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Marlo Thomas on the things that go unsaid after 40 years of marriage, and more stories from listeners over 60.
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Host Anna Sale and the logos for Death, Sex & Money and WNYC Studios, all on a beige background.

Today is Inauguration Day. There will be a lot of news to take in, history to witness, and I know for me, some weird attempts to try to make it feel like a collective experience while I watch alone, from a screen at my house. I’ll probably have a few group text chains going and Twitter updating in my peripheral vision.

I’m old enough now that I can remember many inaugurations. Trump’s inauguration that I watched from my office four years ago, where I had people to unpack the “American carnage” theme with at the watercooler afterward. Or Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, which I took in from the field, holding my recorder in one hand and my mic in the other while I watched in an elementary classroom in Hartford, Connecticut. I remember George W. Bush’s, when I was in college, as I was still getting used to the idea after those weeks of uncertainty when we didn’t know who’d won and we spent the end of the semester before distracted by trying to describe how strange it all felt. I remember Maya Angelou from Bill Clinton’s first inaugural ceremony when I was in junior high.

I have the same kind of kaleidoscope of memories when it comes to Marlo Thomas, our guest this week. I first got to know her when my Aunt Jane gave us a Free to Be... You and Me cassette for Christmas when I was a kid, and I have that memory alongside a summertime road trip this summer when my three-year-old and I listened to "William's Doll." Or, when my first nephew was born, my sisters and I so excitedly singing and dancing to Free to Be... You and Me that we got scolded by the new mom's sister that, uh, the baby we were celebrating needed some quiet, so knock it off. When I listened and noticed different things, I could track how I was changing, how society was changing, and also, where the moments of familiar continuity felt comforting. 

In our conversation, Marlo and I didn’t talk so much about children’s albums, but more about how her thoughts about companionship, marriage and family evolved over the course of her life. How, at one point, she would joke that for women, “Marriage is like a vacuum cleaner. You stick it to your ear and it sucks out all your energy and ambition.” And now, after she’s celebrated her fortieth wedding anniversary, how she looks back at decades of being a wife and stepmother. What matters to her now, what mattered to her then, and how she made an institution work for her by reimaging its possibilities. 

So, I know there is a lot to take in today, but I do recommend you make some time for Marlo this week during a time of so much looking back and looking forward.

—Anna and the Death, Sex & Money team
This Week on Death, Sex & Money
A photograph of Marlo Thomas: she is smiling at the camera and wears a black blouse and dark blue jeans. She's sitting on a beige couch surrounded by several floral pillows, and a series of plants and flowers.
In the latest episode in our series with guests over 60: actor and activist Marlo Thomas. Last year, she and her husband, Phil Donahue, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and released a book together called What Makes A Marriage Last, where they interviewed well-known couples about how they've made their own relationships last. "I don't really think there's a gigantic mystery to marriage," Marlo told me. "Other than lust and love, it's about liking somebody, you know, and listening to them." 

But for years, Marlo was staunchly anti-marriage. "I thought it was a very bad institution for women," she told me. "I was very happily single. I was living the life I wanted to live. I was making my own money. I had my own house. I had my own China pattern and crystal and silver pattern, and I thought, boy, I'm doing it." Hear what shifted for her, and what she and Phil do and don't talk about, four decades into their marriage.
Your Stories: The Vitality and Creativity of Aging
Over the last few months, we've heard from many listeners over 60 about their lives—and two who emailed us recently, Philip and David, wanted to remind us of the joys of getting older. They're both finding ways to stay active and creatively fulfilled right now. Philip quoted Dorothy Parker in his email, sharing “Years are only garments, and you either wear them with style all your life, or else you go dowdy to the grave.” Here's more from Philip:
"My life is fine. I passed through 2020 without problems, except for the toilet paper shortage last spring. I do not feel depressed, nor am I experiencing any of the problems others of all ages are complaining about because of the limitations resulting from COVID-19. We spent the spring, summer, and early autumn at Fire Island Pines. In the autumn we took day trips with our 'bubble sister' friends: Storm King Art Center on the Hudson and the Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ; and dined out outside several times with them.

