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Entries in hard to say (183)


In Which This Is Very Tough To Communicate

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 was recently talking with my boyfriend about 9/11. He explained that he had been a freshman in college when the attack occurred, and described some of the things that happened at his Ivy League school during the attack - people crying, others screaming in shock and trying to reach their loved ones. Unfortunately all I could think about as he was telling this story is how I was in fourth grade when this happened. Before this anecdote, our age difference did not seem so important, but now I can't get it out of my mind. What should I do?

Martha S.

Dear Martha,

You are correct in stating that anyone who was in college during 9/11 is old, perhaps too old for you. In order to verify your hypothesis, here are some indications that your partner (#loveofyourlife) may just not be the right age.

- He was in graduate school during the Second World War.

- He thinks that penicillin is a "miracle life-saving drug" and defends it for hours whenever you rag on it.

- He wanted to name your cat Clementine or Archibald.

- His drug dealer asked him if he ever watched Fawlty Towers, and his response was anything except, "What the fuck are you talking about?"

- He soothes his feet by washing them in a water basin with Lucille Ball's face and torso on it.

- He asks you if that "upstart nation" Israel is going to be around for good.

Age isn't important, but not having the right opinions about things like John Cleese and Israel could come back to bite you in the ass later on IMO.


I recently wrote to another advice columnist about my problems in a relationship. Not only did she say I was partly at fault for the problems that occurred in it, but she took a shot at the fact that I'm from England and naturally include the letter 'u' in all my wourds, even when it's for almost no reason.

The more I review the details of my relationship, the less I am convinced by Meredith that "You were both at fault." What do you think?

Megan B

Dear Megan,

Megan. Can I call you Megsy? Alright. You dated an obsessively creepy man who had to make things serious before there were even things to be serious about. Because he seemed interested and caring, you thought he probably wasn't a total asshole, but you were wrong in this. The worst losers in the entire world are great at pretending to be nice - if they were actually nice, they wouldn't have to pretend.

Eventually your boyfriend got tired of you and it was too exhausting to pretend. But instead of just admitting he had made a mistake, apologizing and telling you had a lovely accent for someone from that part of London, he had to put the blame on you, Megsy. If he put the blame on himself that would mean he was a super-controlling sociopath, and no one likes to think that when they look in the mirror except for Jennifer Lopez.


I am in a committed relationship with my girlfriend of two years, Amy. We live together, and share many laughs and bon mots.

In early May I received a package in the mail from an ex. It was a box that my girlfriend unknowingly opened. While almost everything in the box only held a sentimental meaning obvious to the parties involved, there was one letter in the group, written by me, which could be described as romantic in nature.

The majority of the letter itself was chaste, but there was a reference to anal sex in it (a practice my ex enjoyed but is not a part of my life now). At first Amy seemed fine with what was undoubtedly a bit of a shock, but now she seems to have trouble overcoming the idea that the sex life I had with my ex was some kind of winsomely exotic menagerie, which it most certainly was not.

How can I get her to realize it wasn't all that important?

Henry L.

Dear Hank,

Telling Amy in minute detail what occurred is only going to open a Pandora's Box of insecurity. You need to give her an airtight reassurance to rely on in her mind: a recurring, comfortable phrase whose mere repetition is a solace. (Jonah Hill uses slurs.)

Sit her down with her favorite beverage. Perhaps she likes a piping hot tea? Who doesn't, as long as it's not a cherished part of anal play. She'll associate the taste of those ground beans with your definitive statement that she is in every way better than your ex. Having imprinted that idea, if Amy mentions it again, clearly state that you feel you have already addressed the issue, and that if she continues bringing it up she is liable to be shown the door.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"The Grass Ain't Greener" - Apathy (mp3)

"Back in New England" - Apathy ft. Chris Webby (mp3)



In Which We Find This Onerous To Explain

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'm 22, but I have the dating experience of a 14-year-old. I didn't even kiss anyone until I was a senior in college, and now that I'm out of college I'm trying to "put myself out there" or something. I finally got an OkCupid profile, and now I have kissed two whole people in my life. The problem is that it's so hard for me to "casually" date because it's impossible for even just kissing someone to be "casual" for me. How do I stop being so insecure about myself and my inexperience with dudes?

