In her new book, podcast host Anna Sale is open about making more money than her husband. She writes about a conversation about sex with her OBGYN. And she says we should all talk more about the tough things in life. "Stop pretending that you've got all this figured out," she told NPR, "and instead open up a little bit more space to help each other through."
Morning Edition host Noel King spoke to Sale, the host of the podcast "Death, Sex and Money" about the book, Let's Talk About Hard Things.
On why she's comfortable talking about money — even just after meeting someone
I mean, for me, it came from kind of being an early career journalist and looking around and saying like, wait, 'How are people making this work?' Not just financially, but I also had a lot of questions for my older women colleagues. How are they making it work if they have kids? Like, what's their childcare situation? How is this all happening? And so when I would get to know people, I would sort of share and maybe hope that they would also share...how their life has unfolded so far.
I think that our financial paths are a huge plot driver, and when we leave that out, we're leaving out just a huge, huge part of the story. Because when you have to scrap and hustle and make your own way, it shapes you. It changes the way you view what you build up or what you're afraid of. You know, if you started out with more and...it was a little easier for you at the start — and now you've gotten to a certain place and you're thinking about, what is your obligation to others? That's an important thing to think about and share.
On why everyone needs to talk about identity
Otherwise, you're just ignoring that there are differences among us. And you're saying, 'I can't handle seeing this person in front of me, because them describing what it is like for them to move in the world is too upsetting to me.' Or, 'I'm not sure I'll know the right thing to say. So I'm just not going to acknowledge that their reality might be a little different than mine.' When you when you think about it that way... I think that it's cowardly.
I think that the practice is getting comfortable with that discomfort. You know, there's this wonderful line that I learned from a woman named Karena Montag — she runs anti-racism workshops and restorative workshops here in the East Bay where I live. And she told me that when she gathers groups together, she starts with this principle: expect and accept a lack of closure. And I just love that, because she's like she's basically priming the group — you are not going to come away from these conversations with a list of bullet points of how to do it right, and how to be in the world, and how to undo what you're now noticing that maybe you weren't noticing as much before. And that's the point.
On the value of honest, vulnerable conversations
We feel less alone and isolated in our pain and struggle when we talk about hard things. And I think when we don't talk about it, we are withholding from each other the ways that we can help.
When you open up conversations about this stuff that's unsettled or painful, when you find ways and words to talk about it with the people in your lives, then whole dimensions open up about...what you can compare notes on. All these things — death, sex, money, family, identity — all this stuff causes tension in each of our lives in different ways. And it doesn't mean that we're not doing a good job if we're going through hard things.
The podcast portion of this episode was produced by Clare Lombardo. Brian Jarboe provided engineering support. Special thanks to Reena Advani.
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