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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

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 hard to say (154)


In Which We Saw The Pictures You Are Looking Fine

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 fiance Edward has a very complicated relationship with his extended family. He spends a lot of time explaining all their various inadequacies, including how terrible they have made him feel at various times in the past and present. Sometimes when I agree with him on his observations, he concurs with what I have been saying to him and seems to appreciate my commiserating, but other times he seems upset that I am criticizing them — usually in far milder terms than he himself has offered.

Sometimes I wonder whether he would be better off putting major distance between himself and them, and other times I am not sure what the right decision would be, but I do wonder if I am going to be punished at some later date for agreeing that some of the things they do are unhealthy and emotionally abusive. At the same time, I am not willing to keep my mouth shut about this. What are my options?

Gail A.


Dear Gail,

Assessing the quality of the relationship with Edward's family is the key issue. If there is nothing positive there or if we are talking about one seriously destructive family member, then you can absolutely attempt to cut this off like it is an abscess, especially if you have emotional leverage on Edward. He has already shown himself to be a vulnerable weakling who is easily taken advantage of by those who claim to love him, so why not put him through this all over again?

I am joking, although we do have considerable power over those we care about. In order to use your power over Edward for good instead of ill, you must think about what would truly be best for his emotional long-term well-being. Once you have come to a conclusion about that, you need to go full steam ahead in pursuit of your goal. The key aspect of handling this that will make it easier for both of you is being open about your aims from the start.

Explaining to Edward that you are going to do what you can to bring him closer to his family and make it work, and that you will not be sympathizing with any of his complaints since it is destructive to that goal will probably have the desirable effect of making him complain less and perhaps focus more on the housework.


I have been dating my girlfriend Randi for over four years. I have noticed that recently I have become less attracted to her. She has been going through some life changes and hasn't had as much time to take care of herself, and as superficial as that is, I feel that is having an effect on how I view her. I really wish that this were not the case. I find myself fantasizing about being with other women when I am intimate with her. I know that is shameful, but I don't know what else to do and I don't feel I can tell her.


Julie D.


Dear Julie,

Excepting the rare type of person who is not really concerned about the role of exciting sex in their lives, once you lose the desire to be intimate with your partner, you need to try to get it back, or you should move on. Any couple that is not having sex is missing the second most important aspect of their relationship, and it is very difficult to make things work after that.

Your instinct not to tell Randi about this is also dead on balls accurate. Nothing good will come of her realizing that you view her as a bag of effluvium. Four years in, she probably thinks you love her so much that you truly don't care how she looks, but really everything here is telling you it is best to peace out. It is possible to bring that attraction back, but you're not married and you presumably don't have kids, so the incentive to make this work is just not there.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which The Ascent Is Fever In The Clouds

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.


It has been a year since I broke up with my girlfriend Lane. At the time of our breakup we had (unrealized) plans of moving in together. I got cold feet and we decided to separate. Over this past year, I think I have grown a lot and come to terms with how immature I was. It was a big step for me and I panicked — further commitment is something I believe I would be able to handle now.

I think about Lane a lot. I have tried to call and send her e-mails but she hasn't responded as of yet. I am unsure if I should go to further lengths to try to contact her since I don't want to be intrusive. What would be your recommendation?

Ahmad A.


Dear Ahmad,

This is starting to sound like a Lumineers song. Going backwards in a relationship is as difficult as going back in time. Neither is impossible, but it is not really something you can convince someone of. They have to come to terms with it on the own. Culturally, both women and men are conditioned to believe that moving on from experiences which were not entirely positive is the healthiest thing to do. On the average, this approach does yield the best results. If you were not prepared to be serious with Lane then, the likelihood is that you will still be able to commit in the future. If you only show your true colors in twenty years, maybe this will be a worthwhile experience replete with substantial alimony for your partner.

Once a red flag goes up, she is going to require great and important reasons to overlook it, like if you have a lot of money or are proficient sexually beyond what she can attain on the outside. If either of these things were true of you, she probably would have already written you back.


My daughter Brenda has the unpleasant habit of attracting guys who are far from the best for her. Do you have any suggestions on how I can encourage her to meet and become attracted to more quality men? It seems like every effort I make in this direction is sent back tenfold.

Jackie C.


You are talking to the wrong advice columnist. Ever since I watched Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green play checkers together I have been fascinated by the idea that two wrongs make a right. Very decent people are attracted to people without any merit whatsoever. If you can turn your daughter into the latter through a very severe and dehabilitating alcohol or drug habit, she will probably start meeting guys who want to save her and you will have been granted your wish, albeit in the most unlucky way possible.

