Death, Sex & Money
Death, Sex & Money
About Death, Sex & Money
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.
Kate Bowler has always worked extremely hard. As the daughter of two academics growing up in Canada, she preferred books to sports, and liked talking and thinking about the nuances of her faith. “I never really thought about my body very much in time and space,” Kate told Anna. But while starting her career as an academic, Kate’s relationship with her body changed. She was diagnosed with a joint laxity disorder in her 20s. And at 35, not long after having her son, Kate was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, changing her relationship to productivity and rest once again, which she also chronicled in her New York Times best selling memoir, Everything Happens For A Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved). Kate tells Anna about the shame of not living up to her own expectations, learning to let go, and what brings her joy.
We asked you to tell us about the fears in your life that are holding you back. In this episode, we share your stories and questions with Steve-O, Laurel Braitman, and Rev. angel Kyodo williams. Each of them, in one way or another, had fear and bravery inform their work and their lives. They offer advice and insights on what’s worked for them, and what they’ve learned from navigating fear. Laurel Braitman is a writer, teacher and secular, clinical chaplain-in-training, who also has a PhD in the history and anthropology of science. She is the author of the NYT bestselling book Animal Madness: Inside Their Minds and the new memoir What Looks Like Bravery: An Epic Journey Through Loss to Love. Reverend angel Kyodo williams is a Zen priest, activist, and teacher. She’s the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace and Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. Steve-O is best known for his extreme stunts on MTV’s Jackass. He’s also a stand-up comedian, and an author most recently of A Hard Kick in the Nuts: What I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Terrible Decisions.
Liam Lowery and Marisa Carroll met in college, just as Liam began transitioning. Liam had been crushing on Marisa 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. Liam and Marisa got married in 2014, and right after that, we released an episode about their love story. Late last year, Anna got an email from Liam with an elated update that they are now parents. They worked with an agency to adopt their son Jude when he was a baby. Anna talks with them about this next chapter in their family’s story, and how they weighed sharing that Liam was trans in their story to introduce themselves to prospective birth parents, knowing that being totally honest could mean risking their chance of being picked. Update: We changed the title of this episode after publishing to be more accurate. It was initially called "Adopting As A Trans Couple."
Erick Adame was a TV weatherman for over 15 years. Then in September 2022, he was fired after his employer received photos from an anonymous sender of Erick performing sex acts on a webcam. Erick had been camming for many years, doing it for pleasure, not for money, and even though strangers were watching him, Erick thought of camming as part of his private sex life. In this episode, Anna and Erick talk about what led up to his firing, the lasting effects of shame, and how privacy changes when you're in the public eye. “I don't apologize for being sex positive," he said, "but basically what it comes to is, as a news person, I live under different rules. I don't think that's fair, but I think that we do.”
Today, in a short teaser episode, Anna talks to Alana Casanova-Burgess, who is the co-creator and host of La Brega, a dual-language podcast from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios. Alana and her team of Puerto Rican journalists, producers, musicians and artists at La Brega have just released their second season, which tells the story of the Puerto Rican experience through eight different songs. You can find the newest episodes of La Brega in both English and Spanish here.
Early this year, our host Anna had to euthanize her 13 year old Australian Shepherd, Jack. He’d been a part of many major milestones in her life, from meeting her husband, to having her kids, and more. But while the grief of losing a pet can be just as profound as losing human friends and loved ones, it can also feel like something you can’t share. So we asked you to share your stories of the pets you’ve loved and lost, and what grieving them has taught you about loss. Some of you also shared some resources for dealing with the loss of a pet. Here are a few of those suggestions: Sara recommended a TEDx talk by veterinarian Dr. Sarah Hoggan on the lingering impact of pet euthanasia. Looking for books to read? Margaret recommended “Good Grief” by E.B. Bartels, Flora shared “Lifetimes” by Bryan Mellonie, Sophia offered Mary Oliver’s book of poems “Dog Songs,” and for more poetry, Jeni suggested Lynne Schimdt’s “Dead Dog Poems”. A listener named David told us about the Jimmy Stewart interview on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where Jimmy reads a tearjerker of a poem about his late dog, Beau. Watch it here. Aileen shared an episode of Encyclopodia podcast where Dr. Allison Bergin discussed end-of-life care for pets. A listener named Ali told us about Dr. Amanda Stronza (@amandastronza on Instagram), an anthropologist and conservationist who writes about her experiences with pet loss online And finally, another listener shared a CBS Sunday Morning story about Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Learn more about it here.
