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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

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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 (160)


In Which We Find This Difficult To Articulate

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.


All the guys I meet bore me to death. I’m in desperate need for a change of pace and scenery with lots of adventure. I’ve spent some time trying to rebuild my life after being in a long-term relationship. I feel like I get stuck with boring and flaky guys who show little reciprocation of affection and adventure. I feel like I’m looking in all the wrong places. Do I need to lower my expectations? I’m just really tired of getting my hopes up on a guy and then meeting him and having it feel like it’s not worth my time.


Jane B.

Dear Jane,

Don’t lower your expectations, but alter them to your own physical and emotional needs. You have three options:

1. You can buy into the idea that you must never settle for anything less than your hopes and dreams.

2. You can believe that nobody will ever be good enough, that you won’t be good enough, that the world will never be good enough, and that relationships are bullshit.

3. You can learn to expect real things and to ask for them from the people you meet.

You sound like you’re squatting in option 1 (otherwise known as Disneyland) while option 2 gets a new paint job in shades of disappointment – basically, until it becomes easier for you to live there.

What they have in common is that they both allow you to give up: one, by allowing you to believe that someday your prince will come, and the other, by allowing you to believe that nobody’s coming so why even try?

Nope. Your new home is option 3. Here, you work your ass off to be kind, open, real and hopeful. You say no when things need to end, when there’s incompatibility, when you aren’t being treated right, but you say yes when somebody is real and open. Even if they say something (or many things) that doesn’t put stars in your eyes right away, okay? For example, if they have favorable things to say about Albert Camus, this should not be a dealbreaker, unless they have read The Stranger over ten times. Then just move on.


I graduated from college last year and I’ve been living with my parents since then. My mom and dad are in their late 50s. We get along fine for the most part, except for one fight that keeps popping up: my parents want me to get a full-time job and move out. I’ve been working part-time at a local bookstore, but not enough to afford rent, and what I really want to do is spend as much time as possible writing. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember, and all of my teachers – elementary through senior year of college – say that I’m talented. Even my parents think so! But they still want me to spend most of my time sitting at a desk in an office. I don’t know how to make them understand that I only have one life, and while I may not be making the most conventional choice, it’s one that I feel is right.

Thank you,

Elena S.

Dear Elena, 

You need to move out pronto.

I know you think you’re taking a huge stand for independence, but you’re not. You’re using your writing as an excuse to stay in a world where gold stars rain from the sky and people give you high-fives just for waking up. If you really want to be a writer, you need to get out of that world, and fast. You need to earn your spot. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable to make some sacrifices to eventually let go of your safety net even if it feels scary at first.

An abundance of time and freedom do not make a writer. Work does. If you can get back to your small, expensive, lonely apartment after a long, exhausting day of waiting tables or crunching numbers and still want to pen an essay, then you’ll know. Until then, you’re just like those people who are waiting for retirement to start doing what they really love: delusional.

Your parents understand that, which is why they’re giving you the boot. Stop working so hard for affirmation, and start doing the real work. Go take what’s really yours, unless you have no talent at all. Then it's probably best to apply directly for disability.


All of my friends think I’m wasting my time pursuing a relationship with Theresa, with whom I have been hooking up with for over a year. They give me a hard time, telling me that she’ll never reciprocate similar feelings because she’s only using me, which isn’t entirely true. We have deep conversations and I feel like we have the potential to connect on a boyfriend/girlfriend level.

Theresa recently revealed to me that she has borderline personality disorder. I picked up books and researched to better understand the issues she’s going through. I’m okay with her sleeping with other guys, but I want her to come to her senses. Am I wasting my time or should I keep trying?


Tom W.

Dear Tom,

Theresa is only using you as a hookup buddy. The status of your relationship is clear if she’s sleeping with other people. She only cares about you platonically, but she’ll never love you the way you want her to. You have become invested in her emotionally, which is something you didn’t plan with the original engagement of just being hookup buddies.

To prolong the pursuit of hope that she’ll come to you any longer is only going to yield the same results over and over again. She isn’t responding the way you want her to and it’s putting you at an absolute loss in rationalizing your feelings for her.

Have you read The Game? If no, Don't. If yes, read The Goldfinch.

You need to come to a realization that she isn’t making you her priority. You can love her unconditionally as a friend, but it will only hurt you knowing she’ll never be truly yours. You can only do so much to help her with reading books and online articles, but she doesn’t want to be saved by you. She is probably making out with a guy who is much better looking and has read both of those titles, as well as Proust. He thinks What Is The What is a masterpiece and thinks Bernie Sanders simply must run for president. He is completely terrible but also absolutely fantastic.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

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