In Which There Is No Boat Or Sign Of You There

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 boyfriend Satchel has a female best friend who I will call Nancy. I never really get the sense that Nancy is overly interested in Satchel – she runs her own business and tends to date older guys. On a regular basis, however, she will come up with some semi-dire emergency where she will require Satchel to pick her up or help her move. When I think about it, it’s no more than some friends do for each other, and it’s not like Satchel is ditching me to be with her. At the same time the fact that he comes at her call can’t help but rankle me a bit. Am I wrong to be upset, and what should I do about this fiend Nancy?

Sara U.

Dear Sara,

It sounds like Satchel has some feelings for this Nancy. Unfortunately saying anything about it is likely to exacerbate the situation, and this is the rare situation where reverse psychology can backfire greatly. You cannot be pushing them closer together and you cannot be separating them more apart.

All you can do is subtly alter Satchel’s view of her with descriptive language. Nancy is

– desperate

– needy

– you feel ‘sorry’ for her (omit this if your boyfriend is a bleeding heart I Want To Save Her type who is creepily turned on by the suffering of others)

– escort

– awkward

– “hanging all out”

You also should by no means keep your anger completely inside. The key is not to annoy or carp at him. Instead, address one specific situation and never mention that there is a larger problem. Suggest Nancy is manipulating him this one time and act surprised, like you didn’t think either of them had this sadistic of a friendship and he’s a shithead for running to her.

Whatever you do, don’t make them address their friendship. This could turn out badly for you. And if you are the kind of woman who has troubling asking for help, you had best shed that particular inhibition, because that is a quality Satchel enjoys in other people. Escort.


My friend Mallory and myself have a difference of opinion, and we would like you to settle the issue.

Over the past year Mallory’s ex-boyfriend and my friend Steve has been drinking a lot and sometimes taking pills with his alcohol. He is really competent at keeping things together when he abuses these substances, and a lot of other people we know are not easily convinced of how much he has consumed. Making things worse is that he is the life of the party when he uses; not in a sloppy or unfun way either.

Mallory broke up with Steve due to the fact that while he admits he has a problem, he won’t do anything about it. We’re both really worried about where this will lead. I’ve argued that we should really press the issue and get him some help, but Mallory thinks the only change comes from within. What direction do you think we should take this?

Luther T.

Dear Luther,

Generally an addict will have to lose a lot in his life to realize how bad things got. There was a popular athlete whose girlfriend died of an overdose and he still woke up every day and dosed himself with oxy and bourbon. I don’t know what he had for lunch, salmon maybe? His mouth tasted like salmon and bourbon.

Enablers are everywhere. It sounds like partying is part of you and your friends’ lifestyle. As long as that is the case, I can tell you that Steve will never stop abusing. He gets positive feedback from every aspect of the drugs and handles the negative part flawlessly. Sure in ten years he will look like Father Time, have no hair or ability to reproduce, but this is his golden time.

You can try to have a third party like a therapist talk to Steve, but it is unlikely he is going to listen to anything you or Mallory like to say. No matter how much you love your friend, it might be best if he realizes he will keep losing friends if he goes down this road. That could be the only motivation to alter his behavior that he really understands.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

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