10/1929m 13s

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 2

Nathan realized he couldn't pay his rent and his monthly student loan payments. Beth* collapsed in tears while doing yoga because she couldn't stop worrying about money. Jordan set a calendar reminder to force herself to finally make her first payment.  In 2017, hundreds of you wrote in to tell us about how you're feeling about student loans, especially the mix of frustration and shame you feel about it. But we also heard stories of turning points—when something changed that redefined your relationship with your student loans.  For Beth, that meant radically changing her spending and allotting close to half of her taxable income toward student loan payments. Nathan converted a van into a mobile apartment to save on rent while he chips away at his $200,000 debt. And Jordan, after first telling me how she's dodged her student loans for two years, finally set up regular monthly payments.  "It started becoming something that was consequential but inconsequential at the same time. Something that can be controlled and doesn't control me," a listener named Krista said about finally getting help managing her student debt. "That was a huge revelation." Go to for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners.
26/09/1927m 44s

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 1

It's something that I think about—in some way—every single day. When we asked you back in 2017 to tell us your stories about how student loans are impacting your life, we were overwhelmed by your responses. We heard about years of incremental payments and the thrill of getting to a zero balance, but also about delayed weddings, tensions with your parents over your shared debt, and fading hopes of ever buying a home or saving for retirement. The student loan crisis has only compounded since our initial call for listener responses. Students who graduated with a bachelor's degree last year averaged about $29,200 in student loan debt, an average about 2% higher than 2017 graduates. And that debt is fundamentally reshaping how you think about the value of education and the milestones of adulthood. "You sort of feel lost and like you totally screwed up somehow because you just couldn't figure it out," a listener named Dena said about struggling to make loan payments ten years after college. "And the rest of the world is making money and paying their bills and there's this subculture of individuals who are book smart and world stupid."  "I don't know how else to put it except that I almost made it," a listener named Sharif said. He put himself through school with loans to became a chemical engineer, but feels embarrassed by his six-figure debt and never talks about it. "I felt like a total, complete idiot that I put myself in this position."  For some of you, that embarrassment has become denial. "I just didn’t pay," Jordan Gibbs told me about receiving her first student loan statement. "Like, I just felt like, how can you expect me to start paying you $700 a month? Which is just a crazy number. I can’t even afford to pay rent."  Today we listen back to stories about how the tough choices we make to afford an education are having unexpected effects, long after graduation. Go to for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners. And look out for part two of this series for stories about how some of you stopped feeling stuck and started taking control of your student loans. 
25/09/1933m 40s

E. Jean Carroll: More Interesting, Not Damaged

When writer E. Jean Carroll first arrived in New York City in the early 1980s, she says she was "a nobody from nowhere." Even so, she headed straight for Elaine's, the legendary restaurant on the Upper East Side where writers, celebrities and other power brokers gathered—and she says she always felt like she belonged there. Over the course of her long career, she became known first for her incisive profile interviews and investigative pieces, and then later for her particular brand of tough-love advice, which she's doled out in her Elle magazine advice column for the past 26 years. But in the past few months, her name has been in the news for a different reason: she accused the president, among many other men, of sexual assault in her latest book, What Do We Need Men For. I spoke with her about the years she spent learning to brush past those traumas, the parts of those coping strategies she says have continued to be helpful, and why she now says she doesn't want to live like a "chin-up girl" anymore. 
18/09/1931m 7s

50 Years Married To A Man Named Sissy

Douglas, Wyoming, natives Vickie and Sissy Goodwin got married in 1968. It was around the time they started their lives together that Vickie learned of a secret Sissy had been harboring since childhood—a preference for feminine clothing and cross-dressing in private. When Sissy decided to start wearing skirts, dresses and frills in public a few years into their marriage, Vickie struggled to accept it. And the couple quickly learned that Sissy's self-acceptance came with an often violent public backlash, both at home in Douglas and elsewhere. We visited Vickie and Sissy at their home, for a conversation about masculinity, resiliency and staying married for 50 years.  Vickie and Sissy Goodwin at their home in Douglas, Wyoming (Katie Bishop)   The World's Largest Jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming (Flickr/Ken Mickles)  
11/09/1932m 30s

Raphael Saadiq: Music Had To Be My Therapy

Raphael Saadiq's career took off as a member of the R&B trio Tony! Toni! Toné!—a group whose music taught me, a pre-teen at the time, a thing or two about romance and sexiness. He left that group in the mid-'90s, launching a successful solo career and co-writing and producing music with everyone from Solange and Mary J. Blige to John Legend and D'Angelo.  Raphael's latest solo album is titled Jimmy Lee—named after an older brother who died of a heroin overdose years ago. I talk with him about how he's dealt with family deaths over the years, about paying off his studio, and about what his love life looks today, in his mid-50s.  Anna Sale and Raphael Saadiq (Katie Bishop) Listen to Anna's Spotify playlist of her favorite Raphael Saadiq songs and collaborations here.
04/09/1924m 56s

My Stillbirth During Anna's Maternity Leave

Pregnancy loss happens a lot. Of women who know they’re pregnant, 10 to 15 percent will have a miscarriage before 20 weeks. After that point, pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth. One in 100 pregnancies ends that way. That's what happened to a listener named Krystal, who lost her son Everett this past spring at full term. A few months after her son died, Krystal sent us an email with the subject line, "My stillbirth during Anna's maternity leave." She wrote about how her son's death had left her feeling really isolated, and changed. "I still feel as if I'm in a vacuum and looking out at the world with no more sense of self," she wrote. "It’s incomprehensible and earth-shattering. I can’t explain how out of sorts it makes me feel." We get a lot of emails from you about pregnancy loss—and the culture of silence around it. So I asked Krystal if she'd talk with me about her experience: what happened the night she delivered her son, how it feels to be in a postpartum body while grieving, and how she and her husband are taking care of themselves—and their older child—now. If you want to hear more conversations about pregnancy loss, we've got a few recommendations of other podcasts to listen to here. They're part of a collaborative spreadsheet where you can also suggest the books, podcasts, songs and other things that have helped you grieve if you've experienced pregnancy loss.
28/08/1929m 13s

How Are You "Surfing The Urge" To Drink?

In our episode featuring your stories about drinking, our listener Rachel told us about realizing she'd slipped into a nightly drinking habit—and trying to curb some of her desire to drink. "You have to kind of surf the urge," she explained. "Recognize that it's there, breathe into it, surf it out, try to distract yourself."  We asked you all to tell us how you "surf the urge"—what gets you through those times when you're arguing with yourself about whether to drink or not? From french fries to soccer leagues to pot, here's what you told us.    If you missed our episode about the ways drinking is and isn't working for you, go back and check it out. And if you're worried about the way you—or someone else in your life—are drinking, we've gathered a list of resources that might be helpful for you.  
14/08/196m 4s

Michael Arceneaux On Love, Liquid Courage And Letting Go

When writer Michael Arceneaux was in his early 20s, he went to a gay club for the first time—after years of being closeted and denying his sexuality. "I enter a space and I just look at everything and I just get so caught up in my head," he told me. "But once you get the liquor you're like, oh, stop thinking, just go twerk."  Michael said that night was "the first time I actually felt joy with that part of myself." But despite finding alcohol to be a helpful way to let go of his inhibitions, drinking is complicated for Michael. Growing up, he says that his father would often become physically abusive when he drank too much. And Michael knows that he too is capable of extreme anger while drinking. "I am still human and thus susceptible to falling into patterns of those who have come before me," Michael says. "I'm reminded that [drinking] can lead to something else."  In 2018, Michael wrote a piece for The New York Times Opinion section called The Student Loan Serenity Prayer, about his student loan debt. Read it here.
07/08/1924m 51s

Bottled Up: Your Stories About Drinking

It can sometimes feel like alcohol—whether you're drinking it or not—is an intrinsic element of navigating adulthood. After all, over 70 percent of American adults drink. We take drinking so much for granted that we often fail to really engage with the role it's playing in our lives. "It’s been a piece of everything since we’ve turned 21, or 18," a listener named Cari told us. "We've always had a drink or been drinking when we’ve been at parties. And it’s so funny that I’m 34, and that is a worry: that if I weren’t drinking, maybe the party would move to someone else’s house." We asked you to share your experiences with alcohol—why you drink or don't, the strategies you use to manage your consumption, and what alcohol brings you besides a buzz. And we learned that our feelings about alcohol are much more complicated than we tend to acknowledge. This week, we share some of your stories. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or seeking more information about alcohol consumption, check out these resources.
31/07/1939m 57s

Rashema Melson's Weakest Yet Bravest Moments

In early May, we got an email from Rashema Melson. I'd first met her in 2015, in her dorm's common room at Georgetown University, where she was adjusting to life on campus after living in a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter in high school. Soon after we met, she got married and dropped out. I talked with her again two years later, in 2017, when she'd decided to end her marriage and go back to college. Now, Rashema was reaching out to tell us that she was graduating from Georgetown—and that she'd recently listened back to her "weakest yet bravest moments" captured on the show. I talk with Rashema about what she's doing now, post-graduation—and I hear about how her last two years on campus at Georgetown felt very different than her first two. 
24/07/1926m 3s

A Brother, A Sister, And Their Eating Disorders

Siblings Charlie* and Oscar* were always close growing up. But as they got older, there was one thing that they didn't talk together about: the way they eat.  Both Charlie and Oscar struggle with different types of eating disorders—Charlie has struggled with bulimia, and Oscar has anorexia. Despite their closeness and years-long suspicions about each other's eating habits, it's taken a long time to open up about their difficulties with food to each other. When they finally had their first real conversation about it last summer, Charlie said it "felt like I was coming out." "This was finally like pointing a finger at it," Oscar responded. "And saying, 'This is a thing that exists.'"  Are you or someone you know struggling with an eating disorder? We've compiled resources here.  *Names changed 
17/07/1923m 0s

When Work Changes, So Do We

Right after returning from six months of maternity leave, I sat down in the studio with Uma Kondabolu. Uma's been on the show before with her comedian son Hari, but this time I wanted to talk with her one-on-one about big transitions in our work lives. Uma recently retired from the hospital lab where she worked for almost three decades, and as I was re-entering my job, I wanted to hear from her about leaving hers. 
10/07/1922m 43s

Tayari Jones & Carrie Mae Weems: What's It Like Up There?

Carrie Mae Weems always knew she was going to be an artist, but she didn't know she wanted to be a photographer until she got her first camera in her late teens. It was a gift from a boyfriend who turned out to be "manipulative," but it launched her into a career that's made her a MacArthur Fellow and the first black woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. As she tells this week's guest host, author Tayari Jones, her professional drive has always been the barometer against which she's measured her personal relationships. "If I'm entering a relationship [and] struggling around notions of my ability to work, then it's not a relationship that I can stay in," she says. "I already see the handwriting is on the wall." Together, they talk about balancing that ambition with the relationships in their lives that matter. Plus, Carrie explains why she drank someone else's champagne on her wedding day. This episode is part of Death, Sex & Money's 2019 Maternity Leave Lineup. Tayari Jones first joined us on the show in 2018 to talk about the freedoms of singlehood, and the call from Oprah that changed everything for her.  
26/06/1925m 27s

Sarah Smarsh & Nick Smarsh: Are You Different Than Me?

As a journalist and author, Sarah Smarsh has built her career around examining socioeconomic class. In 2018, her book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth became a New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award.  Sarah grew up outside of Wichita, Kansas, and spent much of her childhood on her family's farm. The Farm Crisis during the 1980s led to her family leaving farming behind, and her dad, Nick, had to find work elsewhere⁠—first, he worked locally on construction crews; now, he puts up buildings for fast food chains in far-flung places like Mississippi and Texas.  In this audio essay, Sarah interviews her dad about the changes he's endured throughout his lifetime, and about how, at 63, he thinks about his future as someone who builds things with his hands.  This episode is part of Death, Sex & Money's 2019 Maternity Leave Lineup. 
19/06/1920m 9s

Mahershala Ali & Rafael Casal: Envy Is A Hell Of A Drug

Today, Mahershala Ali is an Oscar-winning actor who lands leading roles in TV shows like True Detective and Hollywood blockbusters like Green Book. But he got his start as a poet-turned-rapper in the Bay Area, where he grew up.  Rafael Casal is another Bay Area poet and musician who recently made his big screen debut in the movie Blindspotting, which he co-wrote and co-starred in with his creative partner, Daveed Diggs. "We put a movie out and everyone back home thinks I'm on," Rafael says. "And I'm like, that was an indie movie. I lost money." Mahershala interviews Rafael about his childhood as a "knucklehead," his life-changing discovery of slam poetry when he was a teenager, and how he and Daveed handle uncomfortable discussions about money and creative credit.  This episode is part of Death, Sex & Money's 2019 Maternity Leave Lineup. Mahershala Ali first joined us on Death, Sex & Money in 2016, along with his wife, Amatus. Hear their conversation about faith, love and success, taped live in Brooklyn. 
12/06/1925m 44s

Alia Shawkat & Esther Perel: Life In Our 30s, And 60s

Actor Alia Shawkat just turned 30, and she's got some questions about what's coming around the corner in this decade. So this week, she talks with Belgian-born psychotherapist Esther Perel about what that period of time was like in her life—when she had just moved to the U.S., gotten married, and was figuring out the "pleasure and the pride" of making it on her own financially. Plus, they talk about adult friendships, and why it's important to stay in touch with people from all the different decades of your life.  Alia Shawkat first appeared on Death, Sex & Money in 2017 for our live show in Los Angeles, called Life In Our 20s. The episode also features Niecy Nash, and includes questions from listeners about how to navigate the first decade of officially being an adult.  
05/06/1926m 6s

Tressie McMillan Cottom & Trevor Noah: Optimistic and Depressed

When Trevor Noah started hosting The Daily Show in 2016, he says he told his head writer early on that he might sometimes be late to work. "I'm suffering from depression and sometimes I do not see the purpose of getting out of my bed or living life," he says he told him. "And he was like, 'Wait, what?'"  Trevor and guest host Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom talk about why radical honesty around mental health can be liberating. Plus, they talk about Trevor's feelings of being an outsider growing up in apartheid South Africa, about why he believes another black man will be elected president of the United States before a woman, and about how he got so good at doing hair.  Sociologist Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom first joined us on Death, Sex & Money in 2017 to discuss student loan debt during our live call-in. Hear that, and our two-part series featuring your stories about student loan debt, here. 
22/05/1925m 2s

Al Letson & Nikole Hannah-Jones: Sensitive, Not Scared

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spends time in some pretty elite spaces—she's a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant, and a force to be reckoned with on Twitter. But, as she tells Al Letson (host of Reveal), she's careful not to forget her roots in Waterloo, Iowa, and the people there who raised her. "The benefit of being a working class black girl who has spent a lot of time around more affluent white people is you do quickly learn they're actually not really smarter than you," she says. "They just have had advantages of things and opportunities that you haven't had." This week, the two of them talk about Nikole's childhood growing up in a biracial family, reporting on inequality from a place of anger, and what happened when she tried therapy last year. You can find episodes of Reveal, the podcast from The Center for Investigative Reporting, here. And you can read Nikole's essay for The New York Times Magazine about choosing a school for her daughter here. 
15/05/1930m 40s

Jason Isbell & Will Welch: Somebody Needs Me

Singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and GQ editor-in-chief Will Welch met in 2004, at what Jason says was "the lowest point of my life." Since then, the two long-distance friends have seen each other through divorce, new marriages, career climbs, a cancer diagnosis and rehab. Jason quit drinking in 2012, and Will followed suit two years later—starting by calling Jason at a breaking point. "You getting sober was a big deal for me," Jason says during their conversation. "It was the first time in my sobriety that I felt like, oh shit, somebody needs me and I can help."  Jason Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires, were interviewed by host Anna Sale on the show in May 2014. Listen to that episode, "Confessions of a Nashville Power Couple" here, and listen to the duo taking your live calls about breakups, relationships, creativity and loss here. 
08/05/1930m 3s

Damon Young & Kiese Laymon: The "Good Dude" Closet

Writers Damon Young and Kiese Laymon both are on book tour, promoting their acclaimed memoirs. And while they've been friends via social media for years, they'd never met face to face before recording a conversation for Death, Sex & Money. The two sat down together to talk about basketball and body image, money anxieties, and why being a "good dude" might be more about fear than anything else.  Damon Young is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothas, and the author of "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker". Kiese Laymon is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, and the author of "Heavy: An American Memoir". Audio excerpts courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio from HEAVY by Kiese Laymon, read by the author. Copyright © 2018 by Kiese Laymon. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
24/04/1927m 32s

John Cameron Mitchell & Marilyn Maye: I Will Survive

When singer Marilyn Maye turned 90, she celebrated on stage in New York City in a performance residency she called "90 At Last." Now 91, the Kansas-based jazz and cabaret legend talks with actor and Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell about continuing to work well past retirement age, loving and leaving alcoholic partners, and about what they both envision for the end of their lives.  Special thanks to 54 Below for their help with this episode.  John Cameron Mitchell was interviewed by host Anna Sale on the show in April 2015. Listen to that episode, "Hedwig, Older and a Little Less Angry," here.
17/04/1928m 13s

Lisa Ling & Awkwafina: Shut Up, Let Me Shine

Awkwafina grew up Nora Lum in Queens, and was raised by her father and grandmother after her mother died when she was four years old. Guest host Lisa Ling talks with Awkwafina about how she coped with that loss by developing a sense of humor early on, and about why—despite feeling a lot of money anxiety—she isn't afraid to turn down high-paying gigs.  Guest host Lisa Ling appeared on Death, Sex & Money in 2017. Listen back to her episode, "What Lisa Ling Regrets," here.
10/04/1926m 17s

The 2019 Maternity Leave Lineup

Having a Death, Sex & Money-style conversation isn't easy. It's long. It's intense. And it can get very awkward. In those moments when you might gloss over a sensitive topic, break the tension, and move on to the next instead have to dig a little deeper. Get a little more personal. But our lineup of guest hosts—former show guests and some new folks, too—are up for the challenge. And while host Anna Sale finishes up her maternity leave, you'll get to listen in as they have tough conversations with the people they're most curious about.  Among them: Journalist Lisa Ling talks with rapper and actor Awkwafina about losing her mom as a kid and finding unconditional love as an adult. John Cameron Mitchell interviews 91-year-old cabaret legend Marilyn Maye about her love affairs with alcoholic men and her fears about ending up in a nursing home. Writer Damon Young sits down with author Kiese Laymon to talk about body image and money anxieties. Americana singer Jason Isbell interviews GQ editor-in-chief (and his best friend) Will Welch about masculinity, mental health and their shared sobriety.  These conversations and a whole lot more are coming to you starting this Wednesday, April 10. Don't miss them!
08/04/192m 2s

A Father and Daughter Talk About Layoffs

We asked for your stories about layoffs, and we heard from a lot of you—including a listener named Stephanie. She wrote in about her dad, Steve, who lost his job two years ago and has been looking for work ever since. She told us that they talk about work a lot together, so we asked if they'd continue that conversation and let us listen in.  
27/03/1911m 40s

Daniel K. Isaac Is Opting For The Gray Area

Actor Daniel K. Isaac grew up as the only child of a single immigrant mother. She's a devout Christian—so the first time Daniel came out to her, it was to ask for her help to stop being gay. But in his late teens, after years spent voluntarily in conversion therapy, Daniel decided that he was done trying to fight his sexuality. And in the years since, accepting that part of himself has meant finding new ways to relate to his mom. 
20/03/1926m 50s

José Andrés Googled ‘How To Be A Father’

When Chef José Andrés moved from Spain to the U.S. in 1991, tapas weren't yet a thing on this side of the Atlantic. José is credited with changing that. He opened his first restaurant in Washington, D.C. when he was just 23 years old, and today he has a thriving business empire with more than two dozen restaurants across the country. He's also become known in recent years for his disaster relief work, both in the U.S. and abroad. But figuring out life outside of the kitchen has been more of a challenge. José talked to me about why he left home at a young age, and why he's sometimes felt less than confident when it comes to parenting his three daughters. 
06/03/1925m 57s

When We Sent Our Son Away

We first met Diane Gill Morris three years ago, when her two sons, Kenny and Theo, were in their early teens. Both of them are autistic, and Diane worried about where they would end up living—and who would end up caring for them—when they became adults. "When they were little, it was all about figuring out how to help them," Diane told us. "Now it’s, okay, this is who they are. I can continue to help them grow and evolve....But the hard part is just accepting that this is quite conceivably the rest of my life."  We recently checked in with Diane, who moved with her entire family into a house that seemed perfect for them to live in together as they aged. But when her younger son, Theo, started having violent outbursts at home, their plan of continuing to care for him was thrown into question.  Did you miss our first episode with Diane? Go back and listen. Diane also guest hosted Death, Sex & Money in 2016. Hear her conversation with two other parents of autistic children, including a police officer, here. 
20/02/1922m 42s

Autism Isn't What I Signed Up For

Diane Gill Morris was 25 when her first son, Kenny, was born. About 15 months later, she and her husband realized that he’d stopped talking. By the time Kenny was officially diagnosed with autism, Diane’s second son, Theo, was eight months old. Less than a year later, he was also showing signs of the disorder. Diane left a comment on our Facebook page in response to an article about people who are considering having kids. "I have sacrificed a huge part of who I am—given up my career, gone broke, accepted social isolation," she wrote. "If someone had told me this is what it would be like, I never would have had kids."  We first shared this episode in December 2015. Diane also guest hosted Death, Sex & Money in 2016. Tomorrow, look out for a new episode with Diane about what's happened since her sons have become young adults and she's faced new challenges as a caregiver. 
19/02/1928m 4s

How Nikki Giovanni Finally Learned To Cry

The legendary poet talks with host Anna Sale in front of a live audience about standing up to her father, surviving breast and lung cancer, and why she now cries "over any damn thing."  Anna Sale and Nikki Giovanni, live in The Greene Space in New York City.  (Matthew Septimus)  
06/02/1929m 4s

Let's Talk About Porn Again

We're revisiting our most-listened to episode ever, about porn. Your stories about secret hard drives, fantasy plot lines, illegal downloads, titillating Tumblr feeds and giving porn up completely. We're sharing this episode as part of our month-long series called Our Sex (Mis)Educations. Find the entire series here.
23/01/1930m 16s

How Do You Bring Up Your STI?

This week, we put out an episode about sexually transmitted infections. A lot of people featured in the episode talked about what happened after they told a potential partner about their STI. But we heard from a listener who wants to hear what those disclosure conversations actually sound like. And we do too! So we need your help.  Find our entire series, Our Sex (Mis)Educations, here.
18/01/194m 50s

Sexually Transmitted Secrets

One in 8 Americans has genital herpes, and rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are all climbing. But when we asked our listeners to tell us their stories about having an STI, what we heard about was how alone you can feel when you have one.  Want to learn more? Check out our STI reading list here. This episode is a part of our month-long series called Our Sex (Mis)Educations. Find the entire series here.
16/01/1925m 38s

So Many Sex Ed Fails

You have a limited number of orgasms in life. Your penis will fall off if you get an infection. Kissing will get you pregnant. We asked you to share your "sex ed fails"—and you all had a lot to say.  This episode is a part of our month-long series called Our Sex (Mis)Educations. Find the entire series here.
14/01/197m 47s

I Wanted To Be A "Good Girl"

Andrea grew up attending an evangelical church in Texas, where she was taught to abstain from sex until marriage and keep herself sexually "pure." That early sex education—and her decision to have premarital sex anyway—had long-lasting impact, well into her adulthood.  This episode kicks off our month-long series called Our Sex (Mis)Educations. Find the entire series here.
09/01/1926m 45s

When A Banker Was Called To The Convent

Sister Josephine Garrett grew up Baptist and worked her way up the corporate ladder—eventually becoming a vice president at Bank of America, where she managed a few hundred employees. But after converting to Catholicism in her mid-20s, the idea of becoming a nun popped into her head, and she couldn't leave it behind.  Sister Josephine Garrett, on the day she took her first vows. (Sister Josephine Garrett)
19/12/1826m 15s

I Married A Dreamer During The Trump Presidency

Vanessa and Freddy had been dating for just a few months when she first brought up the idea of marriage, while they were eating at their favorite taco place. "He just was silent, like he just looked at me, and then looked down at his food and kept eating," Vanessa told me. "I'm like, um are you gonna say something? And then he eventually said, I take marriage very seriously and I would never want to go down that path just because of legal status."  Freddy was born in Mexico, but has lived in the U.S. since he was six. He was undocumented until 2013, when he became one of the almost 700,000 young people who were given temporary permission to stay under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Then, last fall, President Trump declared that he was canceling DACA—throwing Freddy's future in the U.S. into question. Vanessa and Freddy are married now, but there's still no clear path to permanent legal status for Freddy as the courts decide the fate of DACA program. The worry that Freddy might be deported hangs over their relationship—particularly for Vanessa. "What happens if they cancel DACA and then they go after all the DACA recipients and we have a baby?" Vanessa told me. But for Freddy, the prospect of losing his legal status in the U.S. doesn't faze him as much. "My thought is, I have done so much without it than with it, you know? So that's not going to change anything for me. It’s not going to stop me." 
05/12/1824m 29s

Married, Paralyzed and Moving On

Two years ago, Hiroki Takeuchi was paralyzed from the waist down in a cycling accident. It was just weeks after he and his wife, Rachel Swidenbank, got married. When we first spoke in early 2017, Hiroki was still figuring out the basics of day-to-day life in a wheelchair: how to drive an adapted car, how to get up and down stairs, how to use the bathroom on his own. Rachel stopped working to care for Hiroki in those early days. There were a lot of unknowns about the future, and what Hiroki's body would and wouldn't be capable of.  When we spoke recently, they told me that Hiroki is now fully independent when it comes to his daily routines, and that they're both back to work. "It's been progress, progress, progress, progress," Rachel said. "And then like maybe the last three, four months it's kind of flattened out in terms of what you would classify as progress." One thing that they haven't yet fully figured out: sex. "We definitely have a lot of intimacy and you know, a lot of closeness," Hiroki told me. "But...I think that there's so much baggage around it." Rachel and Hiroki did recently find out that having a child together is possible via IVF. While they're not ready to start that process quite yet, it was exciting news for them—and it's made Hiroki think about what being a father might look like for him. "One of the things that really worried me was that I wouldn't be able to be a proper dad to our children," he said. "I think there's a level of like you know redefining what fatherhood means through a different lens. It doesn't mean it's worse, it's just different."    Traveling for the holiday this week? Take our Podcasts We're Thankful For playlist — with episode suggestions from podcast hosts like PJ Vogt, Tracy Clayton, Phoebe Judge and Kelly McEvers — along with you!
20/11/1822m 11s

John Green Thinks Adulthood is Underrated

Author John Green is a master of connecting with young people. His YA novels, and the popular YouTube channel he runs with his younger brother Hank, have created massive communities of teenage fans all over the world. But when he was growing up in Orlando, John himself often felt isolated from his peers. Anxiety and obsessive thoughts plagued him, starting when he was a kid. "The feeling of not being able to choose thoughts, [...] of not being able to reassure myself, and not being able to be reassured by people who loved me was really scary," he told me. "It meant that my self was built on a foundation of sand on some level."  In his twenties, after a period of severe crisis after college, John received a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder. He began taking medication to help manage it, and when he started his family and moved to Indianapolis, it felt like things were settling down. Then, in 2012, he published his bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars. A movie deal followed, and soon, John found himself at the center of a multi-million dollar empire. "It felt like there was a lot of attention on that story and, by proxy, on me," he told me. "And I had always wanted that, I always sought that out, but when it happened it was overwhelming at first." In fact, it was so overwhelming that it sent John into the second serious mental health crisis of his life—one that felt all the more debilitating because he was now a dad and husband. This week, he tells me about getting healthy again after that period, and why he's learned that so many things about adulthood—including having comfortable shoes—are really great.   John and his brother Hank host three of their own podcasts, all of which are now part of the WNYC Studios family. Listen to Dear Hank and John, The Anthropocene Reviewed, and SciShow Tangents wherever you get your podcasts. And if you find yourself in a moment of crisis like John did, and need to talk with someone, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They're open 24/7—please ask for help.
08/11/1827m 45s

