The joys and drawbacks of living by yourself.
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.

We put up a Christmas tree in our house over the weekend, and I have to tell you, it’s really wonderful. My new favorite thing every morning is getting to turn on its rainbow lights as I inhale the fresh pine smell.

I am in need of some great holiday playlists. My casual search and click hasn’t landed me on the right mix just yet. Too many children’s versions, too much Sinatra, not enough classics sandwiching around the occasional top pop star’s effort, and just too many versions of the odious “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” So...if you have landed on the perfect holiday mix, that makes you feel warmed by a fire and that you’re both a grown adult and a child obsessed with holiday magic, please send this way and I’ll share. I certainly need an extra dose of cheer to help me get my head around this strange holiday season (and year).

Speaking of music, one song I have been very much enjoying this week: Liza Minnelli’s celebration of living alone. She’s part of the finale of a wonderful show that we’re sharing again with you this week, all about the pluses and minuses of having a home to yourself. I’m telling you: you will be so glad you listened, and made some time for Liza.

Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money

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 then, many of you have a lot of complicated feelings about living alone. As many of us grapple with the isolating effects of the pandemic, we’re revisiting your stories about living alone. Listen in your feeds now.

Your Updates: Living Alone
We first ran this week's episode back in 2014. So we asked the listeners in it to give us some updates about their lives now, almost six years later:
"My wife Ciara and I got married in 2016, and had a son in 2018. We bought a house in New Jersey in 2018, and have been mostly hunkered down at home with a two and a half year old during the pandemic. I continue to work as an actor in television and film. I've had the good fortune to be in a number of films and TV shows since we last spoke, including What We Do In The Shadows, Search Party, Orange is The New Black, House of Cards, The Last O.G., and Jon Stewart's most recent film Irresistible. I'm currently in Los Angeles for a few weeks to shoot a television pilot. I was cast back in February, but the production was shut down right before we started filming in March. We've been in a weird limbo ever since, but I'm really excited to finally get to shoot this thing! Although most television and film work has ground to a halt during the pandemic, I've been very fortunate that voiceover work has continued and that I have space in my house for a sound booth where I can record jobs. It has really kept me afloat over the last 8+ months."

"Last time I spoke with Anna, it was 2014, and I was about to move in with my then-fiancé, Dan. Now it’s 2020, and Dan moved out of our apartment about five months ago. We never actually tied the knot—all for the best, as it turns out! And I am back to living alone. I’m still pushing the furniture out of the way and stretching. I’m also learning how to paint and spending lots of time singing and dancing in the kitchen while I make myself meals. And redecorating... I'm having a lot of fun buying new art, finding just the right frames and really making the space mine. Becoming suddenly single during a global pandemic has definitely been strange, but it’s forced me to sink into living alone—experience it fully and without flinching. I still get anxious about filling my time sometimes, but I'm starting to get really comfortable with it. And I find that I’m happier and more hopeful every day."

"I'm doing very well. My cancer was diagnosed six and a half years ago, and so I have had six and half years now of good health after the treatment was concluded. And in the fall of 2017, I sold my home and moved to a community for people over 55. So I am now surrounded by congenial neighbors. I am in the independent living section and I have my own apartment. I was able to bring my cat, which is a good thing. I appreciate the companionship of a pet, especially in these months of quarantine. And one of the concerns that I mentioned in my interview with Anna was being ill, and needing help and unable to contact anyone. Those fears have lessened quite a bit since I am now living in a community like the one I described."

"I left Brooklyn (and some roommates) in 2018 and headed west. The solo living situation in Brooklyn was, in hindsight, a flash in the pan. After the owners of the building I lived in sold the property, I returned to roommate situations in order to go to grad school to earn my MBA and make sure I wasn’t buried in a pile of debt by the time I had my diploma in hand. That strategy did work out and as a bonus, I had two great roommates that I was pretty sad to leave when I moved to Colorado for a new career and a return to living alone. I’m now in Northern California and moved into an apartment two days before the Governor issued the first shelter in place order in March. It was a crazy time to relocate, for instance, it took nearly three months before I could purchase a couch! I’m lucky enough to be working in an industry considered essential and I am able to pay my rent. It is not lost on me that had I stayed in Brooklyn and not invested time, energy and money in changing careers, I would likely be in a very precarious situation. And quite honestly, living on my own, in a region well known for wildfires has forced me to contemplate a completely different type of precarious situation—the possibility of a mandatory evacuation to escape a force of nature. But today I am safe and for that I am immensely grateful."

"I still live in the house I had when I was married, though I continue to make it more my own. My children are now in their twenties, and like many of their generation, sometimes they need to live at home for a while and sometimes they don't. My daughter is remotely attending college and currently lives with a roommate. My son helped me finish the space over the garage and that is his apartment now, which lets us share a quarantine bubble without full-time sharing a home. To that extent, I really do finally live alone. Although 2020 isn't easy, I have found I'm able to tolerate the extensive amount of solitude rather well. Maybe all those years of never living alone prepared me to fully appreciate it when I, like so many others, am living more alone than I ever expected I could."


Listen to This: Audio We Love

If you’re still thinking about your Thanksgiving leftovers, or just food more generally this week, the Thanksgiving episode of This American Life is for you. The episode features the late food writer and anthropologist Vertamae Grosevenor listening closely to hear when a fried chicken is done, the mystery of and rumors about “imitation calamari,” and a story about how a performance art piece led to the famed food critic Jonathan Gold living with a chicken.

As the pandemic continues, there are more and more stories of people who’ve been struggling with COVID-19 symptoms for months. In a recent episode of The Cut podcast, we hear from several “long haulers,” including Chimére Smith, a 38-year-old teacher in Baltimore, who’s been experiencing a variety of COVID-19 symptoms and complications since March. But because Chimére’s tested negative for COVID-19 and for antibodies, she’s had a hard time getting doctors to take her symptoms seriously. Hear how a Slack group of fellow long haulers helped her regain some agency in her care. 

"I cheated death once, I earn money and have sex, and welcome more. DSM has humor, love, the truth. Anna and team know how to bring out the best in people and show us all our real humanity."
—Olivia, Colorado

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