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 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 a great woman, 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)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s