Why Governor Jennifer Granholm Cut Her Hair

When Jennifer Granholm ran for Attorney General of Michigan in 1998, she had three young children at home — including a 10 month old baby. But that was not something she wanted voters to know about. "You didn't even really see my husband," Jennifer told me. "It was all about this disembodied creature who was going to fight for you because you don't want to remind people of the mess that is a family and all of that." Jennifer's life in politics was quite a change from how she started her career, as a former beauty pageant contestant who moved to Los Angeles right out of high school to try to break into acting. She was quickly turned off by the culture there. "That casting couch thing was real," she told me, describing requests for sexual favors at auditions. "I went on interviews where people would say 'Hey, I've got 50 girls outside lined up who are willing to do A, B, or C. Why should I give this to you if you don't play the game?' "I was so mad about it, I said I'm going to leave here, I'm going to go to the best university I can get into, going to get the best grades possible. I'm going to go to law school and I'll show them!"  After graduating from Harvard Law School and practicing law in Michigan, Jennifer won the Attorney General's race in 1998, and in 2002 she also won the race to become the first female governor of Michigan. She was still in office as the global financial crisis and automotive industry bankruptcies simultaneously hit her state in 2008 and 2009 — and took a lot of the blame for it. "I would say to anybody who's deciding whether or not to run for office timing is really important," she laughed. "I feel sad for me personally. If I can be sorry for myself. I feel sad that I governed at a time when I am seen as being responsible for the high unemployment rate in Michigan."  — This episode is a collaboration with the podcast The United States of Anxiety. Check out their entire third season—all about gender and power—here. One of our favorite episodes from this season is all about the Anita Hill testimony in 1991. (Listen back to one of our first episodes, with former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson and his wife, Ann, to hear the couple talking about how Al's participation in those hearings affected their relationship.)
31/10/1827m 38s

Tell Us Your Sex Ed Fails

A listener named Lauren emailed the Death, Sex & Money inbox recently with a request: Could we please talk more about blue balls? She explained that when she was a young woman, she had male partners tell her it was literally unsafe for them not to orgasm after arousal — and she believed them. "It's like, oh I started to hook up with him. So now I have to have sex with him," she said. It wasn't until much later that Lauren realized blue balls are, at worst, mildly uncomfortable.  Lauren's experience of finding out that something she believed about sex was completely wrong resonated for me, and it made me wonder: What did you learn about sex that you wish you hadn't? We want you to tell us about your sex ed fails — the ridiculous, harmful or just plain wrong things you picked up from partners, friends, older siblings, or even teachers. Send a voice memo to And we're working with the BBC on this project, so we'd especially love to hear from our listeners in the UK!
30/10/182m 14s

When Fire Takes Everything: Rebuilding in Northern California

In the middle of the night on October 8th, 2017, Ed and Kathy Hamilton were woken up by banging on their front door. When they opened it, their neighbor was standing there, and behind her, the sky was glowing red. "It was just a scene from hell," Ed says. "It’s indescribable." A few hours later, their home burned down in the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Ed and Kathy became one of thousands of families deciding how—or if—to rebuild in a part of the country where wildfires are becoming mroe intense and destructive with each passing year. This week, in partnership with KQED in San Francisco, we're looking at what happens after the smoke has cleared. For Ed and Kathy, recovery means reconstructing their home to nearly the exact specifications of the house that stood there before. But that's possible for them because they had good insurance, and a big financial safety net. For many others, who were underinsured or had no insurance, that's not an option. Bart Levenson found herself stuck in limbo for years after a 2015 wildfire destroyed her home, despite her best efforts to be prepared. Earlier this year, Bart spoke to KQED reporter Sukey Lewis at the abandoned resort that was her temporary home for years after the fire. "It's just so big what happened," she said. "I didn't know this was going to be the most stuck I'd ever be in my whole life."   If you want to hear more stories about how communities and individuals in California are navigating the aftermath of wildfires, check out KQED's podcast The Bay. In particular, we recommend their recent episode featuring Sukey Lewis's interview with a young woman named Kayla Swaim, and another recent episode about the arguments for and against rebuilding in areas that continue to be vulnerable to wildfire. If you're curious to learn more about how better design can keep homes from burning, even in severe wildfires, check out Death, Sex & Money producer Stephanie Joyce's recent reporting for 99% Invisible. She explores the science behind how we could reduce our collective fire risk, and the reasons why we don't. And to read Kathy Hamilton's blog, where she's chronicled their rebuilding process (and their spending!), head on over here.
17/10/1825m 12s

I Served 27 Years In Prison. Now, I'm Out On Parole.

"Sometimes I wake up, and I say, what if I wake up, and I'm in my bedroom? And I wake up and I always see the bars there. And I wonder [about] the day when I’m going to wake up and I’m not going to see the bars there." That's what Lawrence Bartley told me the first time I spoke to him in 2014. I was interviewing him at Sing Sing prison in New York, where he was serving a sentence of 27 years to life for second degree murder. That day came this past May, when Lawrence was paroled, and walked out of Sing Sing a free man. After a few months out, he and his wife, Ronnine, joined me to talk about their life as a family on the outside—how Ronnine navigated a difficult year after Lawrence's first request for parole was denied, how they've approached parenting their two young sons together, and how Lawrence is thinking back on the crime he was imprisoned for now that he's free. I spoke with Lawrence and Ronnine before, first in 2014, and then again last summer, when he was getting ready to go before the parole board for the first time. Find those episodes here and here. You can read the essay Lawrence wrote in prison for The Marshall Project here.
03/10/1829m 5s

Jane Fonda After Death and Divorce, Revisited

What do you think of when you think of Jane Fonda? The sexy space traveller from Barbarella? Vietnam War activist? Fitness goddess? Fonda has had quite the career. She’s also had three marriages — to a French director, an anti-war activist, and the billionaire Ted Turner — and each ended in divorce. When she found herself newly single at 62, she felt whole for the first time. Now, she says she’d disappear into a monastery before getting married again. When I spoke with her in 2014, she told me about her mother's suicide when she was a girl, her father Henry Fonda's long decline, and the lessons she learned by choosing to be alone. Now, we're bringing you that conversation again—because it's one of those ones that sticks with you. Jane Fonda is the subject of the new HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, premiering September 24. Watch the trailer and make sure to check it out:
19/09/1833m 19s

Hot Dates: Last Summer Nights

A lot has changed over the course of the summer for the group of eight listeners whose dating lives we've been following in real-time—they've been through breakups, hookups, move-ins, friends that might become more than friends and awkward dates. For many of them, those experiences have prompted reflection about what it is they want out of dating, and in this final episode of our series, they fill me on why that isn't always what they thought they wanted.    Loading... We know that sometimes, being single can be more fun than it seems! So we want to celebrate the times in your life when you're not planning around anyone else. Head on over to our interactive Google spreadsheet where you can share the ways you treat yourself well when you're on your own, and get some inspiration from other listeners.   
05/09/1826m 29s

Nick Offerman Can Take Directions

Nick Offerman is famous for playing the unsentimental, bacon-loving, alpha-male Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. But for a long time after moving to Los Angeles in his mid-20s, he was a struggling actor, best known for being married to Megan Mullally, who played Karen on Will & Grace. He told me about meeting Megan while he was living in a friend's unfinished basement, and about building a life with her in Los Angeles, far from his hometown in Illinois. "I spent a lot of time sort of shedding my middle American skin as it were," he told me. "I had to let the world know—but really, it was for me—that I was not a a buttoned-up conservative from a small town. Even though that's what I was." One of Nick's newest projects is the movie Hearts Beat Loud. Check out the trailer:  
22/08/1824m 20s

Alzheimer's and the World's Saddest Comedy Club

Comedian Chris Garcia has always incorporated stories about his Cuban-American family into his sets. But after his father died from Alzheimer's, Chris started using his comedy to process his own grief, and to memorialize his dad. He also found solace talking to other comedians who had lost their own parents. Now, Chris is bringing some of those conversations about death, family and comedy to a new audio project with WNYC Studios. This week, we're bringing you an early listen of what he's been working on. You'll hear Chris talk with his mother Ana, and with Karen Kilgariff, a fellow comedian and cohost of the podcast My Favorite Murder.  This project is a work in progress—but we’re sharing it with you now because WNYC Studios wants  your feedback as we explore new shows and new ideas. So after you listen, head over to to tell us what you think. 
08/08/1836m 58s

Hot Dates: From One Hot Dater to Another

Ceci is 36 and lives in a city in California, Miracle is 25 and lives in a small town in Alabama. But when they got together to talk, they discovered there's a lot of overlap between their dating experiences. They talked about the family and social pressures they feel as young, single women, what happened when Ceci changed her race from "mixed" to "Hispanic" on her dating apps and the big changes in their dating lives since we last checked in with them.      All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. 
02/08/1810m 36s

Tig Notaro Isn't a Blob Anymore

Tig Notaro had big plans for the year she turned 41—after spending her 20s and 30s on the road building her comedy career, she was finally going to fulfill her dream of becoming a parent. Instead, Tig's life fell apart. In the span of six months, she contracted a life-threatening infection, her mother died in an accident and Tig was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She talked about all of it on stage at Largo, the comedy club in Los Angeles, and the set went viral. That terrible year changed a lot of things for Tig. She got an explosion of job offers, she got married, and six years later, she is finally a parent. When we spoke, she told me that building a family has totally upended her life—in a good way. "My life before them—I was just a blob floating around the universe," she said. "I just, I don’t even understand what I was doing, I don’t understand. I don’t understand my existence."   This week, we're also asking for your stories. Send us a voice memo or email about something you've gone through that you wish you heard more people talking about. Here are a few of our favorite listener-driven episodes, for inspiration.   Loading...  
25/07/1825m 35s

Hot Dates: Open to Open Relationships

The first time I talked with Jessie, a 36 year old programmer in Montana, she told me that she couldn't find single guys on her dating apps that felt like good matches. That's still true...technically. But since that first conversation, she emailed to tell me about another part of her dating life she didn't mention before. Plus, June's enjoying her summer break from college with three different partners.    All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. 
23/07/1814m 25s

Manhood, Now: Live

As we've been talking about Manhood, Now over the last month, we've heard from a lot of you that conversations about masculinity can be hard to start. So, we decided to try and have one together—on live radio. CNN's W. Kamau Bell joined me, and together, we took calls from all over the country about how expectations are shifting for men right now, what you learned about being men from the role models you grew up with (and what you're relearning now), and how we can all get better at having these kinds of conversations.   What books, articles, and podcasts have changed how you think about masculinity? Find suggestions from other Death, Sex & Money listeners, and contribute your own recommendations here! W. Kamau Bell is the host of CNN's United Shades of America, and the author of The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell. His new Netflix special is Private School Negro.
12/07/1851m 16s

A Wife Interviews Her Husband About Manhood, Now

After we put out our episode Manhood, Now, we heard from a lot of you that you're hungry for more conversations about what's changing for men right now. We've been talking about all of this in public, but we're particularly curious about how these conversations are happening in private right now—at work, with friends, and in romantic relationships. And today, two of our listeners are giving us all a peek into how they're talking about this together. Ryan and Alex are a husband and wife who live in D.C. Earlier this week, they were getting dressed and talking about masculinity, when Alex decided to take out her phone and start recording their conversation. She sent us that audio earlier this week, and now, with their permission, we're sharing it with you. This episode is part of our ongoing conversation about masculinity today. Find more about the project at We love getting audio from our listeners! Send us your voice memos, to
11/07/1810m 15s

Hot Dates: "I'm Supposed to Be Certain"

When I first talked with Dan, a 41-year-old widower who recently reentered the dating pool, he told me that he had been reflecting on some past behavior with regret in the wake of #MeToo. Now, he says he won't initiate physical contact without verbal consent, and he's trying to be especially aware of whether he's making the women he's dating feel safe and comfortable with him. But he says he's confused about how to navigate consent when women tell him they want to be "submissive" in a relationship. Since we first spoke, Dan has been grappling with those questions in a new relationship that's gotten serious quickly. I called him up to talk through some listener reactions to our first interview, and dig a little deeper into the complexities of consent right now.    All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. 
09/07/188m 49s

How to Be a Man With Bill Withers, Revisited

When I spoke with songwriting legend Bill Withers, for the very first episode of Death, Sex & Money, we talked about what it is to be a man. Withers told me it might not be manly to say "I'm scared," but that being a man isn't about ignoring fear. It's about getting things done in spite of it, and knowing when to ask for help.  This week, in honor of his 80th birthday, and our ongoing conversation about manhood today, we decided to revisit the episode, which is still one of my favorites.  Before Withers wrote some of the most memorable hits of the 70s and 80s—songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lean on Me”—he was a stuttering boy, growing up in a West Virginia mining town. We talked about leaving that small town, caring for his dying father, and what he likes to watch when he's choosing not to exercise in the morning. Happy birthday, Mr. Withers. 
04/07/1824m 59s

Hot Dates: A Middle School Teacher Walks Into A Bar...

When we first met Miracle, she wasn't on any dating apps—because she still lives in the small city she grew up in, she was afraid she'd come across people she went to high school with. Since we first talked, she decided to try Bumble, and her fears were realized...sort of. Plus, Ceci finds out who her mystery texts are coming from, and Vicki discovers that doctors make good dates.  All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. 
27/06/186m 45s

Manhood, Now

"Don’t be weak. Don’t be small. Don’t be poor. Don’t be emotional. Don’t be feminine. Don’t be aggressive. Don’t be unapproachable. Don’t be sexist. Don’t be patronizing. Don’t be entitled. Don’t be unemotional. Don’t be big. Don’t be loud. You might notice a lot of contradictions here." We're in a moment where what it means to be a man is shifting—and to some men, it feels like there are a lot of mixed messages floating around. As one man put it to us, "there’s a very unclear set of expectations as far as how a man should behave." But while we've heard a lot of talk about men in this moment, we've heard fewer conversations with men. So we asked you: what's the most confusing thing about being a man today? A recent college graduate named Alex, 23, worries about women not seeing him as masculine enough and explains why he spends time in toxic corners of “the manosphere.” A kindergarten teacher named Jack, 33, says his students embrace gender fluidity in the classroom, but as a trans man, he has found himself running up against gender norms outside school. Dre, 47, a former drug dealer who’s now a business owner, thinks back on the life-and-death stakes of being seen as masculine when he was dealing and reflects on how his values have changed since. And Luke*, 71, describes what it means for him to be an “impotent older man” after finding his identity as a young man through lots of casual sex. In their stories, and in those of the other men we spoke to for this episode, we heard confusion, ambivalence, resentment, and also optimism—a sense that in this moment of transition, there's more space for men to figure out what kind of men they actually want to be. Others feel unmoored without a new roadmap to follow. "I get this kind of paralysis," a listener named Duane told me, "Where you’re trying to be all these different things at the same time and unlearn past behaviors, and I know I’m not the only one that gets stuck there." There’s a very unclear set of expectations as far as how a man should behave. And we also wanted to bring more of you into the conversation—so we got together for an hour of live radio about manhood, now. CNN's W. Kamau Bell joined me, and together, we took your calls from across the country about shifting expectations for men right now, the ways you're reevaluating the role models you've had, and how we can all get better at having these conversations together: Beyond our conversations with Death, Sex & Money listeners, we also wanted to get a sense of how men are thinking about being men right now on a broader scale. So in partnership with FiveThirtyEight and SurveyMonkey, we surveyed over 1600 American men about what they learned about being men, where they learned it from, and which lessons they’re rethinking in this moment.  You can see the full results of that survey data here, but here are a few statistics that stood out to us: A majority of men said that they feel external pressure from society, and those numbers are especially high for younger men. On top of feeling pressure from society, men also feel their own internal stresses, especially around issues of body image and money.  But even as they feel those stresses, many men deal with them alone. Nearly half said they frequently or sometimes feel lonely, more than 40% say they've never or rarely ask a friend for personal advice, and more than two-thirds of men say they've never been to see a therapist.  To read more findings from the survey, head over to FiveThirtyEight.  *Name changed Loading...  Click here to read a transcript of the episode. We want to hear your reactions to this episode! Share them on social using the hashtag #ManhoodNow, or email us:   Loading...
20/06/1842m 14s

Hot Dates: Help from an OKCupid Guru

In the third installment of our series Hot Dates, we check in with Louis, who's trying to date in D.C. and frustrated by how it's going. It's still hard—so we asked Tobin Low, cohost of the WNYC Studios podcast Nancy, to weigh in with some advice from his own time on OKCupid. Plus, Ceci tells us about some anonymous texts she's been getting. All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. And if you're looking to expand your social circle—romantic or otherwise—check out Nancy's friendship project: How to Get a Gaggle.
14/06/188m 27s

Hot Dates: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

When we met Thomas in our first episode of Hot Dates, he was trying to avoid jumping into anything too quickly. It's June, and he's got an update on his love life. All summer, we're following a group of listeners as they date in real time around the country. We're calling this series Hot Dates—if you missed the introductory episode, go back and listen to it first. 
08/06/185m 45s

John Prine Wanted to Be Normal

I've loved John Prine's music a long time—I grew up singing his songs around campfires in West Virginia. But before he was a regular in my music collection, John was performing at open mics in Chicago, and paying his bills by delivering mail. So when he hit it big with his first album in 1971, he says that getting use to fame was a shock. "I was writing about things private to me and dear to me," he told me. "And to have people know me before they shook my hand was odd to me." And John says that in his life, he's felt odd himself. "That’s how I ended up making my living, being Mr. Oddball," he says. "I get these thoughts, and I like to make them into songs. They might sound odd at the time, but then people connect to them throughout their life. And it turns out I’m doing something that may resemble something solid." In the years since getting famous, John has started a family, battled cancer twice, and along the way, gotten more comfortable with being known. His new album is The Tree of Forgiveness—and it's brought him the best album sales of his career. To get it written, John told me, his wife and stepson sent him to a hotel room in Nashville and told him to get to work. "I would knock around during the day and go get a hot dog," he told me about his writing process. "And at nighttime, I’d start writing about three in the morning, order room service up, have a party by myself and end up with a couple songs every day."       
06/06/1825m 8s

Hot Dates: Romance Right Now

A lot is changing about how we date right now, from how we meet people, to who pays, and how we talk about sex. It's complicated, but for many people, summer is the time to try. So as we head into the warmer months, we've asked a group of listeners to let us check in with them as they date. In this first episode, you'll meet: • Louis, a guy in Washington D.C., who's constantly ghosted by the men he matches with on dating apps. • Miracle, a woman in Alabama who's not using dating apps at all...but isn't having better luck meeting people at her church. • "Thomas," a young divorcee we originally met in our episode about breakups, who's learning to keep things casual. • Jessie, a software developer in Montana who's figuring out how to be comfortable earning more than most of the men she dates. • Dan, a recent widower who's navigating the new rules of consent and gender dynamics.  • Ceci, a 36 year old woman in Sacramento who's looking for commitment, but knows not to settle to find it.  • Vicki, a journalist in her sixties who's enjoying casual dating and sex, and has no interest in becoming a caregiver to an older boyfriend. • And June, a college Junior who uses Tinder to scope out who around her is single and looking. We'll be checking back in with these listeners over the course of the summer as they swipe their way to love...or at least, some good stories. Loading...
30/05/1824m 37s

Tayari Jones on Frills and Freedom

Tayari Jones’ first step towards becoming a bestselling author was quitting. When she left a PhD program in literature at the University of Iowa in her early 20s, she worried about getting in trouble and disappointing her parents, who were both academics. Instead, two decades later, she says that decision ushered in the best times of her life. “I wanted a kind of life I had never seen before,” she told me. “I was always really attracted to women who seemed to be eccentric and kind of uncontrollable. I wanted them to teach me how they came to be so free.” I talk to her about pushing back against the unspoken confines of womanhood, in her writing and in her life, and about how a phone call from Oprah changed everything for her.  
16/05/1825m 21s

Your Student Loan Updates

"Being an adult and taking on adult things has definitely made me grow up a little bit," Jordan Gibbs told me when we talked recently. "It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster."  Last spring, Jordan was just one of the many listeners who told us about their student loan debt. When we first talked, she wasn't paying hers at all. It was a secret from everyone in her life, including her parents. But as we were putting together our original batch of episodes, she made one hefty payment—and, as she told me recently, she's continued to stay on top of her finances. "I looked through my bank account and started x-ing things off the list," she says. "Looking at my spending at the end of the month, I was just like, wow. You can definitely afford to pay your student loans."  In this episode, I check in with several other listeners who we met in our student loans series—like Josie, who decided to attend a more affordable state school because she'd have to take on less debt; Sharif, who questioned the American dream after being buried in more than $100,000 in loans; and Jessie, whose engagement was called off over differing opinions about debt and having children.     
02/05/1824m 20s

When 'Daddy Dates' Pay The Bills

When Lizzie* joined the website Seeking Arrangement as a college undergraduate, she thought it would be a short-term thing. The “sugar daddy” website mostly connects wealthy older men with attractive young women—“sugar babies”—who they pay for sex and dates. Two years after joining, Lizzie calls herself a professional sugar baby, although she keeps her work secret from everyone except a small circle of friends. She says she brings in $4,000 to $5,000 a month from various arrangements—far more than she makes from her job as a freelance copywriter. Lizzie sees the relationships as purely transactional, but she says the men often don’t treat it that way. “They think they’re getting better girls if they’re not actually escorts,” she told me. I spoke with Lizzie about why she prefers seeing men who are new to Seeking Arrangement, and how she navigates her double life.    *Name changed  
18/04/1825m 21s

A Son, A Mother, and Two Gun Crimes

We first heard Dwayne Betts' story in Caught, the new podcast series about juvenile justice from WNYC. Today, Dwayne is 37, a poet, father of two and a Yale Law School graduate. He's getting his PhD in law there now. But as a 16-year-old, Dwayne carjacked someone at a mall, and was sent to prison for almost a decade. "The fact that I was a child, I should have been treated differently," Dwayne told us. "And that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been punished, that that just means I should have been treated differently."  Dwayne's mom, Gloria, was in the courtroom the day her son was sentenced. I wanted to talk with her and Dwayne together, about how she remembers that day and how their family got through the years of Dwayne being locked up. But Gloria told me that around the time that Dwayne was sentenced, suddenly "it just seemed like everything that happened in my life involved a gun." That was something she hid from Dwayne until years later, when he was released from prison. 
04/04/1827m 16s

15 Years Later, An Iraq Veteran Looks Back

Ten days after the start of the war in Iraq, Staff Sergeant Thom Tran crossed the border from Kuwait with his unit. Four days later, he went out on a recon mission, and came millimeters from death when an enemy bullet grazed the back of his head in a firefight. He got relatively lucky; but still, he's spent the last 15 years thinking about how that moment—and his service—have defined his life after the military. Because for Thom, coming home after his deployment ended was not easy. "I had a real shit attitude because I'd been shot, my roommate had been killed...I was in a real bad mood all the time," he told me. "So I did what every combat veteran does. I fell into a bottle and I sat there." I talked with him about sharing those experiences with his father, who was a POW in Vietnam, and about how comedy has helped him manage his stress in the years since.
21/03/1823m 50s

From Indie Rockers to Full-Time Caregivers

In 2010, Johnny Solomon's band, Communist Daughter, was on the rise. But behind the scenes, Johnny was struggling—he was drinking heavily, and abusing meth to the tune of $600 a week. "People see it from the outside, but it's impossible to explain from the inside of what it does to your soul," he told me about his addiction. "I did really terrible things to the people I loved." When Johnny realized it was time to get help, he called one of the people he loved most—his mom, Nancy. She paid for him to go to rehab, which helped him get clean and diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.  After Johnny got sober and went on medication, the band regrouped and continued touring and putting out albums. But last year, it was Nancy who needed help, as her health declined due to a degenerative nerve disease. So Johnny and his wife—and bandmate—Molly packed up their life in Minnesota and moved in with Nancy and her husband in San Diego. It's a very different life from the one they were imagining at this point in their marriage, when they were hoping to start a family. And caring for Nancy has meant that their music careers have been put mostly on hold. But Johnny says there are aspects of the change that feel healthy, especially given the difficulties he experienced trying to stay sober in a touring musician's lifestyle. "I love routine," he told me. "I love it, because when things get out of control then I start to really lose control." I went to their shared home to talk with Johnny, Molly and Nancy about what their life together looks like now—and what's been hard about building it. Johnny and Molly Solomon in the backyard of the house they share with Johnny's mom Nancy and her husband. (Anna Sale)  
14/03/1828m 11s

Sharing DNA, and Nothing Else

The consumer genomics industry has exploded in recent years. Websites like and 23andMe have customer databases in the millions. But for some people, like a woman we met named Amy, the at-home DNA testing craze can bring some unexpected revelations. In 2016, Amy spit into a tube and mailed it to's DNA testing service. She'd always been interested in genealogy, so the test seemed like the perfect way to learn more about her heritage—but what she found out was that the man who raised her wasn't her biological father. "It was this moment where time stood still and things got quiet," she says about the day she found out. "And I just sort of received, read it, and then just shut it off in a way that I've never really experienced." After the shock wore off, Amy braced herself to talk with her mother about what she'd discovered. And as she learned more about her donor and his family, she also struggled with whether or not she wanted to be in contact with them—a decision that became even more complicated when Amy found out that her biological father is a staunch Trump supporter, while she had switched careers only months before to become a full-time Democratic campaign worker. "It's like the universe's funny joke," she says. "'Woman gives up her life to join the Democratic resistance, and finds out she's related to a Trump-Pence supporter.'"
28/02/1823m 5s

Lena Waithe Says Have a Dream... and a Sponsor

Writer and actor Lena Waithe moved to Los Angeles in 2006 from Chicago, right out of college. "I transferred my Blockbuster job from Chicago to LA," she told me. "It was definitely dues-paying time. I wasn’t even paying dues yet. I was just out there figuring it out." Lena's goal in Hollywood was to land a screenwriting gig. Growing up, she'd always loved to write—her fifth grade teacher told her she "writes the way she speaks." And she also knew that she wanted a career far outside of the corporate world that her mother worked in. "This is what hell looks like, whatever it is y'all do all day long," she remembers thinking when her mom would bring her into work as a kid.  But those office cubicle jobs were what enabled her mom to financially support Lena during those early days in California. As Lena was making a dollar or two above minimum wage and trying to land small screenwriting gigs, her mom was helping her with her bills. "I think for her it was an investment," Lena says. "She was like, Lena’s going to be somebody. I don’t understand it, but I’ll take it." That's paid off: since landing writing and acting jobs on Bones and Master of None, and creating her new show The Chi, Lena says she's been sending her mom a yearly check. "She sends a text like, 'And I thank you,'" Lena laughs. "And the emoji with the money on its eyes and tongue." 
21/02/1822m 48s

After Suicides, a Texas Veterinary Community Opens Up

"Stress is in the environment. It's that fast pace. [Veterinarians] will do a euthanasia and not stop, and they'll go right to the next case. There's no processing of it." Suicide statistics in the veterinary profession are sobering: a 2014 CDC study found that one in six veterinarians has considered suicide, and a British study found that the suicide rate in the veterinary profession might be up to four times higher than that of the general population. But reading the statistics and experiencing the reality of these numbers are two very different things, as the veterinary community in Dallas learned last spring. Over the course of about a month last year, three veterinary workers there—two veterinary techs, and one veterinarian—died by suicide. We went to Dallas to talk to people in the veterinary community about the stresses of their profession, how they remember their colleagues who've died, and what they're doing to take care of each other now—and to prevent more suicides from happening in the future.    We're proud to partner with the Dallas Morning News for this story. They've produced a photo essay to take you inside the veterinary clinic we visited in Dallas, as well as a video that we've included below. Dr. Kathryn Konieska at the Center for Veterinary Specialty + Emergency Care talks about what the euthanasia process entails, including the emotional toll it can take on a vet.  If you’re considering suicide, or are worried about someone who might be, please get help. We’ve compiled a list of resources here. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and is open 24 hours a day.         Loading...
07/02/1832m 5s

