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Entries in hard to say (149)


In Which There Might Be A Simpler 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.


My husband Grant and I have done a lot to help his brother, who I will call Martin. Grant deeply loves his brother, and is very forgiving of his flaws. In the past few years, he has given him money, a place to stay, enrolled him in a drug program and organized an intervention. Martin pretends to want to change his ways, but I have never felt him to be really sincere in those statements.

At some point tough love has to enter the picture. I worry for Grant regarding how much his brother's situation weighs on him and I believe it affects him negatively at work and home. I don't want to say this outright, but I think he would be a lot better off if this problem did not exist.

I would hate to be the cause of a falling out between the two of them, so I have come to you. Is there any way to accomplish my goal without being seen as the bad guy?

Tina G.


Dear Tina,

Usually momentum propels any destructive relationship to become more destructive over time. It's kind of how my allergy to pollen is currently a hot nightmare, whereas when I was a kid it was no big deal. In all likelihood, your husband will eventually discover the truth about his brother, or Martin will die of an overdose.

Since the latter outcome does not seem entirely a worst case scenario from your perspective, a darker advice column would sanguinely have you introduce Martin to the theoretical work of Zoe Lund. Then again, there is no guarantee you could beat a manslaughter rap after that, and crime doesn't pay.

It is best practice to preserve all the lives you can. Martin does not want to reform himself, and until he does, Grant will be no use to him. This important moral distinction has been reflected in a number of cinematic endeavors. As I recall, Requiem for a Dream did not end well onscreen or in real life. Permanent Midnight was also decent in this regard.


Lately my boyfriend Roy spends a lot of time in front of the television. He did not used to be this sedentary. I worry that this behavior is bad for his health. He says that when he comes from work, he does have the energy to go out. We used to be more social, and we also used to do various cultural things just the two of us. Now it seems like all he is interested in is marathoning some new TV show.

Is there any way to change these habits?

Angela R.


Dear Angela,

Your boyfriend Roy was probably waiting to spring this on you for awhile. His subconscious (or perhaps even conscious plan) was to wait until you believed you were on the verge of the life you wanted for yourself, and then force you into accepting a substantially worse existence through episode after episode of Person of Interest.

By all rights Roy should be in jail for what he has done, and in fact, he is in jail. This prison is of his own making, and involves a substantial amount of Sarah Shahi.

Some people never get addicted to behaviors of any kind, and others fiercely hold to their routines. You may want to consider the possibility that there is something wrong health-wise with Roy, and this is his way of managing his condition. There is still an outside possibility Roy is not a lazy bum.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Broke Several Mirrors In The Process

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.


In recent weeks, my girlfriend Maria and I have begun talking about getting engaged, a conversation that she initiated. In the course of our discussions about whether it is the right step for us, she mentioned that she has no interest in taking my name or having our potential children take my name. I was a bit surprised but I said nothing.

After thinking about it more, I can't help but feel a bit bothered by this. She has no professional reason not to do it, but my main concern is that kids would find it confusing to be called by different or hyphenated names. Should I bring up this concern to Maria and how should I do it?

Roberto T.


Dear Roberto,

Modernity has equipped us with a phenomenon called concern trolling. It's actual a quite ancient method. It allows people to offer a series of hypothetical statements intended to shit all over a topic without actually saying what is meant. In your situation, a concern troll might suggest, "Is it really the best for a child to be concerned about her name?"

Nothing actually has a name. These are simply made up designations. You are no more a Roberto than you are Matzoh Ramshackle. You're just a thing that exists, a thing that spends hours and hours concern trolling yourself, asking, "What should I call things, and what should I call myself?" in a high voice that sounds like Minnie Mouse.

If you really loved Maria, you'd take her name. However, she has not asked you to do this. If you offer, she might take yours, but probably not, because Maria Ramshackle sounds like the name of a prostitute. If you ever have a child, let your wife name it. It came out of her body after all. You can give your most raucous bowel movements your last name.


My girlfriend Andrea takes so many showers. Like so many. Whenever we leave our apartment for any extended period of time — when we come back, the first thing she does is shower. Maybe I would understand this if we lived in a particularly dirty city or if she had the same level of obsessiveness about her clothes, which actually touch chairs, couches and seats where other people's bodies have been.