Kelly H.

Dear Kelly,

Your problem isn’t your insecurity or your inexperience. They haven’t stopped you from being able to recognize what you want and to work for it. You have created an online profile, and you have kissed two people. At least none of them (presumably) murdered you, Kelly.

You need to do two things. First, stop beating yourself up for being a late bloomer. It’s likely that Blaise Pascal never kissed anyone at all. You’re not in high school anymore. Nobody cares. Nobody’s keeping a tally. You shouldn’t either. By risking your life you have shown you’re not afraid, so get out there and get what you want.

Which brings me to my next point: you need to figure out if you want to have a bunch of casual flings or if you want long-term relationships. Just because you started later doesn’t mean you have to make up for lost time – unless you want to. This isn’t about what you think a person should or shouldn’t have done by the age of 22. It’s about what you want and what’s good for you right now. Use a condom, or failing that, pepper spray.


I'm at (yet another) crossroads in my life where I have to choose whether I want to aim for short-term gratification and personal improvement or if I should go for employment security. I've found that for me it boils down to a decision between a postgraduate liberal arts or science degree. When, if ever, is it too old to pursue very expensive and degrees which are almost purely for self-improvement? What's the value of the liberal arts during a recession?

Linda S.

Dear Linda,

When we started college, we gravitated towards a science degree in hopes of finding financial stability, but  ended up being miserable. It was not really a revelation to see that if we wanted to be happy we had to maximize our abilities on a different path.

Training for what you want to do is important, but just doing it is better. If it's in the arts, no special qualifications are really required; I believe Lewis Lapham once killed a guy. Do you need this degree to get a specific job? If yes, then it may be worth pursuing. If not, books are freely available to read without paying some institution an exorbitant sum to explain them to you. Or we can explain them over some hot cocoa and several Thomas Bernhard novels. What are you doing on Friday?


I feel like I'm backsliding into a relationship with an old flame. We broke up after six months and didn't speak for a while after, but we recently rekindled our romance. We have been flirting through text and phone calls without any definite plans of actually getting back together. We currently live in two different states and he always backs out when we make plans. I feel comfortable around him and he conveys mutual feelings. I feel like I'm wasting my time, but I can't seem to move on from the thought of us being together. What do you think?

Jen A. 


Dear Jen,

If he's not Ryan Gosling material we don't think you should pursue this relationship any longer. You want someone who will go the extra mile for you, day and night. He is probably hooking up with several side babes in his area and you're his long distance virtual side babe. You're a thriving beautiful human being and you don't need to wait around for him.

Think about the reasons why you two broke up in the first place. You might feel comfortable relying on him for comfort, but you're better off finding someone who will make you writhe with pleasure without any nonsense. 

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Just Say When" - Mindi Abair (mp3)

"I'll Be Your Home" - Mindi Abair (mp3)


In Which We Find This Difficult To Articulate

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.


All the guys I meet bore me to death. I’m in desperate need for a change of pace and scenery with lots of adventure. I’ve spent some time trying to rebuild my life after being in a long-term relationship. I feel like I get stuck with boring and flaky guys who show little reciprocation of affection and adventure. I feel like I’m looking in all the wrong places. Do I need to lower my expectations? I’m just really tired of getting my hopes up on a guy and then meeting him and having it feel like it’s not worth my time.


Jane B.

Dear Jane,

Don’t lower your expectations, but alter them to your own physical and emotional needs. You have three options:

1. You can buy into the idea that you must never settle for anything less than your hopes and dreams.

2. You can believe that nobody will ever be good enough, that you won’t be good enough, that the world will never be good enough, and that relationships are bullshit.