Opportunity Costs: I Never Felt Inferior

I first talked to Ernie Major a few years ago, for our episode about living alone. When we put out our call for class stories, Ernie got in touch again. "I’m retired now, by myself in a single wide trailer," he wrote us, "but I still don’t feel inferior to other people of higher class. In fact, sometimes I feel kind of sorry for them, trapped their web of expectations." Ernie is 73, and over the course of his life he's been in a lot of different class brackets. He grew up "dirt poor" as a homesteader, but he had relatives who were quite well off. After serving in Vietnam, he went to college on the G.I. Bill, and worked as a photojournalist before starting a new career in his fifties at an oil refinery. And now, he's on long term disability after a motorcycle accident last year. Those experiences exposed him to a lot of class diversity, but he says as an adult, he's identified as "socially lower middle class, economically a bit better than that," without aspirations to move up. "I look down on people who invest a lot of time and energy into status symbols that can just go away in a second." Yet Ernie also recognizes that being white has allowed him a level of class fluidity--which has fueled some of that emotional detachment from where he fits in the class hierarchy. "I understood early on that [being white] gave you a a a step up even though we were dirt poor," he told me. "And I had my mom’s [upper-middle class] family, so I had a connection with people who were not definitely not the same as us."  Anna took this picture of Ernie after their conversation, with his new Death, Sex & Money "should-less day" mug. Afterward, when we asked Ernie to send us a picture of something that represents his class status, he sent along a picture of his Royal Enfield motorcycle on a wheelchair ramp next to the trailer where he lives. He wrote, "My friends made this ramp after I crushed my foot in an accident. It's the kind of thing that people would do when I was a kid and we lived on a homestead."    This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to
26/01/1822m 28s

Opportunity Costs: More Is Not More

Nishant is a junior at Berkeley. Like a lot of college students, he’s trying to figure out how he thinks about class and money as he moves towards graduation and financial independence from his parents. But Nishant’s dealing with a special set of privileges, and complications: his family is in the one percent. His dad, Vik, immigrated from India with his family as a teenager and then went to medical school. But instead of becoming a doctor, Vik founded a software company instead. It was a gamble that paid off. Within ten years, a Fortune 500 corporation had bought Vik’s company, and the family got rich. Learning to navigate the privileges—and the burdens—of being wealthy is something both father and son struggle with. Vik is aware that his discomfort around wealth brings out a competitive edge in him that he's not proud of. And Nishant worries that his friends at college would think of him as “spoiled” if they found out just how much his family has. As Nishant thinks about what he wants to do after college, he’s also dealing with social pressure to match his parents’ financial success. “There’s some American dream kind of pressure that each generation you do better than the generation that came before you,” he told me. “I would have to get very lucky to accomplish that, and that focus is not one that I want to have.” We asked the people we interviewed for this series to submit photos of things they felt represented their class status. Vik sent us this photo of his garage, and wrote, "Some really amazing choices of cars to select from to drive to the gym, but in the end, regardless of the car you drive, you still have to have the self discipline to make time and show up, and work out hard and push yourself. Once you're on the racquetball court or on the treadmill, class has no relevance."   This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to To hear Anna and Vik talk about the Opportunity Costs series with WNYC's Brian Lehrer, click here. 
25/01/1824m 44s

Opportunity Costs: The Class Slide After Divorce

A decade ago, Jaimie Seaton and her family were living overseas in Asia while her husband worked as a high-ranking executive at Citibank. "We lived in a huge house with a pool and staff and a driver," Jaimie told me. "We always traveled business class. We always stayed in 5-star hotels. We always had a lot of parties." "From where I sit now and how I have to economize, I just kind of shake my head at the amount of money I wasted."  Jaimie's financial picture looks quite different today. A year after moving back to the U.S., her marriage suddenly ended. At that point, Jaimie hadn't been working much. "I never made much money during my marriage," Jaimie said. "I never needed to." She quickly got a temporary job, but says her spending habits didn't immediately change. "I think of it like a large ship," she said. "It takes a while to turn." Now, Jaimie brings in some money as a freelance writer, and receives monthly alimony and child support payments. But much of that will end when her children leave the house. "I’m really afraid of being old and being poverty stricken," Jaimie told me. And, she says that she and her kids feel uncomfortable now in social situations where they used to feel that they belonged. "I feel uncomfortable partly because of the money, but mostly because they’re all still married and their families are intact," Jaimie said. "It’s hard to be around it."  Jaimie wrote a piece for BuzzFeed about her class transition after her divorce. Read it here.    We asked the people we interviewed for this series to submit photos of things they felt represented their class status. "In this picture, I am lying on a private beach in Florida, when I was staying with a friend a few summers ago," Jaimie wrote. While she's cut out a lot of her expenses, Jaimie told us, "I still get a pedicure—my toes are always done. You get a lot of bang for your buck. It lasts a whole month and it costs $30."    This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to
24/01/1826m 4s

Opportunity Costs: An Education or Nothing

When Ramal Johnson imagined his life as a PhD student at Howard University, he didn't picture waking up at 4 A.M. to work double retail shifts in addition to his coursework. But last semester, when he was struggling to keep up with rent and student loan payments, that's what his days looked like. Even with his jobs at Best Buy and Express, he wasn't always making enough to cover the cost of living in the D.C. area. "I kind of felt like a failure," he says. "I was just depressed, I was sad, and I was angry, but at nobody in particular. I guess I was just angry at the situation." But, he says, the tradeoffs feel worth it. Like a lot of students, Ramal sees education as a way up the class ladder. "There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be making six figures in the future," he told me. Right now, Ramal says he's straddling the middle and working class—he grew up on a military base, and now, he says, he’s kept a "middle class mentality" while he tries to keep up with the financial reality of his almost $200,000 in student loan debt. But, he told me, it's a burden that he says felt necessary to take on. "Especially as an African American male, people don’t take me seriously in the first place," he said. "With a PhD I’ll have more of a chance." If you're curious about whether you're considered in the middle class based on your location and the number of people in your household, check out this class calculator from the Pew Research Center. We asked the people we interviewed for this series to submit photos of things they felt represented their class status. Ramal sent us this photo of Howard University, where he is getting his doctoral degree in communications.    This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to

Opportunity Costs: Friendship and Fertility

We heard from more than 400 of you when we asked you for your stories about when you've felt your class status the most. Our listener Cat in Chicago told us it's a question she's been waiting "literally 20 years for someone to ask." Cat wrote to us about her best friend, Christine. They met in college, and have stayed really close in the years since. But when they both struggled to get pregnant, Cat had a lot more options. She describes herself as upper-middle class—she and her husband own their own home, and bring in more than six figures per year. Christine comes from a working class background, and the incomes she and her husband make in the theater industry barely cover their bills. So as Cat was able to afford the expenses of adopting a child, Christine was told by her doctors to keep trying to get pregnant naturally. It didn't happen.  "I feel this sort of guilt about kids," Cat told us. "I know that she knows about that. We've we've talked about that before."  I talked with Cat and Christine together about how their class differences have impacted their friendship and the families they've been able to build. "Over the years I have just kind of let go of a lot of things let go of of trying to compare or keep up," Christine says. "You want your best friend to have this awesome life. Of course you do."  We asked the people we interviewed for this series to submit photos of things they felt represented their class status. Cat sent us this photo of her living room. She wrote, "It is a super over-the-top room, but it was the first thing we saw when we walked into the house with the realtor and I just love it. Rumor is that the house was built by a mob attorney (as if you could get more Chicago than that); evidence in this room is that there's actually a wall safe hidden behind one of the panels."   This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to

Preview: Opportunity Costs

For the past few months, we've been asking you for stories about class. We heard from more than 400 of you about moving up, moving down, and struggling to define where you stand in the first place. One thing that was clear for everyone, though, is that class is something we talk around, but rarely address head on. So next week (January 22-26), in partnership with BuzzFeed News, we're bringing you five in-depth conversations about class—and the ways it manifests in your day-to-day lives and in your relationships with each other. Two best friends talk about how being on the opposite ends of the middle class have impacted their ability to start families. A first-generation college student deep in debt bemoans how hard it is to climb up the class ladder—and how easy it is to fall down it. A mother of two teenagers talks about how her family's social life looks different after her financial situation changed post-divorce. A son talks with his father about how their family became part of the 1%—and why it's not all it's cracked up to be. And a 73-year-old Vietnam vet who never got comfortable in the professional world reflects on how being white allowed him a level of fluidity in class status not afforded some of his non-white colleagues and friends. We're calling this project "Opportunity Costs," because there are tradeoffs and choices when it comes to money and status—and and a whole lot of chance, too. Look for a new episode in your feed every morning next week. In the meantime, take our class pride and shame survey—and tell us a song that sums up your class status!
17/01/182m 3s

All Your Workplace Rage

"Phew, that felt good." "Wow, 30 seconds goes by real fast." "I actually really needed this."                A few weeks ago, we asked you to send us 30-second voice memos with your anger about harassment and bullying you've experienced at work—and the advice you'd give your younger self about what you don't have to put up with. And you all were ready to vent! You sent us stories about sexism and racism, physical harassment and psychological abuse, from bosses and co-workers male and female alike. Some of you were thinking back on things that happened to you decades ago; some of you are right in the middle of figuring out how to deal with a bad situation. One thing was clear—lots of you feel like you haven't been able to talk about this before. So this week, we're bringing you a supercut of your stories, and your anger. Let's rage. If you're currently dealing with harassment or bullying at work, click here for a list of resources you might find helpful. And for even more rage, check out today's new episode of the podcast For A Bad Time Call—it's a special episode devoted specifically to workplace anger. Special thanks to SassyBlack for composing original music for this episode. You can find more of her work here.   
03/01/1810m 46s

Pull Quote: Plunging In

Happy new year! We've got a special treat for you today. You may have heard that we've been working on an experiment, a new mini-podcast series called Pull Quote. The episodes are short audio gems that we've dug up from our archives and from elsewhere. This week, we're sending our first batch of episodes to those of you who've donated to support the show. But as we start the this new year together, we thought we'd share the first Pull Quote with all of you: some words of wisdom about beginnings from writer Jamaica Kincaid.  We’ve had a lot of fun making these, and it's not too late to sign up to hear them all. If you want to hear the other Pull Quote episodes we’ve made, chip in $30 or more right now. We’ll email you a special link every morning for a week where you can listen in. Plus, you'll get to tell us what you think about this Pull Quote series and whether we should make more. Thanks so much to those of you who've given money and supported our show. We really appreciate it. Look out for a new episode from us later this week. — Special thanks to composer and sound designer Hannis Brown for his scoring work on our Pull Quote series.   
01/01/182m 21s

I Felt Like The Story Had To Change: Life After Heroin

When my friend Danielle was in high school, she was hanging out in her hometown of Merrick, Long Island, going to punk shows and fighting with her mom—like a lot of teenagers. But when she was 19, her mom died, and Danielle's experimentation with drugs and alcohol really accelerated. By the time she was 25, she was using heroin daily. She says that in some ways, her mom's death gave her a justification for using. "It sounds horrible to say, but I remember when my mom passed me kind of feeling a sense of relief," she told me. "I was like, oh, I finally have my thing. I have my baggage that I've been looking for."   I met Danielle when we were both in our late 20s. At that point, Danielle was about a year sober. We're close, but in the years since we became friends, I'd never talked in detail with her about that earlier time in her life. So I asked her if I could interview her about her heroin addiction and the process of getting sober. I also wanted to know how she thinks about it now—especially as she's preparing to become a first-time parent and go through childbirth with a medical history that makes things more complicated. "On the first visit with the midwives I told them I don't want them to prescribe me anything addictive or any opiates, if we can get around it," she told me. "If I do get prescribed something then I won't hold that bottle. I'll have my husband give me the pill." Looking back, Danielle says she's acutely aware of how differently her story could have gone. Following another year of record overdose deaths in the U.S., Danielle says that she reads the stories of people who die from addiction, and it's an uncomfortable experience. "I see myself in them," she told me. "I'm not better than any of those people. I don't have a stronger constitution. I'm not more moral. I'm not smarter. I'm not anything. I just happened to hear a message, and was able to follow up and take steps and do some work and make this change."  Click here to listen to my conversation about addiction from the other side, with an EMT supervisor who's on the front lines of the opioid crisis in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. 
20/12/1725m 51s

I Can't Fix It: A First Responder and Heroin

Mark Strickland knew he wanted to be a first responder when he was five years old. "It was a way to help people," he told me. "You're giving everything you've got to help people in distress, no matter what it may be."  When he first started working as an EMT in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia back in the 1990s, Mark says that his job rarely involved reviving people after drug overdoses. But in recent years, as heroin and other opioids have ravaged the Charleston community, he says that's changed. Overdose calls are a near-daily occurrence for Mark and his colleagues—in fact, he got was called away to one while we talked. While the national opioid overdose death rate has been steadily climbing over the last several years, nowhere is the situation more dire than in West Virginia. In 2015, the state had the highest drug overdose death rate in the country, at 41.5 per 100,000 deaths. Mark and his colleagues see the people behind those statistics. And when they see the same patients overdosing time after time, it can feel like fighting an uphill battle. He says that he's still figuring out a vocabulary for work-related stress that feels appropriate. "By and large, most first responders will shun away from the P.T.S.D. phrase," he says. "That's what guys get from coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq because they've earned that. You're in a foreign country, taking hostile fire [...] I'm still in America. I'm good, brother. I can go to the store get a six pack." In the midst of finding ways to deal with his own stress, Mark is also raising three boys, and thinking about how he wants to prepare them to make good choices. He's honest with his kids about what he's seen drugs do to people—and he gives them an out if anyone tries to convince them to try any. "Tell 'em no, my Dad makes me pee in a cup," he told me. And Mark also said that he doesn't want his sons to follow in his footsteps as a first responder. "I guess the parent in me wants to shield my kids from bad things."
13/12/1723m 21s

Your Workplace Rage, And Mine

This past weekend, New York Magazine published a story detailing a pattern of alleged sexual misconduct and bullying by John Hockenberry, the former host of WNYC's show The Takeaway. The story includes allegations of forcible kissing, excerpts of inappropriate online messages Hockenberry sent to staff and guests, and descriptions of a pervasive culture of intimidation on the show that was most publicly directed against three of Hockenberry's cohosts—all women of color—who left The Takeaway one after the other, while he stayed.  This story is part of a much larger conversation we're having about sexual harassment, and about misconduct of all kinds in the workplace—but this one hits close to home. I worked on The Takeaway from 2009-2010, and I remember this culture vividly. And since this story broke, I've been mad. And I've been wanting to talk about it with someone. So I called up my friend and former colleague at The Takeaway, Noel King, to talk about what we put up with during our time at the show, what we shouldn't have—and how we're rethinking that time in our careers now. And we want to hear from you about how you're processing this moment in our cultural confrontation of sexism, racism and other inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Inspired by one of our favorite new podcasts, For A Bad Time Call..., we want to hear your rage. Send us a 30 second voice memo of what you would tell your younger self about office culture, or share with us the advice you would give yourself to deal with harassment, bullying, or worse. You can send those voice memos to—we'll put them together and share them with you soon.  Click here to read Suki Kim's original reporting in New York Magazine about the allegations against Hockenberry. WNYC's own reporting on the story can be found here. And you can find statements from Hockenberry and WNYC here. 
06/12/179m 4s

Gabrielle Union Is Fed Up

When she was a teenager, all Gabrielle Union wanted was to be chosen. Growing up, she felt conspicuous as one of the only black girls in the mostly-white California city of Pleasanton, and she distinctly remembers how badly she wanted to fit in—but more often than not, she says, she felt like an outsider. "My parents thought moving us to Pleasanton was giving us all of the opportunity. You have great schools, safe neighborhoods, you're going to be around the right kind of people," she told me when I spoke to her live on stage at The Commonwealth Club, "and all it did was isolate us." But it turned out that Pleasanton wasn't as safe as her parents had hoped—a lesson Gabrielle learned in a horrific way. When she was 19, she was raped at gunpoint in the Payless ShoeSource where she was working. In addition to the trauma she had to work through in the aftermath, Gabrielle says that being labeled as the victim of an assault made her feel even more socially isolated. "You become that black girl," she told me. "And for someone so fully committed to assimilation, that was by far the most traumatizing part." Twenty-five years later, Gabrielle's talking about these experiences in a new collection of essays, called We're Going To Need More Wine. It's not the first time she's gone public with her most private moments; last year, an op-ed she published in the L.A. Times reflecting on the rape allegations against her Birth of a Nation director and costar Nate Parker went viral. But being open with fans hasn't always been easy for her. She told me that for years after she was assaulted, she had difficulty figuring out how to set boundaries and protect her personal space—especially as she was becoming recognizable from her roles in movies like Bring It On. "Not saying no means there’s no boundaries," she told me about her early experiences with fans. "So self-care goes out the window. You've got to be everything to everybody at all times, which is impossible."  In the years since, she's learned to balance her fame with self-care. She's now married to NBA star Dwyane Wade, and together, they're raising his nephew and two sons from a previous marriage. And she says that ironically, their relationship works because they know they don't have to be in it. "There is no 'you-complete-me' shit," Gabrielle explains. "It's, 'I'm making a conscious choice to be with you every single day because we both have a lot of options. So I'm choosing you every day.'" Thanks to Inforum at the Commonwealth Club for hosting this event. You can watch a video of our entire conversation with Gabrielle here.   
29/11/1737m 29s

Finding Love, And A Kidney, On Tinder

In 2015, Lori Interlicchio and Alana Duran swiped right on each other's Tinder profiles. They were both in their early 20s, and not looking for anything too serious. But on their first date, Alana told Lori that she has lupus—an autoimmune disease that, in Alana's case, has taken a major toll on her body. At that point, Alana had been on dialysis for four years. Her kidneys were failing. And after just three dates, Lori was thinking about offering to see if she could be a potential kidney donor match. "I called one of my former roommates and I started asking like, 'Is this absolutely insane or is this like, fine?'" Lori told me. "If a another person needs something that you don't need and aren't going to miss, then whatever, right? Why not give it to them?"  Lori was a match. And starting their relationship with an organ donation has led to questions they've both had to address. When Lori got into law school just months after the surgery, she worried about leaving Alana behind. "I know that right now Alana is doing really well health-wise," Lori told me, "but I also know that that could change at any time." And Alana has had to grapple with what would happen if she decided to end their relationship. "Someone gave me a literal piece of them," Alana says. "I can't repay them for that. In my mind I was thinking that would come up, like, 'Oh, I can't break up with Lori because she gave me a kidney. That'd be terrible, people would be really really mad at me.'"   Lori and Alana's story is documented in the new film Bean. Find out more about screening times here. 
22/11/1728m 0s

What Lisa Ling Regrets

In her late 20s, Lisa Ling was co-hosting The View and enjoying single life in New York. "When I think back on it I see myself, you know, dancing on tables sometimes," she laughs. But her decision to leave her previous life in Los Angeles behind had long-lasting consequences. "As soon as I got to New York, this whole world opened up to me and I was invited to every party. And given where I grew up in this kind of middle, lower-middle class home and community, it was it was exciting for me," she recalled. But, Lisa says, her long-distance relationship with a serious boyfriend back home suffered, and ultimately ended, as a result. "In retrospect now, it was really sad because he really, really loved me," she says. "I kind of—you know, I in many ways sort of abandoned the relationship."  At the same time, she was having difficulty with talking about her personal life at her very public job. Even though Lisa had been working as a reporter for teen shows like Scratch and Channel One since she was 16, The View required something different of her. "The expectation of me was to be totally open about every aspect of my life," she says. "And I really struggled with that in the beginning because I was so out of my element." But it was a skill she was later grateful for—in her marriage. Lisa got married in 2007, and she says communication between her and her husband, Paul, hasn't always been easy. But she says they've found a language that works. "Our mutual therapist once said to us, if you were in a business, you would do everything in your power to make sure that that partnership worked," she told me. "And you need to apply that same work ethic to your marriage. And that really kind of resonated with us." You can watch Lisa's new web series for CNN, called This Is Sex, here. 
08/11/1729m 50s

A Bitcoin Mogul Goes Broke

When Charlie Shrem was growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, he learned a lesson about money the hard way. "I got a credit card in the mail [...] the day I turned 18. I had a $6000 credit limit. And I was taking people to Vegas," he told me. It was a lifestyle that got him in ten thousand dollars worth of debt. He repaid that debt in full, and then started looking for a way towards financial independence.  He landed on Bitcoin. Charlie was an early adopter of the cryptocurrency, and his gamble paid off. By the time he was 22, he had co-founded a company called BitInstant, which helped its users convert dollars into Bitcoin. It made Charlie rich, but it also landed him in legal trouble. One of Charlie's customers was making a profit reselling Bitcoin purchased on BitInstant on Silk Road, an underground marketplace known for illegal transactions. Charlie knew about it, and ended up being arrested for it. He plead guilty to a reduced charge, and served a year in federal prison. "When you're in prison, it's not like TV where everyone's like, oh, I'm innocent," Charlie told me. "Everyone tells you they're guilty. I'm guilty. Because to say you're innocent minimizes all that hard work you're doing to get out."  I talked with Charlie about money, prison, and ultimately leaving his Orthodox community live onstage at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Our conversation took place in conjunction with an exhibit there called Generation Wealth. It's a series of photographs by Lauren Greenfield about money, status, and the ways we show them—you can learn more about that exhibit and see some of the photographs here.  Watch Anna and Charlie Shrem in conversation at the Annenberg Space for Photography.   
01/11/1727m 10s

Why She Steals: Your Reactions

Last month, we spoke to a woman named Alice* about her shoplifting habit, how she justifies it, and her reluctance to go on food stamps. And a lot of you responded to her story. Here's just a sample of some of the comments we got: I grew up poor, but stealing was never the answer for my family. And I don't think it's the answer here either. My moral core was grossed out. This episode made me enraged. That's all. It seemed like there was more to talk about here. So this week, we dug into your reactions with a couple of listeners who wrote to us after we released the episode. Alyssa, a listener from Atlanta, told us that she felt "betrayed" by the show. "This interview was so empty for me," she initially wrote us. "Alice was so openly selfish, I couldn't really believe you were giving her a voice bigger than she apparently already has on Tumblr. A platform to speak about her ridiculous lifestyle like it was something fascinating, something to be proud of. I couldn't tell why you had chosen her." Another listener in Brooklyn, Trevor, commented on a point Alice made about how her whiteness would help protect her from legal repercussions if she got caught. "Because of people like her," he wrote, "I am the one followed around the store."  I called Alyssa and Trevor to talk to them more about their reactions—and then, I called Alice.  *Name changed
18/10/1712m 44s

Life in Our 20s: Advice from Niecy Nash, Alia Shawkat & Terri Coleman

Your 20s can be hard—but getting advice from people who've been there can make things a little easier. And that's exactly what we're doing this week, in a live show we recently recorded at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.  With the help of guests Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Arrested Development, Transparent), Niecy Nash (Claws, Reno 911, Getting On), and Terri Coleman (from our series "In New Orleans"), we take on life advice questions from listeners in their 20s, and talk about the most challenging and exciting parts of young adulthood. (Mindy Tucker) One listener named Sumaya asks how to handle tough conversations about money with friends who, all of a sudden, are making more than she is. Mia wants to know about how to make friends in a new city, without the help of a social life centered around school. And a listener who wants to be known as "Rebecca" asks about how to figure out exactly what she and her partner like in the bedroom.   We also talk with Alia Shawkat and Niecy Nash about their 20s. Niecy was married with three kids by the time her 20s were over. Alia's still in her 20s, and talks about what it was like to get famous young on Arrested Development, and how her view of relationships and money has shifted during this decade of her life. Plus, Terri Coleman tells a story, accompanied by drummer Bianca Richardson, about an important lesson she learned in her 20s from an unlikely mentor—Jose Cuervo.
11/10/171h 2m

Ellen Burstyn's Lessons on Survival

I talked with Ellen Burstyn three years ago, sitting on wicker furniture in her New York apartment. She told me about getting on a Greyhound bus to Dallas at 18 with 50 cents in her pocket, and about surviving an illegal abortion. And she described adopting her son, leaving an abusive marriage, and starring as a newly single mom in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The role was based in part on her own life, and it won her an Oscar. "I know I’m a successful actress," she told me. "But I don’t feel I’m necessarily a successful person." Ellen also told us about her "should-less days"—days she sets aside "where there’s nothing I should do." As she explained to me, "I have wiring in my brain that calls me lazy, if I’m not doing something. I haven’t been able to get rid of it. But what I can do is I can put in another wiring, I can put in should-less days, so when that voice goes off and says you’re being lazy, I turn to the other wiring in my brain that says, no, this is a should-less day, and I’m doing what I want." This month, we're celebrating Ellen Burstyn and should-less days with our new Death, Sex & Money should-less day mug. Support our work by becoming a sustaining member at $8/month, and we'll send you one! Just go to or text "DSM" to 70101.  Listen back to Ellen Burstyn's conversation with Gloria Steinem on Death, Sex & Money last year here. 
04/10/1755m 29s

Why I Steal

Alice* lives in a small town, where the work dries up in the winter. She and her husband have jobs at a seasonal restaurant, where she says they each make about $500 a week. When it gets cold, they go on unemployment to support themselves and their young daughter. Alice supplements that income by shoplifting. "I do have rules that I follow," she explained. "I don't ever lift from small mom-and-pop kinds of stores. When you lift from somewhere like Walmart they already have it built into their insurance...I would say it feels more like maybe a paper cut, as opposed to stabbing someone." We first learned about Alice last year through Tumblr, where there's an active community of people who say they shoplift. They post pictures of their "hauls," as well as tips for other lifters. For Alice, finding that community was huge. "It felt like I had people that I could talk to about it," she told me. "Because it is such a huge part of my life, and to have people that I could talk about it with like it was normal, that felt great. It just sort of opened up a whole new world of possibilities."  Alice told us she keeps her shoplifting a secret from her husband. And while she used to steal while her daughter was with her, stuffing groceries and makeup into her diaper bag, she says she stopped once her daughter was old enough to understand what was happening. "I don't want her doing something that's obviously dangerous," Alice told us. "I don't ever see her like being a tag team. I don't really want that for her." Thanks to Tasbeeh Herwees for her help with this story. You can find Tasbeeh's article for GOOD Magazine about the shoplifting community on Tumblr here.  *Name changed
27/09/1722m 42s

Our Student Loan Questions Live: Part Two

"Is it totally crazy to go to grad school before paying off my undergrad loans?" "Is it best to pay the smallest [loan] first and reduce your number of loans? Or is it best to reduce your highest interest loans first?" "Lately I've been thinking about refinancing my student loans, but I worry about moving from fed loans to a private company [...] does it make sense to do this?" "Do you think it's likely that in this lifetime, student loan victims unionize and agree to collectively default?" You've sent us a lot of questions about your student loan debt. And in this episode, we're trying to get some answers. In the second night of our live call-in shows about student loans, we're joined by Miranda Marquit, a finance expert and senior writer at the website Student Loan Hero. Together, we're taking your calls to talk about ways to tackle your debt proactively and efficiently.  If you missed night one of this call-in special, you can go back and find our conversation with other experts and listeners here. And if you missed our original two-episode podcast on student loan debt from this past summer, or if you want to explore the hundreds of stories we received from listeners feeling burdened by debt, check out our student loan project here. Here are some of the websites mentioned during tonight's show:  XY Planning Network - Recommended by Miranda as a way to find fee-only financial planners who specialize in working with Gen X and Gen Y clients. Let's Make a Plan - Recommended by Miranda as another resource for finding a financial planner, run by the Certified Financial Planner Board. National Student Loan Data System - Recommended by financial aid counselor Danny as a way to find out exactly how much debt you've taken out, and how to contact your loan servicer(s).  The American Time Use Survey - A look at what Americans spend their time on—Miranda points to it as an example of how much time we spend watching TV and doing other activities during time that could be spent bringing in additional income to help pay down student loans.
14/09/1755m 45s

Our Student Loan Questions Live: Part One

After we released our two-part series on student loan debt earlier this summer, we got a lot of emails from you. In addition to your stories, you also had questions about your loans: about what concrete steps you can take to pay them off smartly, and if you're not in school yet, about whether it's worth it to go into debt for college in the first place. One listener wrote in about his shared debt with his wife: "We are continually putting off having children because we realize we really can't afford it. We are concerned about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program still existing by the time we can have our loans forgiven. We found ourselves unable to be approved for a loan to buy a home because of our extreme debt. The situation is so overwhelming to us." So this week, we're gathering several student debt experts to take your calls live, and help you sort through some of the big questions that you have about loans. In this first of two live call-in shows, we're joined by Rohit Chopra, a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America; Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy; and Anya Kamenetz, lead education blogger at NPR and the author of Generation Debt. And we talk about the changing face of student loans under the Trump administration, about the communities hardest hit by the student loan crisis, and about how to decide if going into debt is the right choice for parents and kids.  After listening to this episode, listen to part two of our student loan call-in series.  Looking for the website that Rohit Chopra mentioned about help with public service loan forgiveness? It's here:  
13/09/1756m 21s

