In Which We Play Dumb Or A Role

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.


My boyfriend Tim wants to start roleplaying. I think we’ve always had a very satisfying sex life, and I think that dressing up would embarrass me – and that I wouldn’t be able to get in the mood. How do I tell him thanks, but no?

Elena A.

Dear Elena,

Very few people want to actually dress up and portray characters or archetypes in the bedroom, although it was the foundational aspect of Andrew Sullivan’s sex life in the 1990-2000 period. Usually someone will bring up this concept for a different reason.

“Roleplaying” is a way to introduce advanced sexual concepts under the guise of play. These concepts can include S&M fantasies, visions of being the host of Meet the Press, or you calling your boyfriend (Tim? WTF is he in third grade) something paternal/paternalistic or more rarely, maternal/maternalistic. Roleplaying doesn’t always involve actual dressing up.

It’s best to just cut to the chase and ask your boyfriend what he wants you to call him during sex. If he answers, “Sergey Brin,” leave the country.



This started eight months ago when I met a guy who I will call Jeff online. We really hit it off and we were talking quite frequently despite living in different cities. Eventually we decided that I should come and visit him. Our first meeting was great and just seemed like a continuation of our online communication.

Jeff makes references to past relationships, although since we were just getting to know each other, I did not wish to pry. After that weekend, Jeff confessed that he was divorced and that he was not interested in getting married again. I asked him what he was interested in and he said that he wasn’t sure, that he had done the long distance thing before and wasn’t very successful at it. At the same time he expressed a desire to keep seeing me.

In the intervening months, I have tried to be more protective of our feelings. Jeff has come to my city to visit me and for the most part we have a great time with very little meta-relationship talk, as he seemed to request. Am I right to be taking this at his pace, or should I just bail?

Andrea R.

Dear Andrea,

Learning all about someone from the person themselves leaves many blind spots open, Andrea. You need a third party who can give you a better view of Jeff. See if you can make up a reason to have a conversation with one of his friends: maybe a buddy is an industry peripheral to yours, and you can claim you are only looking for some general advice.

With that said, you can’t necessarily assume there is any foul play involved. Men will say a lot of things; just because he’s not considering marriage now doesn’t mean the idea is permanently dead to him. Even lemmings have to be coaxed into heading for a cliff, but once they build up some momentum, death is a sweet release.

Demanding a commitment is the surest way not to get one. Make sure Jeff knows you are exploring other options and he will quickly ask you not to be if he cares that much. If he doesn’t ask, then you know he doesn’t care.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at

“The Disease” – Angels and Airwaves (mp3)


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