*This episode originally ran in 2021. 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. It may seem like these moments are destined to be forgettable, but the memories are powerful, as you told us when we asked you for your stories about one night stands.
*This episode originally ran in 2017. When actor Gabrielle Union talked with Anna in front of a live audience back in 2017, she was about to turn 45 and had just released her first book of essays, We’re Going to Need More Wine. Since then, she’s turned 50, and she's written a second book, You Got Anything Stronger?, in addition to starring in the third season of “Truth Be Told” on Apple TV, and in a critically-acclaimed supporting role in the A24 movie, The Inspection. In their conversation, Gabrielle Union talks openly about her relationship with herself and her body, and how she’s worked on healing both after the traumas of her sexual assault as a 19-year-old and her fertility struggles within her marriage to Dwayne Wade. “I've never felt more whole and healed and connected and present and beautiful and powerful,” Gabrielle Union says.
When country musician Margo Price was two years old, her family lost the farm they had owned for generations. That big upheaval left her family with a deep sense of loss and shame—feelings that they largely swept under the rug. Margo, on the other hand, is forthright about the hardest moments of her life, writing candidly in both her song lyrics and in her new memoir Maybe We’ll Make It. Anna talks with Margo about the agony of losing a child days after their birth, rebuilding trust after her infidelity, and how quitting alcohol has been one of the hardest tests of her nearly 20 year relationship.
This week, we bring our estrangement series to an end with a live call-in show co-hosted by Anna Sale and WNYC’s Kai Wright, host of the Notes from America podcast. Kai and Anna heard from listeners all around the country about how stark disagreements — particularly around politics and key values — led to estrangement with families, long-time friends and also long-time romantic relationships. Plus, Rebecca Martinez Fitzgerald, a therapist based in Durham, North Carolina, offered advice on how to move forward. If you’re living with estrangement, check out some of our listener recommendations on what’s helped, and listen to Kai’s show, Notes from America, wherever you get podcasts or on WNYC's YouTube channel.
When writer Pico Iyer drove to a California monastery in 1995 to profile famed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen for a story, he was a longtime fan of his music. That fateful meeting turned into a deep friendship that lasted over 20 years. “He did have that rare gift for making me feel as if there was nothing I couldn't say,” Pico said. And the men were both drawn to periods of solitude. In his 30s, Pico left his glamorous and exciting dream job in New York to travel to a Japanese monastery, but found the monastic life wasn’t for him. However, that visit to Japan introduced him to his wife and his new home. Anna talks with Pico — whose new book "The Half-Known Life," is a chronicle of his visits to holy sites and sacred places — about the chance encounters that shaped his life, how he’s learned to let go, and how much he still misses his friend, Leonard Cohen.
When Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert first met as film students at Emerson College, they didn’t like each other. But after a summer camp job, they embarked on a creative partnership that’s lasted for over a decade, from producing the music video for “Turn Down for What,” to 2016’s Swiss Army Man, and the hit 2022 film Everything Everywhere All At Once. The movie stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, a woman whose family laundromat is being audited by the IRS, while she’s also tasked with a mission to save the multiverse. The film’s inspired repeat watching, many fan costumes, and has won a plethora of awards. As the directors adjust to the spotlight, they reflect on how their personal relationship has changed over time, from Daniel Kwan’s ADHD diagnosis, to exploring their masculinity, and the intimacy of their partnership. “I always say I watch movies about marriage and I'm like, ‘Ooh, yes. This reminds me of Dan,’” said Daniel Scheinert.