Tracy Clayton's 2017 So Far: Therapy, Forts and Auto Bill Pay

Back in January, I interviewed Tracy Clayton, who writes for Buzzfeed and is the co-host of the podcast Another Round. We talked about the long thread of New Year's resolutions she’d tweeted out for everyone to see—everything from getting her taxes done by a professional to meeting a chicken.  "You know at the top of the year you’ve got, like, hope and energy," Tracy told me when we recently caught up. "It’s like the slate’s being wiped clean, and now you can do anything. New year, new you." More than halfway through 2017, Tracy says she's in "a much different place today" than she was at the top of the year.  So far this year, Tracy says she's made financial strides by signing up for automatic bill pay and having conversations with her dad about his finances after he's gone. She also "bought some real fucking grown up furniture" for her living room—one of her goals we talked about at the beginning of the year. "It should not have cost as much as it did," Tracy laughed. "But, this was also a really good exercise in investing in me."  Tracy also tweeted about going back to therapy in June, after not going for several years. "It's hard and it's been kicking my ass," she said. "The things that I'm dealing with are catching up with a lot of the really, really, really big changes that have occurred in the last two years or so that I haven't really thought about or dealt with." She added, "At the top of the year, that wasn't something that I even realized. I do think it's accurate to say that I'm working on accepting things that I can't change, which I've never been good at." Tracy accomplished her goal of meeting a chicken! Check out her interview with Melissa Harris-Perry's chickens here: 
06/09/1721m 51s

As Harvey Hits, Looking Back at New Orleans

We changed our plans for Death, Sex & Money this week as we watched the storm known as Harvey pummel the Gulf Coast. It's made us think about the conversations we had in New Orleans two years ago, for a series about life there around the tenth anniversary of Katrina. In those episodes, we profiled five people and heard in detail about how their lives were forever changed by a few days of rain, wind, and catastrophic floods. We also heard about their collective trauma of having the home they knew suddenly under water, and about the very long process of rebuilding. You can find that entire series here. One of the people we interviewed, Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke, is heading to Texas this week to volunteer with a medical team. When Katrina hit New Orleans, she didn’t evacuate. Instead she stayed inside New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where she worked for six days, caring for 18 patients on the 5th floor. There was no power, and it seemed like no one was coming to rescue them. Before they were finally evacuated, Kiersta—who was part of the last group of people to leave—helped clean up the space for when her staff returned. "We didn't want it to look messy," she remembers. "We were naive."  Charity Hospital never re-opened after they left, but Kiersta returned to New Orleans after being evacuated. After a long rebuilding process, she still lives there today, and is raising her family there. "We just got too weird for any place else other than New Orleans," she laughs.  We compiled a list of organizations that need your help after Harvey. Find it here: How to Help After Harvey
30/08/1723m 45s

Katie Couric on Death and Dishonesty

Katie Couric has lived in the public eye since 1991, when she began co-hosting the Today Show on NBC. While she's built a career on her unflappable on-screen presence, she says that same journalistic rationality served her poorly when crisis hit closer to home. In 1998, her husband, John Paul "Jay" Monahan, died of colon cancer at 42. Katie says her reluctance to accept the inevitable conclusion of his diagnosis is something she regrets. "I really tried to not fall apart in front of Jay, and looking back on it, there's probably a lot of dishonesty about the whole thing," she says. "I think that sort of cockeyed optimism prevented me from ever really saying goodbye." After Jay's death, Katie parented their daughters alone until 2014, when she married her second husband, John Paul Molner. While her two husbands share a name, Katie says there’s a lot that differentiates the two marriages. "I'm in a different phase of my life," she told me. "The horizon isn't quite as far as it was when I married Jay." Katie turned 60 years old this year, and says it was more emotionally difficult than she expected. "Half my life is over. It's been a little a little depressing for me," she said. But, she admitted, you’d never know it from looking at her Instagram feed. "You can give people the impression that you're a fairly one-dimensional happy person," she says, "when the truth of the matter is it's much much more complicated than that."
23/08/1725m 42s

When Grief Looks Like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In 2013, podcast producer Rachel Ward's husband, Steve, died unexpectedly. She was 32, and he was 35. Being widowed is painful under any circumstances, but Rachel says that she went through an unusual kind of grief and confusion after losing her husband at such a young age. "I felt like I re-experienced adolescence after Steve died," she says. "But I also feel old because I am an aging person. I'm 36 years old. And that's older than a lot of my peers who on paper have an equivalent life position. You know, like just moved to New York City and are single, except they're 26 and I'm 36." The first time I spoke to Rachel was in 2015, after she wrote a viral Medium post called "I'm Sorry I Didn't Respond to Your Email, My Husband Coughed to Death Two Years Ago." Humor got Rachel through the early days of her grief, and her post was an attempt to put the social awkwardness that comes with widowhood behind her. "I guess I’m kind of hoping this is also sort of a juncture in my life and like a transition point,” Rachel told me. So we held on to the recording of our interview, and checked back in with her this summer to see what happened next. A lot did happen in Rachel's life in the two years between when we spoke. Rachel changed jobs and moved cities. She says that four years into widowhood, she tries not to think about the grieving process in stages. "I have to remind myself all the time that grief is not linear," she says. But she also says she feels stuck in ways, especially when it comes to dating. "It feels like I have to be like cooked to a certain level and I'm just, like, not," she told me. "But I've also lately been having some really nice realizations about how it's kind of great to be single and not have to like not have to the kind of draggy parts of relationships." 
16/08/1726m 50s

The Cookie That Ended Jeff Garlin's Sobriety

For over thirty years, Jeff Garlin has been a film and TV mainstay—writing, producing and starring in comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm (coming back for its ninth season this fall) and The Goldbergs. He's also had a long career in standup comedy. He's so comfortable on stage that he says he often doesn't prepare at all for his sets. But that doesn't mean that Jeff takes his job lightly. "It's a real important thing, comedy, to make us human and help deal with pain," he says. "Life throws a lot of pain at people. My job is to ease people's pain." Comedy has helped Jeff deal with his own pain. He had a stroke at 37 and has struggled with his weight for years. He views food as an addiction. After seven years of sobriety—which for Jeff means staying away from sugar and processed foods—Jeff fell off the wagon when he indulged in a celebratory cookie. The occasion? One of his sons was guest starring on The Goldbergs. "Anything with a feeling brings about wanting to eat," Jeff told me. "I always say I eat Pop-Tarts raw because I don't have time to toast them. I need to shove down my feelings."  I also talked to Jeff about dealing with attention deficit disorder as an adult, slowly losing a parent, having sex in his 50s, and maintaining a fulfilling marriage. Jeff says the key to it all is being present, and tries to stay focused on whatever is in front of him. "When I sit in quiet moments and just stare at the stars, nothing pops in my head of looking back on my life," he says. "I don't like overthinking." Want to suggest a podcast episode for our Welcome to Adulthood playlist? Go here: 
02/08/1722m 16s

Bonus! Anna Talks Interviewing with Jesse Thorn

"One of the really important traits of an interviewer is to communicate to the person you’re asking questions of that you are sincerely curious," Death, Sex & Money host Anna Sale recently told Jesse Thorn on his new show, The Turnaround. "Because your interview is only going to be as good as the person’s willingness to participate." This summer, Jesse (who also hosts the radio show/podcast Bullseye) is turning the tables on interviewers and interviewing them about their craft. He's talked with people like Jerry Springer, Errol Morris, Audie Cornish, Marc Maron, and Anna—who joined Jesse from her maternity leave last summer to talk about preparing for interviews, asking hard questions, and learning from interviewer heroes. 
26/07/171h 19m

My Husband Killed Someone. Now He Might Get Out.

Ronnine Bartley dated her now-husband Lawrence when they were in middle school. "Even when we were like together at 13 and 14 years old when we had no business being together, we always talked about being married," Ronnine told me. But when Lawrence was 17, he was arrested and convicted of murder. They weren't dating at the time, but they stayed in touch and eventually got back together while he was in prison. And in 2006, they got married.  But married life hasn't exactly been how Ronnine once imagined it would be. She and Lawrence have never spent more than 72 hours together as a couple. Their two boys were conceived during conjugal visits inside prison walls. And she's had to be the breadwinner and the decision-maker in their family. "Do I consult with [Lawrence]? Absolutely," she told me. "You know, that makes the relationship work. That makes him feel involved, but I'm the boss. Like in my head, I'm the boss!"  Life for their family will look very different if Lawrence gets paroled. After 27 years in prison, he's going before the parole board for the first time next month. "I try not to talk about it too much," Ronnine says. "I'm not really prepared for if he doesn't get released." But, Ronnine says, even if Lawrence gets out, there are still plenty of challenges that they'll face as Lawrence adjusts to life on the outside and they adjust to life together as a couple. "I guess we're gonna have to go to counseling," she told me. "You know, that's a lot. It's deep." 
19/07/1721m 7s

I Killed Someone. Now I Have Three Kids: Updated

I first met Lawrence Bartley three years ago, inside Sing Sing Correctional Facility. He'd been behind bars for 24 years, after shooting his gun inside a crowded movie theater on Christmas night in 1990 and killing a 15-year-old bystander named Tremain Hall. Lawrence was 17 at the time.  Lawrence was sentenced to 27 to 30 years to life in prison for his crime, with the possibility of parole. This August, Lawrence will face the parole board for the first time. So we're sharing his story again and a few updates, including a conversation with Tremain Hall's older brother, Chad Hall.  Next week, look out for my conversation with Lawrence's wife, Ronnine. She and Lawrence got married more than a decade ago, and have two sons together. We hear from her about how she's thinking about the possibility of Lawrence coming home—and what she wants for their future together.  Several years ago, Lawrence participated in a documentary project called Voices from Within. In it, inmates at Sing Sing talk about their crimes and their regrets. Watch for Lawrence around the 7:30 mark.  
12/07/1740m 50s

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 2

Nathan realized he couldn't pay his rent and his monthly student loan payments. Beth* collapsed in tears while doing yoga because she couldn't stop worrying about money. Jordan set a calendar reminder to force herself to finally make her first payment.  Hundreds of you have shared your stories about student debt with us, especially the mix of frustration and shame you feel about it. But we also heard stories of turning points—when something changed that redefined your relationship with your student loans.  For Beth, that meant radically changing her spending and allotting close to half of her taxable income toward student loan payments. Nathan converted a van into a mobile apartment to save on rent while he chips away at his $200,000 debt. And Jordan, after first telling me how she's dodged her student loans for two years, finally set up regular monthly payments.  "It started becoming something that was consequential but inconsequential at the same time. Something that can be controlled and doesn't control me," a listener named Krista said about finally getting help managing her student debt. "That was a huge revelation." Go to for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners.
29/06/1728m 27s

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 1

I have blatantly lied to my friends about student loans. I feel fooled and bamboozled about the American dream. It’s a stupid system. No one talked about this. When we asked you to tell us your stories about how student loans are affecting other parts of your life, we were overwhelmed by your responses. You've shared more than a thousand stories in all, and they keep coming. We heard about years of incremental payments and the thrill of getting to a zero balance, but also about delayed weddings, tensions with your parents over your shared debt, and fading hopes of ever buying a home or saving for retirement.  It makes sense that you have a lot to say about student debt. More Americans are taking out more in student loans and taking a longer time to pay it off. And it's fundamentally reshaping how you think about the value of education and the milestones of adulthood. "You sort of feel lost and like you totally screwed up somehow because you just couldn't figure it out," a listener named Dena said about struggling to make loan payments ten years after college. "And the rest of the world is making money and paying their bills and there's this subculture of individuals who are book smart and world stupid."  "I don't know how else to put it except that I almost made it," a listener named Sharif said. He put himself through school with loans to became a chemical engineer, but feels embarrassed by his six-figure debt and never talks about it. "I felt like a total, complete idiot that I put myself in this position."  For some of you, that embarrassment has become denial. "I just didn’t pay," Jordan Gibbs told me about receiving her first student loan statement. "Like, I just felt like, how can you expect me to start paying you $700 a month? Which is just a crazy number. I can’t even afford to pay rent."  In part one of this series, hear how our decisions about how to pay for education are having unexpected effects, long after graduation.  Go to for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners. And look out for part two of this series for stories about how some of you stopped feeling stuck and started taking control of your student loans. 
28/06/1733m 17s

Coming Soon: Our Student Loan Secrets

More Americans are taking on more debt than ever before to pay for higher education: 44 million Americans have $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. But when we asked you to tell us how you feel about your debt, hundreds and hundreds of you told us about the guilt, shame and isolation that surrounds your loans.  Next week, we'll share your stories about how student loan debt has affected your relationships, careers, families and more. For now, visit to join the community there: find out where you fit into the student loan landscape, explore other stories about student loan debt, and share your story if you haven't already. 
21/06/172m 53s

Who's Driving Your Uber?

I’ve learned a lot about the Bay Area from Uber drivers since I moved here last fall. Some of them are new arrivals, like me, but others have watched the region change dramatically over the last few years. When I'm stuck in a car with a stranger at the wheel, I've been surprised by how personal conversations can get.  So last month, producer Katie Bishop and I took our microphones and recording gear along on a bunch of Uber rides all around the Bay Area. The company has been in the news a lot lately, but we set out to learn more about the drivers and what keeps them on the road. We talked about money, competition from other drivers and how they spend their long hours driving and waiting for rides. They also told us about domestic violence, grave plot sales, and the long ripples of the financial crisis. And we heard why one Pakistani driver has decided it's better to not talk to his passengers. 
07/06/1726m 27s

Hari Kondabolu and His Mom Answer Your Life Questions

When we first met comedian Hari Kondabolu and his mom, Uma, a year ago, we found out that comedy runs in their family. We had such a good time with them that we invited Hari and his hilarious mom to join us on stage again—this time, for a live advice show in The Greene Space. Uma, who immigrated from India to the U.S. as a young woman, and Hari, who was raised in Queens and is now a stand-up comic, sat down with me to answer your questions about everything from money woes to relationship hurdles to pursuing a meaningful life.  We hear from a listener named Kevin in California, who's unsure about his career path at 30. An anonymous audience member says her parents hate her boyfriend—and wonders what to do. A listener named Judith asks how long parents should financially support their kids. And Katie, who lives in Boston, sent in a message about finding balance between her closeness with her family (physically and emotionally) and a potential dream job that could take her abroad.  Uma lives far away from her family, and for her that's worked. "I left my country," Uma said. "And if my kids want to do it to fulfill their career, I think I would let them go. I think without happiness you find resentment later." However, Hari says his mom has taken that approach to the extreme. When his career was first taking off, he was traveling for weeks on end. In the middle of it, Uma had a heart attack. "She didn't want me to know," Hari said. "She didn't want there to be any regret." Watch video of Hari and Uma on stage at The Greene Space below.    We are still hard at work on our episode about student loans. We've got another assignment for you: Send us a picture of the amount that you owe on your student loans. Take a picture of your loan statement, or write out your number in a creative way. Make sure your hands are in the picture (no faces required!) and send it in to 
24/05/1740m 25s

'Precious' Paid Off Gabourey Sidibe's Crunch Gym Debt

Gabourey Sidibe was 24 and working as a phone sex operator when she was cast as the lead in the 2009 film Precious. It was her first acting role. "It had better change my life for the better," she remembers thinking to herself. "That’s what I prayed for." And it did: she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and has since landed roles in big-budget movies like Tower Heist and television series like American Horror Story, The Big C, and Empire.   But financial success didn't come right away. As Gabourey writes in her new memoir, "This is Just My Face," she only made about $30,000 from that first role. And, she tells me, it went fast. "Not that I spent it on frivolous things," she says. "What I did with the money was I got out of credit card debt." Gabourey remembers calling a collections agency to pay off several thousand dollars from a Crunch Gym membership that had gone unpaid. "I was like, 'Lisa I'm gonna pay the whole thing off now,'" she laughs. "And she was like, 'Whaaaaat?' And I was like, 'Girl, I got a movie!'" These days, Gabourey says she's financially stable, and enjoys the attention that's come with her career—mostly. "Before I was an actress nobody said anything about my body," Gabourey says. "It took a while for me to learn that I was never going to out-talent the fact that I should be skinny in, you know, somebody else's eyes." Everyone from directors to fans have told her to do something about her weight—that she should lose it or, at times, that she should gain it back. "People think that I don't care that I am bigger, that I don't notice," she says. "I know. I'm worried."  That worry fueled her decision to get weight loss surgery last year—something she kept from her family, her manager and her agents. "I had made up my mind and I didn't want space for anybody else's mind to be made up about it," she told me."I wanted my opinion and my comfort and my safety to be the only thing that mattered surrounding the surgery." 
17/05/1727m 23s

Kevin Bacon Shows Us His Cash

"We all have a different relationship with money," Kevin Bacon told me on stage when I recently interviewed him at The Greene Space in New York. "It's just as complex as death and sex." One thing I learned about Kevin Bacon's relationship with money in our recent conversation: he likes to carry around a lot of cash. No wallet. A wad—folded up in his pocket. "It's just a weird thing," he said. "I don't leave the house without it." I asked the actor about how he thinks about money differently after he and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, famously lost much of their savings in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. "It leaves you with a sick kind of feeling," he said. "However, I think you have to live your life trying to avoid bitterness." At the time, Kyra also had steady TV work, which Kevin says helped them get through their rough financial patch.  Now, Kevin also has a leading role on a TV series: I Love Dick, Jill Soloway's latest project. Kevin plays Dick—who is an intensely sexual character. We talked about how he approached the role and how he thinks about sex in his own life now that he's almost 60. "Honestly I feel like it's become in some ways even more important to me right now," he told me. "I almost feel like I'm trying to cram as much of it in before it's over for good."  Watch the video below for my full conversation with Kevin Bacon on stage at The Greene Space. 
12/05/1732m 59s

Two Wheelchairs and A Baby

When Nikki Villavicencio and Darrell Paulsen found out they were going to have a baby, their first question was: What now? "It was a scared feeling. It’s not that this was not the right thing or the right feeling, but it was, 'What do we do next?'" Darrell told me. That’s how a lot of people feel when they first become parents. But for Nikki and Darrell, there were complicating factors. For one, neither Darrell nor Nikki has use of their legs. Darrell has cerebral palsy, and Nikki has a rare joint condition called arthogryposis, which means she doesn’t have much use of her arms either. Both rely on home health aides for tasks like bathing, using the toilet and making meals, and spend much of their time in wheelchairs. "I’m in my chair probably a good 18 to 20 hours a day," Darrell said.    (A video from Nikki's YouTube channel) Before Nikki got pregnant, neither of them believed it was possible for them to conceive. Their parents were told when they were young that it wasn't possible. "I mean, society tells us all the time that people with disabilities either can't have children or shouldn't have children," Nikki said. When they told their family members that Nikki was expecting, some of them were worried—including Darrell's mom. But, Darrell remembers, she found hope in the fact that the couple had a cat. "She used to say, 'Well if we can keep the cat alive for a year, I know you guys can be parents,'" Darrell recalls. "So we've kept the cat alive for a long time. We became parents." Raising their daughter hasn't been easy. Home health aides aren't supposed to help Nikki and Darrell with tasks related to parenting, whether it's laundry or schlepping a bike across the street. But as their daughter, Alley, has gotten older, she's able to do more for herself—and for her parents. "We always tell her that she doesn’t have to do anything for us...but she will be insistent," Nikki said. "She's super independent."  Nikki and Darrell's story is a collaboration with and journalist Kathryn Joyce. Read their piece here.
03/05/1725m 56s

Newlywed and Paralyzed

"I want to understand if this isolated feeling is normal." That’s what Rachel Swidenbank wrote to me just six weeks after a cycling accident left her husband, Hiroki Takeuchi, paralyzed from the waist down. The accident happened last summer, less than a month after Rachel and Hiroki got married. They'd also recently bought their first home. Quickly, almost everything in their lives changed. After major surgery and five weeks in the hospital, Hiroki had to learn to navigate the world in a wheelchair. He couldn’t dress himself or use the bathroom without help. Rachel shuttered her company, a tech startup, so that she could spend more time with him. Physical intimacy is different, too. "We're still in the stage of sort of shock, when it comes to that regard," Hiroki told me. Rachel added, "It's probably the hardest thing to deal with in the relationship." They're not sure how Hiroki's accident will affect their sex life in the long term, and how it will affect their chances at becoming parents.  Rachel says she's gotten angry at Hiroki about the accident. But there are ways it's strengthened their bond, too. "The emotional connection that we have is so much deeper than it’s ever been before," Rachel told me. And despite all the changes in their relationship, some things have managed to stay the same. Hiroki is still learning how to manage his wheelchair one-handed, but he makes it a point to bring Rachel her morning cup of coffee every day, just as he always has, even if it means spilling a little bit of coffee on the kitchen floor. "It is very bittersweet," Hiroki said, reflecting on the accident, "both survival and loss mixed into one." Update: When we checked in with Rachel about a year after this episode was released, she told us that "things are still challenging"—including travel and dealing with grief when thinking about their lives pre-accident. However, both Rachel and Hiroki are now back at work full time, and Hiroki's physical strength has increased—making things like travel more possible. They also plan on starting the IVF process soon.   
26/04/1730m 8s

Alec Baldwin Talks Money, Family, Fame and Cocaine

"I completely forgot that this is an episode of Death, Sex & Money. We're taping this for your show!" That's how Alec Baldwin responded after I started our on-stage conversation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music by asking him about money, and how he thinks about accumulating it. It's a topic he addresses head-on in his new memoir, Nevertheless, explaining that the reason he wrote the book was because he got paid for it. While Alec told me he believes "a lot in providence, financially," he says he's often made clear career choices motivated by the paycheck. It's a tactic he says he learned early on, from older actor mentors. "Embrace the commercial," Alec says, "But then when you can, you run off and do these other things for your soul."  That willingness to say yes has led Alec into a very public existence—hosting Saturday Night Live a record-breaking 17 times, engaging in local politics and philanthropy, and maintaining an active social media presence. But being in the spotlight has also led to regular spats with the tabloid press, a cocaine habit in the 1980s, and his very visible custody battle in the 1990s—something he also covers in his book. When asked what advice he would give to a friend going through a split now, Alec said, "Find a way that you can get into therapy and get into the collaborative divorce. The dignified divorce. You're gonna regret if you don't."  Alec remarried in 2012 and has had three more children in a little over three years. He says he's embraced the chaos that has come with having little kids back in his life. "My role is to support her," he said of his wife, Hilaria. "I kind of accept that in order to make things easy. As my dad taught me, parenthood is a contest between two people where the dad always wins the bronze medal."
12/04/1743m 22s

Pleased to Meet You, Nancy

I first met Kathy Tu and Tobin Low two years ago, when they had an idea for a new podcast. The two friends wanted to make a show that would feature fun, honest and edgy stories and conversations about all things gay. And today, I'm so excited to finally introduce Nancy, their podcast, to all of you! The story we're sharing with you is from one of their very first episodes. It's about Kathy and her mom, and coming out with the help of Google Translate.  You can find out more about Nancy at Subscribe today!
10/04/1716m 32s

Why Rashema Melson Left Georgetown

I met Rashema Melson in the middle of her sophomore year at Georgetown University. She'd made national headlines the year before when she graduated as valedictorian of her D.C. high school class after spending several years living in a homeless shelter. It was a feat that landed her a scholarship at Georgetown—and saddled her with a lot of pressure. "I can't fail, I mean what would I do?" Rashema said as we talked in her dorm's common room, weeks before finals. "Do I want to believe that I didn't work hard enough or there is something more that I could have done? I just—yeah, no, I can't fail."  After our conversation, I kept tabs on Rashema through her video blog—which is how I found out that just months after we talked, she left Georgetown. She married a longtime boyfriend in the military, and transferred to a new school in Tennessee to be closer to his base—hundreds of miles away from her old life in Washington D.C. He was in the car with her when I called recently to find out how she was feeling about all of her big life changes. But our call quickly took an unexpected turn, and Rashema told me she's considering a return to Georgetown. "Why run away from what I'm destined to do just because people are showing me that they’re on my side?" she said. "When I had all these people in my corner, I didn't know how to receive that."
05/04/1712m 31s

A Prison Guard In Transition

Mandi Hauwert was 32 and a few years into her career as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison when she started to wear eyeliner to work. "Just a little bit," she tells me. "Just to have some sense of feeling when I went to work that I was being secretly feminine." At the time, Mandi hadn't come out being transgender. She'd struggled with her secret for years—becoming depressed and suicidal as a teenager, joining the Navy to feel "a little more manly," and finally gathering the courage to open up to one of her female coworkers at the prison. "She was super accepting," Mandi told me. "And then it got me thinking, like, maybe—maybe—I could come out." But after another colleague started to ask questions about the makeup she was wearing, Mandi got called in to her supervisor's office. "I immediately told them that I was transgender," she says. "And their immediate response was that they don't allow cross-dressing." Mandi eventually got permission to come to work as a woman, and since July 2012, she's done just that. The health insurance she receives as a state employee also covered most of her gender reassignment surgery in 2015. Still, continuing to work as a guard hasn't been easy. Early on, inmates called her names. And while that's eased up over time, Mandi says her colleagues haven't gotten over her transition yet. "It's walking into a room full of officers and having everybody move their chairs over to one side, away from you," Mandi says. "I hate the negativity."  Mandi's also gotten some pushback from the trans community, which she says views police officers and guards with a lot of suspicion. "To be fair, law enforcement has historically treated trans people very poorly," she says. But Mandi is holding firm to the idea that being a part of the system is what could eventually bring about change. "Who knows?" she laughs. "I could be the first transgender warden."
29/03/1726m 38s

I Was Your Father, Until I Wasn't

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.  *Last names have been withheld for privacy reasons.
15/03/1728m 15s

Live from the Internet: Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires & You

We met Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires three years ago to hear about their love story. They met when Jason was still struggling with sobriety, and got married about a year before we first sat down. Since then, they've continued to create new music, moved into a new house together, and had their first child—Mercy. After our recent episode on breakups, we couldn't think of a better duo to take your questions about heartache, relationships, creativity and loss.  A caller named Rebecca in Alaska wants to know how the two strike a balance between their creativity and their love for each other. "Happiness is the most important thing," Amanda says. "You've got to make yourself happy first, and be the truest self you can, before you can even try and be happy in a relationship." Russ calls in from Adairsville, Georgia to ask Jason and Amanda if they share their works in progress—especially if they write about each other. "If it's true and honest—no rules," Amanda says. "If the piece of art is good enough, no one can argue with it," Jason adds. We also hear from Lori in Ukiah, California, who lost her husband to cancer. She wants to know about Jason's relationship to his faith these days. "For me, it's about not needing too many answers," he responds, adding he still relies on his faith in God for support. Muhammad from Boston shares his struggle to stay authentic as a Middle Eastern musician playing Americana music. "Americana is America," Amanda says. "Play your folk songs. It's going to kick ass." Let us know what you think of our live-call in format! If you enjoyed it, tell us what you'd like our next call-in to be about and who should be our guests by emailing us at   Jason & Amanda's Playlist Leonard Cohen, (ANY Leonard Cohen song, Amanda says) Ray LaMontagne, "Lesson Learned" Willie Nelson, "You Are Always On My Mind" Willie Nelson, "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground" Willie Nelson, "Remember Me" Willie Nelson, "On the Road Again" Jason Isbell, "Flagship" Amanda Shires, "You Are My Home"  
08/03/171h 1m

Cristela Alonzo's Lower Classy Comedy

Comedian Cristela Alonzo says she didn't grow up with much. Her mom raised four kids on her own in an abandoned diner with no running power or water in South Texas. Things are different for Cristela these days. "I have the kind of money where I can go into a Target and go on my own Pretty Woman shopping spree," she tells me. Cristela became the first Latina to develop, write, produce and star in her own network TV show. The self-titled sitcom, Cristela, premiered in 2014, but only lasted one season due to disappointing ratings. Still, for Cristela, failure isn’t enough of a reason to stop. "The worst that can happen to me is I end up being as poor as I started, and I know what it's like to live life that poor," she explains. Cristela spent a lot of time in front of the TV as a kid while her mom worked double shifts at restaurants to pay the bills. Cristela's mom moved the family into the abandoned diner when she discovered her husband was having an affair, leaving him behind in Mexico. "She was trying to survive and trying to get us to survive," she says of her mother. "She had no community. She had nothing, and you can tell how hard it was on her." In high school, Cristela struggled between obligations to her family and her own professional aspirations. She enjoyed theater and acting, which eventually drew her towards Los Angeles. After a series of fits and starts, she ended up back in Texas when she found out her mom was gravely ill. "In my family, the parents pick the kid that will take care of them when they're older, and my mom picked me," she remembers. "It's kind of winning a really resentful lottery." Even though her show was cancelled in 2015, Cristela's stories about family and money are still a big part of her comedy—especially in her latest comedy special, Lower Classy. "I like talking about where I came from to show people why I am the way I am now," she says. "The poverty I grew up with made me want to work really hard to not ever be that poor again." Cristela Alonzo's customized shoes that translate to "badass." (Katie Bishop)  
22/02/1725m 25s

Cut Loose: Your Breakup Stories

When Nan Bauer-Maglin was 60 years old, her husband left her for his 25-year-old student. "I thought about suicide. You know, there’s a great feeling of rejection especially if you’re older," she told me. "You just feel ugly and invisible and sad and quite gray."  Nan wrote a book inspired by their breakup and called it Cut Loose. "First I was gonna call it 'Dumped.' But that’s so negative," she told me. "Cut Loose is also about freedom."  Nan is one of hundreds of listeners who shared their breakup stories with us, after we asked for them last year. And she's not the only one who mentioned a potent mix of rejection, liberation, and confusion at the end of a relationship. A listener named Drew remembers when his boyfriend went on a trip, left his dog at Drew's house, and never came back. Thomas*, who got married right out of college, is 25 and unsure of what his life will look like after his impending divorce. Mia sent in a voice memo about leaving her boyfriend behind, and struggling with the decision years later. Identical twins Matthew and Peter Slutsky realized they needed to break up after years of living parallel lives: attending the same college, working the same jobs, living with their families in the same neighborhood. Creating some distance was part of growing up, but that doesn't mean it wasn't hurtful.  In your breakup stories, you also described how hard it can be to know when it's over. Steve* knows he's not happy right now, but isn't sure if the problem is him or his long-term boyfriend. "I love him and I don’t want to hurt him," he told me. "This just seems like kind of a way to wipe the slate clean and start over."  Sometimes, though, breaking up can also feel like a long overdue exhale. Beth, a listener in Philadelphia, recalls the day when she was riding her bike on her commute and choked out the words, "I don't want to be married!" She was divorced within a year, and looking back now, wishes she hadn't waited so long to be honest about her feelings.  Whether you're in the middle of a breakup or you've been through one in the past, check out our Breakup Survival Kit. It's a Google doc created by all of you that's filled with your best suggestions about what to read, watch, listen to and do after a split. Plus: see what our listener Emily Theis built from your suggestions, at   *Name changed for privacy reasons
15/02/1741m 49s

The NFL Made Me Rich. Now I Watch It... Sometimes.

