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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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« In Which We Defy A Remembrance Of Things Past »

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.


I recently met a woman who I will call Joan. Joan had a difficult upbringing and carries many of the scars from those years. As a result, she predictably has a complicated relationship with the family who remain in her life. She wants to introduce me to those people, but I can’t help feeling some anger towards them for treating her this way, and I am unsure how I should act within and without their presence. Do you have any advice?

Alex N.

Dear Alex,

The most important thing you need to remember is that none of this is actually happening to you. If you conceive of yourself as the central character in this narrative, you will take everything that occurs between Joan and her family as if it were happening to you alone.

Relationships between family members often concern events you may not know now, or will not know even in the near or far future. The sooner you force this knowledge out of Joan, the worse it will likely be for you. If these happenings are truly traumatic, it would be best if you were associated with them as incidentally as possible.


I work a very difficult and somewhat controversial job. In the past I have had difficulty getting significant others to respect what I do for a living or understand why I want to do it. As you might imagine, it is an uncomfortable and unhappy situation when someone you love doesn’t love what you do. However, I am good at it and I enjoy it and it compensates me well. Would it be wrong to lie or mitigate what I do in hopes it wouldn’t turn my partners off before they have a chance to get to know me?

Darren C. 

Dear Darren,

Unless you are a contract killer, in which case someone’s objection to your chosen field seems relatively rational, there is probably something good about what you do. (I’m guessing the tobacco industry?) In any case, my recommendation is to have a non-work related activity that you can use to define yourself that negates the unhappy effect of your other work.

There are many great charities (just avoid the Red Cross and Susan B. Komen because they are frauds) and there is a lot of positive work that can be done in the world. Women and men will respect that, or they should. Also, it makes you a mysterious figure full of shades of gray.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

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