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Alex Carnevale

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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 hard to say (154)


In Which We Sorely Desire To Expiate All Of 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.


I have an etiquette question. I chased after a guy (coworker) I liked for a solid month, coming on strong and trying to get him to ask me out. Well, he must have just needed some convincing, because he finally took the bait and we got dinner one night. It was horrible. So boring, predictable conversation, nothing like the guy I’d been imagining. Turns out he’s exactly the sort of guy I don’t want to date. The worst part is that at the end of the date he seemed REALLY happy, and said, “I’m so glad we finally did this, can we go out again?” I felt really bad – I had chased HIM, after all – so I sort of mumbled yes and then ran into my building. Now I have to go out with him again, even though I’m pretty sure my brain will melt out of my ears while I listen to him talk. Is there a way for me to magically take back the time I spent chasing him like a crazy person? Should I just go out with him and hope for the best? Is there a nice way to say “Thanks, but no thanks?”  

Jenny F. 


Dear Jenny,

This is hardly a matter of etiquette. You’re asking for permission to do something you already know you have a right to do: not like somebody as much as they like you. This is not a tragedy. It happens every single day.

Since I can easily see you “nice-ing” yourself into cohabitation, marriage, and children, here’s what you’re going to do. You are going to remind yourself that you are a human with complicated desires (maybe watch several seasons of House Hunters in a row to help yourself come to this conclusion). Maybe ask yourself why you didn’t see how boring this individual was in the month you spent chasing him.

Then, give him a call (no text, no approaching the guy at work) and explain, “Pinky, thanks for the other night, but I don’t see this going anywhere. Good luck with the office shuffleboard tournament.” 


I’ve been seeing this guy who chews gum all the time. Like, literally, from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed. He takes it out of his mouth and puts it on the side of his plate when he’s eating, and then picks it off after the meal to continue chewing it! If this wasn’t bad enough, he also chews gum during sex. He once went down on me… I think you get the picture. Anyways, would it be too nit-picky to ask him to stop, at least during meals and sex? I’ve never thought of myself as a controlling person before, but now I’m not so sure. Otherwise, he’s a great guy.

Allison A.

Dear Allison,

Oral fixations are only fun when they’re… well, I think you get the picture. Suggest to your paramour that you think he may have been weaned prematurely, and that he should speak to a licensed mental health professional about it. While he’s pondering this, hide his Doublemint stash.

When he goes berserk and starts smoking, chewing on pen lids, or sucking his thumb, you’ll come to the realization that you are not the problem in this arrangement. It’s not a crime to have preferences and to voice them, especially with humorous aplomb.

Example: “Darling, last night when your Juicy Fruit got caught in my pubic hair, it was really funcomfortable.” Or, “Snookums, recycling is only cool if what you’re recycling hasn’t been in your mouth or on your plate where I could see it while I was trying to choke down escargot.”

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Rainy Taxi" - Spoon (mp3)

"Inside Out" - Spoon (mp3)


In Which We Find This Excruciating to Enunciate

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 girlfriend Judy recently lost her job and is going through something of what my mom calls "a life change." She always thought that she would be a musician, and she is very talented, but she has lost interest on what to this point had been a lifelong passion.

In her search to find whatever other passion might be out there, she has involved me and her family, who live close by, in a variety of outings. First, she became obsessed with birding, even purchasing a cockatoo. When she gave up on that, she sold the cockatoo, admittedly for a profit. Other potential passions fell by the wayside, including God, painting and botany.

Most recently came real estate  she studied for her exam with great fervor, at which point the exam arrived and she decided it was the wrong move and enrolled at a local community college. Her family is a lot less tolerant of her to-and-fro than I am.

I would like her to find something she enjoys in life, and I understand there is a process. What really concerns me is that I never knew her to be so fickle. Do you think a person who has trouble deciding about some things will also have trouble being happy in a relaysh?

Doug W.


Dear Doug,

“Fickle” is the right word for this sort of behavior if the person is, well, fifty-five and banging his secretary in his brand new sports car. “Self-discovering” is more accurate when it applies to someone like your gf. You don’t mention how old she is, but it’s pretty clear from your description that she falls somewhere between nineteen and thirty-five.

When people are in that phase of life, yes, their interests mutate a lot. They’re experimenting. If Judy decides she’s through, it probably has more do with her desire to be free and to experience a lot of things than a personal vendetta.

If you’re of an age with Judy, you might find that you feel the same way after a while. Respect her free spirit, though, and the two of you may experiment for a long time, together. 


I have a male coworker who constantly stares at me. At first I thought he was just attracted to me or whatever, but now it's making me uncomfortable. He doesn't smile, doesn't speak to me, just stares. I'll catch him in meetings, across the room, at lunch. I don't want to be rude, but he's creeping me out. What should I do? 

Lauren B. 

Dear Lauren,

He could just be lacking in social graces, in which case, gifting an etiquette primer is de rigueur. Or he could be attracted to you, or he could be a serial killer. Whichever one it is, being rude to him should be the least of your worries. 

You could try giving him the stink-eye whenever you catch him  this is an excellent strategy that also works on creeps you encounter in public transportation. Simply make a disgusted face at him and watch him burst into flames. 

If the behavior continues, I'd bring it up with human resources. Maybe you're not the only target of his creeper peepers, but even if you are, this could be considered harassment, and you're well within your rights to have someone ask him to stop. 

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


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)