When Domonique Foxworth and I first talked, the former NFL player was attending Harvard Business School and looking forward to a career as a high-powered executive. "I want to get to the point where I feel comfortable saying the things I’ve achieved financially are partially because of football, but even more because of what I’ve done afterwards," Domonique told me.  That's saying a lot. Shortly before an injury permanently sidelined his career, Domonique signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens worth $28 million. It was the culmination of years of devotion to the sport—much of which was unpaid. As a college football player at the University of Maryland, Domonique remembers feeling pressure to prioritize the school's athletics over his own academics. "That will benefit the coach, the university, the president, the alumni, the students," he told me. "None of us had any control or leverage in order to protect ourselves." Years later, when his own payday finally came—in a big way—Domonique says it didn't feel quite as good as he had hoped. "We get paid well because the talents that we have are so rare," he says. "But you’re still the labor." It was around that time that Domonique tore his ACL, and decided that he was ready to leave football behind.  Since my first conversation with Domonique, a lot has changed in his life. He's graduated from business school, had a third child, and moved to Washington, D.C. And his career sights have shifted. After landing a job as a top sports executive, he realized he wasn't happy. "I kind of made the decision to try my best to quiet those egotistical urges in me that liked having the big title and liked having the big salary," he told me when we recently caught up by phone. "So I quit with no plan to do anything else." We talk about what he's doing now, and about how his years playing football continue to have an impact on the way he lives his life today.  Read Domonique's reflections on the film Concussion, as well as some of his writing for ESPN's site The Undefeated. Domonique Foxworth with his family. (Courtesy of Domonique Foxworth)
01/02/1740m 46s

Mahershala Ali on Faith, Love and Success

We met actor Mahershala Ali and his wife, the artist Amatus, last year in Brooklyn, a few months after he filmed his scenes for Barry Jenkins' film "Moonlight." Now, ten months later, Mahershala has earned his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Juan, a Miami drug dealer who takes the movie's main character, a young boy whose mother struggles with addiction, under his wing. Just last month, Mahershala also announced some exciting personal news: He and Amatus are expecting their first child.  Today, we're revisiting our conversation the the couple, which took place months before the buzz of awards season or news of their first baby. On stage in Brooklyn last March, we learned how Mahershala and Amatus first met when they were students at NYU, and how they reconnected years later after Amatus suffered a violent loss in her family. They also shared how their Muslim faith grounds them, and how it guides them through their careers today.  Listen back to our entire live show with Mahershala and Amatus (as well as Rosie Perez, Hari Kondabolu, Lisa Fischer and more) from last March at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And this... What a surprise. So much love. A video posted by Amatus (@amatus23) on Dec 7, 2016 at 1:02pm PST   It looks like Amatus and Mahershala had a lot of fun at their baby shower last month!
24/01/1719m 18s

I Had Babies To Pay For My Baby

Sarah Short remembers being 19 years old, staring at the bill from the hospital where she gave birth to her daughter. It added up to about $10,000. "There's the anesthesia, the hospital stay, and the doctor—and I just laughed," she tells me. "I was like, 'I can't pay this.'" Sarah had health insurance, but it didn't cover obstetrics. And she'd waited too long into her pregnancy to apply for Medicaid. She felt guilty about bringing so much debt into her new marriage—she married her boyfriend right before her baby was born—and when the bill went to collections, the dollar amount climbed even higher.  "I would just get so overwhelmed and I would be like we're never going to be able to get out from under this," Sarah told me. "And it felt like it was all my fault." So, she started researching ways that she could make money to pay off her bill. She tried to sell her eggs, but says she wasn't what the clinic wanted in an egg donor. "But you're a great candidate for surrogacy," she remembers being told. Soon after Sarah filled out an application at a surrogacy agency, she met the parents she'd be working with—a lesbian couple who turned to surrogacy after years of trying to adopt. Sarah ended up having twins for the couple, although this pregnancy and childbirth were very different from what Sarah went through giving birth to her own children. "When my son was born I looked at him…and it was a huge profound moment in my life that I remember," Sarah says. "When the twins were born they didn't look like me, and they weren't mine. I wanted them to get to their parents." Even after giving birth, Sarah's work wasn't over. For several months, she pumped breast milk for the twins, which she also got paid for. Still, she's careful when she explains how much money she made from surrogacy: around $40,000. "I'm always reticent just to tell people just a flat number because it sounds so high and it sounds like I sold these babies for this amount of money," she says. "When in actuality I had a part-time job for two years." That part-time job helped Sarah pay off her medical bills and make a down payment on a new house. She describes her life today as "a life that I could have never pictured for myself a few years ago." But when Sarah recently tried to become a surrogate again, she realized that the process might not go as smoothly the second time. "Why is this not working? This doesn't make sense," Sarah told me. "It felt like I'd been fired, because I'd had this thought of, I have this job, I'm gonna have this income, and then I didn't." 
18/01/1730m 16s

Tracy Clayton Is Speaking Things Into Existence

Right before the new year, Another Round podcast host and writer Tracy Clayton tweeted: there are so many things i want for 2017 and i believe in speaking things into existence so im gonna use this thread to do that — Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) December 28, 2016 What followed were 30 tweets about the things Tracy wants when it comes to family, relationships, work and finances. Some were funny ("I want some real fucking grown up furniture!") and others were serious ("I want to do the hard work of reconciling my past relationships so that I can prep myself for the partner and kids I'm scared to admit I want"). I watched her tweets coming down my feed in real time—and thought what she was doing was really brave.  I wanted to talk with Tracy about what inspired her goal-setting outburst, and about the things she wants for her 2017. "I feel like I've been in transition for a really long time," she told me. "I don't feel like both of my feet are planted firmly on the ground." At 34, Tracy's been in New York for less than three years—and has had a hugely successful career rise during that time. But, she says, "I didn't feel like the rest of my life reflected that same sort of success or happiness." Tracy says she hopes that by announcing her goals to the world rather than keeping them to herself, she'll be held accountable. "I’m very used to letting myself down," she said. "I’m much more afraid of letting other people down."  Tracy's already started knocking things off of her 2017 to-do list. She opened her first-ever savings account just a few days into the new year. She got drunk with her relatives for the first time over the holidays, "giving myself permission to be a grown-ass woman around my family." And, she's gearing herself up to take on some of the bigger challenges—like finding a partner. "I don’t do very well with actually tying up loose ends once those ends become loose," she told me about her past relationships. "And now I’m like, okay, Trace, if you never ever ever fix it and wade through this uncomfortable-ass box, then you know, sure, you’ll probably be fine, but what if you could be more than fine? What if you could be happy? Wouldn’t that be cool?" 
11/01/1727m 31s

A Son and His Mom Laugh Through Darkness

In 2014, after Bex Montz dropped out college, transitioned and got sober, he tried to kill himself. Before losing consciousness, he called 911. When he woke up, the first thing he saw was his mom, Katie Ryan, sitting in the corner of his hospital room.  Bex told me his story earlier this year in our episode about near-death experiences. He's living with his mom in San Francisco, and soon after I moved to California, I asked Bex if I could catch up with him in person—and meet his mom.  In our follow-up conversation, I learned about the depression that Bex has struggled with since he was a kid and, as his mom told me, that his extended family didn't know Bex was a suicide survivor until the podcast episode came out this spring. Bex said he couldn't believe it. "I've been mentally ill since I was like 13 years old," he said. "Jesus Christ, I hope there's a suicide attempt in there somewhere! Or else, I'm like, what have I been doing with the last couple of years, you know?" This prompted Bex and his mom to burst into laughter. This is how they talk about all they've gone through as a family, with brutal honesty and cutting humor—whether they're describing Bex's father's sudden death, Bex's ongoing depression, or his gender transition in his 20s. "These gender issues are, like, the smallest problems we've faced together," his mom Katie described. "They're miniscule, for me, compared to the mental health issues." Those issues have made parenting Bex difficult, he freely admits, both when he was a kid and now that he's an adult. "I want to try to figure out all this shit by myself," he told me. "That's my ideal."  "I've learned I can't keep him safe," Katie added. "I thought that sleeping on a mattress outside his door and taking the door off the door jam would keep him safe. It meant nothing. It meant that I was pissing him off because he didn't have a door to his bedroom and I was sleeping on the floor outside his bedroom because I couldn't trust him. And it didn't work." "Ugh. I'm such an asshole," Bex responded. "I haven't made things easy on anybody. And, like, that's obviously not a choice. But it also doesn't feel good, you know." Now, Bex is focusing on staying healthy and reapplying to college. He isn't sure whether he would ever want to be a parent, but right now, he said he's leaning against it. "There's this thing that you love desperately and you always want to be around, and progressively over the course of it's life, as it gets more interesting, you have to let it go." "Like, that sounds awful. That sounds horrible!" Bex exclaimed. "Both of you guys are fucking idiots!" After that, we all burst into laughter.   
28/12/1630m 47s

My Awkward Money Talk With Sallie Krawcheck

Before she was a Wall Street executive or the CEO of an investment company for women, Sallie Krawcheck was a little kid, listening to her parents fight about money.  "You just knew, once a month, they were gonna have a big fight and somebody was gonna storm out of the house," she told me. "It was a really stressful and tense topic for us, because we didn't have any."  That taught Sallie that she never wanted to be in that position. She says she started working in the third grade, filing papers at her dad's law office. By high school, Sallie was lending her parents money to fix the furnace when it gave out. "I wanted to make my own money. I did not want to have those fights with a spouse, or be put in a position where I would be financially vulnerable," she said.  Sallie learned that lesson again after she began her career in finance, and she found out her first husband was having an affair. She had graduated from business school, but at the time of their divorce, she wasn't in charge of their finances. "I knew vaguely how much we had, but it was an eye-opener," she says. "When you're reeling from a break to a relationship, that's a really bad time to try and figure out how to manage your money."  Sallie remarried, and while she and her husband raised their two kids, Sallie's career continued to advance. She became the CEO of Smith Barney, and then, a top executive at Citigroup. She was there when the financial crisis hit in 2008, and Sallie was fired amid corporate infighting about how to handle some of the bank's major losses. "We told the kids that we were okay. You know, that mom got fired, mom got re-orged out and that we were okay as a family," she says. "I think the conversations were that straightforward."  This year, Sallie started Ellevest, a financial planning firm specifically focused on women. When I asked whether her Wall Street past ever makes it awkward to have money conversations with women who earn much less, it got a little heated. "I have made money in my life. Isn't it interesting I had to come back and tell you that I also lost a lot of money in my life, as if I'm apologizing for it. It's funny. You've made me feel quite defensive," she told me.  "It is interesting how awkward it is to talk about it," Sallie added, "even though I talk about it in the abstract everyday." 
21/12/1628m 15s

Let's Talk About Porn

Porn. It’s something that people use in their most intimate, private moments. It’s a way to acknowledge desire—without any of the attachments of intimacy. For some of you, that's incredibly freeing. For others, it's caused some real problems. This spring, we heard from a listener named James* who described himself as a recovering porn addict. He was struggling to stay away from porn while his wife was out of town. His story made us wonder about your own relationship with porn, so we asked you about it. More than 100 responses later, you told us how you first learned about porn, what drew you to it, and why some of you have had to turn away from it completely. Rose* was in her 30s when she first stumbled across a porn video on Tumblr. She tried to put it away, but kept coming back to it. "I was going through heartbreak at that time, and really craving affection and love and desire," she tells me. "Seeing that acted out…I found it intriguing." Another listener, Antonio*, says porn helps him stay faithful to his boyfriend by letting him live out his fantasies on his smartphone. And Michael* says his porn collection is a stress reliever that he carefully tends to "like a rose garden." We also heard from listeners like Daniel*, who've had to cut porn out of their lives entirely. Daniel went cold turkey three years ago when he realized porn had become a coping mechanism for his mental illness and was hurting his relationship with his girlfriend. "It's hard because it gives me a really intense pleasurable feeling," he says. "But it’s also usually followed by a lot of shame, too." But for Jennifer*, experimenting with porn and talking about it openly can be helpful—even though it often makes the people she's dating uncomfortable. "I think it's important to just get it out of the way," she says. "You can have a better sex life when all the cards are out on the table." *Names changed for privacy reasons.
07/12/1631m 5s

Other Americans

Since the election, Americans on both sides of the political divide have been feeling deeply alienated and profoundly misunderstood. So we've been asking our listeners one central question: What's the thing that you wish other Americans understood about you, that they don't?  In this live call-in special, Anna speaks with listeners about their answers to this question. Among the Americans we hear from are Kelly, a black woman in Portland, Oregon, who feels frustrated by the "smugness" of the white liberals she's surrounded by and sometimes feels like she's not being seen in her community; David, a first-generation Jewish American who was inspired by a recent white nationalist speech to wear a kippah for the first time in his adult life; Katherine, a Republican who's tired of being labeled a racist and a bigot; and Jorge, who identifies as a progressive but wants other Americans to know that plenty of Latinos lean right politically.  We also hear from Nora*, a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill who voted for Hillary Clinton and was shocked when Donald Trump won. "When I voted for Hillary...I did it completely against my own career interests," Nora says. "There are so many people [on Capitol Hill] like me....We are simultaneously terrified of the uncharted unknown but also really excited what we envision for the country."  This call-in special is part of The United States of Anxiety, WNYC's election series. Find out more about the series here.  *Name changed for privacy reasons
23/11/1658m 48s

What Money Can't Solve

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. The city of Chicago has officially acknowledged that this happened. Earlier this year, the city approved a $5.5 million reparations package to 57 of the people who suffered at the hands of the police.  Planet Money reporter Noel King interviewed Darrell shortly after he picked up his reparations check earlier this year. She shared his story as part of a larger Planet Money episode called "Paying for the Crime." And today, in collaboration with Planet Money, we're sharing more of Darrell's story with you. It's a story about money—and the things that money can't solve. "I hate 'em," Darrell says. "That ain’t never gonna change."
17/11/1630m 14s

If You're Not ____, Then Never Mind

Actor Amy Landecker got divorced in 2011. "It was the worst time of my whole life," Amy says. "People told me it was going to get better and I didn't believe them." Amy and her ex-husband share custody of their daughter, and Amy struggled with being away from her for days at a time. "I would watch Louie, there was this one episode in particular where, when his kids would leave he would eat doughnuts, get high and want to kill himself," Amy remembers. "I was just so comforted. Because I was like, 'That's how I feel.'"  Amy's 47 now, and says the pain of her divorce has eased as time has passed. In the past few years, she's found breakout success in her role as Sarah, the oldest sister on the series Transparent. That's also how she met her boyfriend, actor Bradley Whitford. "My daughter was worried that I was gonna be alone and...she was like, let's just make a list of the qualities that we're looking for," Amy laughs. "So she takes out this piece of paper and she titles it, 'If You're Not This, Then Never Mind.'" Soon after that, Amy met Bradley—who met a lot of their requirements. "I wanted him to like cats and dogs," Amy says. "Bradley has both, which is very rare."  For the past two decades, Amy has also been sober—a decision she made at 24, after years of hard partying and some sexual close calls. Plus, drinking was getting in the way of her career. "The final drink of my life was before an audition," Amy remembers. "I was absolutely terrible and I was like, 'I'm not going to be able to do what I want to do for a living if I continue down this path.'"    Before being cast on Transparent, Amy worked as a voiceover actor—and voice double. Don't know what that is? Watch this video from New York magazine. Get ready to be amazed. 
04/11/1624m 14s

I Was More Angry At God

Two years ago, Jane Chung was living in New York, working at a startup and having the time of her life. The business she co-founded, called Klooff—a sort of "Instagram for pets"—was growing by leaps and bounds. "Everything seemed to align," Jane says. "And I would call my dad every day and I will tell him all the news." Jane, who was 30 at the time, hoped that after her startup got big, she could sell it and help her dad leave behind the dollar store business he owned in California.  And then, on October 31, 2014, Jane got a phone call from her mother. "Her voice was really weird," Jane remembers. "There was like the feeling that you just kind of know that something awful happened." Jane's father had been shot and killed in a robbery. That phone call rerouted the course of Jane's life—leading her to pack up her things in New York, sell her business and completely start over in California. Jane moved in with her mom, and struggled to accept that the God she had trusted to take care of her family had let something so terrible happen. "Most people were angry at the murderer," Jane says. "I think I was more angry at God." In the past two years, Jane's been adjusting to her new life on the West Coast, and figuring out where to draw boundaries between herself and her mother. And she's trying to see God in a new way—and accept that she won't always be able to predict what's coming next. "You collect things in life, you gather pieces, you don't know what you're gonna do with those pieces but somehow it maps to something in your future," Jane says. "It can become a bigger piece of work. I think that's what God does." Jane made a video that was played in court at her father's killer's sentencing. Watch it below.   
26/10/1626m 48s

Ellen Burstyn & Gloria Steinem

Before the women's movement came around in the 1960s, Gloria Steinem thought her options for the future were limited. "I was being a freelance writer and not having any money to save, and assuming that I would be a bag lady," she tells guest host Ellen Burstyn. "I was supposed to get married and have a man to support me. But that seemed to be a kind of hard bargain." Gloria was raised by a father who traveled across the country selling jewelry and antiques, and a writer mother who suffered from severe depression. They separated when Gloria was 10 years old, and Gloria soon became her mother's primary caregiver. The journalist and feminist icon says the circumstances she grew up in gave her the confidence to step into the world on her own—like when she traveled to India as a young woman, leaving her then-fiancé behind in the States. "I realized in later life that...I felt not so safe at home because I was a small person looking after a big one," Gloria says. "So I felt the world outside the home was safer." Gloria broke off that early engagement—but married entrepreneur David Bale when she was 66. "By that time the women's movement had worked for 30 years to equalize the marriage laws," Gloria says. "So no longer would I lose my name and my credit rating and my legal domicile and all my civil rights, as I would have had I got married when I was supposed to. So I thought, 'Well, you know, why not? I mean I'm not going to lose.'" David died three years after they got married, after being diagnosed with brain lymphoma. Gloria says taking care of him at the end of his life forced her to live fully in the present. "He let me do over what I couldn't really do for my mother," she added. "It gave me a chance to do that over." Gloria is 82 now. And she says she isn't yet very comfortable with the idea of death. "I'm torn because I love it here...I'm very attached," she admits. "I'm still trying to hang in there 'til I'm 100. Because just to meet my deadlines I have to do that." Feb. 1975 cover of Ms. Magazine featuring Ellen Burstyn, Eleanor Perry and Shirley MacLaine. (Courtesy of Ellen Burstyn.)
05/10/1635m 47s

Diane Gill Morris & Officer Robert Zink

Diane Gill Morris first joined us last year to talk about raising her two boys, Kenny and Theo. Both of her children are autistic, and Diane told us about the challenges that have come with their diagnoses and the overwhelming responsibility she feels to protect and nurture them, particularly as they become adults.  Diane said she was particularly worried about her older son, Kenny, who was then 16. "I am still trying to figure out how I make sure that he is safe in the world," Diane said, "when I can’t explain to him all the intricacies involved in what it means to be young and black in America." There have been several recent stories about police interactions with autistic people of color—and their caregivers—that have ended violently, in places like Miami, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Today, as a guest host on Death, Sex & Money, Diane talks with police officer Robert Zink, who founded the St. Paul CARE (Cops Autism Response Education) Project and has two autistic boys of his own. "Officers may not read the cues of what the person is presenting," Officer Zink says. "Officers may view them as cues of, is it drug interaction? Is it a mental health issue? And read those cues wrong....And we go down one path and it gets worse and worse." He adds, "I never want to see something like that happen to my sons just because something they did was misinterpreted."  Diane also talks with Officer Zink about her worry that officers might make incorrect assumptions about her sons because they're black. "In the media most of the people that we see with autism are white. I don't think a lot of people are aware that there's a really large population of minority children and adults with autism," Diane says. "My fear is always that an officer sees a black man and they will immediately go to the idea of this being a person on drugs versus this being a person with disability."  Diane also talks with Maria Caldwell, whose son, Marcus Abrams, was injured during an confrontation with Metro Transit officers in St. Paul last year. Marcus is black and autistic, and was 17 at the time of the incident. Maria talks with Diane about how Officer Zink reached out to her family after Marcus landed in the hospital—and Officer Zink and Maria talk together about working to rebuild trust after it's been lost. "There's no expectation that trust is going to be gained in six weeks, six months, six years, or sixty years," Officer Zink says. "Even though you may not have it back right away, you still have to work to get that trust back." 
28/09/1633m 38s

Chris Gethard & Tim Dillon

Comedian Tim Dillon has lived a lot of life in his 31 years. "I was a child actor," he tells guest host Chris Gethard. "I started doing coke at 12. My mother's a schizophrenic. I was a closeted homosexual. I'm politically all over the map, though I lean conservative. I was in the mortgage industry. I idolize hucksters, thieves, cons and cheats. My dream is to be a traveling salesman through America. And if comedy works, that's nice too." Around the time that Tim says he began experimenting with drugs, he also began to notice that his mother was starting to talk about being followed. She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, and had a mental breakdown when Tim was twenty years old. She's been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since then. As an adult, Tim says he feels a growing responsibility to care for his mother, but he's also come to terms with the fact that no amount of money will "fix" her. "That's the amazing thing about mental illness," he says. "If I had a million dollars, and I had a home, and I could move her in and pay all her bills, she wouldn't be better." Tim did in fact once own a home, in his early 20s. He started his career selling mortgages—including those of the subprime variety. "I didn't know how bad it was going to get," he says. "I took one myself." He bought a $570,000 house that, as it turned out, he couldn't afford after the subprime mortgage crisis hit and he lost his job. The bank foreclosed on his home, and Tim says his credit is still suffering today. But the economic downturn did push him to make a dramatic career change. Tim started doing stand-up comedy about six years ago. And that same year, he decided to come out to his family. "There was no like, 'We love you,'" Tim says. "There was none of that. They're funny, acerbic people." Tim isn't dating much, though. Right now, he says he's focused on building his career as a comic, doing two to three shows a night. But, he says, he might slow down "if I fell deeply in love with somebody...I'm not saying that that even would slow me down, I'm just saying that could." 
21/09/1632m 55s

Sonia Manzano & Justice Sonia Sotomayor

"Through and through I'm a lawyer and a judge," says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "But my life experiences do permit me to see things that others may not." Before the Justice became a lawyer and a judge, she was a young woman growing up in the Nuyorican community in the South Bronx—just a few years behind Death, Sex & Money guest host Sonia Manzano, who also grew up there. The two didn't meet until a few years ago, but their childhoods had some similarities: Money was tight, their parents' relationships were troubled, and both of their fathers struggled with alcoholism. But unlike Sonia Manzano's father, who lived well into his 80s, the Justice's father died when she was nine years old. "I’ve often wondered if the outcome of my life would have been the same if my father had remained alive," the Justice says. "I think the absence of that constant battle made a big difference in my self-perceptions." Sonia asks the Justice about facing and overcoming insecurities throughout her life—including on her first day as a Supreme Court Justice. "Anyone presented with a new challenge has to always have that moment of insecurity, of not knowing whether they can do it," the Justice says. "I live with that. I've lived with it my entire life....The first day that I was on the bench was for the now quite famed case, Citizens United. And my knees were knocking even then. But what got me over that moment...was to become totally engaged in what was happening before me, and the knocking finally stopped without my realizing it."  Sonia and the Justice also talk about some of the opinions that the Justice has written for the Supreme Court, including those about race and prejudice. "I know that for people to hear me, I have to be able to explain it in terms that people can sit in the shoes of the other person," the Justice says. "I suspect that there are many people...who never thought about what the impact is of snickering at a person of a different race when they walked by or of asking someone, 'Where are you really from?' when that kid has been born and raised here." They also talk about the Justice's recent words about police searches and parents of color giving their children "the talk" about interacting with the police. "It is inescapable for any child in this society who is of color of any kind, or who comes from a different background where language becomes noticeable, that they will experience that difference," the Justice says. "And they will have to cope with it. We have not become colorblind yet."
14/09/1637m 19s

The Great Guest Takeover

A few months ago, we mentioned that we were working on a couple of special episodes during Anna's maternity leave.  What we didn’t mention was that we were working on these special episodes with some familiar voices. We invited four of our favorite former guests to switch seats...and become the interviewer. Over the next several weeks, you'll hear from longtime Sesame Street actor Sonia Manzano, comedian Chris Gethard, and actor (and "shouldless day" enthusiast) Ellen Burstyn. You'll also hear from Diane Gill Morris, who we met when she shared what raising two sons with autism has been like for her. Each of them talked with someone they were curious about, and wanted to get to know better. You'll hear Sonia Manzano interviewing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—who also hails from the South Bronx.  Chris Gethard sits down with up-and-coming comedian Tim Dillon, someone who Chris describes as "either the smartest maniac or craziest genius I know in the comedy world."  Diane Gill Morris told us last year that she worried about her older son, Kenny, being safe in the world "when I can’t explain to him all the intricacies involved in what it means to be young and black in America." She talks with a woman named Maria Caldwell—she's the mother of an autistic teenager of color who had a violent interaction with Metro Transit police in St. Paul, Minn., last year—as well as Robert Zink, a St. Paul police officer who has two autistic sons and trains officers how to interact with autistic people.  And, to wrap things up, Ellen Burstyn talks with the one and only Gloria Steinem. The activist and author talks with Ellen about growing old with her chosen family, the source of her confidence, and how she's learned to deal with her regrets over the years.  Look out for all of these episodes in the coming weeks! Subscribe to Death, Sex & Money on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts to make sure you stay up to date. 
07/09/168m 56s

Life Is a Mystery

There are some interviews that just stay with you. My conversation with Elizabeth Caplice is one of those. I spoke with Elizabeth back in March for our episode about near death experiences called "When I Almost Died." A listener had suggested that we reach out to Elizabeth, who lived in Australia and had chronicled her almost two years of colorectal cancer treatment on her blog, Sky Between Branches. But hours before we talked, Elizabeth had been told by her doctors that her time was running out. They thought she had between three and 12 months left. She was still processing the news.  "I mean, there’s intellectual acceptance," she said. "And then there’s the really solid, 'No, now I know my life is ending.’ This has sort of shifted it into a new gear." Elizabeth wrote her last blog post in June. She let her readers know that she was ceasing her cancer treatment and moving into a hospice facility. On July 12, Elizabeth died, surrounded by loved ones. Her partner, Alex, wrote on her blog that Elizabeth's death was "not a life coming to its was cut short."
24/08/1613m 44s

Your Death, Sex & Money Short Stories – Live!

