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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.


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Death, Sex & Money is a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Host Anna Sale talks to celebrities you've heard of—and to regular people you haven't—about the Big Stuff: relationships, money, family, work and making it all count while we're here. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, The Experiment, The New Yorker Radio Hour and many others.








Revisiting Ellen Burstyn at 81

This week we’re sharing one of Anna’s favorite episodes. It’s from 2014, when actor Ellen Burstyn invited us into her New York apartment for a sprawling interview. She told Anna 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 really think of myself as a work in progress," Ellen Burstyn, then 81 years old, told Anna as they sat in wicker furniture in her Manhattan bedroom, "But I don’t feel I’m necessarily a successful person." In next week’s episode, you’ll hear a new conversation between Anna and Ellen, recorded just a few weeks ago. But until then, you can also listen back to Ellen’s conversation with journalist and feminist icon Gloria Steinem on our show from 2016 here.


I Did Surrogacy For Money And Now I’m Starting Over

When Sarah Short was pregnant with her first child, her health insurance didn’t cover it. She was 19, and by the time she found that out, it was also too late to apply for Medicaid. Her hospital bill for her daughter’s birth was around $10,000 — a figure that felt insurmountable. At first, the envelopes were something she tried to ignore. “I just threw them away,” she told Anna. “And then they turned red. And they kept showing up.” Sarah was newly married at the time, and was afraid of how the rising debt would affect her family’s future. So she looked for ways to pay it off. And when she chose to become a surrogate, the impact of that decision transformed her relationship with her body, money, debt, and her confidence. Anna and Sarah first spoke in a 2017 episode, and in this update, Sarah tells Anna about getting divorced and starting over in her 30s, launching her own business, and why this chapter of her life feels “freeing.”


A Headline Stays Static Even As A Life Transforms

Lawrence Bartley is a journalist devoted to getting news stories about criminal justice inside prisons and jails, something he wished he had access to when he was incarcerated. “I could have used some of that language to move the court to get my sentence reduced. I could have just been abreast of what's going on in other prisons and jails.” Anna first interviewed Lawrence in 2014 when he was still in prison, and two more times after his release. Today, they talk about their years-long relationship, how the media (including our show) can be insensitive when covering incarcerated people, and how Lawrence’s life experience influences his work and his parenting style.


Why Ezra Klein Thinks “We're Living Through A Mistake”

The New York Times journalist Ezra Klein thinks a lot about the impacts of policy and systems on our personal lives. On his podcast, The Ezra Klein Show, he recently mentioned how American society insufficiently supports families of young kids, and wondered why living in community is so hard, and the isolation that it can breed as a result. Ezra’s thinking about all of these issues in his own life as well: he’s married to fellow journalist Annie Lowrey, and they have two young kids. The family moved to California before the pandemic, and after a health crisis they struggled to find the support they needed for their family. They eventually decide to move back to the East Coast, and as they settle into their lives in New York, Ezra’s thinking a lot about the tradeoffs of two-parent households. “I don't believe people are meant to do this. You know, two parents plus kids, it's too few people,” he said. Ezra and Anna talk about the beloved communal spaces of his 20s and 30s, the tension between autonomy and community, and why he believes our emphasis on two-parent families is “a cultural mistake.” Want more from Ezra on the topics in today’s episode? We recommend the following: This episode of The Ezra Klein Show with scholar Kristen Ghodsee on communes and intentional communities, a conversation with The Atlantic’s Jerusalem Demsas about homelessness and the origins of our current housing crisis, an interview with writer Sheila Liming on loneliness in America, and two interviews he’s done with child psychologist Alison Gopnik. Finally, you can read Annie Lowrey’s piece about her experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting here.