3. You can learn to expect real things and to ask for them from the people you meet.

You sound like you’re squatting in option 1 (otherwise known as Disneyland) while option 2 gets a new paint job in shades of disappointment – basically, until it becomes easier for you to live there.

What they have in common is that they both allow you to give up: one, by allowing you to believe that someday your prince will come, and the other, by allowing you to believe that nobody’s coming so why even try?

Nope. Your new home is option 3. Here, you work your ass off to be kind, open, real and hopeful. You say no when things need to end, when there’s incompatibility, when you aren’t being treated right, but you say yes when somebody is real and open. Even if they say something (or many things) that doesn’t put stars in your eyes right away, okay? For example, if they have favorable things to say about Albert Camus, this should not be a dealbreaker, unless they have read The Stranger over ten times. Then just move on.


I graduated from college last year and I’ve been living with my parents since then. My mom and dad are in their late 50s. We get along fine for the most part, except for one fight that keeps popping up: my parents want me to get a full-time job and move out. I’ve been working part-time at a local bookstore, but not enough to afford rent, and what I really want to do is spend as much time as possible writing. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember, and all of my teachers – elementary through senior year of college – say that I’m talented. Even my parents think so! But they still want me to spend most of my time sitting at a desk in an office. I don’t know how to make them understand that I only have one life, and while I may not be making the most conventional choice, it’s one that I feel is right.

Thank you,

Elena S.

Dear Elena, 

You need to move out pronto.

I know you think you’re taking a huge stand for independence, but you’re not. You’re using your writing as an excuse to stay in a world where gold stars rain from the sky and people give you high-fives just for waking up. If you really want to be a writer, you need to get out of that world, and fast. You need to earn your spot. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable to make some sacrifices to eventually let go of your safety net even if it feels scary at first.

An abundance of time and freedom do not make a writer. Work does. If you can get back to your small, expensive, lonely apartment after a long, exhausting day of waiting tables or crunching numbers and still want to pen an essay, then you’ll know. Until then, you’re just like those people who are waiting for retirement to start doing what they really love: delusional.

Your parents understand that, which is why they’re giving you the boot. Stop working so hard for affirmation, and start doing the real work. Go take what’s really yours, unless you have no talent at all. Then it's probably best to apply directly for disability.


All of my friends think I’m wasting my time pursuing a relationship with Theresa, with whom I have been hooking up with for over a year. They give me a hard time, telling me that she’ll never reciprocate similar feelings because she’s only using me, which isn’t entirely true. We have deep conversations and I feel like we have the potential to connect on a boyfriend/girlfriend level.

Theresa recently revealed to me that she has borderline personality disorder. I picked up books and researched to better understand the issues she’s going through. I’m okay with her sleeping with other guys, but I want her to come to her senses. Am I wasting my time or should I keep trying?


Tom W.

Dear Tom,

Theresa is only using you as a hookup buddy. The status of your relationship is clear if she’s sleeping with other people. She only cares about you platonically, but she’ll never love you the way you want her to. You have become invested in her emotionally, which is something you didn’t plan with the original engagement of just being hookup buddies.

To prolong the pursuit of hope that she’ll come to you any longer is only going to yield the same results over and over again. She isn’t responding the way you want her to and it’s putting you at an absolute loss in rationalizing your feelings for her.

Have you read The Game? If no, Don't. If yes, read The Goldfinch.

You need to come to a realization that she isn’t making you her priority. You can love her unconditionally as a friend, but it will only hurt you knowing she’ll never be truly yours. You can only do so much to help her with reading books and online articles, but she doesn’t want to be saved by you. She is probably making out with a guy who is much better looking and has read both of those titles, as well as Proust. He thinks What Is The What is a masterpiece and thinks Bernie Sanders simply must run for president. He is completely terrible but also absolutely fantastic.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"You Don't Know What To Do" - Mariah Carey ft. Wale (mp3)

"One More Try" - Mariah Carey (mp3)

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