Vanessa and Freddy had been dating for just a few months when she first brought up the idea of marriage, while they eating at their favorite taco place. "He just was silent, like he just looked at me, and then looked down at his food and kept eating," Vanessa told me. "I'm like, um are you gonna say something? And then he eventually he said, I take marriage very seriously and I would never want to go down that path just because of legal status."
Freddy was born in Mexico, but has lived in the U.S. since he was six. He was undocumented until 2013, when he became one of the almost 700,000 young people who were given temporary permission to stay under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Then, last fall, President Trump declared that he was canceling DACA—throwing Freddy's future in the U.S. into question.
Vanessa and Freddy are married now, but there's still no clear path to permanent legal status for Freddy as the courts decide the fate of DACA program. The worry that Freddy might be deported hangs over their relationship—particularly for Vanessa. "What happens if they cancel DACA and then they go after all the DACA recipients and we have a baby?" Vanessa told me. But for Freddy, the prospect of losing his legal status in the U.S. doesn't phase him as much. "My thought is, I have done so much without it than with it, you know? So that's not going to change anything for me. It’s not going to stop me."
Married, Paralyzed and Moving On
Two years ago, Hiroki Takeuchi was paralyzed from the waist down in a cycling accident. It was just weeks after he and his wife, Rachel Swidenbank, got married. , Hiroki was still figuring out the basics of day-to-day life in a wheelchair: how to drive an adapted car, how to get up and down stairs, how to use the bathroom on his own. Rachel stopped working to care for Hiroki in those early days. There were a lot of unknowns about the future, and what Hiroki's body would and wouldn't be capable of.
When we spoke recently, they told me that Hiroki is now fully independent when it comes to his daily routines, and that they're both back to work. "It's been progress, progress, progress, progress," Rachel said. "And then like maybe the last three, four months it's kind of flattened out in terms of what you would classify as progress." One thing that they haven't yet fully figured out: sex. "We definitely have a lot of intimacy and you know, a lot of closeness," Hiroki told me. "But...I think that there's so much baggage around it."
Rachel and Hiroki did recently find out that having a child together is possible via IVF. While they're not ready to start that process quite yet, it was exciting news for them—and it's made Hiroki think about what being a father might look like for him. "One of the things that really worried me was that I wouldn't be able to be a proper dad to our children," he said. "I think there's a level of like you know redefining what fatherhood means through a different lens. It doesn't mean it's worse, it's just different."
Traveling for the holiday this week? Take our — with episode suggestions from podcast hosts like PJ Vogt, Tracy Clayton, Phoebe Judge and Kelly McEvers — along with you!
John Green Thinks Adulthood is Underrated
Author John Green is a master of connecting with young people. His YA novels, and the popular YouTube channel he runs with his younger brother Hank, have created massive communities of teenage fans all over the world. But when he was growing up in Orlando, John himself often felt isolated from his peers. Anxiety and obsessive thoughts plagued him, starting when he was a kid. "The feeling of not being able to choose thoughts, [...] of not being able to reassure myself, and not being able to be reassured by people who loved me was really scary," he told me. "It meant that my self was built on a foundation of sand on some level."
In his twenties, after a period of severe crisis after college, John received a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder. He began taking medication to help manage it, and when he started his family and moved to Indianapolis, it felt like things were settling down. Then, in 2012, he published his bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars . A movie deal followed, and soon, John found himself at the center of a multi-million dollar empire. "It felt like there was a lot of attention on that story and, by proxy, on me," he told me. "And I had always wanted that, I always sought that out, but when it happened it was overwhelming at first." In fact, it was so overwhelming that it sent John into the second serious mental health crisis of his life —one that felt all the more debilitating because he was now a dad and husband. This week, he tells me about getting healthy again after that period, and why he's learned that so many things about adulthood —including having comfortable shoes —are really great.
John and his brother Hank host three of their own podcasts, all of which are now part of the WNYC Studios family. Listen to wherever you get your podcasts.
And if you find yourself in a moment of crisis like John did, and need to talk with someone, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They're open 24/7—please ask for help.
Why Governor Jennifer Granholm Cut Her Hair
When Jennifer Granholm ran for Attorney General of Michigan in 1998, she had three young children at home — including a 10 month old baby. But that was not something she wanted voters to know about. "You didn't even really see my husband," Jennifer told me. "It was all about this disembodied creature who was going to fight for you because you don't want to remind people of the mess that is a family and all of that."
Jennifer's life in politics was quite a change from how she started her career, as a former beauty pageant contestant who moved to Los Angeles right out of high school to try to break into acting. She was quickly turned off by the culture there. "That casting couch thing was real," she told me, describing requests for sexual favors at auditions. " I went on interviews where people would say 'Hey, I've got 50 girls outside lined up who are willing to do A, B, or C. Why should I give this to you if you don't play the game?'
"I was so mad about it, I said I'm going to leave here, I'm going to go to the best university I can get into, going to get the best grades possible. I'm going to go to law school and I'll show them!"
After graduating from Harvard Law School and practicing law in Michigan, Jennifer won the Attorney General's race in 1998, and in 2002 she also won the race to become the first female governor of Michigan. She was still in office as the global financial crisis and automotive industry bankruptcies simultaneously hit her state in 2008 and 2009 — and took a lot of the blame for it. "I would say to anybody who's deciding whether or not to run for office timing is really important," she laughed. "I feel sad for me personally. If I can be sorry for myself. I feel sad that I governed at a time when I am seen as being responsible for the high unemployment rate in Michigan."
This episode is a collaboration with the podcast The United States of Anxiety . , to hear the couple talking about how Al's participation in those hearings affected their relationship.)
Tell Us Your Sex Ed Fails
A listener named Lauren emailed the Death, Sex & Money inbox recently with a request: Could we please talk more about blue balls? She explained that when she was a young woman, she had male partners tell her it was literally unsafe for them not to orgasm after arousal — and she believed them. " It's like, oh I started to hook up with him. So now I have to have sex with him," she said. It wasn't until much later that Lauren realized blue balls are, at worst, mildly uncomfortable.
Lauren's experience of finding out that something she believed about sex was completely wrong resonated for me, and it made me wonder: What did you learn about sex that you wish you hadn't?
We want you to tell us about your sex ed fails — the ridiculous, harmful or just plain wrong things you picked up from partners, friends, older siblings, or even teachers. Send a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. And we're working with the BBC on this project, so we'd especially love to hear from our listeners in the UK!