Last year, we asked listeners to share their favorite short stories about death, sex and money. After receiving more than 140 suggestions (you can find them all here), we picked five of our favorites—and partnered with the public radio show Selected Shorts to present them during a live show here in New York. Actors Becky Ann Baker (Girls), Sam Underwood (The Following), Kathleen Chalfant (Wit, The Affair) David Costabile (Breaking Bad) and Amir Arison (The Blacklist) joined us on stage to bring these stories to life.  Today, we're sharing two of those readings with you. You'll hear actor Sam Underwood performing "Road Trips" by David Sedaris, a story about a youthful hitchhiking experience gone awry. And you'll hear Kathleen Chalfant read "Until the Girl Died," a story by the Irish writer Anne Enright about a wife who is equal parts furious and patient with her philandering husband. Want to hear more episodes of Selected Shorts? Subscribe here. 
17/08/1644m 13s

Anna Chlumsky Catches the Worm

At 10 years old, Anna Chlumsky delivered an iconic performance alongside Macaulay Culkin in the classic '90s movie My Girl. She became a child star, but the attention and job offers were fleeting. By the time she was a teenager, she'd stopped getting acting roles. "It just makes you feel like shit as an adolescent," she says. "Most rejections as an adolescent for anybody in any walk of life...make you feel like shit over and over." Even so, Anna couldn’t escape the public memory of her famous role—even in college. At least, until she met Shaun So. "He didn’t care," she says. "By then I could tell who cared and who didn’t. You kind of feel safe with the people who don’t care." The two started dating and stayed together even after Anna graduated and moved to New York City. Then, Shaun told her that he was enlisting in the Army Reserve. As Shaun began training for a deployment to Afghanistan, Anna started a career in publishing. But deep down, she knew that acting still appealed to her. During one particularly rough day at work, a fortune teller stationed in front of her office recognized her on her lunch break. "She says, 'You’re not still want to do this,'" Anna recalled. "So that touched a nerve." She quit her job later that week. Anna and Shaun got married in 2008, and Anna landed her role on Veep in 2012. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Penelope, in 2013. For awhile, her job required her to commute back and forth between California and New York, where she and her family live. "I kept calling it 'The Momma Bird Commute' because I was like, 'Alright, I gotta go catch the worm, and then I will come back,'" she told me. "But I gotta catch the worm." She'll soon be juggling her work with two kids—when we talked, Anna was pregnant with her second child, after having a miscarriage. "People don’t talk about that enough," she told me. "It’s not even that we’re hiding it. It’s just that it’s so f-ing uncomfortable to talk about, 'cause you just aren't happy about it. But you do learn that this is kind of not up to you....There’s other stuff at work." Read Anna’s ode to Ovaltine for Gourmet Fare magazine from 2003. 
10/08/1624m 29s

Dating Was So Hard, Until It Wasn't

"When I want it badly enough, I can...really steel myself and just be like, 'Don't freak out, just stay still, kiss them. Just do it!'"  This is how Katie Heaney talked about her dating life when we first spoke back in 2014. She'd just published her confessional first book, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date—a chronicling of her lifelong singledom until age 25. And she'd recently moved to New York City from Minnesota to take a job at BuzzFeed as an editor. When we talked, the 27-year-old was also a virgin—something that made her really uncomfortable. "I really don't like it," she told me. "And I also hate that I don’t like it. Because that feels like conceding that it bothers me and that I am susceptible to the opinions of others."  Listening back to herself two years later, Katie winced. "I hear myself talk about all the fear and the dread and 'making myself,' and I'm just like, 'Ugh, you don't have to feel that way,'" she told me. Now 29, Katie says she's adjusted to life in New York—and along with that adjustment, has also come to terms with the fact that she's gay. "I remember being on the subway and looking around at all the guys. And being like, 'I don't want to date any of you. Like, I just don't - I don't want this,'" she said. "And...the attraction like fell out of my body." Soon after, Katie started dating a woman, and says that while she was nervous on their first date, she wasn't "uncomfortable to [her] core" in a way that she had been in the past on dates with men. Despite her newfound comfort in her sexuality, Katie says she's still learning how to be in a relationship. "I have to learn how to not catastrophize every disagreement or every feeling that comes to me that isn't a 100 percent joyous one," she told me. "I thought that I had struggled so long to find [a relationship] that once I did, it would just be perfect or easy. And, you know, I was naive about what it really means to spend that much time with someone." 
27/07/1622m 14s

We're Not Going To Have Karl Again

Karl Ives Scorah Towndrow was born last spring to parents Amber Scorah and Lee Towndrow. Neither of them were prepared for how deeply they would fall in love with their first child. "I remember having this feeling where I wanted to almost...absorb him into my body," Lee remembered. "As Karl got a little bit older," Amber told me, "There were these moments where sometimes he would catch my eye and stare at long and with so much love in his eyes, that I’d almost start to blush." Amber and Lee's time with Karl was intense, but brief. Karl died when he was almost four months old, while he was at his first day of daycare. He stopped breathing after being put down for a nap. Weeks after Karl's passing, the medical examiner's office said the cause of Karl's death was undetermined. Because it was unlicensed, the daycare was shut down the day after Karl died. When we talked in February, Amber said she couldn't stop thinking about why her son died, and whether it was somehow her fault. "You feel like there's this direct correlation between you leaving them and them dying," she told me. "As a human being, you need an answer for death. Even if you can't understand death, you need to understand why a death occurred." And as Amber struggled through the first few days and weeks after Karl's death, Lee says he felt like he had to postpone his own grieving process. "I felt a lot of pressure to reassure everybody that it’s going to be okay," he told me. "It was really hard." Lee says he was eventually able to grieve, almost six months after Karl died. And while Amber says that she and Lee have mourned Karl's loss differently, they did agree that they both wanted to have another child. At the time of our interview, Amber was six months pregnant—this time, with a girl. "What I have heard from women who have been through this and then went on to have other children, they all said that it never ever fills the hole that you have from losing the one that you did lose," she told me. "But a little bit of the sadness is taken away."  Since Karl's death, Amber and Lee have become advocates for paid parental leave. You can find out more at their website, 
13/07/1624m 51s

Tituss Burgess Airs His Laundry

Tituss Burgess says there isn't much that he won't talk about. "I'm comfortable airing my laundry," he says. "I don't think one thing's dirty or clean. It's just what I wear." It's taken him years to get to that place. Raised by his mom in Georgia, the actor and singer says he knew that he was gay from a very young age. But it wasn't until his freshman year in college that he mustered the courage to come out to her. "She handled it very well," he said. But as his career has taken off, first on Broadway and more recently as Titus Andromedon on "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,"  Tituss has become an increasingly vocal LGBT activist—something he says his mom struggles with. "She feels uncomfortable with it," he said. "It means that there's a chance that she might have to come out and be vocal about a position." Despite not always seeing eye to eye, Tituss says he and his mom are still very close. But he acknowledges that he's had to be strategic about their relationship. "Because of what is growing increasingly important to me, almost becoming a part of my DNA, I've had to assist us both in redefining what our relationship is," he said. "Taking greater, more strategic steps towards protecting us. For fear that the very different thinking will dismantle what's left."  Tituss moved to New York more than a decade ago. Now, at 37, says the city feels like where he belongs. But he's not sure that the close-knit feeling of family that he felt as a kid, surrounded by his mother and grandparents, is one that he'll find again. "I feel most at home when I'm alone," he told me. "That's not sad. It's just I feel closest to source and connection when I'm by myself."  Watch Tituss performing his song "Comfortable" here:     
29/06/1623m 39s

Inside Planned Parenthood

The first thing that greets you when you step off the elevator at the Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn is a metal detector. "I didn’t necessarily expect it," a first-time patient told me. "But as soon as I saw it I was like, 'Oh yeah, that’s right, that makes sense.'"  Many Planned Parenthood clinics across the country rely on security measures like these. The services provided by these clinics—specifically, abortions—have long been at the center of a raging political debate in the U.S. But it's not very often that we hear from the people who rely on these clinics for health care.  Over a number of days this past winter and spring, we collected interviews at the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Brooklyn. Patients volunteered to talk with us while they were waiting for their appointments. They were there for STD tests, pap smears, birth control prescriptions—no one seeking an abortion talked with me on the days we were there. But for many of the people I met, abortion was an important part of their history with Planned Parenthood.  "Here it was just very reassuring," a patient named Sarah, who was at the clinic for her annual exam, told me about her abortion three years ago at Planned Parenthood. "No one wants to do it, but life, you know, happens." We also talked with some of the abortion protesters who stand outside the clinic every Saturday, rain or shine. And I interviewed several staff members and volunteers at Planned Parenthood—like Rhea, who greets patients as they walk in the door downstairs. "If you’re wondering if this is the right choice and you’re there and you’ve made the appointment and you’ve been thinking and you’re like, crossing the line...somebody being a jerk to you could totally just melt you down," she told me. "Or, somebody with a smile and somebody who holds your hand, could just make you feel calm and make you feel good. At a time where maybe you don’t feel good." 
22/06/1628m 13s

Danielle Brooks Is Ready to Talk About Sex

Danielle Brooks started out her life in a very religious household. Her mother and father are a minister and a deacon, respectively, and she grew up singing in her church choir and participating in oratorical contests run by her congregation. And the church also shaped her early thoughts about sex. "I had this Bible study teacher, who scared the bejesus out of us about having sex," Danielle tells me. "She was like, 'Anyone that enters you, they become a part of you!' And I was like, 'I’m just not ready for this.'" Now 26, Danielle is known for portraying women on-screen who have no problem talking openly about their sexuality—like her Orange Is the New Black character, Taystee, or her character Sofia in The Color Purple on Broadway. And these roles have made an impact on Danielle, who says she just recently started talking publicly about sex—including losing her virginity during college. "I just remember like being there and the light’s dim or whatever, and saying to him, 'Just be gentle,'" she laughs. "And then, once we got into it, you would have thought I’d had sex for years the way I was talking!"  Danielle's quick rise to fame has affected her relationships. "My last relationship felt so like me being used in a lot of ways," she says. "They just wanted to be a part of that fame." But, she says, her current partner is teaching her new things about love and intimacy. "I’m realizing it’s okay to allow yourself love, even when you're scared of it," she says. "And that sex can be more than just physical, or love can definitely be more than physical."  Below: Watch video from Danielle's days singing in the church choir.    
08/06/1625m 43s

An Update from Susanne

We met Susanne* and Mike* earlier this year, when they shared how they overcame heroin addiction together. They started dating when they were teenagers, and began doing heroin together only a few weeks into their relationship. What followed were years of overdoses, jail time and three unplanned pregnancies. But after several false starts, Mike and Susanne were able to wean themselves off of heroin with methadone. They got clean, they moved away from their home state of Texas, and Mike found well-paying work. But true stability still eluded the couple.  After our interview, we learned that Mike had been charged with sexual abuse of a minor. When I asked about the allegations, Mike denied them. But last month, Mike entered a guilty plea. He now faces jail time.  I called Susanne to talk about what's happened in her life since we last talked. "I feel like I wasn't abused, but I should have known that I was married to someone who had the ability to abuse somebody," Susanne tells me. "I should have left a long time ago." *Names changed -- If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, you can call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP for confidential, free information about substance abuse. If you need support, assistance or information about sexual abuse, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
01/06/167m 47s

How Jeff Daniels Got Sober, Again

Jeff Daniels dropped out of college and moved to New York City to become an actor. He left his family behind in Chelsea, Michigan, where his dad ran the local lumber yard. But a few years after moving to the city, Jeff says he got a letter from a young woman from his hometown. She moved to New York, they married, and had their first child. And then, they decided together to raise him back home in Michigan. "'I will sustain the career from the Midwest for as long as I can,'" Jeff told me. "That became the business plan for us. And it worked for quite a while." But the plan started to falter after a few years, which sometimes meant watching others succeed from the sidelines. "There was a time when I couldn't even watch the Oscars. I had to leave the room," he told me. With a family and a house "in the middle of nowhere," Jeff resorted to less than ideal jobs just to pay the bills. He says movies like Dumb and Dumber—commercially successful but critically lowbrow—took him out of the running for serious roles for a long time. By then, Jeff and his wife were raising three kids, which led him to another big decision: getting a vasectomy. "I had watched her go through childbirth three times," he remembers, "I said, 'There is no way I am going to force you or ask you to do anything...I’m the one. I've gotta be the one who gets fixed.'" As his kids got older, Jeff started to reemerge on stage and in the spotlight. When his acting career regained traction in the 2000s, the rush of success pushed him off the edge and broke 14 years of sobriety. "Just to take some of the stress away," he says of the moment when he talked himself into a beer, "Just to relax." It didn't take long for him to banish that inner voice that gave him permission. After getting professional help, he quit drinking again after a few months. Jeff is 61 now, and he's received some of the recognition he desired when he was younger. He won an Emmy for his leading role in The Newsroom and received a Tony nomination this year for his portrayal of a sexual abuser in Blackbird on Broadway. Still, he resists the urge to retire and look back on his career. "I always have to have something in the air," he says, "to feel alive."
25/05/1624m 45s

From Conversion Therapy to a Rainbow Yarmulke

When Chaim Levin first met Benjy Unger almost 10 years ago, Chaim immediately wanted to be friends. "He was like one of those bros from high school that was just so regular and nobody would guess that he’s gay," Chaim tells me. Chaim and Benjy grew up in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, but they didn't meet until they signed up for a therapy program then called JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Chaim was 18, and Benjy was 20. Both were attracted to men, and they sought out the program hoping to become straight. "It was like I struck gold," Benjy remembers. "I finally found my messiah. For that moment I was very happy and inspired." The program offered Benjy and Chaim a way to follow the path laid out for them by their religious community—including marrying women and starting their own families. Initially, it felt like a huge relief. "For people like me who were rejected for so long," Chaim says, "I just needed that connection with people." But both soon grew frustrated and quit the program. Chaim came out first, with gusto. "When Chaim does something, boy, does he do it!" Benjy says. "Rainbows here and rainbow glitter there and rainbow yarmulke and rainbow bracelets and rainbow necklace. But he at least seemed happy."   Watching Chaim become an activist gave Benjy courage, he remembers. "If it weren’t for people like Chaim, I might be still in the closet."  Benjy and Chaim realized that being free of JONAH wasn't enough. They filed a lawsuit in 2012, along with two other clients. Together they claimed that the program defrauded them and their parents. They won, and JONAH was forced to shut down in 2015. "I would not have survived this lawsuit without this schmuck right here," Chaim says of Benjy, who has become a very close friend. "I tell people that the only good thing I ever got out of JONAH was this guy."  Read more about Chaim, Benjy and their lawsuit against JONAH at Newsweek by reporter Zoë Schlanger. Watch Newsweek's video about Benjy and Chaim's story.
11/05/1624m 23s

Diane Guerrero on Debt and Deportation

Diane Guerrero was just 14 years old when she came home to an empty apartment. Her parents had been taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and would soon be deported to their native Colombia. "My family unit essentially died that day," she says.  Now 29, Diane has recurring roles two successful television shows. She plays inmate Maritza Ramos on Orange is the New Black and smart aleck Lina on Jane the Virgin. But this success is new to Diane. Most of her teens and twenties were spent working any job she could get her hands on, dodging loan collectors, and keeping her family drama a secret. "You would never know that I was going through such sadness," she says, "I made sure that nobody would find me out." Keeping everything bottled up only worked for so long. In her junior year of college, she started to drink heavily and cut herself. "I used that as a coping mechanism," Diane reflects, "or a way to self-sabotage myself." As her life and relationships started to fall apart around her, Diane finally found a positive outlet in acting classes. And seeing a therapist didn't hurt.  Diane's own life is stable now, but her family is still in a precarious place. Her parents are still unable to enter the U.S., even as visitors. And they separated shortly after they were deported. Dealing with their split has been an ongoing element of Diane's emotional recovery. "It definitely affected my relationships and how I dealt with people," she acknowledges, "and what I considered to be love or forever." 
27/04/1627m 57s

When I Almost Died

A few months ago, I asked you to share your near-death experiences. In all, we received more than 100 stories from you: through your emails, voice memos and—for the first time—our Medium page, where you can read the submissions. 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 describes her life these days as "one big near-death adventure." A listener sent us a link to her blog, Sky Between Branches, where she writes 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." 
20/04/1633m 45s

Dead People Don't Have Any Secrets

When Amanda* met Sam* in her mid-20s, she thought he was the most interesting person she had ever met. "It was almost like he had tried to live his life a different way," she told me. "I was just enchanted by that."  Three years into their marriage, the couple found out that they were unexpectedly pregnant...with twins. Amanda says she took on the lion's share of the work at home while also juggling a full-time job that was paying most of their bills. "I was angry with him for not knowing how to help me," Amanda remembered. When Sam was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma while the kids were still toddlers, she says that neither one of them gave it the full attention it deserved.  "It certainly didn't change the things it should've changed," Amanda said. "Starting with a will would have been nice." Sam didn't exhibit many physical symptoms at first, but mentally, he started to turn inward after his diagnosis. "He went to this place of living his life in secret," Amanda said. "And not sharing anything about how it was feeling or what he was doing with me." Then, the cancer spread to his spinal column and brain. He was admitted to the hospital and quickly lost consciousness. That's when Amanda discovered, among other secrets, that her husband had been having an affair. She planned to confront Sam when he woke up, but he never did. Amanda was left with a lot of anger—and, as it turned out, money problems—to process. But she had to keep most of it to herself. "My husband was really very well-liked," she explained. "You've got to be this plate for everybody else's feelings about your dead husband." With two young kids and everyone else's mourning to deal with, she says it took years to get around to her own emotions. Eventually, Amanda remarried. But only after figuring out what she really wanted out of a marriage—and her life. Her current husband, Frank*, is completely different from her first husband. She says he only has one deal breaker -- infidelity. But she's surprised to find that the rule isn't as comforting as she once expected.  *Names changed 
06/04/1629m 16s

Rosie, Sixto, Hari, Uma, Mahershala, Amatus, Lisa & Dan

For Rosie Perez, it's her cousin, Sixto Ramos. For Mahershala Ali, it's his wife, Amatus. And for Hari Kondabolu, it's been his mom, Uma Kondabolu.  Our recent live show in Brooklyn was all about times of big change in life and the family who keeps us grounded during those periods of transition. I've been thinking about this a lot as I prepare to move across the country and become a parent for the first time.  (Julieta Cervantes) Rosie Perez and Sixto Ramos, Live at BAMRosie Perez didn't connect with her cousin, Sixto Ramos, until her 20s, when she almost got set up on a blind date with him after they acted together in Do the Right Thing. "I almost went on a date with my cousin!" Rosie laughed. "That's so sick!" Despite their awkward start, she and Sixto became close friends, bonding over their shared love of boxing. And they've stood by each other through times of loss, like when Rosie's mother passed away from AIDS in 1999. "He would call every day," Rosie said. "He would come over every day."  (Julieta Cervantes) Mahershala Ali and Amatus, Live at BAMActor Mahershala Ali and his wife, the musician Amatus, first dated when they were students together at NYU. But when they reconnected years later, after Amatus's brother was killed in a Chicago shooting, their relationship quickly became much more serious. "When you go through a tragedy that tears your crap up, you then...decide you're not gonna take anything for granted," Amatus said. "I was a thousand percent sure about what I truly wanted in my life." Now, as Mahershala's Hollywood presence continues to grow through his roles in House of Cards, The Hunger Games, and the upcoming Luke Cage series, they're figuring out together how to balance fame with their Muslim faith.  (Julieta Cervantes) Hari Kondabolu and Uma Kondabolu, Live at BAMWe also got to know comedian Hari Kondabolu's mother, Uma Kondabolu, who immigrated to the U.S. from India as a young woman. When Hari was born, she was still getting acclimated to her new home in Queens, and to the occasional racism that was directed her way. "I saw moments where people were trying to push my parents around, treat them poorly, and they wouldn't take it," Hari told me. Now that both Hari and his mother are older, he says he feels protective of his parents and sometimes guilty for choosing a career that doesn't bring in the big bucks. Although Uma acknowledged, "Occasional guilt is good," she added, "I tell them [Hari and his brother, Ashok] they don't need to feel that. I'm very proud of what they chose to do." And you'll hear: comedy runs in the family. Uma is one of the show's all-time funniest guests.  (Julieta Cervantes) During the show, sex columnist Dan Savage also gave me a call to impart some parenting advice, we got to see some of your incredible dance moves, and I told a story about Sly and the Family Stone and pregnancy anxiety. It was all backed by the incredible music of singer Lisa Fischer and her band, Grand Baton. Hear their live performance of Eric Bibb's "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" below.  Lisa Fischer, Live at BAM   Looking for our Anthems of Change Dance Video? Find it here. We want to get to know you better! Take our survey. 
23/03/161h 14m

After My Brother Avonte Disappeared

Danny Oquendo was in the spotlight long before his 14-year-old autistic brother, Avonte, disappeared from his New York City school. Growing up, Danny was a football star — “sort of a golden child,” he sheepishly told me — eventually playing for the University of Maryland. But several years after leaving his NFL dreams behind, Danny was thrust back into the public eye again — this time, as one of the people leading the search for his missing brother. Many New Yorkers remember Avonte’s story. His face was plastered across the city in the fall of 2013 after he ran out of a side door at his special needs school. The family was used to the nonverbal teen bolting on occasion, often calling him "a runner." "But it was never...for more than 10 or 20 minutes," Danny says. "Once we heard that he was gone for a few hours, we knew something was different." Danny, who is 12 years older than Avonte, put his job on hold and returned to New York from Florida — along with their father, who had separated from Avonte’s mother years before. With help from police, the family launched a massive citywide search and set up camp at Avonte’s school. They slept on benches and in cars so as to not risk missing Avonte if he returned. But Avonte didn’t come back. When his remains were found on the shoreline of the East River almost three months after his disappearance, Danny decided he needed to stay close to family. He moved back to New York permanently and moved in with his girlfriend, Ileana. They had their first child in 2014, and are expecting another baby this spring. And, Danny enrolled in law school — a longtime dream. He plans on pursuing a career as an advocate for special needs families and kids like Avonte. "Every day I walk into school, I'm reminded of the reason I'm walking into the school," Danny says. "He's who motivates me." Ileana and Danny Oquendo at prom. (Courtesy Danny Oquendo)  
16/03/1623m 48s

Falling in Love... With Heroin

Susanne* met Mike* when she was 16. He was 18, and her supervisor at the call center where they worked. They flirted and started dating. "Average teenager stuff," Susanne recalls. Soon after they got together, Mike offered Susanne heroin. She says she had never even smoked pot before. "I don’t want to be mean, but I felt pressured into doing it. So, I did," she adds. "And then I fell in love." Heroin took over Susanne and Mike's lives for the next five years. Mike admits that their story, though increasingly common, looks bad from the outside. "I should’ve said, 'Hey, this is probably not the best way to move forward with my life,'" he reflects, "But there’s some things that’re more important, I guess. Like heroin addiction." Through overdoses, incarcerations and three pregnancies, Susanne and Mike kept their relationship intact, even as relationships with family deteriorated. Methadone treatment finally helped them kick their habit. Today, they say it's been almost 10 years since they last used heroin. They moved to a nice neighborhood hundreds of miles away from where their lives began to spiral. Mike found a well-paying job, but felonies on both their records have limited their career options. And true stability continues to be elusive. During our fact-checking process, we uncovered a pending criminal charge that Susanne and Mike hadn't shared with us at first. And it casts their interview in a different light. When we checked in with them again, it became apparent that the outcome of this story—and their relationship—is far from clear.  *Names changed
02/03/1629m 35s

Michael Ian Black's Middle-Aged Angst

Being a rebellious smart-ass helped comedian Michael Ian Black launch his career. And it occasionally got him into trouble. “Once I called the head of MTV a drunk,” he told me. “She was very offended.” It didn’t help that he was working for MTV at the time, as a co-creator and star of the ‘90s sketch show The State. At 44 years old, Michael’s comedy still has an acerbic bite. But in his personal life, he’s embraced all the trappings of Rockwellian stability: a new house in the Connecticut suburbs, a wife of 17 years, two kids and a dog. Of course, all of those things come with some anxiety—particularly, the house. “I have a house I can’t afford,” he lamented. “The end is nigh.” Michael's also trying to take care of his mom and younger sister, though he lives thousands of miles away from them. Michael’s mom survived uterine cancer but has spent more than ten years dealing with the effects of her treatment. And his sister, Susan, who has Down Syndrome, lives in an adult home without any family nearby. "It’s sort of in stasis right now," he said about his sister’s living situation. "I just sort of feel paralyzed. I don’t know what the right thing to do is." Michael’s anxieties also extend to himself—specifically, to his middle-aged body. “Currently top of mind is my waistline,” he says. And he feels career pressure too. "I’m tired of being somebody who has had a nice little career but hasn’t ever found any sort of mainstream success," Michael told me. "I don’t particularly want to be famous in any in any real way, but I’d like to have just a little bit more control over the kind of things I do."
17/02/1625m 38s


We've been asking you to tell us about the songs that have meant a lot to you during times of big change in your life. You've sent in more than 500 suggestions so far—along with a lot of great stories. Our listener Kevin Chung from Seattle sent us his anthem: "Miracle Mile" by the Cold War Kids. You can hear his story about why that song means a lot to him in our short podcast this week—and you can hear about the video he recorded of himself dancing along to the song too.   That's what we want you to do next: tell us about your anthem, and then rock out to it on video.  Step one: Record a voice memo about your song and why it means so much to you. Email that to Step two: Record a video of yourself celebrating your dancing. Whether you're bopping your head along or having a full-on dance party, we want to see it! Use your phone or your webcam to make the video, and email it to (If the file is too big, don't worry—just let us know and we'll help you out.)  Need some inspiration? Check out my dance video.  We're going to use the videos for a special project that we're working on. We'll keep you posted about when it's done.  Thanks friends! 
10/02/164m 27s

Lucinda Williams Says Whatever the Hell She Wants

When Lucinda Williams was in elementary school, all the other kids brought rock collections and other standard fare to show-and-tell. But she brought a folder. "I put this notebook together of seven poems and a short story by Cindy Williams," she remembers. Decades later, she's still documenting her impressions of the world, now in raw, often mournful songs that explore death, heartbreak, abandonment, and love. Many of her them are based in the American south, where Lucinda grew up—including those on her latest album The Ghosts of Highway 20. "I know these roads like the back of my hand," she sings on the title track.      Lucinda's father was Miller Williams, a prolific southern poet. Her mother, Lucille, was a pianist. They split up when Lucinda was about ten. "That's all just kind of a big blur," Lucinda says about that time. Her mother had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenic tendencies, and she spent most of her life in therapy or mental hospitals. Her father took over Lucinda and her two siblings, and tried to help them understand that their mother was sick. "My dad was actually quite protective of her, and he would say, 'It's not her fault, she's not well,'" Lucinda told me. "There's a part of that that's healthy; the only problem is that I never gave myself permission to be angry at my mother."  Lucinda was close to her father throughout her life. He encouraged her interest in words and writing, even taking her to visit Flannery O'Connor when she was a little girl. So it was especially hard for her to see him go through Alzheimer's disease. He died last year, less than six months after the summer day when he told Lucinda he couldn't write poetry anymore. "I just sat there and just cried," she remembers. "That was when I lost him."  At 63, Lucinda says she's more successful than ever, selling out shows on the road and happily in love with her manager Tom Overby, whom she married on stage during an encore in 2009. But, she told me, getting older can still feel like a drag. "I don't like the aging process. I don't like getting older because of all the loss. It just gets harder and harder."   See the video on Lucinda's Facebook page of her performance of "Compassion" at her father's home before he died. Miller Williams reads his poem, and Lucinda follows by singing her musical interpretation. Want to share the song that's been an anthem for you during a time of big change? Fill out this form, or email your story to 
03/02/1629m 19s

