In Which We Find This Inexorably Tough To Explicate

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.


In recent weeks, my girlfriend Maria and I have begun talking about getting engaged, a conversation that she initiated. In the course of our discussions about whether it is the right step for us, she mentioned that she has no interest in taking my name or having our potential children take my name. I was a bit surprised but I said nothing.

After thinking about it more, I can’t help but feel a bit bothered by this. She has no professional reason not to do it, but my main concern is that kids would find it confusing to be called by different or hyphenated names. Should I bring up this concern to Maria and how should I do it?

Roberto T.

Dear Roberto,

Modernity has equipped us with a phenomenon called concern trolling. It’s actual a quite ancient method. It allows people to offer a series of hypothetical statements intended to shit all over a topic without actually saying what is meant. In your situation, a concern troll might suggest, “Is it really the best for a child to be concerned about her name?”

Nothing actually has a name. These are simply made up designations. You are no more a Roberto than you are Matzoh Ramshackle. You’re just a thing that exists, a thing that spends hours and hours concern trolling yourself, asking, “What should I call things, and what should I call myself?” in a high voice that sounds like Minnie Mouse.

If you really loved Maria, you’d take her name. However, she has not asked you to do this. If you offer, she might take yours, but probably not, because Maria Ramshackle sounds like the name of a prostitute. If you ever have a child, let your wife name it. It came out of her body after all. You can give your most raucous bowel movements your last name.


A friend of mine, Andrea, recently split with her boyfriend, Steven, of a year. (We all live in Park Slope.) They have stayed on good terms and he sometimes says hi to us both if he sees us, and once he caught a mouse in her apartment with his bare hands when I was there at a screening of The Prince of Tides.

Needless to say I was extremely turned on by this event and I would like to see more of Steven. You asked me why they broke up: it was a mutual thing but I think the main deciding factor was that she felt a bit too domesticated by the relationship and wanted to go out more.

I feel weird asking Andrea’s permission to pursue things with Steven, and I’m worried he will feel weird too if he hears I have asked, or even if I suggest hanging out together in general. What’s the best way to approach this?

Megan P.

Dear Megan,

If he’s still running the pest control game at his ex’s apartment, Steve doesn’t seem like the most headstrong fellow. Nor would I ever be able to fully divest myself of the notion that the hands stroking my body had touched a mouse’s corpse, although I believe that is more my problem than yours.

What you need to do is get Steven to ask Andrea for her permission. That could be a bit farfetched on both their parts, but it will only happen if you can get alone time with Steven on some other pretext. Tell him an endangered condor accidentally flew into your apartment, and you would like him to remand it to a local animal shelter equipped to deal with large birds. Or maybe he knows Spanish and can teach it to you.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

“Swimming Lessons” – Honig (mp3)

“Leave Me Now” – Honig (mp3)


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