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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Entries in advice (156)


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


In Which We Tell The World When It Is On Fire

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 broke up with my boyfriend of eight months. He had never shown the slightest bit of craziness during the relationship, but in the wake of the breakup he has been sure to hang out with all our friends, some of whom were my friends long before we were a couple, and tell them “his side of the story.” This narrative recounts how I broke his heart and was generally a dick to him for “giving up on the relationship.”

The reality is that he was extremely controlling, including planning tons of activities, dates and appointments for us that grew to become excessive. He’s a very social person and it’s easy for him to do damage control, but I feel incredibly upset that I am being turned into the bad guy here. What can I do?

Erin D.

Dear Erin,

The best thing to do when someone lies about you is to tell an even bigger lie. Who cares if the rumors you spread about this ex-boyfriend are even true? It’s not like he is going to sue you for slander, unless you are in the UK, when this kind of truth-free talk is actually punishable by law.

Maybe it is best to just slightly spin the truth in order to stay in a legally viable position. Make sure everyone knows how controlling he was, and that he insisted on selecting your tampons during your cycle, and he called these devices “tampys” and gave you a big grin when he said it. What a disgusting asshole.

Actually, the truth sounds pretty bad in your case. Stick to the truth for many reasons, because you deserve it.


My girlfriend Mary has been struggling to meet new people after we moved to Denver. Since then, she has met a bunch of young women who enjoy rock climbing together. I thought I would appreciate the fact that she has found a hobby and people to enjoy it with, but there are a few issues I have with this. The first is that some of the "expeditions" she is going on seem rather dangerous, and people in her group have broken wrists and sprained elbows. Since our health insurance is a bit shaky at the moment, this seems especially concerning.

The second issue that I have with the rock climbing is that it sometimes involves going away for long weekends. I have tried to attempt rock climbing with Mary, but I apparently do not have the greatest balance and I immediately felt a strong sense of vertigo. I want her to have fun with her friends, and it's not like I don't spent a great deal of time with her to begin with, but it is a bit angsty to be missing her for a few days once or occasionally twice a month. Should I just get over it?

Leslie S.

Dear Leslie,

No one wants to be in a position where they are hoping someone they love takes a hard, but non-fatal fall so that they have to give up their hobby. I have a lot of hobbies — none involve ascending to great heights, except, you know, mentally and emotionally.

It sounds like Mary was an undercover adrenaline junkie, and you have awakened her addiction. Much like inserting a needle into the arm of a heroin addict, there is no going back or reversing this. Take advantage of this free time by developing your own hobby, e.g. eSports or reading. Then you can be doing your hobby while she is doing her hobby.

If you end up having to pay a hospital bill, I would bail.

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