A Trans Elder’s ‘Final Act’: Musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Beverly Glenn-Copeland was in his 20s when he left a classical singing career to create experimental music. And at the time, making that change didn’t feel scary. “I felt totally free,” he told Anna. “I wasn't afraid of it. It was just like, this is what it is. I'm free to explore this.” But it took decades for that gamble to pay off, and 2020 was supposed to be Glenn’s breakthrough year. At 76 years old, he was going to go on an international tour, and move into a new home with his wife, Elizabeth. But then the pandemic hit, his tour was canceled and he lost his housing. When Anna and Glenn first spoke in 2020, he talked about his complex relationship with his parents growing, quietly releasing his music for years, and how his newer fans supported him during the precarity of the early months of the pandemic. This year, Glenn’s releasing a new album, and he’s finally going on tour. And even with the success he’s found, there are still moments of uncertainty. Glenn and Elizabeth told Anna about what’s changed—and what hasn’t. Listen to the music in this episode from Glenn’s album, "Transmissions," here, and you can stream his new album, “The Ones Ahead,” here.


Secrets, Turn-Ons, and Fantasies: Your Stories About Porn

In 2016, a listener we’re calling James sent us a voice memo. He described himself as a recovering porn addict, and was struggling to stay away from it while his wife was away. So we wanted to know more about your relationships with porn, and over 100 of you shared how you first learned about it, your likes and dislikes, and why some of you stopped using it completely. Some of you are fairly open about how you use porn. Jennifer* likes to ask dates about their porn tastes. “You can have a better sex life when all the cards are out on the table,” she said to Anna. Michael* has watched it since he was a teenager, and found it a helpful way to learn more about his sexuality. “Why is it not accepted to be attracted to beautiful images?” he asked. But some of you have had to cut porn out entirely. Daniel* hasn’t watched porn in years, and after seeing how it negatively affected his relationship and mental health, he won’t go back. “It gives me a really intense feeling,” he told Anna. “But it’s also usually followed by a lot of shame too.” We’re revisiting our most popular episode: featuring your stories about porn. *Names changed for privacy reasons.


Bells and Bills: The Price You Paid For Your Wedding

“I assumed we would have the most incredible celebration of our dreams,” a listener we’re calling Maya told Anna. Maya’s mother died in 2020 and unexpectedly left Maya $50,000 for a wedding celebration. It was a lot to think about a big party while also grieving a parent, and soon Maya learned that the money she thought would easily cover everything was coming up short. “I had no idea how much a wedding cost, and I was wrong. I was terribly wrong.” In this episode we asked listeners if they were currently planning a wedding, and if money had become a sticking point. We heard from couples with vastly different ideas of what they wanted to spend, about opinionated parents and in-laws, tips from people who managed to spend less, and one Icelandic wedding planner’s mission to give the gift of a free wedding to a lucky, deserving couple. Want to learn more about Pink Iceland’s Queer Wedding Giveaway? Visit their webpage here.


The Crude Reality of Debt from This is Uncomfortable

This week we’re sharing an episode from This is Uncomfortable from Marketplace, a podcast about life and how money messes with it (you know that’s our bag) hosted by Reema Khrais. To give you a taste of the show, we’re playing an episode from their latest season, featuring Canadian comics artist Kate Beaton. When Kate graduated college, she had exactly one goal: get rid of her student debt as fast as possible. The goal took priority over everything else in her life, including the dream of trying to make it as an artist. But when she decided to take a job in the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, she didn’t know she would be entering a workplace that was a world of its own, where the ordinary rules of society would not always apply. You can find a more detailed episode description here. This episode was produced by Camila Kerwin.


Why Writer Brandon Taylor Likes Being “A Little Bit Lonely”

When writer Brandon Taylor was growing up in Alabama in the early 2000s, he didn’t quite fit in with the rest of his family or his classmates at school. And these days, he still prefers his own company. “I never feel more myself than when I am by myself feeling just like a little lonely,” he told Anna. “That is like my optimal state of being.” But Brandon found community online in chat rooms, roleplaying communities, and on message boards for the books and TV shows he loved as a teenager, like the anime show Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, or the Harry Potter series. And as an adult, the Real Life and The Late Americans author is figuring out how to share his excitement of literature and popular culture on and offline, which doesn’t always resonate with people in real life. In this episode, Brandon tells Anna about managing money on his own, what he likes about being single, and his evolving relationship with the Internet.