I know for a fact that she is not OCD about anything else in her life, so this passion for showers is inexplicable to me. When I ask her about it, she just acts like it's no big deal and she enjoys the private time or whatever. But I mean this is like ninety minutes every single day just holding yourself under running water.

Jessica C.


Dear Jessica,

Given that your girlfriend does not seem terribly worried about making herself clean, it is probably something that she is hiding in the shower. It is at least conceivable that she is using drugs in the shower, or maybe just devouring a giant sized cupcake. I once ate a chicken sandwich in a bathroom; it is not a time in my life I am particularly proud of. She probably could hide both of these habits in easier ways, and there is a simpler explanation: masturbation.

A lot of people feel they can't masturbate in front of their partner. They don't want their significant other to feel like because they enjoy pleasuring themselves that it makes the other person inadequate. Many people masturbate within the context of relationships, either because they have a higher sex drive than their partner or more likely because it is an ingrained habit of dealing with stress or anxiety.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Intrude On Your Private Space

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 think it is wonderful that my wife Sam has a really close friend. The two of them have been best buds for just over six years, which is longer than I have known my wife. However, the intensity of their relationship at times seems like overkill. I find I cannot tell my wife anything without her friend, who I will call Nikki, also finding out.

This would maybe not be quite as irritating if Nikki did not bring up these intimate details in front of me. Thankfully discretion compels her silence in mixed company, but I do not need my balls broken or advice, unsolicited, from this third party to my marriage. I don't really have a problem with my wife's behavior, but Nikki is single and her taste in men is far from quality. I don't know think I could reasonably take her advice about anything more serious than what gasoline to put in my car.


Not to compare, but none of the other married people I know have had this similar problem of their relationship being challenged by another intimate relationship. If I raise any of my concerns about Nikki to Sam, she blows me off saying her friend is harmless and that she doesn't believe in secrets. I don't think this is harming our marriage, but it is becoming a serious annoyance I am ready to be done with. Can you help me please?

Theo A.

Dear Terry,

It is always not very hard to break up one of your wife's friendships, but this comes with a million extra caveats when two people are as close as Sam and "Nikki." She'll obviously miss someone she can confide in, and we do not want her to resent the role you play in the events that dishonorably discharge Nikki from the service she performs for your wife.

At times our close ones become more friendly with villains that they ought to be. It does not really say much for your wife that she is fine with this, although even the most wonderful people have flaws. The first thing you must understand is that your disgust/hesitance towards Nikki is actually making her more sympathetic in your wife's eyes.

What you need to do is organically get Sam to view Nikki in the light with which she appears to you. There was this great scene in Stepmom where Susan Sarandon subtly makes her son run away from the stepmother (Julia Roberts) and she never even gets called out on it. You can put Nikki in very difficult situations without ever being called out for it.

For example, you might say, why would I want to go on a weird vacation with Sam and Nikki and another guy? You wouldn't, but couples vacations are a great place to have experiences that you will never want to discuss with anyone again, even your therapist, Dr. Harding.


Is it a bad sign that I fantasize about other women in order to bring myself to orgasm during sex? I usually enjoy sex with my girlfriend, but sometimes I guess it gets repetitive since we know each other so well. I have no problem getting hard, but at times it will be difficult for me to achieve orgasm since it feels like we are going through the motions.

I'm worried this means we aren't especially compatible.


Jean S.

Dear Jean,

No, this is not a great sign, although certain funks can be imploded through sheer force of effort/stellar communication with your partner. Some people's bodies can become so addictive and tantalizing that any kind of touching never really gets old. You obviously have nothing like that with your girlfriend, and you will never have it. Maybe you have never felt that attracted to a human being, though, in which case your current situation could be the best you can reasonably hope for. Do not tell your girlfriend that you have ever fantasized about anyone. Ask her what turns her on – if she cannot think of anything specific, try roughhousing and afterwards lecturing her at length regarding what turns you on. Don't say "other women", although at this point we would all have to admit it is the plain truth.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.