When we looked back on the movies we loved in 2022, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On was one of our favorites. The film stars Marcel (voiced by actress and comedian Jenny Slate), a small, animated shell who is the subject of a documentary by a newly divorced man named Dean (played by director Dean Fleischer-Camp). Jenny and Dean first came up with Marcel over a decade ago, back when they were a couple living together in Brooklyn. In the years since, Jenny’s career took off, with roles on shows like Parks and Recreation, Big Mouth, Saturday Night Live, and Bob’s Burgers. They also moved across the country, got married and then divorced, and still made a feature-length film together over the course of seven years. “Being Marcel, I don't have to think about it,” Jenny said. “And you can't be Marcel unless you're with Dean.” They talk about negotiating their creative partnership while ending their marriage, anxiety, and holding space for grief and joy at the same time.
*This episode originally ran in 2019. 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 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, his evolving relationship with his mother, and 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. Listen to that, and our two-part series featuring your stories about student loan debt, here.
Before Radiolab co-host Lulu Miller became a parent, she worried having children would zap her creativity. “I had a really patronizing view of them,” she said. “Like, you gotta use dumb, simple words and keep it real easy and safe.” And given the sometimes parasitic nature of child rearing, she wondered if she would even have the energy to create? These days, she has two small kids, and she’s enthralled with their curiosity, their resilience, and how they tell stories about the world around them. As she shares with Anna, her kids have informed and deepened her work, and inspired her new podcast series for kids, Terrestrials. In this episode, you’ll hear clips from the Terrestrials episode “The Water Walker,” but we recommend you check out the whole incredible series here. And for the curious kids in your life, watch some bonus video extras here.
In our last episode, we look at how estrangement changes shape over the course of a life: how it can bend or harden, and how it affects new relationships, old memories, and the idea of family. Siobhan hasn’t seen her children since 2008 and has slowly built a new identity; Juliet seeks to reconcile with her mother at the end stages of her life; and Kristen, who has been estranged from her mother since she was a teenager, is now pregnant, and thinking about how to have a relationship with her child that is different from what she experienced.
When we first asked for your stories on estrangement, we wondered if it was like a slow pulling away, or like a flipped switch? In episode two of our three-part series, we talk to four listeners for whom estrangement might have been a long time coming, but the choice to cut ties was recent and abrupt: Juan was kicked out of a group chat; Dinona sent a text to her siblings; Megan received a surprise note on her doorstep from her daughter, and Sonia blocked her parents’ numbers.
Brian is on the fence. On the one hand, he no longer believes in the religion he was raised in. “It’s high control,” he told us, “rules on everything from what to watch on TV," and "what you do in the bedroom.” On the other hand, leaving the religion would mean losing contact with his parents and wife. “If I told my mom and my dad where I was, the phone would simply go dead.” In our first episode of Estrangement, we talk through the stakes—what could you gain by cutting ties, and what feels impossible to lose?
Earlier this year, Anna interviewed writer and humorist Fran Lebowitz onstage at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California. But for most of her adult life, Fran’s lived in New York City, where she found early success with her first two books, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the years since, she hasn’t published much, citing a decades-long writer’s block. So she’s become a professional talker, which you may recognize from Martin Scorsese’s multi-part Netflix series, Pretend It’s A City, and which you’ll definitely hear in this conversation as Fran never misses an opportunity to make her audience laugh. In front of a live audience in Berkeley, Anna and Fran talk about her early years in New York, her strategies for navigating all types of parties, and why her 40+ year old sofa is her favorite place to read.
In Death, Sex & Money’s new three-part series about estrangement, we talk to listeners about cutting family ties, leaving religion, and ending friendships. We also talk to listeners on the other side of estrangement, still desperately wishing for contact, and about what happens after the break.
Society & Culture
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