In Which We Make A Plan To Save A Cousin

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


When my dad is in town on business, he “suggests” to my boyfriend Karl that he take us out to dinner. My boyfriend (“my boyfriend”) feels he can’t refuse my dad even though I have suggested he do just that on numerous occasions. My dad is working on a deal here in my city and has been in town every couple of weeks, and sometimes more often, which means more dinners. They last for a long time, consist of food rich in expense and calories, and are generally painful to be around. Is there any way to manage this situation without hurting someone’s feelings?

Marilyn V.

Dear Marilyn,

In the eternal battle between the male figures in your life, it is crucial that you consistently choose your boyfriend. Unfortunately you can’t protect him from your dad and from what I’m hearing when your day tells him “belly” he goes right to his back and exposes his vulernable underside to your father like a daschund puppy.

Your dad presumably doesn’t make plans with you because he knows you’ll find an excuse. It’s up to your boyfriend to stand up to your father by saying something along the lines of, “We’d love to come, but we can’t leave our dog alone at home for that many hours,” or “My sister just had a baby and we’re catsitting for the child.” If he suggests another time and place, your boyfriend will have no choice but to tell him the truth.

You have to take a firm tack with the elderly, since they have really bought into that greatest generation thing, even extending it to the children of said generation. The only thing they understand is strength, so it would be best to find a new boyfriend. Maybe a german shepherd?


My cousin Marion is marrying an extremely handsome guy. My sister and I have thoroughly researched this dude on what you would call the internet. There is a site that shall remain nameless that has some reviews of him. We mentioned this information, but she has no concerns on that score.

Part of the issue is that Marion has been hurt by smooth talkers before, and now she wants to mate with one for life. Her husband-to-be reminds me a little of Dr. Frasier Crane with more hair. Do I push harder on how shit I find this whole deal or is it possible Dr. Crane has turned over an all new leaf?

Ian O.

Dear Ian,

People never change until circumstances change them. Men change least of all, since the patriarchy reinforces their demented view of the world and place in it. Now that your cousin is in the thrall of this man, it is going to take a hell of a lot to pull her out of it, but you must do your duty.

Find an ex-girlfriend of this charmer and make her into your best friend. Fete her with balloons and candy — have you ever been to Party City? It’s fantastic, although a bit ghoulish at times. This ex will most likely want to get revenge out of her own residual anger anyway, but just to be kind, slip the young woman a cool hundy.

Unfortunately, this kind of intervention has a serious chance of backfiring depending on the relative credibility of your witness and the circumstances where she is introduced to your cousin. Having ner meet the other woman unexpectedly is best for you all, and whatever you do, pretend to minimize Marion’s concerns and defend Dr. Crane. That way, you have set up a win-win. If it works out as planned,myou knew all along but wanted the best for her; if she takes the concerns as an attack, you were the only one by her side. Cousins are such fools.

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


“So Familiar” – Edie Brickell & Steve Martin (mp3)

“Always Will” – Edie Brickell & Steve Martin (mp3)

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