You know sometimes you hear something or see something and it makes you think, ‘Christ, women are just amazing.’ Whether it’s an evening drawn long into night spent in the company of a group of hilarious women, or a single wise voice of wit talking about her experience, sometimes I am suddenly aware that being a woman is definitely something distinct, and it can be brilliant. First listening to ‘Strangers’, I felt that.
Not to mislead you. ‘Strangers’ is not a podcast solely about women or for women. It’s a podcast that describes itself as ‘featuring true stories about people we meet, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were…’ In that, it’s universal. The ‘women are frigging brilliant’ thought was born of listening to the soft, wise, kind voice of Lea Thau, the creator and host of ‘Strangers’. Having also been an Executive and Creative Director of ‘The Moth’, and Creator of ‘The Moth Podcast’, it feels like she’s a Founding Father or Mother Earth of the storytelling podcast movement.
The thing I love most about ‘Strangers’ is Thau’s voice. It’s husky and soft, nuanced and thoughtful, kind and curious, and always reaching out and hunting for the strange ways people behave, and questioning why that might be.
In listening to her, her interviews and conversations, I felt like I most wanted to be in warm twilight, on the shore of some beautiful village, with a huge glass of wine, feet in thick socks, listening to her talk back and forth with someone incredibly interesting. Listening to ‘Strangers is like the comfort of hearing your parents talk, the grown up conversation and laughter, floating up from the rooms below as you lie curled up in soft pyjamas, clean and safe and listening. I think it’s the kindness of Thau, and the self-reflection of herself and her interviewees that gives this feeling.
Being Danish, but living in the States, Thau is able to examine and point out the absurdities of both the American and European ways of thinking about things. She talks to people about situations they’ve been in, and their reflections on them, from serving twenty years in prison for a murder they didn’t commit, to a married couple re-building their family and relationship after one of them has a stroke.
While I love Thau’s interviews, there’s something particularly strong about Thau’s examination of her own love life. Not only do you have to respect anyone who contacts her previous dates to find out why they didn’t work out, but talks to someone she didn’t want to date about why that might be too. She also discusses the delicate issues of shame, ego, hurt, confusion, self-doubt and public facades that go along with relationships, new and failed. Start with these episodes, those thick socks and a big glass of wine, and I’m convinced you’ll be as hooked on this podcast as I am.