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 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)


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