November 8, 2013

The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About

Producer Sarah Koenig's mother lives by a set of rules about conversation. She has an actual list of off-limits topics, including how you slept, your period, your health, your diet and more. You don't talk about these things, she says, because nobody cares. This week we try to find stories on these exact topics that will prove her wrong.


Sarah's mom, Mrs. Matthiessen, doubts that the staff of This American Life can find great stories about her conversational no-nos. (7 minutes)
Act One


Okay, so we admit, that this story that a woman named Ninon told Sarah at a dinner party isn’t strictly about menstruation, but we're going to beg indulgence because it has all the key ingredients of a good menstruation story. (7 minutes)
Act Two


Dr. Steven Bratman has spent a lot of time around people with extreme and unusual diets. He tells Ira Glass that for some of them, it's not about losing weight but about becoming more pure.

Dr. Bratman is the author of Health Food Junkies. (7 minutes)

Act Three


Deborah Lott comes from a family that obsesses over health. And when they all get together for dinner, their banter goes on overdrive. She recorded their last dinner party, and assures producer Brian Reed that this is a typical dinner for them.

Deborah recently completed a memoir, Tell Me I’m Still Breathing: A Memoir of an Anxious Childhood. You can find more of her work at her website. (10 minutes)

Act Four


Dr. Cady Coleman is a NASA astronaut who has spent more than 4300 hours in space. Our senior producer Julie Snyder asked her what it's like to sleep while orbiting the earth. (3 minutes)
Act Five


A group of people have a dream club that meets twice a month to talk about their dreams. Sarah and her mom join one of their meetings. (7 minutes)
Act Six

Route Talk

Chris Garcia and his dad were driving home, listening to oldies, sharing a bag of chips. A totally familiar scene for them. They’d driven this route probably hundreds of time, but something odd was happening in the car, so Chris started recording their conversation on his phone. He tells producer Nancy Updike what happened.

Chris is a comedian. We first heard him talking about his dad on Marc Maron's WTF podcast (Chris's part starts around at around 30:30). You can find more of his comedy at his website. (10 minutes)