In Which The Ascent Is Fever In The Clouds

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


It has been a year since I broke up with my girlfriend Lane. At the time of our breakup we had (unrealized) plans of moving in together. I got cold feet and we decided to separate. Over this past year, I think I have grown a lot and come to terms with how immature I was. It was a big step for me and I panicked — further commitment is something I believe I would be able to handle now.

I think about Lane a lot. I have tried to call and send her e-mails but she hasn’t responded as of yet. I am unsure if I should go to further lengths to try to contact her since I don’t want to be intrusive. What would be your recommendation?

Ahmad A.


Dear Ahmad,

This is starting to sound like a Lumineers song. Going backwards in a relationship is as difficult as going back in time. Neither is impossible, but it is not really something you can convince someone of. They have to come to terms with it on the own. Culturally, both women and men are conditioned to believe that moving on from experiences which were not entirely positive is the healthiest thing to do. On the average, this approach does yield the best results. If you were not prepared to be serious with Lane then, the likelihood is that you will still be able to commit in the future. If you only show your true colors in twenty years, maybe this will be a worthwhile experience replete with substantial alimony for your partner.

Once a red flag goes up, she is going to require great and important reasons to overlook it, like if you have a lot of money or are proficient sexually beyond what she can attain on the outside. If either of these things were true of you, she probably would have already written you back.


My daughter Brenda has the unpleasant habit of attracting guys who are far from the best for her. Do you have any suggestions on how I can encourage her to meet and become attracted to more quality men? It seems like every effort I make in this direction is sent back tenfold.

Jackie C.


You are talking to the wrong advice columnist. Ever since I watched Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green play checkers together I have been fascinated by the idea that two wrongs make a right. Very decent people are attracted to people without any merit whatsoever. If you can turn your daughter into the latter through a very severe and debilitating alcohol or drug habit, she will probably start meeting guys who want to save her and you will have been granted your wish, albeit in the most unlucky way possible.

Great places to meet quality guys include classrooms, car dealerships, and the produce section of the supermarket. Pretend to be reaching for exactly what he was reaching for, and never back down, even if the fruit or vegetable in question was already in his shopping cart.


Do you think that dreams hold any significance? I know it is boring to hear someone recounting their dream, but a few times a month I have the variation of the same dream.

I am in a foreign city, and I know that my flight will be leaving the next morning. I have to find a gift for my little sister, so I proceed apace into the city center. I don’t find the store I am looking for, and eventually I reach the coast where I can see the ocean. Night falls. I make my way back to my hotel. In the morning I have woken up too late and I haven’t packed for my trip at all. I realize I am trying to take too many things with me on the return trip, so I must leave some behind. A few I hide in the hotel room, hoping I can return for them someday.

I keep getting turned back on my way to the airport, but I finally make it there, and the dream ends. Can you discern any meaning from the fact that I keep dreaming the same thing?

Gabriela D.


Dear Gabriela,

I first being researching the nature of dreams after I had a sex fantasy about Eleanor Clift at the age of fifteen. My work  in this field eventually drew me to the Jungian insights of Arnold Mindell, who describes two simultaneous processes that occur. In the primary process, we are filtering in aspects of our experience we can identify with; in the secondary process we encounter things that are hard to identify with and we struggle to make them part of our worldview.

This two part system is easily applied to your nighttime journey. You are conscientious, wanting to purchase a gift for your sister and make it to your plane on time. You are probably anxious about both these subjects, and disappointing those you love. There is a secondary meaning, which is that there are things holding you back from doing so: and they are all your things.

But what of your trip to the beach? The beach is a great place for meeting other people, especially if they are playing loud music through headphones or out of a boombox, which makes it simple to approximate whether this is the kind of music you will enjoy throughout the time you are dating.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.



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