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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

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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Entries in advice (154)

Wednesday
Nov152017

In Which This Is Not The Greatest News For Him

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.

Last March I had a brief relationship with a co-worker, who I will call Sam. The relationship ended when Sam was transferred to another part of the company - it's about an two hours drive away. I never heard that it was because another employee found out about us, and transfers are frequent. 

I miss Sam a lot, and I have thought about asking for a transfer or leaving my job so that this would not be an obstacle to us being together. When I talk to him about it, he is mostly focused on the repercussions for his career. He does say he wants to be together, but it seems impossible right now. Can you suggest any course of action?

Nadine A.

Dear Nadine,

A man is a beautiful thing. He smells of musk and Raisinets, and he always has a kind word for a tourniquet or bedfellow. A hour is not too far to conduct any relationship, but two can make it rather difficult on both of you. 

The facts seem to be these, though: if you did not tell someone about your relationship, then it is quite possible Sam did, which means he may not exactly want this relationship as much as it seems. It's a great cop-out, and we can add to the fact that if he wanted to see you on a regular basis, he probably would.

It can be tricky to get out of a work relationship, and Sam most likely felt trapped. This is through no fault of your own, but the fact that you are still pursuing this even when he has been transferred indicates the momentum in the relationship is entirely on your side.

Let me tell you a story. A man (Joseph Cotten) loved a woman (Ginger Rogers). When he found out that she had to serve three years in prison for murdering her boss when the man tried to drunkenly r her, he was like, "I will wait for you my darling." He was there outside the prison when she got out, and they had three wonderful children together, two of them addressed by their peers and parents as "Monsignor."

Instead of Joseph Cotten, who was also a war hero in this particular instance, you have targeted a mid-level functionary at your organization who has a lot of excuses that he can't be with you. He sounds like Scar from The Lion King, and while Scar's phallus was shaped like a can of tuna, Scar also had some pretty attractive qualities. Every single person in the universe can be the love of your life. Sam doesn't want to be. 

You can probably turn this around. Cut off all contact with Sam and start dating someone named Davidson LeGrue. Problem partially solved.

Hi,

My friend Ashley has a boyfriend named Johnny. A few nights ago she got a call from him: he was in the hospital. He had woken up there without any knowledge of how he had gotten there other than that he had drinks with a female friend. There was some kind of drug in his system that indicated one of his drinks was spiked; he has no idea by who.

She was comforting, but I was pretty aghast at this entire story and the idea that she believed him without verifying any of the information. Then again, he did not have to call her from the hospital at all or provide any of this, to me, weird story.

What do you think actually happened here, and what should I tell Ashley to do about it?

Raina N.

Dear Raina,

It is disturbingly serious what Bill Cosby did to all these women. And to offer them a muffin afterwards and send them on their way after the rape is just disgusting. I don't know how that relates to your question, but I must admit it has been on my mind.

I was reading this Robert Heinlein book about life on the moon the other day. Any crime is punishable by death, if it is bad enough. The idea that rape is a crime worse than murder only makes sense in that it is more difficult to prosecute. I don't know how that relates to your question either.

Or maybe I do, since your friend's boyfriend is and isn't having a reaction that indicates this may have happened to him. If he simply drank too much, the only reason not to say so if he did something so out of character it might be revealed to Ashley by a third party. Then, his excuse is built into the original story.

For a second let's assume everything he said is true. It is possible to be drugged by someone we know, or drink from someone else's glass. (This happened in The Princess Bride as I recall.) There would be no reason not to tell Ashley the truth in this scenario, and it would explain most everything in the story.

Unfortunately, pathological exaggerators seek to play up stories, and people often feel humiliated and embarrassed when their drinking leads them to medical care. I don't know if there is much to be gained by checking up on this story however. You should be only able to find out whether Johnny was a patient at the hospital. If he was, then that is the likely limit of your investigation.

It would be beneficial for you yourself to quiz Johnny about this incident, but Ashley is likely going to have to do this on her own. Here is some advice for follow-up that you can provide here.

* Questions will keep coming up. Do not ask them randomly, as they come to mind, or constantly hint or make suggestions about her doubts. This is easy to deflect. Most people can only tell one lie at a time.

* The key is to really find a specific moment, preferably in public, to talk at length to Johnny about this incident. If he really is a pathological liar, he will want to do this in private.

* Ask a series of noncombative questions, and then suddenly turn nasty, but only for a moment, to gauge his reaction. Then back off — this isn't Guantanamo.

* If he becomes flustered or upset, this is not the greatest news for him. If he cries, this is not the greatest news for him. If he calmly tries to reassure you, this is the best news for him.