I Still Love My Dad, But I Don't Love Guns

In 2021, a listener we’re calling Jack wrote to us about a conversation he wanted to have with his dad about guns. Jack grew up in West Virginia, in a family that loved to hunt and shoot. His dad has a large collection of firearms—and, for years, he loved to talk about them with his son. But overtime, Jack’s views on guns shifted, and he didn’t want to be around them anymore. But telling that to his dad felt heavy. "I know he'll hear that as rejection because that's what it is, it's a rejection,” Jack told Anna at the time. Almost two years later, Anna called Jack back for an update on how his relationship with his dad has shifted since, and why his desired conversation now feels “cringey.”


Can You Help Your Kid’s Anxiety By Changing Your Behavior?

Alexis’s 8 year old son didn’t like to be out of sight from his mother for even for five minutes. “I would always be like, okay, I'm going right upstairs, I'm just switching the load of laundry – I'll be right back! He knew where I was every minute of the day.” Then, with the help of a therapist, Alexis and her husband wrote their son a letter, explaining to him that they would no longer allow him to accompany them to the bathroom. It didn’t go great. “He was visibly upset and crying and he shredded it immediately." But things did start to change as Alexis and her husband continued to implement a therapy program designed to help parents change how they respond to their children’s distress. Anna also talks to the founder of that program, Dr. Eli Lebowitz, director of the Program for Anxiety Disorders at the Yale Child Study Center, and author of Breaking Free of Child Anxiety and OCD: A Scientifically Proven Program for Parents. In therapy, parents are asked to think about the accommodations they do for their children, and to slowly eliminate them. “If you're a kid and what you're growing up learning about yourself through your parents is, I can't handle anxiety, well, you're gonna have a lot of anxiety in your life.”


‘It Just Denies Reality’: Abortion Access and the Law After Dobbs

In the summer of 2022, Anna spoke with Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund in the weeks after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, ending almost 50 years of the Constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Laurie has spent much of their adult life in Mississippi working around abortion access, and has been clear-eyed – and frustrated – about the policy failures that led to this moment. Almost a year later, Anna called Laurie back to hear how their work has continued to shift, what they’re hearing from callers, and the policy changes they see on the horizon. This episode also features an excerpt from our WNYC Studios colleagues at More Perfect, about two legal scholars’ attempt to rewrite abortion law in the wake of Dobbs. You can hear Anna’s original conversation with Laurie here, and subscribe to More Perfect here.


Ocean Vuong on Telling Lies, Building Family and Loving the Knicks

Ocean Vuong is one of the most beloved and acclaimed contemporary writers – his 2016 award-winning first poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was published before he finished his MFA. But his sudden success has come with some pitfalls, and has illuminated some practical skills he hasn’t learned. “In some ways, I feel kind of like a child actor,” he said to Anna. Ocean’s partner and his younger half brother drive him places and accompany him on trips. “I tell my family, if it wasn't for you guys, if it was just me, I would be in a studio with just a single mattress surrounded by books stacked from the floor up,” he said. But sharing the benefits of his professional accomplishments is a big part of how Ocean lives with his family and shows up for his friends. He talks about falling in love with poetry – and his partner – in his 20s in New York, what he loves about living in the country, and his surprising love of the New York Knicks.


Hold On: Should I Tell My Boss I’m Depressed?

We like to imagine that there’s a clear distinction between our work-selves and our non-work-selves. But the stressors that impact our mental health don’t really make that distinction. So, when our work is suffering because of our mental health, and our mental health is suffering because of work, who’s responsible for addressing that? In this final episode of Hold On, a national call-in show about our mental health, Anna talks to organizational psychologist Melissa Doman, author of Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work...Here's Why (And How To Do It Really Well), about how and when to address mental health issues in the workplace, and listeners call in with questions and stories.


Hold On: When Shame Keeps You From Therapy

Women are twice as likely to see a therapist than men, and, overall, white people are more likely to seek and find mental health treatment than other groups. In this episode of Hold On, our live national call-in series about mental health, we asked listeners to call in if the idea of getting therapy was something they felt excluded from, either because of how they were raised, what they looked like, or expectations around masculinity and what it means to be strong. Psychotherapist Dr. Avi Klein and Danielle Muñoz, director of Basic Needs at California State University, Long Beach, talked about their experiences helping people who were reluctant or nervous to get started.