I am delighted that my gym has been reopened since September. I train four days per week, and am thus feeling as good, if not better than I did one year ago. Christmas was quiet; but we have done some fun outdoor winter things: the Lunio City show on Randall’s Island, a visit to The Edge at Hudson Yards, and Glow at the NY Botanical Garden; and soon to see the light show at the Bronx Zoo.

The major downside of the pandemic has been to my profession: I am a tourist guide in NYC. The tourism/hospitality industry has been eviscerated by COVID-19, and professionals estimate it will not recover until 2024! As soon as the lockdown was put in place last March, one-by-one my bookings were cancelled. None have come in for 2021. I especially miss the student tours, both domestic and international. I enjoy working with high school boys and girls so much!"

—Philip, 68, New York, NY
"I've listened to the show on aging. One story seems to be missing—the vitality and creativity of this age. Yes—body changes, life circumstances change, yes, there are losses and grief. And great joy. I’m 77, fully engaged in new ways of living: just designed and taught a new graduate level course called Courageous Imagination In Action this fall, and am in love with a wonderful  partner near my age, a choreographer and academic with a full teaching calendar and doing continual creative work.

We are still actively imagining and creating and working towards the future.

Yes—we acknowledge losses. A bigger yes to what we are doing, creating, living—especially now, with the storms all around us. I hope future conversations on aging bring up this dimension more."

—David, 77, Minneapolis, MN

Listen to This: Audio We Love

The podcast art for the show "I'm Not A Monster," featuring a black background and the face of a woman in purple. The word "I'm" is in white text on a black background and "Not" is as well, both are over each eye. "A Monster" covers her nose, and below her mouth is the BBC Sounds logo and the words "from Panorama & Frontline | PBS."
A drawing of the musician Selena, a Mexican American woman with black hair, lightly browned skin, hoop earrings, and red lipstick, She wears a light purple tank top and is holding her hand up by her face, and she's wearing pink acrylic nails. She's surrounded by white roses and the words "Anything for Selena" in white. In the background are drawings of women's faces in red, pink, orange, and yellow. In the top left corner are the WBUR and Futuro logos in black text on a white border.
In the first episode of I’m Not A Monster, from Frontline and the BBC, we meet Lori Sally—a woman in South Bend, Indiana, who’s gotten a disturbing email from her sister, Sam. The sisters had lost touch years before, and Sam’s message came from Raqqa, Syria—the capital of ISIS. In this binge-worthy podcast, reporter Josh Baker follows the disturbing story of how Sam and her family ended up in Syria, and what landed her in prison once she got back to the U.S. 

Growing up in Texas, reporter and critic Maria Garcia felt split: not American enough for the kids at her school, and not Mexican enough for her extended family in Ciudad Juarez. “In both places, it felt like the other half of me was missing,” she says. “Like these two parts of myself were divorced from each other.” That changed when she discovered Selena, a pop star who was as bicultural as she was—and proud of it. Selena’s murder in 1995 sent shockwaves through Maria’s own family and the immigrant community she was a part of. Now, Maria is setting out to unpack her relationship to Selena’s music and legacy—and how it has shaped her own life—in Anything For Selena, a new podcast from WBUR and Futuro Studios. (Bonus: there are English *and* Spanish versions of every episode.)
"As a single mom of four who sometimes feels alone in this bubble world, Anna & the fascinating REAL folks she interviews makes me feel much less alone in this often isolating journey. Keep going DSM!!!"
—Jessica, Arkansas

Join Jessica and support our work at Death, Sex & Money!
Give now at deathsexmoney.org/donate.
We'll have stories from listeners over 60 all month long, so keep listening!

Also, happy belated birthday to Betty White, who turned 99 this week.
If you're not over 60, click here to share our episodes with someone in your life who is!
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