In Which We Drank Too Much You Know What We Are Like

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


For the first eight months of my relationship with Sandra, everything was perfect. Our first problems emerged then – Sandra complained that I wasn’t as attentive to her as I had been in the past. I have tried to rectify this, but I still don’t think that a relationship is going to be the same at eight months as it is when you are first discovering each other.

It bothers me that I am being held to what I feel is an impossible, or at least difficult standard. I struggle to communicate this to Sandra. What should I say to her?

Mark S.


If the issue is that Sandra’s expectations for you are too much, then the answer is to surely lower her expectations. Casually show her movies where the protagonist’s boyfriend is something of a dick. Offer to compensate a close friend and his wife for striking each other in front of Sandra. Soon she will realize she is with the man of her dreams. 

In reality, what Sandra is explaining to you is merely a symptom of a larger disease. You are not making her happy any longer. You should think carefully about what you may have said or done that would give her this impression, because what you are experiencing right now is the canary in the coal mine. When the canary dies, no one even bothers disposing of its corpse. They just leave the mine. 


How much of yourself show you display to the other person on a first date? 

I have been receiving some completely contradictory advice on this topic. One of my friends says I should just be myself, since if he’s not interested in that, how will we ever be together down the road? My mom advises me to keep it sparse and create an air of mystery and intrigue. 

Who is right?

Nell R.

Dear Nell,

When a plumber selects a tool to repair the waterworks, he never uses the same one for every job. Actually, maybe he does, and I wish a plumber had an advice column. I would have so many questions for him, like where does sewage go, and does he like Ed Sheeran?

My first point was best. Sometimes you meet a guy and you’ll want to be open and honest. Other times it is best to make him work for things. More often you will want to use the latter approach. The problem is that your senses as to when you should employ each method could be very off. 

If you detect your instincts are askew, every so often go against them. Note the results. In either case, you will probably not want to show all of yourself on a first date, which is a very different thing from “being yourself.” You should only be completely honest if you are factually a super-attractive person, inside and out. If you watch a lot of Bravo, maybe don’t lead with that.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


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