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Entries in advice (160)


In Which You Should Probably Sit Down For Our Explanation

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.


Two months ago I started dating a man named Shawn. We met through mutual friends and immediately clicked. Shawn runs his own business, a restaurant, but he is pretty good about making time for me. It's a new relationship, but we have agreed not to see other people and give things a chance.

Shawn has asked me extensively about my dating past, and I have been truthful to him; granted there is not very much to tell. He is five years older than me, and when I ask him about previous girlfriends, he gets a bit uncomfortable. He did tell me about his most recent ex, a woman named Sheila. Naturally, I googled the fuck out of Sheila - she is an actress who has appeared in various television shows and resembles me to a certain extent. When I asked Shawn what happened, he just says it didn't work out.

I want to be able to just let things go, but Sheila (not her real name) seems really amazing and it concerns me that I don't know exactly what Shawn is thinking concerning her. How do I get over this?

Julia F.


Dear Julia,

(Un)Fortunately for you, this is one of those few, rare times where a situation gives you exactly two options.  You can either

a) trust that Shawn will open up in the future, since this is still an early time in the relationship, or

b) have a few whiskey sours at happy hour and demand an answer as to why he and Sheila broke up right before going to bed on a Tuesday. Hint: only one of these involves maintaining your dignity.

Exes are a touchy subject. To quote my friend, it’s a sens-y time. Some people, like you and me, want to be as open from the beginning of the relationship as possible. To us, being completely up front is a way of saying “I’m trusting you and us.” This makes it hard when others are not as eager, or willing, to share.  What we assume is a negative reflection on ourselves is really just a different way of processing a relationship. People like Shawn view complete, detailed honesty as earned, rather than deserved from the beginning. That’s not to say he’s texting Sheila on the sly, but maybe he’s just not ready to dig in to all of the reasons they broke up and all the feels it accompanied. It sounds like Shawn is just the Ron to your Hermione in terms of emotional expressiveness. Then again, Ron was a soulless ginger, but nobody’s perfect – not even this she-devil Sheila. She's clearly the worst.

As a side note, if months pass and he’s still not fessing up – have a mature conversation as to why it is important to you that he shares more of his past. If he’s reasonable, he should be open to discussing it at least somewhat further detail. If he’s still being super sketchy, then maybe take route b and prepare for the hangover to follow.


My sister Melanie is a loving person with many wonderful qualities. She has recently started visiting an astrologer. She doesn't spend too much money on this aspect of her life, and in any case, she can afford it. My problem is that she is actually abiding by this woman's suggestions. Recently, she broke up with a perfectly good guy because her astrologer suggested it was time for her to move on. I'm already worried about her, but how worried should I be?

Chelsea P. 

Dear Chelsea,

The thing is, Melanie won't find a love match with that kind of devotion to an astrologer. Even if her astrologer advised her not to break up the "perfectly good guy," he would probably jump ship as soon as he realized his girlfriend is paying someone to make her life choices.

I am sure Melanie is a person who will realize this in time, but if you are anxious to speed the process, maybe test it out a bit. Ask her if she wants to get dinner.

If she texts her astrologer about whether or not this is a good idea, then bring it up by quietly saying "Why the hell can't you make your own decisions?" Many people have strong influences in their lives. Seeking spiritual guidance is an important and sometimes even admirable move toward enjoying and growing in this wonderful life we have. It becomes a problem when it eclipses our own thoughts, feelings and judgments.

Gaining independence is realizing you have to trust yourself, not the woman who is charging money for what you can read for free in Glamour. Melanie will figure this out with your subtle nudges.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Emily's Rain" - Peter Bradley Adams (mp3)

"My Love Is My Love" - Peter Bradley Adams (mp3)


In Which We Are Uncertain How To Articulate This

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.


My stepsister Joann recently got married to a wonderful man and is pregnant with her first child. The two are planning a wedding before the baby arrives. With the prospect of a baby shower, an engagement brunch (no clue what that is), a bachelorette party, bridesmaid dress and other incidentals, Joann's fertility is probably going to cost me in four figures. I don't have the kind of income where I can absorb these expenses; on the other hand I don't want to let my stepsister down. What should I do?

Kate T.


Dear Kate,

Marriage is a wonderful institution, except when Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart: that was completely gross. 

Whatever you do, do not bring this problem up to Joann. Create an entirely independent drama that requires your attention. For example, your car broke down and needs a new hamburglarator. She has bigger issues on her mind, she's not going to check if it's actually part of a car. For a more plausible excuse, humbly reveal that you have to take a weeklong trip during her bachelorette party to accomplish a continuing education bonafide. For some reason, using the word "education" justifies any expense or behavior.