* Pray

Wednesday
Nov082017

In Which We Can Come To No Other Conclusion

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hey,

I recently spent a semester abroad in France. I did not have the best experience for reasons too numerous to detail here. Before I left for France I hooked up with a friend named Alex. We kept in touch throughout the time I was away and with the prospect of my return to campus nearing, things took a different tone in our texts. 

There was a lot of talk about being physical, which I did enjoy — it was great feeling close to Alex and I genuinely care for him. My concern is whether or not this represented a sincere desire on his part to be in a relationship. I'm not sure I know what he expects is going to happen and I feel weird bringing it up on skype or through text. 

How should I approach this?

Karen C.

Dear Karen,

Alex seems genuinely interested, but this is not surprising in itself. Straight men want to be with women, and setting up a expectation of a relationship through texting is a great way to make that happen. 

The ensuing relationship will take whatever form you want it to. If you act cool towards Alex, he will not assume you are going to hop into bed with him, and how he behaves from then on will tell you everything you need to know about what intends for you two. It's quite probable that he did not spend an entire semester pining after you, so find out what he was up to while you were away. I mean, don't hold it against him. A private detective gets pricey quick, so start reading his e-mails while he is in the shower. Most people hide their passwords in plain text in their browser's settings. Fucking idiots.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 

Hey,

My girlfriend, who we will call LeAnn after legendary country-western singer LeAnn Rimes (sp?), has put on quite a bit of weight over the past year. It has definitely affected how attracted I am to her even though I have tried everything I can think of not to let that happen. But I need to be honest — when I look at her, she doesn't look like herself.

 I haven't mentioned this at all to LeAnn, but she is definitely aware of the weight she has put on and she talks about it quite a bit. Drawing attention to the change has not made it go away, and only serves to remind me of the stress that caused it and that things are different. 

I have mentioned working out together and stuff but LeAnn's schedule is not really conducive to this and she does exercise, but it is not really helping at this point. Is there any conceivable solution to my issue?

George M.

Dear George,

Over time, it is completely reasonable to change your view of a significant other. You are not going to be able to have the novelty of sexual discovery you possessed when you first met LeAnn. Sure, some people are so easily stimulated that the mere presence of a woman is enough to express lifelong devotion, but in most relationships you have to work to have that stimulation come from within and not the surface. 

Whatever the reason, getting to know LeAnn better has no doubt thrown a wrench in your view of her. Extra weight is not the entire story; you will find that even if she suddenly discovers hot yoga, things will never quite be exactly how they were. 

I would try finding the thing that is holding you back from loving LeAnn as she is. Once you find whatever that thing is and remove the obstacle, you probably won't care very much about the weight, and you will need further therapy. Maybe get out of this relationship now before it's too late.

Wednesday
Nov012017

In Which There Were One Or More Ways To Be Free

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

I recently took a new job, and for various reasons at my old workplace, I have been telling people that I have a boyfriend just because it makes things easier for me not having other people speculate about my love life. Despite that, I have gotten close to someone who knows I have a boyfriend, sorry, that I "have" "a" "boyfriend", and yet still seems to be interested. Is the expectation that I will just break up with my boyfriend at some point or I am just mistaking his interest?

Helen T.

Dear Helen,

Saying you have a boyfriend is simply one of those that will come true simply by speaking into existence. (Phrases that operate on a similar level are, "I wish there was a Whole Foods around here" and "I wonder if Jimmy Kimmel cried tonight.") Most men find women with boyfriend more attractive, since things are impossible until they aren't. Plus, lots of people cheat. Since your boyfriend is not technically real, he will either never ask about him at all or want to know more.

I'm guessing he is the first kind of person, which means he probably just wants to keep you on the backburner, plus it probably takes off a lot of pressure knowing you are a taken individual.

I respect your lie, but I don't understand how you are going to transition out of it if you really like this guy. And if you don't, the boyfriend will probably have to exist indefinitely.

Hi,

I was reading one of my boyfriend's books and I found a letter that an old girlfriend (I think) had written him. It was very sexual and nothing like the way that we would write or even talk to each other. (We do have a great sex life, but it just is not a verbal thing.) It was in fact rather graphic, not that I have a problem with that, but my boyfriend has never particularly expressed that was the sort of thing he enjoyed. Should this worry me less than it does?

Annie B.

Dear Annie,

In a relationship, say the one between Vice President Pence and his wife Karen, there is a specific erotic rapport that exists for the just the two of you. If you have a great sex life, that is more than enough. Verbal pitter-patter works for some people, and it is fun every once in awhile, but on some level it becomes more forced than authentic.

Whatever relationship he had with someone else is in the past, I mean probably, might not hurt to check the date on that letter.

You want to be authentic, don't you? Don't you?

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