Hold On: Let’s Talk About Psych Meds

According to a 2021 study, 1 in 5 American adults are taking medication to treat their mental health, that’s more than the number of people in any sort of talk therapy or counseling, which is about 1 in 10. In this episode of Hold On, a live national call-in about our mental health, Anna talked to sociologist Daniel Tadmon, and psychiatrist Dr. Kali Cyrus, about how the field of psychiatry is changing. Plus listeners call in about the drugs they’re on, the ones they’re trying to get off, and the prescription process. Plus, listeners call in about the drugs they’re on, the ones they’re trying to get off, and the prescription process.


Hold On: My Diagnosis, My Self

Getting a mental health diagnosis is a powerful thing. It can make you feel less alone, but it can also impact or alter your sense of identity. In this episode of Hold On, a live national call-in about our mental health, Anna talks to Dr. Craig Rodriguez-Seijas, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Clinical Science at the University of Michigan, about his work studying bias in mental health diagnostics, particularly among LGBTQ+ individuals, and takes listener calls about how a diagnosis has shaped their sense of identity, for better or worse. Plus, Aneri Pattani, Senior Correspondent at Kaiser Health News, explains what investments the Biden administration is making toward mental health, and how soon we might see progress.


Hold On: How to Support our Teens' Mental Health

It's always hard to be a teenager. “There’s been plenty of times where it feels like my anxiety is happening above average,” a teen named Maisie in New Jersey shared. Anxiety, depression, and feelings of low self-esteem are common at that age, but what happens when a teen’s mood stays consistently low? And what should we do as parents and loved ones when the rates at which teens are reporting these feelings are higher than ever? Dr. Lisa Damour, author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Emotional Lives of Teenagers, joins Anna along with parents, teens, and young adults to talk about the mental health crisis facing teenagers, what parents and loved ones should look out for, and how to talk to teens about what’s on their minds.


Hold On: How Therapists See the Mental Health Crisis

One in five adults in the U.S. have sought out mental health care in the last year, and two in five report struggling with anxiety and depression. Many of us are struggling and overwhelmed, and don’t know how to get the support we need, or where to start looking for it. And mental health care providers are feeling it too. “I’ve been calling it a fever pitch,” Dr. Kali Cyrus, practicing community psychiatrist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told Anna. We recently asked those of you that are mental health professionals to tell us what you’re hearing right now, and the extra work you’re doing. Listeners called in and joined Anna and Dr. Cyrus to share what current clients are worried about, the kinds of support newer clients need, and what they’re telling their clients right now. “Truthfully, I cannot do my job if my patients are hungry, if my patients are cold, if they do not have access to utilities,” a psychiatrist named Maria shared. And for those who are searching for care, there are also tips for finding a therapist. You can find resources for finding a therapist, navigating a mental health crisis, and more here.


Leaving the Extreme Right, and a Marriage, Behind

Tasha Adams followed the trial of her estranged husband closely. In November 2022, Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “I just was pretty obsessed with the whole thing,” Tasha said about the trial, “the idea of seeing Stewart face consequences is so huge for me.” In this episode, Anna and Micah Loewinger, correspondent for On the Media, travel to Montana to talk to Tasha about her decades-long marriage with Stewart, from their courtship in a ballroom dance class in Las Vegas, to abuse and isolation as Stewart became transfixed on politics and apocalyptic ideas. Plus, Tasha sits down with Kelly Jones, ex-wife of far-right radio host Alex Jones, and they compare notes on their marriages, and reflect on their secret text exchanges from 2018, when Tasha was plotting her escape from Stewart with her six kids. Subscribe to On the Media to hear Micah's episode about testifying in the Stewart Rhodes criminal trial. That's out later this month. And for more, check out the podcast This is Uncomfortable from Marketplace. They did a series with Tasha Adams, and her oldest child Dakota, that dropped last fall.