In Which We Hope You Can Still Be Friends

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


My husband Anselm has always included me as a character in his poetry. His work is frequently whimsical, and every so often somewhat humbling. I try not to take offense, because it is his work.

Because of his encouragement, I have begun participating in a writing workshop at a local community college. Some of the prompts ask us to fictionalize real-life situations. Anselm read one of my short pieces and saw himself in the persona of a controlling man. It really wasn’t based on him – at least not consciously. He says this is rather different from his depictions of me, since they are all flattering.

Do we have a responsibility to whitewash our paramours, and how can I get him off my back about this?

Tova B.


Just tell your husband that you love him very much, but that you were only in love with the person who was not a hypocrite. Poetry about someone’s significant other is pretty much always shit. I am tryin to think of an exception to this rule and failing, kind of Lorine Niedecker and sometimes William Carlos Williams. Although those poems mostly had a residue of sadness and despair.

There is no such thing as a good “whimsical” poem, just an extremely literary stand-up comedian. (If your husband also beat-boxes, that would extend an extra layer of credibility to his appropriation.)

In contrast, the entire purpose of fiction was for the people writing it to discover how the feel about the world. You have expressed something you did not actually know on a conscious level – that your husband is a tool who makes John Mayer look like Pierre Reverdy. Normally the act of simply denying all wrongdoing is enough, but here it is probably best to double down.

Explain that your therapist suggested you express your concerns in a safe space. Lately, the mere mention of said space is enough to get anyone what they want. Emphasize that if your concerns are not addressed, you will be making Anselm a villain who cuts off the ambition of young women everywhere by severing one toe at a time from their feet. Be sure to mention that the prose style will be reminiscent of a young Donna Tartt, and leave the room with a bow.

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


“Alone No More” – Philip George ft. Anton Powers (mp3)


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