In Which We Accept Almost Every Situation Imaginable

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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 justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hey,

I have two older brothers who are very protective of me. I haven’t been the most assertive person in the past — it is just part of my personality. So when they asked my boyfriends difficult questions or made them uncomfortable, I argued to myself that it was all in my best interest. I even recall telling someone I was very close to that they would have to accept the presence of my brothers in his life.

Now this seems stupid, since they are both married and I am not. Despite having families of their own, they are still deeply involved in judging whoever I am with at the time. Well, I have met someone new, and this time I plan to approach the situation differently. I sat them both down individually and asked them to back off, but I don’t think I am getting through to either of them. I’m at my wits end. Do you have any ideas?

Thanks. You’re the absolute best.

Chelsea M.

Dear Chelsea,

Often when people are determined to finally be honest about something, they do not take it far enough in one direction. Calmly and calculatingly asking these people to behave differently is humming when you require yodeling.

Fortunately, it sounds like you have built up a lot of credit with these deplorables, so some cursory sobbing should be able to get through to them at a level honesty cannot. Since they have been oblivious to your desire so far, we cannot count on being able to react them in this fashion. If you still struggle to disabuse them of their sexist notions, then you must begin returning like for like and sabotaging their lives in a similar fashion. Soon they will realize what a disastrous fucking imposition they are.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Hey,

I have a friend we should call Charlie. He recently broke up with his girlfriend of three years, Nora. He met someone else and really hit it off, so he told Nora that things were over.

I have always liked Nora and we get along great. Before she was with Charlie, she had admitted we were attracted to each other but I was going into the Peace Corps. I would like to at least try being with her now, but I sense that Charlie would be angry about this and she might be reluctant since Charlie and I are friends. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with either of them.

What’s the best way to clear the path?

Dan Y.

Dear Dan,

The best thing to do is have her make the first move. This solves several problems for you.

1. It puts the impetus on her to explain to Charlie that she is now with you and not him. If she does not tell him, all the better. The longer you can delay speaking to Charlie about this the better.

2. Her reluctance about getting with you is strongly diminished if she eliminates your potential questionable motivations for being with her from the field of play.

3. It’s easier.

If Charlie confronts you about it, tell him you did not want to hurt him, but she is the love of your life. What is he going to say to that? No?

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