Failing that, is there the possibility of suggesting Joann's fiance may not be the father? Because that could really shake up this loathsome set of obligatons on your plate. Also, when you lie, don't touch your face.


My boyfriend Kyle and I have a great relationship. We spend almost all our free time together and we rarely argue or fight. He's really supportive of me and never criticizes anything I do. 

There is one problem though. Kyle fancies himself an amateur gourmet. He is always planning some recipe composed of farm-to-table ingredients. Once he smiled at a lobster he was about to boil, which was a little strange, but the larger issue is that Kyle can't really cook. His meals are so adventurous that they're frequently inedible. He consumes them with aplomb and never seems to notice my lack of enthusiasm. How can I make him stop without getting in leg-deep shit? 

Angela D. 

Dear Angela,

Just come up with some strange diet plan that requires cooking things that even this Julia Childish can't screw up. 

Preface your lie by saying that you had an allergic reaction to one of his terrible meals (preferably rabbit, since humans should not consume rabbits except as a direct fuck you to Beatrix Potter). Explain that you were tested for allergies and it turns out you have some rare condition which involves never consuming the worst of his preparations in any form whatsoever. 

NB: We've received some electronic mail recently complaining that our solution to every problem is to lie. This is an untrue accusation. When a lie is for someone's own good, it's just called a compliment.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Develop A Foolproof Way To Repair This Situation

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.


Over the past six months I have been dating a girl named Katherine. She is really generous with her time when it comes to her friends and family, and sometimes they abuse what I consider to be her goodwill.

The situation recently came to a head when her friend Lance divorced his wife and needed a place to stay. Katherine felt she could not turn him away and has been spending a lot of time attempting to cheer Lance up, even throwing him a party.

I strain to emphasize that jealousy or lack of attention is not my problem. In fact, I sometimes feel relieved that Katherine has such a full life since it takes me off the hook, but I'm not sure I feel great about being okay with it. In addition, Katherine has told me that she is thrilled I am not controlling like her past boyfriends. How do I bring this up without making myself look bad?

Ben A.

Dear Ben,

As Ayn Rand put it in her classic 1964 essay collection, The Virtue of Selfishness, man is born with an innate... Just kidding, although casually leaving a copy of The Fountainhead atop your girlfriend's toilet tank is not going to hurt this situation at all.

Human women do things with three possible motivations:

1) They saw it on TV or in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander;

2) Their mother did it or forbid them to do it;

3) Because.

Sure, you can have it out with Katherine and she will resent you and probably start making Lance feel better in more predictable ways. Or, you can use a tried and tested process I call contamination.

Say that Katherine had a favorite restaurant. If they suddenly displayed health code violations in their window, would she not have to think twice about eating there? You want to subtly turn her good deed into a mediocre deed. For example, you could start eating at her favorite restaurant and pretend to vomit or get the shits afterwards. Alternately, in the Lance situation, you can leave her an anonymous note detailed all of Lance's probable misdeeds.

Just do one thing and find out if Lance has a big cock before embarking on this journey, and also check if it is a felony to forge someone's signature on an anonymous note.


I have a big problem. A couple of months ago I sent a nasty (anonymous) message to somebody I follow on Tumblr. I couldn't help myself - the person was so annoying! - and I immediately felt so much better. The problem is, I couldn't stop. I started sending nasty messages to a lot of people I follow. It always made me feel better, but now I also feel out of control. I'm also afraid that people are going to figure out it's me. I can't sleep, and I'm starting to have panic attacks every time I log into Tumblr. What should I do?

Evelyn S.

Dear Evelyn,

 It sounds to me like you're the sort of person who has always abided by what was expected of you, so you find a sort of thrill in rebelling. That'd be okay if you got off on, I don't know, smoking weed or enjoying Kenny G, but instead you're being malicious. And you found the perfect forum for it, where you can shroud yourself in anonymity. 

You need to step awaaaay from the computer. Seriously. Take a prolonged break from the internet. If work or school won't permit you to do that, then you need to block your own access to certain sites or have someone you trust monitor your usage, while you figure stuff out, preferably in therapy.


The shame that's flooding over you right now - the one that comes from feeling like you're a teenager I just caught with their pants down watching hardcore porn on their laptop - means that you have the ability to discern right and wrong. So that's good. You just need to stop seeing yourself as both the worst and best thing in the universe, and you'll be able to see others that way, too.


Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.