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Entries in hard to say (170)


In Which We Finish Our Work For The Rest Of The Week

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 live with three roommates. Recently, one of them got married and moved on, and we replaced her with a new roommate, Ana.   

Ana plays music very loudly and doesn't really socialize with the rest of us. The latter is fine and the former is whatever, but when we ask her to turn the music down or join us for some activity, she is outright rude. We have gone from living with three friends to an adversarial relationship that affects every aspect of our lives. Furthermore, we are not really sure the reason that Ana acts like this.

After four more months, we can kick her out without much of a fuss, but it is going to be a long four months. Do you have any suggestions as to how to alleviate this problem in the interim?

Rachel S.


Once Ana needs you for some reason or another, she will become a lot more pliable. Your challenge consists of putting her in the situation of needing her. Any number of lies or deceits could get her into this position, but it is perhaps best just to inconvenience her in a legal and practical way. Three against one is an advantage that she cannot possibly overcome.

Asking the super to kill your water for a day and then acting like you did Ana a huge favor by taking care of it for her is the kind of harmless favor that could really put you in her good graces. Unless she is a like a plant that would shrivel up and die, the consequences are relatively harmless.


One member of my family, my cousin Arnold, is a major Trump supporter. At our gatherings and holidays, he always wants to talk politics and makes things particularly frustrating. He is the type of person who is not really emotionally involved in what is going on — it seems like he cheers Trump on as you might a local sports team.

Is there any way to change this poisonous behavior? We have asked him to stop talking politics before and he laughs it off.

Yasmine W.

Dear Yasmine,

The easiest thing to do would probably to get the President himself involved. This is not difficult at all, as Mr. Trump has plenty of free time, most of which he spends on twitter. Make a recording of Arnold saying something potentially questionable about the president, and take the clip completely out of context. I mean, sometimes he might critique Mr. Trump's hair or bib, and that would be a moment to record.

Mr. Trump will immediately step out against Arnold, postponing all national security decisions, sleep and intercourse with his wife to post about Arnold. He will post something like, "Never heard of this Ahnold. Is he as impotent as Schwarzenegger? Where's my brisket?" When you've been attacked by the president on twitter, you're not really going to be praising him at family gatherings anymore.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Pretend That It Never Happened

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 know that no one is perfect, but bad puns really bother me. I guess even more so when they are not actually puns and more like metaphorical descriptions of my boyfriend's own invention. I have told him that I do not want to hear about his penis meadow or anything "humorous" about his balls. It's not that the subject itself grosses me out, and testicular cancer is a leading cause of death among young bros. 

It's more just his entire way of speaking has started to get on my nerves. We have been together more than two years and I know I should not let these niggling, trifling aspects of our relationship bother me. Is this indicative of a broader problem or am I simply nitpicking/blowing this way out of proportion?

Jana L.


It is easy to get on someone's nerves when you know them pretty well. At some point you gave your boyfriend a response to this behavior that he liked, even if that is not at all what you were trying to indicate. 

Since this is a problem with a simple solution, you need to approach it in the same way. Obviously you need a way to seriously communicate with him that this is unacceptable and potentially un-American. Sit him down like you are going to break up with him, and then reveal the situation. He will do anything you say after that.


In the wake of my recent breakup, I have had a really hard time meeting people. It is very difficult to tell whether a guy is looking for something serious or not, and I find myself becoming more withdrawn – this is not the kind of person that I am, and I sense it is not super attractive when combined with the fact I sometimes bring up my ex or seem cynical about relationships. I don't want to be like this, but questions about why I am dating online seem to come up no matter what I do. 

The larger problem is that I seem to be either moving things too slowly, or not giving off the right vibe to find a relationship. Do you have any tips for this?

Moana C.

Dear Moana,

I have tips for everything, even great lunches you can give kids. 

You have to demand the best from potential partners. If you do not, or excuse them for things, they will either identify you as not a romantic option, or learn that they can treat you however they want. Let me tell you a quick story about my friend Laura. Laura was dating a guy and he stood her up one time. He had an excuse, but I don't remember what it was, but it sounded flimsy as fuck. She really liked him so she pretended it didn't happen and accepted his apology. Two weeks later he was killed in a car accident. 

