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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

This Recording

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 (161)


In Which We Consummate True Love On The Moon

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 have been in a long term relationship with my partner, Basil, for over eighteen months. Basil comes from a very tough upbringing and also he is not an American. He explained early on in the relationship that he often feels like he has trouble expressing himself, and he is usually able to better articulate his emotions through his music. He has done a great job stretching the boundaries of what makes him comfortable in a relationship, and I'm very grateful for his efforts.

As a part of his trauma or independent of it, he struggles to give others praise. (It is not just me who has noticed this.) I am very complimentary of him, but trying to exchange the merest positive words seems a struggle. At the same time, it is obviously genuine when I receive praise from Basil. I am a person who thrives on positive encouragement, which I have articulated to Basil, but he responds that it's just not who he is and that I should feel more confident in his love. Is there any way to improve this aspect of our relationship?

Elaine C.


Dear Elaine,

A great human being once said, and I later repeated in this advice column, that the problem with flattery is that it comes with an unspoken request to be returned in kind. As you alluded to, it is very difficult to trust people who are so free with their praise. Sure, we like to hear great things about ourselves, and on some level the source does not really concern us.

This is the type of praise to which you have probably become addicted. It is a reassurance that has very little to do with what is actually being said or related. It is more just an aspect of love for you. If you can find other ways that Basil shows you how much he cares about you and the life you share, these mere bon mots will stop being so crucial to your understanding of yourself.


Is it stupid to get involved with someone who has a substance abuse problem?

Dan G.


Dear Dan,

Generally we only answer questions that are about the one aspect of a relationship that requires a band-aid so that the LW can be happy for the rest of his or her life, but I guess in some sense this could be that type of question.

There is always some red flag you will encounter upon getting to know someone new. For example, someone I was seeing once saw me eat an entire bagel that I barely chewed. Jesus was that hard to explain.

Some people never go back to alcohol or drugs, although the problems that led them to these solutions in the first place may still persist. Are you the type of person who enjoys taking care of others? You had probably better be, so if this kind of lifestyle is not in your wheelhouse, then I would not begin such a relationship, no.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Postpone A Decision Until Some Later Date

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 met someone a few months ago, and we really clicked. I have been seeing a lot of her and I have never had so much fun with someone. The issue is that she says she never wants to have children. It struck me as odd that she would bring this up kinda soon, but maybe it was an issue in a past relationship? I did not feel comfortable pressing her further.

I have not thought extensively about having a family beyond a vague desire to have kids "someday." I have been thinking a lot about this though, and I do feel I would like to reproduce with someone I love. Is there any hope?

Jerry C.


Dear Jerry,

Imagine what a distorted view of the world an individual has to have to in order to be told something in the strongest, simplest terms and wonder if the exact opposite might be true. I have been asked if I wanted kids before, and the truth is I just said whatever I thought the other person wanted to hear. It does not sound like this is a case of that.

Many women and men who announce this may not be able to have children. It is a sensitive topic and you were most likely right not to press it further. Can women and men be convinced or blackmailed into having children even if they say they don't want them? Sure, but this may not be the sort of life accomplishment you can feasibly brag about to St. Peter.

With that said, maybe let it alone for now and get to know your new partner better before bailing because of this. She may explain her reasoning later on or you might decide no kids is worth it to be with the one you love. Not every relationship has to be for life.


I recently moved in with my boyfriend of one year, who I will call Davis. Things are going tolerably well, but as with any change, there are some stumbling blocks. Now that we are living together, Davis frequently asks "What do we have to eat?" or begs me to make him something. I do enjoy preparing dinner from time to time but due to my schedule I can't do it every night, nor would I want to. He occasionally makes a meal for us but it generally tastes like garbage. I really don't feel I should be responsible for the culinary work in the apartment and I'm already resenting it every time he puts me in that position. What is the best way to approach a discussion about this issue?

Mila F.


Dear Mila,

It sounds like a small thing, but this probably indicates that Davis is going to look to you to be his mother for the duration of this relationship. You need to nip this in the bud, fast. It sounds like it is too late to fake an allergy to kitchen implements. Davis needs serious help with his dietary approach – "What do we have?" is not really a plan for proper caloric intake.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask each person to be responsible for one meal one night a week. Inform Davis in no uncertain terms that this will be end of your responsibilities in this area, and act extremely withdrawn for a significant period after this proclamation.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


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.

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