Why Jeb Corliss Jumps Off Cliffs

Jeb Corliss says he's "impossible to be in a relationship with." He's a professional BASE jumper and wingsuit flier—who's learned to very carefully analyze and control his emotions, including fear. "People don't realize that feelings get you in big trouble," he told me during our conversation at his condo near the beach in Marina del Rey, CA. For the past two decades, Jeb has made a living doing things that, to most of us, seem crazy. Like jumping out of planes or off of cliffs and flying through the air, often through narrow spaces or trying to hit targets close to the ground. He was first drawn to BASE jumping after seeing it on TV when he was a depressed and suicidal teenager. "It was this concept of, wow—very few people in the world are willing to do that. And if I do it, well then I've done something that very few people would ever be willing to do," he told me. "And if I failed, well then, I got what I wanted."  Jeb has had a few brushes with death. In 2012, he slammed into a rock outcropping while soaring down from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. He was sure that he was going to die, but instead broke both of his legs. Some of his friends haven't been so lucky. Earlier this year, fellow wingsuit pilot Jhonathan Florez—a friend who Jeb says "barged his way" into his life—died during a practice jump in Switzerland. "I'm kind of back to just being a total anti-social, just on my own, kind of thing," Jeb says.  In our conversation, we talk about what motivates Jeb to keep risking his life, at 39. And we talk about why his near-death experience left him thinking...about retirement savings.   
27/01/1625m 12s

Brooke Shields, Recovering Daughter

Brooke Shields became famous as a sex symbol long before she was actually having sex. At 12, she played a child prostitute in the film Pretty Baby. Soon after, she starred in the sexy teen romance Blue Lagoon. And at 15, she became the controversial face of Calvin Klein jeans. But then, in college, Brooke publicly revealed her virginity—which she says turned her into "the most famous virgin in the world." "There was a juxtaposition of those two things," Brooke says. "I was not aware. I was not sexually aware." Despite the sexual nature of her early roles, Brooke says she felt safe on set, protected within the industry, and very sheltered at home. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her mother managed her career. But from a young age Brooke also singlehandedly dealt with her mom's alcoholism, which only worsened as she got older. "She damaged almost every relationship she had," Brooke says. "She cut almost everybody off. And I was the only thing left." Brooke eventually fired her mom as her manager and separated her finances from her—but not until she was 29.  Brooke married her second husband, Chris Henchy, in 2001. They wanted to start a family, but it was a struggle. After several rounds of IVF, Brooke got pregnant with their first daughter. She was thrilled, but soon after her daughter's birth, Brooke says the "toxic thoughts" started. "I saw my baby hitting the wall. Like, being flung across the room," she says." "I would close my eyes. And these horrible things, these images, would come through my mind." I talk with Brooke about the treatment that she received for postpartum depression, and whether it made her nervous about having a second child. And we talk about how the death of her mother in 2012 has impacted her career—and how, at 50, she's finally paying attention in financial meetings. 
13/01/1630m 5s

Living Alone, One Year Later

Today, more than a quarter of American households are home to just one person. And living alone has its perks. You can eat what you want, crank up the stereo and let your dishes pile up for days. But there's also no one to help foot the bill, and no one to turn to for reassurance when things go bump in the night.  Last year, I asked you to send in your stories about living solo. Listener Ashley Ward decided it was time to get her own place after dealing with a less-than-ideal roommate. But living alone can also be a consequence of bigger life changes. Arlene Pickett’s husband died four years ago after a long decline. She liked the freedom that came with living by herself. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, solo life just felt hard. Walid Shantur's wife moved out about eight years ago. His daughter left for college the same day. He told me last year that he'd come to embrace living alone—he found it "intoxicating." But when I checked back in with him this year, he told me that he'd met someone new, and added, "I no longer can say that living alone is pleasing and satisfying."  I caught up with everyone who talked with me last year about living alone. As you'll hear, some of them are still living alone and loving it. And some aren't. 
30/12/1527m 37s

Stop Calling Me 'The Homeless Valedictorian'

A year and a half ago, Rashema Melson’s story made national news. She attracted attention after she graduated at the top of her high school class in Washington, D.C., and earned a full scholarship to Georgetown, all while living in a homeless shelter. Now halfway through her sophomore year, she says she still gets recognized as “the homeless valedictorian.” She says people stop her for pictures, and strangers even send her donations. But Melson’s life didn’t change overnight. She visits her mom and her brother in their apartment across town where they've moved since leaving the shelter. She also does her best to help them out with money. While her new classmates are busy partying and enjoying life away from home, she says she's stayed focused on what got her here: working hard. "My job here is to just get my education and keep moving. It’s not a bad thing. It's just my motives are different," Rashema told me. "This isn't permanent. This is my home for the moment." The pressure she feels to succeed, though, can be weighing. She had what she called "a little breakdown" earlier this semester. "I want to get out and I want to have fun, but I'm kind of stuck. I'm in a situation [where] you're not going back home to a family who financially supports you," Rashema said. "I'm the one who's pushing my family." Rashema told me about considering dropping out this semester, the distance she feels between herself and her classmates, and why the one thing she's not afraid of is growing apart from her family.
18/12/1522m 13s

Autism Isn’t What I Signed Up For

Diane Gill Morris was 25 when her first son, Kenny, was born. About 15 months later, she and her husband realized that he’d stopped talking. By the time Kenny was officially diagnosed with autism, Diane’s second son, Theo, was eight months old. Less than a year later, he was also showing signs of the disorder. Diane left a comment on our Facebook page in response to an article about people who are considering having kids. "I have sacrificed a huge part of who I am—given up my career, gone broke, accepted social isolation," she wrote. "If someone had told me this is what it would be like, I never would have had kids."  Before having her sons, Diane worked full time. She wanted to travel. But those things have been pushed aside. After Theo put his teacher's arm in a sling when he was 6 years old, Diane cut her work hours, pulled both boys out of school and taught them at home for several years. She told me she often feels isolated, particularly from other moms. "My kid’s the lunatic who I have to be, like, right next to every second," she says. "I can’t sit down and have a conversation with another mom. Because I’m always worried that he's going to beat up some other kid on the playground."  Diane's sons are now teenagers, transitioning from being seen as autistic children to young black men. Diane’s focus is on making sure they’re safe in the world, and teaching them how to control their emotions and their bodies when she's not around.  When Diane spoke with us from her home in North Carolina, she told us about how raising her boys has made her "devoutly atheist," about how her marriage has changed since the kids' diagnosis, and about how she can both love her sons deeply and mourn the children she never met. 
09/12/1526m 58s

Holland Taylor Steps Off Her Island

Actress Holland Taylor has played roles like Judge Roberta Kittleson on The Practice, an ad executive in Bosom Buddies, and the emotionally distant mother Evelyn Harper on Two and a Half Men. She's built a reputation for playing patrician, self-assured women who don’t need anyone else. Which, in many ways, has also been a pretty accurate reflection of her personal life. "I was always at a certain safe remove I think," Holland says. "No matter how much I might have loved a person, I was at some sort of a safe ground, still with a foot on my own island."  When Taylor’s mother died several years ago, she says she started to think about the relationships in her life more deeply. "I just suddenly got the sense that I was living a very shallow life," she says. "I had not had wonderful relationships. I had stayed very solo." Holland says that feeling of loneliness, combined with an "aging spurt" at 70, sent her into a major depression after her Tony-nominated one-woman Broadway show, Ann, ended its run in 2013. But now, at 72, Holland says that without that period of breakdown, she wouldn't have been able to get where she is today—in her first-ever deeply committed relationship. "It’s the most wonderful extraordinary thing that could have ever possibly happened in my life," she says. Holland didn’t want to discuss her partner’s identity in detail, nor did she want to turn her own sexuality into a political conversation ("I haven’t come out because I am out," she says, adding, "I live out."). But she did share that she's with a younger woman—and that they've started to talk about marriage. "Given my generation it would not be something that would automatically occur to me," Holland says, adding, "But as a symbol, as a pledge, as a plighting one's troth, it would be a wonderful thing to do." 
25/11/1523m 18s

Why You're Not Having Sex

A 34-year-old listener we’ll call “Marie” emailed us not long ago. She’s never dated anyone seriously. She's never been kissed, and she's never had sex. She's not opposed to any of those things. They just haven't happened for her yet. And she’s worried that if she tells a potential partner about her sexual inexperience, he'll walk away.  Many of us aren’t having sex, for all kinds of reasons. When we asked you why you're not having sex, you told us about abstaining for religious reasons, or because of lingering fears based on what you learned (or didn’t learn) about sex growing up. We heard about not having sex because it hurts too much, or because you could hurt someone else by doing it. Some of you aren't having sex because you can't find the right partner or keep running into narrow societal standards about what’s “attractive.” We heard from people in relationships, too, like a couple who can't agree on how much sex is enough—so they're not really having any. And a man who says everyone thinks his life is full of three-ways and orgies because he lives with his wife and their girlfriend. But in reality, he says they're not having sex at all.  When we asked for your stories about why you’re not having sex, you also told us that not having sex can be really difficult to talk about. But by talking about it, what becomes clear is that our idea of what's "normal" might in fact be a myth. 
18/11/1528m 22s

Kevin Powell Doesn't Fight Anymore

Born in Jersey City to a poor, hard-working single mother from the South, Kevin Powell was a gifted young writer who earned a scholarship to Rutgers. Then things fell apart. He got expelled after a series of violent outbursts, two of which were directed at women. He’s not proud of what happened, but in some sense, he feels misunderstood. “Just because someone is in a college environment that’s supposed to be a positive space,” he told me, “doesn’t mean that they’ve healed from where they came from.” After leaving college, Powell got an unexpected break when MTV cast him in the first season of The Real World. He says he didn’t think much of joining the show beforehand (“I didn’t know that all these years later, everyone and their mother would have a reality TV show”), but his profile exploded. He became a senior writer for Vibe, and made a lot of money—most of which he quickly spent. When he was fired from that job, he says depression kicked in. "I felt like a failure all over again," he says. "I call it my dark years."  Powell and I spoke in front of a live audience at WNYC's Greene Space about his rocky history with sexism in the midst of his activism for racial justice, what his mother taught him after getting kicked out of school, and how all these years later, he’s replaced drinking and fighting with yoga and veganism.
04/11/1528m 12s

All in the Family of Norman Lear

I spoke with Norman Lear, the veteran writer and producer behind such hit TV shows as All in the Family and The Jeffersons, at his luxury apartment in Manhattan. He told me he wanted to make sure his kids would never be "desperate for a dollar" -- but what "desperate" meant has fluctuated along the way. "I guess now it’s 60 billion," he deadpanned, adding, "That’s a joke."  Lear's own childhood had a degree of desperation: When Lear was nine, his father, Herman, was sent to jail for selling fake bonds. Lear's mother scrambled to make ends meet. "My mother tried to warn him," he said. "But nobody ever told Herman anything." When his father returned from prison three years later, tensions remained high. "I used to sit at the kitchen table and I would score their arguments," he says of his parents. "I would give her points for this, him points for that, as a way of coping with it." Now 93, Lear has been married three times, and has six kids -- ranging in age from 20 to 69. That range of ages has presented its own challenges. "My middle daughter was ... hoping, wishing, trying to be pregnant," he says. "And her dad is suddenly married to a younger woman, and in a year’s time or less, she’s pregnant. That was not an easy time." We spoke about the lessons he’s continued to learn over the years, how he’s managed to bring his family closer together despite their differences, and what he’s anticipating for the final stage of his life.
28/10/1525m 24s

The Power of Yesi Ortiz

On weekdays between 10 and 3, Yesi Ortiz is the warm, flirty host for the popular Los Angeles hip-hop station Power 106. But off the air, she’s a dedicated single mother of six adopted kids. Her kids' biological mom is Yesi’s older sister, who had her first child as a teenager. "She had baby after baby after baby," Yesi told me. "She didn't really know how to go out and find a job." When Yesi was in her early 20s and her nieces and nephews landed in foster care, Yesi stepped up, taking parenting classes and eventually petitioning for custody. And when she was 25 years old, the kids came to live with her. By that point, Yesi was already establishing her broadcasting career, and balancing her roles as a parent and a media personality wasn’t easy. "Every day was a game of chess," she says. "I wouldn’t miss a parent teacher conference or back-to-school night, but I would miss dinner." One thing she didn’t want, though, was a man around the house. Her first date after getting the kids was on her front porch. "I didn't want the kids to hear a man's voice in the house," Yesi told me. "I didn't want them to feel like, 'Oh, my aunt is leaving us now too.'" Now that several of the kids are grown and out of the house, she’s had a little more time for herself, and for her new boyfriend. She spoke with me about how her faith was challenged by her family's struggles, how her new relationship has brought religion—not sex—back into her life, and why being a single parent is the hardest job in the world.
21/10/1524m 10s

An Astronaut’s Husband, Left Behind

Dr. Jonathan Clark and his eight year-old son Iain watched the space shuttle Columbia launch from Kennedy Space Center on January 16, 2003. Sixteen days later, Columbia exploded upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Jon's wife, Dr. Laurel Clark, was one of seven astronauts killed in the disaster.  Jon and Laurel met because they were both doctors in the Navy, so they weren't strangers to risk. They shared a passion for scuba diving, and just months before the Columbia launch, their small plane crashed as they were flying to New Mexico. "I still have flashbacks about that," says Jon. "You crash, and you either live or you die." Jon says he thought about that a lot in the aftermath of the Columbia explosion. "In this case they died. And, you know, it’s over. And the hard part, quite honestly, is living." Jon says he remembers everything from the day of the explosion—except for later that night, when his fellow NASA buddies got him pass-out drunk. As time went on, he had to learn how to be a single parent to his son, and how to process Laurel's death in his own way—which, for him, meant joining the NASA team that studied every detail of the Columbia disaster. 
07/10/1527m 9s

The Sex Worker Next Door

I first heard from Emma—that's not her real name—after our cheating episode. She emailed me about all of the married men that she encounters through her job. "Am I facilitating cheating? I guess so," she wrote. "Can I sleep at night? Mostly."  She wanted to share her story about what it's like to be a sex worker. So we set up an interview. She told me that for her, sex work is a job. It’s something she does to pay her bills and support her kids. She has a boyfriend, but his income can’t support her household.  Emma does sensual massage; she doesn't do "full service," as she says. She has other boundaries too, “though there are times,” she says, “where I choose to let things happen to my body where I feel like I’m violating myself. And that’s hard.” After I spoke with Emma that first time, she called me back, saying our interview made her realize how much she needed to get away from her job. She cancelled her appointments, and took some time off. She also asked us not to use her interview. But after a few months, she started seeing clients again—and told me that she wanted to talk. We had a follow-up conversation about why she continues this work, how much money it would take to stop, and why she decided to speak about her story. 
23/09/1534m 2s

From Chaos to Sesame Street

Sonia Manzano, who spent more than 40 years playing Maria on Sesame Street, often gets asked by kids if she’s rich. It all depends on where you came from, she told me. Compared to Jennifer Lopez, she’s “poor as a church mouse.” But compared to where her parents started, she said she's well off. Born into a Puerto Rican family in the Bronx, Manzano grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who bore the brunt of his abuse but refused to leave him. "I was always standing between them," Sonia told me. "When I was five, six, seven, and eight, I was standing between them." As an adult, Sonia cut her father out of her life and pushed her mother to get a divorce. "I asked her about…why she allowed it to go on. And she said, 'Well you know, I just thought that when you guys grew up, you'd understand,'" Sonia remembered. "And I remember thinking, 'You might understand, but you don't gain the childhood back.'" Sonia got a scholarship to study theater at Carnegie Mellon, and it was there that she first saw Sesame Street on television, with James Earl Jones’ booming voice reciting the alphabet. Several years later, she was cast as Maria on the children's show, as part of an effort to put more Latino actors on television. When Sonia married and got pregnant in her late thirties, Maria's character got married and pregnant as well. "We were going to show Latin people with the same hopes and dreams as anyone else," Sonia said. "You wanna get wanna have a baby, you wanna look for daycare, and you want your child to have an education." I spoke with Manzano, who recently wrote a memoir, about growing up in the South Bronx and what she’s learned about marriage and parenting—both from her parents’ experience, and her own.
09/09/1522m 13s

In New Orleans: How to Get Elected Coroner

Dr. Jeffrey Rouse is New Orleans' coroner—a job he describes as the “interface between law and medicine.” But ten years ago, he was working in a lab studying the brains of people with PTSD, getting ready for a life in academia. When the storm hit, Dr. Rouse and his family evacuated to Houston. A moment he caught on TV brought him back to the city. “I...remember being glued to the television and seeing a police officer that I knew on camera, crying,” he recalls. “And that was not this guy's temperament.” Armed with his background in psychiatry and a gun, Dr. Rouse hitched a ride back into the city with a reporter and set up a makeshift clinic inside a Sheraton hotel lobby to provide medical care to first responders. Nine years later, he ran for coroner, which he calls “the most bizarre job interview a human being can ever go through.” After a year in office, Dr. Rouse talks about making controversial judgment calls in police shootings, working out of a temporary office in a converted funeral home, and writing condolence notes to every family after signing a death certificate.  Click here to read a text version of this story on The Atlantic's site. The New Orleans Forensic Center has been located in a temporary facility since Katrina.  (Rush Jagoe) A refrigerated truck storing bodies of decedents sits on the street alongside the coroner's office. (Katie Bishop)
21/08/1522m 31s

In New Orleans: A Doctor's Adopted Home

Ten years ago when Katrina hit, Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke didn’t evacuate. Instead she stayed inside New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where she worked for six days, caring for 18 patients on the 5th floor. There was no power, and it seemed like no one was coming to rescue them. Before they were finally evacuated, Kiersta—who was part of the last group of people to leave—helped clean up the space for when her staff returned. "We didn't want it to look messy," she remembers. "We were naive."  Charity never opened after Hurricane Katrina, and Kiersta never got to properly thank the people who she worked with through the storm. "That's still something I would love," she tells me. Shortly after the storm, Kiersta started working at the VA hospital in New Orleans, where she still works today.  Kiersta's home was heavily damaged during the storm, and rebuilding took years. "We just had a feeling of, 'Can we slog through this?'" she says. But she stayed, and is now raising two kids in the city with her husband. "We just got too weird for any place else other than New Orleans," she laughs.  Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke in front of Charity Hospital, which has stood abandoned for ten years. (Rush Jagoe) Kierta Kurtz-Burke, with her children, Vida and Leo, and her husband, Justin. 
20/08/1522m 11s

In New Orleans: Big Freedia Bounces Back

Even before becoming Big Freedia, Freddie Ross was known around New Orleans. Her "signature call"—an operatic bellow that she lets out when I ask to hear it—was legendary in the city. "They'd be like, 'Oh that's Freddie in the club'.... The signature call comes very loud. And proud." Freedia came out to her mom as gay when she was 13, and soon came out to her classmates as well. She tells me she "had to do what every other gay kid had to do: fight for their life, and fight to be strong and stand up and let people know that you are not no joke in who you were." She eventually started performing as part of New Orleans' queer bounce music scene, and became a local celebrity.  Then, in 2005, Freedia got shot. "What the motive was, I don’t know to this day still," she says. After finally mustering the courage to start performing again, Freedia also moved into a new place, to get a fresh start. Hurricane Katrina hit about a week later. She and her family were together at her duplex during the storm, where the water rose to the second floor. They cut a hole in the roof to signal for help. Days after being evacuated, Freedia made her way to Houston, where she lived for two years.  In Houston, Freedia met her current boyfriend, Devon. After years of dating men who weren't openly gay, Freedia says Devon's openness about their relationship has made a difference. "When your love grows for somebody and y’all get closer you wanna...feel more appreciated, and you wanna feel loved," she says. Freedia eventually returned to New Orleans, where her career continues to expand. “A lot was happening after Katrina. I mean money was slinging everywhere,” Freedia tells me. “You know everybody had FEMA checks, girl!” I talk with Freedia about what's happened in her life in the years since she returned to her hometown: publishing a memoir, starring in a reality TV series, and losing her beloved mother to cancer.  Big Freedia in New Orleans, holding her high school graduation photo. (Rush Jagoe) The lot where Big Freedia's house stood, before Hurricane Katrina. (Emily Botein) Sitting on the porch swing with Big Freedia. (Katie Bishop) Big Freedia performs her song "Excuse" before she and over 300 dancers set the Guinness World Record for most people twerking simultaneously:  Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce Season 4 Trailer:
19/08/1525m 44s

In New Orleans: Becoming the Demo Diva

Simone Bruni never imagined she would someday run a demolition company. "I grew up in a very traditional Latin home," she says. "My mom did not work. I wanted her life. I wanted to be a stay at home mom." But when Hurricane Katrina hit, Simone was 32 and single, working in the hospitality industry. After the storm, she found herself unemployed. "No one knew what to do. I did nothing," she recalls. Jobs were scarce. "It was...a situation of blaze your own trail or leave. I wasn’t going to leave." When waves of aid workers showed up to help with storm cleanup, she saw an opportunity. "I realized the first step to coming home was demolition," she says. Armed with her skills in marketing, Simone started Demo Diva, a demolition company geared towards women. "I had everything painted hot pink," she laughs. "I said, 'I’m in this and I’m coming out strong.'" Simone Bruni, on a job site in New Orleans. Her excavator is named "Smashing Star," because "she looks smashing." (Rush Jagoe) Host Anna Sale, meeting Simone's baby squirrels. "I've notified all the tree companies that when they find baby squirrels to call me." (Katie Bishop)
18/08/1517m 41s

In New Orleans: From Raising Hell to Raising Kids

A decade after Hurricane Katrina, Terri Coleman is teaching a summer class to incoming students at Dillard University—a historically black college in New Orleans. But 10 years ago, when she was about the same age as her students, she was not the kind of kid to get a jump on freshman year with a summer class. “I did a lot of drinking. I did a lot of drugs. I did a lot of watching reruns of Family Guy all day long while super stoned,” Terri says.  When the storm hit, Terri was staying with her parents in New Orleans’ Gentility neighborhood. She still remembers the sound. "I woke up to...these crashing sounds like someone throwing dinner plates," she recalls. And then, the water came, "Like a light brown soup covering everything." In the aftermath of the storm, the landscape of New Orleans complimented Terri’s lackadaisical lifestyle. "The storm allow[ed] my kind of weird adolescent destruction to be socially structured and socially acceptable in some way," she tells me.  Now married with three children and a graduate degree, Terri recently returned to her old neighborhood after spending a few years in Illinois. She tells me about her mixed emotions regarding what’s been lost in the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans. “Clearly I'm here for white hipster game," she laughs. "But as a class of people, I think they're really dangerous to the city." Terri and her three children, Lollimae, Booker and Harland, walking between her parents' house and her newly purchased home across the street. (Rush Jagoe) Terri with her family outside of their home in the Gentilly neighborhood. (Rush Jagoe) Terri and her kids having breakfast at her parents' house, where they live for now. (Rush Jagoe) "I'm really happy with my life. And I don't know that my life would be what it is if the world hadn't been erased. Like, if I didn't have this kind of clean slate, especially with the way I was right around the storm." - Terri Coleman (Rush Jagoe) Terri Coleman's honors writing class at Dillard University.  (Katie Bishop)
17/08/1525m 21s

Life as a Wife

Cindy Chupack got married for the first time when she was 25. Two years later, the man she married realized he was gay. They got a divorce. Chupack went on to have a successful career as an author and screenwriter, working on shows like Sex and the City. She won her first Emmy, and bought a house on the beach in California. Which made her second marriage, at 40, feel a little tricky. For one, her husband, Ian, came into their relationship with a lot of debt — and was heading toward a not-so-lucrative career. "I was supportive of theory," she laughs. But Chupack says that kvetching about her husband's spending habits isn't something she can do openly. "There’s no world in which women can [say], you know, my husband bought a Jeep he didn’t need...and some pot. There’s not really a great place to laugh about those things...without women kind of judging you." As someone who’d spent much of her adulthood as a serial dater, she was also used to the autonomy of being able to dump someone she didn’t like. "I think I still had that empowerment when I went into the marriage, like, if this doesn’t work for me I am out of here," she tells me. But when Ian first brought up the possibility of leaving the relationship, it spooked her. It meant that she wasn’t totally in control. But, she says, “there’s life in my life now. It’s big and messy and out of control, but it’s what was missing.”
12/08/1515m 39s

Joy Williams' Public Breakup and Private Grief

Before singer-songwriter Joy Williams became one half of the Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, she was a fledgling Christian artist in Nashville without much romantic experience. “Pure as the driven snow would have been the moniker at that point,” Williams jokes. She met her husband, Nate, when he waited on her table at an Italian restaurant, and they got married soon afterward -- she was 21, and he was 23. When Williams met John Paul White a few years later, "It was like meeting somebody that I had known for a really long time," she told me. The two formed the band The Civil Wars. Their powerful creative connection led to gold records and four Grammys in three years. But there was also tension about the direction of the band. When the two finally broke up, rumors started flying that it was more than a professional split. Williams admits that it was hard being in an artistic partnership with one person while being married to another. "Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. Saying no to something means saying yes to something else," she said. "You have to weigh those questions very deeply." I spoke with Williams about going through a public breakup while she was also privately dealing with miscarriages, her father's terminal cancer diagnosis and a rough patch in her marriage.  Below, Williams performs "Before I Sleep," from her latest album, VENUS, on KCRW:
29/07/1520m 42s

A Funeral Director's Life After Burnout

When I first spoke with Caleb Wilde last year, he joked that he's damned to be a funeral director for the rest of his life. But there's some truth there. He's a sixth-generation funeral director in the small town of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. It's a community with an aging population, which means the funeral business is a stable means of supporting his family.  When we talked in Parkesburg, he told me about his struggle with depression, and about how the exposure to so much death has shaken his religious beliefs. "Nobody ever told me that it’s going to affect you negatively and you’re going to have to learn to cope," he said. "There is very little training at all."  I recently checked in with Caleb to find out how his views on death—and his family business—have changed since we last spoke. He told me that a lot shifted during what was the funeral parlor's busiest year yet.  
15/07/1534m 41s


For all the things we share with our brothers and sisters -- parents, genes, a childhood -- most of us have also wondered at one point or another how we could possibly be related to our siblings. As we grow up, it can be hard to update those relationships that were forged so long ago. You were children together; it can be hard to act like adults together. More than 200 of you reached out to tell me your sibling stories. I heard from Alix, whose twin sister, Katie, has cerebral palsy. “Every time I reach another milestone in my adult life,” she said, “it feels like something that [Katie] can’t ever get to.” Mike told me about sobering up at 50 -- and losing the thing that brought him and his drinking buddy brother together. Paul* reflected on why he feels angry at his big sister, whom he used to look up to. Consuello debated whether or not to let her younger brother come and live with her, after she found out he was homeless. And Megan* opened up about the brother she decided didn’t exist anymore, 30 years ago. We also heard from people without siblings -- like Sabrina, who cared for her mom when she got sick last year. And, I called up my four sisters, all at once, in four separate time zones. *Name changed
01/07/1540m 30s