Did you like the twist ending? If someone isn't treating you the way you want to be treated, you should tell them. The fact that they may not know you very well is all the more reason to set up those boundaries now. 

At the same time, it is important to push the momentum of a new relationship. If you like someone, you should want to spend a fair amount of time with them. Such activities not only leave a distinct impression on men, but they reveal a whole heck of a lot – like if he is texting other girls, or as he probably refers to them, possibles.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Give And Receive At Different Times

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.


My friend Sally often asks me for advice. We discuss the issues in her life at extreme length, as she does not operate on anything like a "gut level." Frequently, and especially with relationships, she has gone against not only what I recommended, but also what she herself agreed was best. I can accept that people I care about will sometimes be hurt of their own doing, but she seems to step willfully into situations that are obviously flawed in their premise.

It's gotten to the point where I am not sure what to say to her about such things. Maybe if she experienced deep horror firsthand, it would change her decision-making process? Do you think people do learn from their mistakes?

Also, how do I tell her I can't be this kind of sounding board because of how painful it has become for me

Dana S.

Dear Dana,

It is natural for some of us to become emotionally involved in the problems of others, especially of friends and family we know and care about. Sally has developed the same respect for you and your thoughts that anyone does for a tiny, impotent angel who sits on their shoulder. In other words, she strongly believes that you are no longer the least bit real.

It is at this point you should decide how much you really care abour Sally. If you are pretty distant from her troubles, I think receding into the fabric of heaven is more than your right. But if you really care for and want her to avoid doing something she'll regret, take it the whole way and really impose yourself on the situation. If she ends up resenting you, who cares? It's not like she is your wife.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 


Through an online dating website I recently met a woman, Ellen, who has just gotten out of her marriage of two years several months ago. At first I was hesitant to pursue things with Ellen thinking it would get complicated. We have a great connection, but it is not easy to handle the presence of someone else in her life with whom she has a long, shared history. Further complicating the situation is the fact that he actively tries to get her back. More recently, she spent an entire night sobbing when he sent her a long letter.

Honestly, I'm tempted to tell her to contact me once these issues sort themselves out. On the other hand, I do feel something with her I haven't with other women so sticking it out does have its appeal. What should I do?

Michael S.


Participants in the degrading, sexist institution we call marriage have every incentive to stay in their committed, legal union. The tax breaks are just insane, and the thrill of unprotected sex pretty much never goes away. I am sort of joking, but sort of not.

When a woman leaves her marriage, it means that she is really not having it. There is one key exception to this situation — when her husband cheats. Then things are kind of up in the air because forgiving him is very possible and you could end up on the outside of this situation rather quickly.

Assuming that is not the cause of the divorce, you're probably in a far more stable situation than you imagined. Most women aren't going to jump into another relationship after something this serious goes haywire, so if she is sticking around, she isn't just experimenting and probably has actual feelings for you. If you are there for her during this difficult time — and not just as a pillow — she will remember that kindness.

On the other hand, if she starts having all night talks with her ex, you are free to express your disapproval and disassociate until she does.


I recently met a guy, Aiden, through some mutual friends who is attractive, confident and fun to be around. The only concern I have is that he insists on meeting up at concerts that are frequently loud. He usually drinks to excess, and while he is great fun under these circumstances, the entire night is rather exhausting for a weekday. 

Maybe this kind of thing would have appealed to me when I was in my early twenties, but we're both in our early thirties and the idea of being a sweaty mess every time I see Aiden is a disturbing project. On occasion we will do other things, but it seems this is his idea of fun and he goes to two or three shows a week.

Marjorie W.

Dear Marjorie,

Compatibility means that you enjoy doing the same things at the same times, like going to shul on the high holidays, or interchanging each other's limbs so you can feed each other bagels chock full of gluten. Couples require these shared activities, or else they will begin to resent one another. The fact that you are already resenting Aiden's choice of fun this early on in the relationship is maybe not the best sign.

You will then wonder, will he grow out of what he enjoys? It's not impossible to do so, but since music is a wonderful expression of the soul, it would be hard to imagine he will suddenly enjoy listening to it performed. Maybe if you got him a really great stereo.