Great places to meet quality guys include classrooms, car dealerships, and the produce section of the supermarket. Pretend to be reaching for exactly what he was reaching for, and never back down, even if the fruit or vegetable in question was already in his shopping cart.


Do you think that dreams hold any significance? I know it is boring to hear someone recounting their dream, but a few times a month I have the variation of the same dream. 

I am in a foreign city, and I know that my flight will be leaving the next morning. I have to find a gift for my little sister, so I proceed apace into the city center. I don't find the store I am looking for, and eventually I reach the coast where I can see the ocean. Night falls. I make my way back to my hotel. In the morning I have woken up too late and I haven't packed for my trip at all. I realize I am trying to take too many things with me on the return trip, so I must leave some behind. A few I hide in the hotel room, hoping I can return for them someday. 

I keep getting turned back on my way to the airport, but I finally make it there, and the dream ends. Can you discern any meaning from the fact that I keep dreaming the same thing?

Gabriela D.


Dear Gabriela,

I first being researching the nature of dreams after I had a sex fantasy about Eleanor Clift at the age of fifteen. My work  in this field eventually drew me to the Jungian insights of Arnold Mindell, who describes two simultaneous processes that occur. In the primary process, we are filtering in aspects of our experience we can identify with; in the secondary process we encounter things that are hard to identify with and we struggle to make them part of our worldview. 

This two part system is easily applied to your nighttime journey. You are conscientious, wanting to purchase a gift for your sister and make it to your plane on time. You are probably anxious about both these subjects, and disappointing those you love. There is a secondary meaning, which is that there are things holding you back from doing so: and they are all your things. 

But what of your trip to the beach? The beach is a great place for meeting other people, especially if they are playing loud music through headphones or out of a boombox, which makes it simple to approximate whether this is the kind of music you will enjoy throughout the time you are dating. 

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Felt Complete In The Air

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 boyfriend (of four months) Ian, and I were at a movie last week. He brought into the theater a massive box of popcorn slathered in butter and ate the entire thing himself. I could barely focus on the film given the show that was occurring in the seat right next to me. To make things even worse he offered his sticky hand to me afterwards and I was too shocked to vocalize my disapproval. I still feel like there is butter on my hand.

I know I'm nitpicking a little and other aspects of this new relationship are a lot more positive, but it is difficult to completely put this experience in the past. Am I overreacting?

Janine H.


Dear Janine,

A lot of binge-eaters prefer to do their most important work in the dark. The fact that Ian allowed you to view him in his natural environment was from his perspective, an important step. You can bet that Ian has serious issues with his food, all beginning when he was a young Ian growing up in the Hamlet of Saw City, Missouri. Children often escape domineering parents or uncomfortable home situations through the magic of cinema, and if they are not getting the requisite calories at home, a folksy theater vendor might slip a young boy an extra bucket of popcorn that some finicky theatergoer rejected for being too buttery.

Personally, I feel that butter is an abomination, a story that begins in Fountainhead, Montana....

There will always be things about other people we don't like or fully understand. Getting closer to our knowledge of others and accepting them constitutes some level of personal growth.

If you're not at that point yet, don't blame yourself.


As a heterosexual woman, I was wondering what the best way to give a guy your number and basically let you know that you are interested in is? In college I was used to meeting people naturally and developing a friendship. In my new city a lot of people are already in relationships and thus it's awkward. I just wondered if there is a simple way to convey availability without coming on too strong?

Kelsey U.


Dear Kelsey,

If you are talking about people you slightly know as acquaintances, the best thing to do is state plainly that you just broke up with your boyfriend. They will ask the reason, which is a decent conversation starter although you will quickly want to move onto other things, and so will they. The made-up reason that you should give for the breakup is usually, you moved here and did not want to do long-distance. If you have some other dealbreaker you can also mention that up front, e.g. "He wouldn't abandon his cat Meeples!" or "He wanted me to get a hysterectomy!"

If you are talking about randoms, it is usually best to get to know them in a general sense, after which you can use the dumped gag. Telling other people your own relationship status generally gets them to reveal theirs without a minimum of fuss. If they suggest they are single, then you can offer a friendly drink. When they arrive, they will quickly realize they are at the beginning of the most important sexual and emotional journey of their lives.


Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.