A Dirty Cop Comes Clean

Retired NYPD officer Ken Eurell says the first time he stole money on the job, he was responding to a burglary call. When he got back in the squad car, he says his partner Michael Dowd pulled out a wad of cash he'd taken from the scene and handed over a $100 bill. Eurell took it, though he doesn't remember how he spent it. "I bought bad karma with it," he told me. A new documentary, The Seven Five, tells the story of Eurell and Dowd, two corrupt cops working out of the 75th precinct in East New York, Brooklyn, during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. For Eurell, stealing was just the start. Taking cash from homes led to taking cash from drug dealers in exchange for tips about police drug investigations. "From my perspective, it was pure greed," Eurell recalled. "Once it was drilled into my head and my brain was rewired to do my job in a search for padding my paycheck, that’s all I saw." When Eurell retired from the force at age 28 on disability, he started dealing drugs himself, lacing pure cocaine with chemical fillers to boost his profits. The police finally arrested Eurell in 1992, and he decided to cooperate with the cops on a plan to bust Dowd, his former partner. Dowd was arrested; Eurell moved to Florida with his wife and kids. He’s been there since, where his NYPD pension and the money he’s made selling auto parts help cover the bills.  I had plenty of questions for Eurell about his story—how he came to do what he did, what his wife thought of all this extra cash coming in, and whether he feels any remorse now that it’s all over.  The documentary The Seven Five is in select theaters this summer and available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.  Tell us about your favorite documentary! Add your suggestion to our Google spreadsheet, and get inspired for your next movie night. 
17/06/1526m 1s

2 Couples, 1 Poet, a Rock Band and a Dog

In celebration of Death, Sex & Money's one year anniversary, we brought two married couples, one Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, a rock band, a dog and a turquoise couch onto the stage at BAM for a special live show during WNYC's RadioLoveFest. First, I sat down with the author, Slate columnist and Barneys ambassador Simon Doonan, and his "impossibly younger" husband, the pottery mogul and designer Jonathan Adler. We talked about their first date (Adler wore rollerblades) and all that's happened since. Then, poet Tracy K. Smith got candid about one of the first times she used language to establish an emotional relationship – during a "chaste epistolary romance" with one of her high school teachers. She burned the letters in college, but her writing career continued. W. Kamau Bell, whom you may have heard on a recent episode talking about the fallout from his FX show coming to an end, joined us with his wife, Melissa Hudson Bell. And they brought some good news: Kamau has a new show coming out next year on CNN, called The United Shades of America. The show won't keep them from raising their daughters in the Bay Area, where they have an extended family network. We talk about that, and about teaching biracial children about race – and then, racism. And I share a few words about the origin of this show itself. The idea for Death, Sex & Money really started about four years ago, in a crappy Williamsburg apartment, on the night I decided to get a divorce. Thank you for listening. And please don't stop, because this is going to keep getting better. Hear our house band for the evening, Luscious Jackson, performing their hit song "Naked Eye" live during our show.   Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye   (Richard Termine)   (Richard Termine)   (Richard Termine)  
03/06/151h 13m

Robert Earl Keen Quit Nashville and Stayed Married

When Robert Earl Keen moved from Texas to Nashville in 1985, things were looking up: He’d just gotten married and put out his first album, No Kinda Dancer. Nashville was the place to be for an aspiring country musician...but that ended up being part of the problem. All around him, the careers of his fellow musicians were taking off. Keen didn’t see that kind of success. "I was hitting the streets and knocking on doors and trying to get some attention and it just wasn't happening," he told me. One night, he and his wife, Kathleen, came home from a gig in Kansas to find that their house had been robbed. After 22 months, he gave up on Nashville. But he didn’t stop playing music, and 11 albums later, he’s still making a career of it. Keen spends half the year on the road and keeps his band members on salary, giving them health insurance, retirement plans, and plenty of pizza backstage -- so there’s something to soak up the booze.  Despite all that time away from home, Robert and Kathleen are still married, and have two daughters. Now in his late 50s, Keen spoke candidly with me about what growing older has meant, from prioritizing stability to noticing his sex drive fade.
20/05/1526m 5s

Brooklyn Left Me Broke, But I Came Back

For more than a decade, Heidi Reinberg, a 54-year-old freelance documentary producer, lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn -- just a few doors down from Mayor Bill de Blasio. Then, her landlord decided to sell. Heidi got priced out of her apartment as work dried up and credit card debt mounted. In one of the first episodes of this show, Heidi and I had a frank discussion about how she got to that point, and what would come next. Her plan then was to move to Los Angeles to live with her sister.  A year later, Heidi is back in Brooklyn, but not without making compromises. She slept in the basement of some friends rent-free for a few months. Now, she has a 25-year-old roommate. Her work has picked up and she got a unexpected cushion from the sale of some family land, but she’s still paying off debt.  The hardest part, she told me, was learning how to reinvent her life and career when she was still mourning her old one. A year on, she still has questions about where she'll end up, but she also has a little more peace. I went to Heidi’s new place to catch up with her about the move back, the way she’s dealt with receiving help from others, and what she sees for her future.
06/05/1521m 40s

W. Kamau Bell Wonders How Much Is Enough

For a long time, W. Kamau Bell’s fear was that he would complete his career in comedy and remain anonymous. Then, Chris Rock took notice of his one-man show, and they teamed up to create the television series Totally Biased. Bell moved across the country to New York with his wife and baby for his new job. But the show was cancelled after a year and a half. Bell realized staying in New York with his family would be a struggle. “We were living in an apartment that was rented by a guy who had a TV show, and suddenly when that guy didn’t have a TV show, it was like, ‘We can’t afford this apartment.’”    Now, back in the Bay Area with his wife and two young daughters, Bell is in the midst of rebooting his comedy career, which has required time away on the road. He is weighing what kinds of career sacrifices he’s willing to make for his family, while being realistic about the money he needs to bring in. “My personal challenge of 2015 is to figure out a way to work hard enough to earn more money than I did in the previous year, but also still feel like I’m an attentive parent and husband,” he told me.   Bell and his wife Melissa Hudson Bell will be at our upcoming live show for RadioLoveFest at BAM in Brooklyn on May 8.
22/04/1521m 21s

Hedwig, Older and a Little Less Angry

The day I went to meet John Cameron Mitchell in his apartment, he had glitter stuck to his face and two ice packs in his freezer for the knee he injured on-stage during a performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  "I was doing Neil Patrick Harris’s superhuman choreography," said the 51-year-old actor, who took over the lead role after Harris's Tony-winning run in the Broadway revival. His leg has recovered, but Mitchell still performs in a knee brace. "I actually like the show much better with it," he told me. Mitchell is drawn to things that are a little... broken. Hedwig, the character he created in the '90s, is an East German singer left with an "angry inch" after a botched sex change. Her one-liners are hilarious. But she's reeling from a bad breakup, and is abusive toward her current partner.  Since creating the character, Mitchell has lost his father to Alzheimer's, and his ex-boyfriend Jack Steeb to addiction. He says those losses have informed his "new" Hedwig. But he also says playing Hedwig now, in his 50s, is a lot more fun than it was two decades ago.  "I think things are dishonest if they're not aware of sadness," he said. "Humor without sadness underneath it feels cheap and aggressive."  Sitting on his upholstered couch in his rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan's West Village, we talk about being an openly gay actor in the '80s, the healing that comes with watching parents age and why he says Jack Steeb was the best man he ever knew. 
15/04/1525m 23s

In Sickness and In Mental Health

Giulia and Mark Lukach got married when they were 24. Three years later, Giulia began experiencing paralyzing anxiety and paranoid delusions. She started talking about committing suicide. Mark and her father drove Giulia to the emergency room while she kicked and screamed in the back seat. Mark told me, "I still was under this impression that a doctor was going to walk in the door and say, 'Okay, here’s exactly what’s going on, and here’s this pill, and as soon as she takes it, she’ll be totally fine within an hour, no problem'....That is not at all what happened." Giulia stayed in a psychiatric ward for 23 days. It took her almost a year to get back on her feet after she got out of the hospital. The recovery period took a toll on their marriage. Doctors told Mark that it was his responsibility to keep Giulia safe and on her medication. Giulia started calling him "the pill Nazi.” Finally, Giulia did feel better. She started working again. And in 2012, after consulting a team of doctors, Giulia and Mark had a son named Jonas.  Giulia was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been hospitalized two more times. "We've learned a lot about 'through sickness and in health,'" Giulia said.  You can read Mark's essay for Pacific Standard about Giulia's diagnosis and treatment here. --  If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental illness, there's help available.   The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK. There's also a live chat option on their website.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness can help you find a support group in your area. They also have online resources, like tip sheets on mental illness warning signs and a helpline that can be reached Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm ET.  The Family Center for Bipolar works with families in New York City. If you are not in the New York City area, their website also includes online video and audio lectures.  You can find resources on various mental health disorders at The site includes a treatment locator to find resources in your area, as well as resources for friends and family who are looking for information on how to support their loved ones who have a mental illness.  -- Like the music at the end of our episode? It's Kishi Bashi's "Bright Whites."
08/04/1526m 32s

Cancer Changed Ken Jeong's Comedy

Ken Jeong describes his role in the 2009 blockbuster The Hangover as "the most obscene love letter to a spouse one could ever have.” He peppered his dialogue with bits of Vietnamese as an inside joke with his wife Tran.  Ken met his wife while they were both practicing medicine at the same hospital in Los Angeles. Ken had always done comedy on the side. He even performed midnight improv while he was working up to 100 hours a week during his medical residency. But after he and Tran married, he quit medicine to pursue acting full-time. Then, a year later, Tran was diagnosed with aggressive stage III breast cancer. They had twins who were a year old. And Ken had just gotten an offer to play an Asian mobster in a Las Vegas buddy movie.  Tran encouraged him to take the part. "You're kind of burning out right now," she told him. And he channeled his anger about her illness into his character's comedic rage.  Seven years later, he talked to me about raising a family in the shadow of cancer and how his careers in comedy and medicine have converged in unexpected ways.    This week’s episode of Death, Sex & Money is part of WNYC’s Living Cancer series, a radio companion to “Ken Burns Presents Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.” Support for Living Cancer is provided by the Susan and Peter Solomon Family Foundation.  Thanks to WNYC's Mary Harris and Amanda Aronczyk for their help with this episode.  Read a full transcript of this episode here. 
25/03/1523m 29s

Where is Lisa Fischer's Backup?

Lisa Fischer has sung backing vocals for Dolly Parton, Bobby McFerrin, Luther Vandross and Beyoncé. She's also toured with the Rolling Stones since 1989, going from one swanky hotel to another, "eating caviar for breakfast" and playing sold out stadiums. “I feel like a normal girl,” she says, “visiting for a very long time in the not-normal world.” It wasn’t the world she came from. Lisa grew up in Brooklyn. Her mom was pregnant with her at 15, and had two more children by the time she was 19. Money was tight, and when Lisa was 14, her father left. Her mom started drinking heavily, and died three years later after complications from seizures.  By her mid-twenties, she was touring as a backup singer, and in 1991 she won a Grammy for her first solo album, So Intense. But soon after, she lost her record deal, and returned to singing backup. The 2013 documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom highlighted some of the glory, and struggle, that came with her years on the road. "When I think about the money that I have gone through I have to laugh to myself," she told me during our conversation. "I don’t like to look at how much I have because it’s never enough." Now in her 50s, she still tours regularly with the Stones and on her own. I talked with Lisa about her new approach to money in mid-life and the lingering effects of her early loss.  Below, watch Lisa Fischer in performance at the Napa Valley Film Festival, on stage with the Rolling Stones, and singing with Luther Vandross.   
11/03/1524m 50s

Cheating Happens.

People cheat. But they don't often talk about the aftermath, and how they and their partners decide what comes next. When I asked you to send in your stories about infidelity, I heard from so many of you. Listener Sasha* told us about how she suspected that her partner of five years was having an affair -- and later, after they broke up, discovered that he had been been posting online ads for casual sex throughout their relationship. Andy in Connecticut remembered being a 12-year-old trying to convince his father not to cheat on a girlfriend. Joe* in Texas talked about having a relationship with a married woman as a single man, and the feeling of being a sideshow to the main event. Listener Chrystal* began her email to us about the cheating in her relationship: "Spoiler alert: we made it."  Numbers about cheating vary from study to study, but indicate that 20 to 40 percent of straight married men and 20 to 25 percent of straight married women venture outside their marriages. When Dan Savage joined us on the show last year, he put that number even higher, at 50 percent of women and men in long-term relationships.  If infidelity is ubiquitous, it can also be surprisingly mundane. Amid the secretive motel rendezvous and unexpected pregnancies, cheating often takes the form of...furtive texting on the couch.  If the reality of cheating doesn’t fit the old cliches, neither do the consequences. One listener, who I'm calling Sheri*, says that when she slept with another man, she had an idea of what would happen: the cheater gets caught, crockery gets thrown, lawyers get called. But instead, she and her husband thought through what they really wanted -- and a divorce wasn’t on the list. Instead, Sheri took back her maiden name, and they decided that flings outside the marriage would be okay. In this episode, you'll hear from men and women who've cheated and been cheated on. Nobody's proud of it. But we learned that when a secret affair is revealed, it’s a moment for us to finally and fully be honest about what was missing from a relationship, and what’s worth saving. *Name changed for privacy reasons    Read a full transcript here. 
25/02/1542m 12s

Real Love: A Valentine's Special from Death, Sex & Money

This whole show started with a love story. I’d been married in my 20s, then divorced at 30. Months later, I started dating Arthur, a biologist studying wolves in Wyoming. The distance made things hard, and the relationship almost ended. Then I got a call from Alan Simpson—as in, the former Republican senator from Wyoming. That call, and a conversation with Sen. Simpson and his wife Ann Simpson at their home in Wyoming, are largely responsible for getting me back together with Arthur. So it's a love story, yes. Maybe one that’s a little too strange, or a little too surreal, to fit neatly on a Hallmark card. I’ve heard so many stories of real love since we started this show—stories about heartbreak, death, money, divorce. They all tell us how we continue to find joy in relationships, no matter how challenging they can be. In this episode, we’ll hear from author James McBride, who hasn't jumped back into the dating pool after his divorce. He says he's happier than he's ever been, even without romance.  Jane Fonda went through a difficult break-up with her third husband, Ted Turner. She found herself scared and alone. Now she’s back in Los Angeles, acting and taking on a new role as caregiver while her boyfriend deals with a serious illness. But she says she'll never marry again. Dan Savage speaks about our need to communicate with our partners about sex—something that may or may not be part of your Valentine’s Day agenda. He says that while sex hasn’t been a hang-up in his marriage, issues around money and spending definitely have been.  Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, both in-demand touring musicians, talk about the temptations they’ve faced on the road. After confronting Jason's alcoholism together, they now know how important trust is in any relationship.  Chaz Ebert remembers her late husband Roger. After his lower jaw was removed, Roger couldn’t speak. He asked Chaz to be his voice—something that brought them incredible unspoken intimacy.  These aren't just stories of heart-wrenching tragedy or fairy-tale romance. They're honest statements about the exciting, maddening, potentially bankrupting and totally essential experiences we share with the people we love.
14/02/1551m 0s

Songs in the Key of Strife

Teddy Thompson was six years old when his parents, English folk rockers Richard and Linda Thompson, split up. The breakup coincided with the release of the duo's most successful album. They were on tour together as their marriage dissolved.  That same year, Teddy's sister Kami was born. "Kami was a symbol of divorce to me," Teddy told me during our conversation. "I just remember having a vague notion that there was a big change and Kami was a part of the big change. Something was lost and something was gained."  The siblings didn't spend a lot of time together as kids, due to their age difference. But they both grew up to be musicians. Teddy and Kami recently reunited with their parents to record an album aptly titled Family. It includes deeply personal songs about the inner workings of the Thompson clan -- even though both Teddy and Kami say talking directly about their relationships with each other hasn't exactly been a family tradition. This became evident during our conversation: Teddy told me he started the project because he was craving more closeness with his family. For Kami, it was more straightforward. “A gig’s a gig,” she said.  Richard Thompson, along with Teddy and Kami as children. (Courtesy of the Thompson family)   Hear the siblings perform two songs live in our studio, along with their nephew Zak Hobbs. Thank you to Irene Trudel, who engineered this session.  The Thompsons - I Long For Lonely   The Thompsons - Family   Read a full transcript of this interview here. 
11/02/1522m 47s

Margaret Cho's Sex Education

The daughter of Korean immigrants, comedian Margaret Cho made a successful career in comedy by making fun of her parents, and telling jokes about the ethnic snacks they put in her lunchbox. Cho felt that her parents seemed out of touch, and she was determined not to be. From an early age, she learned about American tastes in music, culture and sex from the young gay men who hung out at Paperback Traffic, the San Francisco bookstore that her father owned. She says her dad wanted it that way: he hoped his customers would teach his daughter the things he couldn’t. Cho says her childhood also contained several instances of sexual abuse. She experimented sexually throughout her 20s and 30s to try to regain a sense of control. Costumes, sex parties and BDSM -- Margaret did it all. She identifies as queer, but jokes that "slutty" might be the best way to put it.  Now 46, she’s changing course. In public, she’s a proudly outrageous commentator on TLC’s new late-night talk show, All About Sex. But in private, she says she’s focusing on something new: learning how to be vulnerable and taking things slow.  When I spoke with Cho recently, she told me about growing up gay in San Francisco in the '70s, negotiating consent in hookups and relationships, and learning to tell her jokes in Korean for her dad. A full transcript of the episode is here.
28/01/1522m 24s

Desiree Akhavan's Breakthrough Breakup

At 16, Desiree Akhavan says she was voted the ugliest girl at her school. In a play that she wrote that same year, Akhavan included a sequence based on the incident, turning a sad, victimizing event into something entertaining. But when you ask Akhavan, now a successful 30-year-old director and actor, if her work is healing, she’s hesitant. To her, it's more about using the original event creatively, and turning it into a narrative she can control.  There is real-life truth in the stories she’s telling. In her debut feature film, Appropriate Behavior, Akhavan plays a bisexual Iranian-American—like herself. The main character, Shirin, lives in Brooklyn, and has just broken up with her longtime girlfriend. Shirin's brother is a doctor. She struggles to be open about her sexual identity with her family. All of these things have been true for Desiree.  The film garnered positive reviews at Sundance, and also won her a fan in Lena Dunham, who cast Akhavan in the fourth season of HBO’s Girls. In the series, she plays one of Hannah Horvath's fellow students at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.  As Akhavan becomes more prominent, she says she fears that if her next film isn’t a hit, she won't have another shot at success. I spoke with her recently about finding humor in her post-breakup misery, what it meant to get that call from Dunham, and how feeling invisible as a kid motivated her to boldly tell her story.  A full transcript of the episode is here.   
14/01/1525m 24s

Living Alone and Liking It. Sometimes.

Living alone has its perks. You can eat what you want, wear what you want, and listen to show tunes as loud as you want. You can let your dishes pile up for days—or you can be a total neat freak. There’s no one to stop you. But there’s also no one to help foot the bill. I asked you to send in your stories about living solo. Listener Ashley Ward decided it was time to get her own place after dealing with a less-than-ideal roommate. But living alone can also be a consequence of bigger life changes. Arlene Pickett’s husband died four years ago after a long decline. Arlene says it felt good to get back some of the control she lost while caring for him. But more recently, when she was diagnosed with cancer, living alone just felt hard. Glen Uhlig is separated from his wife and takes care of his two boys every other week. On Monday mornings after their week together he drops them off at school—exhales—and then has the time to pick up the newspaper again.  Today, more than a quarter of American households are home to just one person. But we don’t often talk about it, and it’s clear from your stories that living alone can be pretty complicated. A full transcript of the episode is here. 
31/12/1424m 45s

I Killed Someone. Now I Have 3 Kids.

Lawrence Bartley watched his youngest son's first steps in a visiting room at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. He is an inmate. On Christmas night, 1990, he killed a 15 year-old bystander during a shoot-out in a movie theater. Bartley was 17 at the time.  Now, he is a father of three. He's married to his middle school sweetheart. He has a master's degree. His daughter, born just after he was arrested, is now a grown woman. And he's had a lot of time to think about his crime. He's serving a sentence of 27 years to life. He is up for parole in less than three years. He's not sure what he'll say to the parole board, or if he'll feel comfortable asking for his freedom after taking a life. That's not his only challenge. His two young sons—a 7-year-old and an 18-month-old—don't understand that he's in prison, or know why. To them, he's their hero. I visited Bartley at Sing Sing, where we talked about the crime he committed, what he has learned, and what he's doing to counter gun violence outside prison. He is thinking hard about what kind of husband and father he needs to be.  A full transcript of the episode is here.  Lawrence Bartley appears in an upcoming documentary about gun violence called Voices from Within. It's in production now and will eventually be shown in schools.
17/12/1435m 38s

College Sweethearts: Transformed

Liam Lowery and Marisa Carroll have a charming, if almost archetypal, New York love story. They were college students. Liam had been crushing on her for a while, and one day, he spotted her on the subway. They came to his stop. And he stayed on the train. That led to coffee, Facebook flirting, making out, and as Liam says, fantastic sex. When they got together, Liam identified as trans, but didn't yet have that scruff on his cheeks. Soon after they began dating, he started taking testosterone, and he had surgery to remove his breasts last spring. While Marisa had considered herself a straight woman prior to dating Liam, they are, together, in a queer relationship. And as of this Thanksgiving, in a queer marriage. I asked them both what changed in their relationship as Liam's body transformed. And I asked Marisa what it was like to commit to someone who was undergoing so much change.  You can read a full transcript of the interview. Marisa wrote about her love story with Liam in a story called My Self-Made Man for Marie Claire. Liam wrote about getting through airport security when you're trans for The Toast. 
03/12/1424m 52s

James McBride Resets

When you hear that someone’s a best-selling, award-winning author, what do you imagine their life is like? A big house with a BMW in the driveway? James McBride, author of the smash hit The Color of Water and The Good Lord Bird, had all that for a while. But, living like a celebrity distracted him from the sort of work he wanted to do.  McBride doesn't live like a famous author. He doesn't identify himself as an author at all. He tells people he’s a musician—which he is. He plays the saxophone and piano at a professional level and he's written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr. and Gary Burton. These days, he teaches a music class for kids at a housing project in the same Brooklyn neighborhood in which he grew up.  When McBride came to the studio to talk to me, he immediately gravitated to the Steinway piano in the room. He talked to me about his mother’s last moments, the financial and personal difficulties that came after divorce, and the ways in which he has redefined success for himself.  You can read a full transcript of the interview. Here's a video of McBride accepting the 2013 National Book Award:
19/11/1426m 31s

A Funeral Director’s Dead Reckoning

Caleb Wilde jokes that he's damned to be a funeral director for the rest of his life. But there's some truth there. He's a sixth-generation funeral director in the small town of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. He's been doing this for over ten years. In a community with an aging population, this is a stable means of supporting his family.  This wasn't Caleb's first choice. After high school, he worked abroad for a Christian humanitarian group. He's now in graduate school, studying theology. And he's an entertaining writer who keeps a blog called "Confessions of a Funeral Director." He says that in a profession in which he sees things most people should only experience once in their lifetime, connecting with an online audience makes him feel less lonely.  There was a funeral on the day I went down to Parkesburg to visit Caleb and his family. It was immediately clear that the Wildes are pros: affable but calm, soft-spoken but self-assured. The kind of people a town relies on to provide comfort when things seem chaotic or senseless. When we talked, he told me about his struggles with depression, how the exposure to so much death has shaken his religious beliefs, and about the lessons he's learned from some controversial things he's said online.  You can read a full transcript of the interview, and Caleb's blog, "Confessions of a Funeral Director," at He also gave a TEDx talk recently about the troubled gap between acceptance and denial when it comes to death:
05/11/1427m 41s

Ellen Burstyn's Lessons on Survival

When Burstyn was 18, she got on a Greyhound bus going from Detroit to Dallas. She had 50 cents in her pocket and a hunch that she could find work as a model. The actress and director, known for her roles in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Exorcist, and Requiem For a Dream, says she’d never do that now. But back then, she didn’t doubt herself. It wasn’t the only risk she took as a young woman. At 18, she’d already gotten pregnant and had an illegal abortion. By her mid-20s, determined not to just get by on her looks, she left Hollywood to study acting with Lee Strasberg. In her mid-40s, after leaving an abusive marriage, she starred as a newly single mom in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The role was based in part on her own life, and it won her an Oscar.  Now, at 81, she told me she is most proud of her relationship with her son, whom she adopted at birth. "I really think of myself as a work in progress," Burstyn told me as we sat in wicker furniture in her Manhattan bedroom. "I know I’m a successful actress, but I don’t feel I’m necessarily a successful person." INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS Why she doesn’t recommend abortion: I don’t recommend abortion to anybody. I don’t think it’s a good thing to do. At the same time, if women are pregnant and don’t want to have a baby, they will get an abortion one way or another. And if it’s illegal, they will get an illegal abortion. As I did. And it’s a scarring experience. The illegal abortion just botched me, so I couldn’t ever get pregnant again. That was a part of the trauma. What the police said when her husband assaulted her: When I called the police, they said, we don’t mix in household problems. And I said, he’s threatened to kill me. And he said, no, we don’t respond. And I said, well what is it you do? And he said, we apprehend criminals when a crime has been committed. And I said, you mean, I should call if he actually kills me. And he said, that’s right.  How her acting coach filled the role of a father figure: I think an absent father—not ever having that experience of a man who just loves you because you’re you—is a big detriment. I think it’s very hard for women to overcome that. Thank God I got to Lee Strasberg, because when I got to him, he approved of me for me, and I hadn’t ever had that. You know, without wanting sex from me. On being taken for granted as a woman: I think that we have a natural impulse to serve. We like to serve a man dinner. We like to get up and give him a cup of coffee. But that leads us down a path where it gets taken for granted. As though we are supposed to, as opposed to, we want to. One has to learn that. It’s not an obligation. It’s a gift. That we want to give. But if it’s not received as a gift, but as a duty, one starts to get their hackles up after a while. You can read a full transcript of the interview, and if you haven't seen her 1980s sitcom The Ellen Burstyn Show, I highly recommend it: "When Death Comes" from New & Selected Poems, Vol. 1 by Mary Oliver - published by Beacon Press, Boston, used herewith by permission of the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency.
22/10/1453m 53s

My Father's Secret Life

Whitney Joiner was 13 when her father Joe told her he was HIV-positive. He said he hoped to see her graduate from high school. Five months later, he was dead. It was rural Kentucky in 1992, and Whitney and her family thought it was best to keep quiet.   Whitney never learned how her father contracted the disease. After his funeral, her mother heard from a mutual friend that he’d secretly gone to gay clubs. As a teenager, Whitney had wondered if he were gay. She'd even asked him, but he denied it. His denial was a relief at the time. Now, she wishes she had more answers. That’s part of what led her to co-found The Recollectors, a site to collect stories from children about their parents who died of AIDS. In this episode, Whitney talked to me about the shame and anger that kept her family from talking about her father for years, meeting other people who had a parent die of AIDS, and reconciling her memories of her father with details she’s only learning now. INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS Remembering the Early, Mysterious Signs The only thing I knew was wrong with him was we would go to the hospital in Lexington and see this doctor. And he would get his blood drawn...It was kind of like, oh we’re going to the mall. And the movies. And just stopping off at the doctor. And he explained that he had a blood problem, and I said at one point, like, oh, Leukemia? And he was like yeah, something like that. Whitney keeps this photo of her late father on her refrigerator. (Whitney Joiner) Finally Meeting Someone Else Whose Father Died of AIDS It felt like, so shocking there was someone else out there with the same story. And we just started talking about—it was so weird that we don’t know more people, there have to be more people. Not everyone who died of AIDS is a gay man with no children! The Conversation She Wishes She Could Have Again I said, I asked mom once if you were gay...And he said, I’m not gay. In this kind of like scoffing way, like what, I’m not gay, obviously. And I said, Oh. Oh, okay. He was like no, I got it from a woman. You can get it from women too, you know. Oh, okay. Part of me at the time was relieved, honestly. Because I was still so young, I didn’t want to have to deal with the gay dad. At 13, in rural Kentucky….It felt like a relief, but just in that, ugh, we don’t have to have that conversation. But really, we should have that conversation. Because that’s the important one. And we both know that’s really what’s happening here. Whitney now, with her mom and brother. (Whitney Joiner) When Her Family Was Afraid to Accept His Sexuality My family was very angry at him for lying about his sexuality. To me it felt like our family was almost glad that he was gone. Like I would bring him up, I just felt like any time I brought him up, there was this eye-rolling on the part of my family. So I felt like I just shouldn’t talk about him. And I would feel ashamed of loving him, you know, even though he’s my father. And why would anybody have to feel ashamed of loving your father? You can read a full transcript of the interview, and read Whitney's essay about her father on Slate.
08/10/1425m 1s