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Margo Howard


Mom Purloins the Diary Dear Margo: I found out last week that our 17-year-old high school junior is having sex with her boyfriend! First of all, I found out the wrong way: I snooped in her room and read her diary. Second, she would never admit to it, so my husband …Read more. The Bad Seed Dear Margo: I never thought I would write to an advice columnist, but here goes. I've been dating someone for about a year now, and we talk of marriage occasionally. He's ready for commitment and very gung-ho about us getting married, which is …Read more. Oh, and, Uh, By the Way... Dear Margo: I am soon to be 27 years old, and my only serious relationship ended a few years ago. In hopes of avoiding the standard meat market of dating, I'm considering registration with I've also had my share of casual relationships.…Read more. It Is in the Bible, but Not in the Stars Dear Margo: I have been dating a wonderful man for four months now. He is very kind and sweet in every way. We are much in love and happy together. There is only one problem: We are different religions. I am a Christian; he is agnostic. I have …Read more.
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Is This Geezer Creepy? Yes


Dear Margo: I am dating a 57-year-old man who is quite wonderful in some ways, but he sometimes says disturbing things. Today, he reported that he walked down to the beach and studied "40 or 50 teenagers" to see what they were wearing. He wanted to tell me all about the current state of teen fashion at the beach. I told him I did not want to hear it. Conversation over dinner was awkward because I could not get this strange conversational overture out of my head, and he seemed not to be able to think of anything else to talk about.

He has not shown any particular interest in fashion until now. I know that many older men check out teenage girls, but isn't it kind of a creepy activity, and one you wouldn't tell your girlfriend about? I'm wondering whether he has inappropriate proclivities. He also asked me once if it was odd for him to check out his daughter's boyfriend's female friends on Facebook. I said yes. He responded by defending his decision to do so ... and then did so.

He also told me his wife (now deceased) slept with their daughter until she was 10. About a year after the daughter got her own bedroom, she stopped speaking to him for seven years. He has no explanation for any of this. — Greatly Confused

Dear Great: Unless your 50-plus fella works for Women's Wear Daily or a garment manufacturer, his interest in teenagers' beach attire — with a sample size of 40 to 50 — is a signal that there is some psycho-sexual screw loose. And the fact that the subject was of no interest to you and he was stuck for conversation confirms my "diagnosis." This man sounds like he's come from a strange place with secrets and dysfunction. I would head for the hills and look for a man who is wonderful in other ways.

— Margo, honestly

School Daze

Dear Margo: Three weeks ago, I moved to rural Mississippi with my family: wife, three kids all under 9, and my mother. We decided to send our kids to public school instead of private school, as we had before the move. This decision was based on our kids' wish for "more kids to play with" and my wife's idea that this will be a good way for us to acculturate the children.

Despite our thorough research of the school system, we are uncovering many unsavory surprises. Even with a zero-tolerance bullying policy, our oldest son has come home crying multiple times. Our middle child, a girl, says her teachers are mean and never listen to her. Our youngest seems fine, but then again, he was never much of a complainer. So now my wife and I are debating switching back to private school. Our hesitations come from our hope that if we wait out the rocky beginning, our kids will get stronger and more able to cope, but we hate to see them unhappy. What do you think we should do? — Undecided Dad

Dear Un: First, three weeks is not a very long time for kids to fit in anywhere, let alone with children who have most likely been in school together from kindergarten. And when you say you're considering private school again, is there even one in a rural area? (And, of course, private schools are not bully-free zones.)

I would wait until the end of the year before making any decisions. In the meantime, you and your wife might go to school and talk with the teachers. Explain that the kids seem to be having trouble, and see what information you get back. Between giving your kids more time to get acclimated and taking a measure of the teachers, I think the answer you are looking for will become clear. — Margo, patiently

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.




8 Comments | Post Comment
LW1: Frankly, I would be more concerned about the last paragraph of your letter than him talking to you about checking out chicks on the beach. I think what's happening here is that you have a little voice in your head screaming ICK and you want validation to listen to it. OK, here's your validation. ICK... oh and it's saying something else to you.... RUN!

LW2: When a six/seven/eight year old comes up and says their teacher is mean and won't talk to them, it's time to observe the class, preferably with no notice. I would drop by the school unannounced and observe. Don't let the kids know you are there and resist the temptation to speak to them, just observe and walk out. You will have to check in with the school office to do this, and someone will get the word back to the principal. Expect to be met by a member of the school office when you check back in. You may want to do this separately for each child on separate days, or not, but I would observe them all.

You may be surprised what you find. Three weeks is not a lot of time for a child to get used to a new environment, particularly if it's a drastic move. Did you move from a "northern" area? Well, in some places in the South, that can be an adjustment that takes YEARS. Did you move from an urban area? Well, that's pretty tough on kids at first as well. Your children may be acting out in the classroom (easier than doing it at home, in most cases) OR the teachers may be hard on the kids. If the teachers are mistreating your children, then you need to adress the issue with the principal of the school. If it doesn't change, then you take the kids out. However, be aware that from what I have read on another site, many private schools in the south are a result of integration in the 70s and are in essence all white. Be sure to check out any school you send your child to thoroughly before you make the decision.
Comment: #1
Posted by: nanchan
Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:38 AM
I got a feeling from LW1 that maybe this man's former wife knew he had some "issues" with children and that is why she slept with her daughter until she was 10 years old and then after a year of having her own room no longer would speak to him.....something happened. Red flags are everywhere around this guy.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Karen
Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:52 AM
LW1: Changing schools after 3 weeks is going to make things worse. You need to allow ample time for the adjustment; you need to ask better questions of your kids and you need to be prepared for them to be sad on some days.

Is your son being physically assaulted? Is he being made fun of because his sneakers are the wrong brand? There's a difference in how you should react, even though both situations can bring a kid to tears (particularly if he's still having trouble adjusting to the climate, finding his way around in school, or catching up academically).

You hate to see your kids unhappy...but you have to have the wisdom to recognize when it's better to let them work through the adjustment and when you're truly needed to step in. Kids whose parents never let them solve their own problems end up dependent, insecure and unhappy.

Try this, after ascertaining that your boy is not in physical danger. Lend a sympathetic ear, but don't reinforce wallowing. Suggest signing him up for tae kwon do lessons, where he'll meet other kids, or music lessons or a soccer team. Praise him for the effort he's making -- changing schools and moving away is HARD (been there, done that). .

Contact the school, on the QT, to see what the teacher's noticing about his adjustment; have her suggest a friend your son could invite for dinner on Thursday or to accompany your family to explore a nearby state park on Saturday -- or to lunch and a movie. Making one ally usually helps win over others.

You get involved in the PTA, and invite that kid's parents to a cookout or for dessert and coffee. Do the same with a parent in your daughter's grade. This is how you may learn that THAT mother campaigned long and hard to get her daughter into the classroom with the teacher your daughter says is "mean" -- that this teacher has kids who come back and visit her for YEARS after they've graduated, even though she's strict in the beginning.

It's how you find out that Johnny's dad coaches rec softball, and needs another player. It's where you learn that this pediatrician is bordering on senility, but THAT one has an uncanny dianostic skill and bedside manner, and the same thing about the orchestra teacher vs. the band teacher or the French program vs. the Spanish. And you build a network of people who will invite your kids places, and who will look out for them should you need emergency root canal when your spouse is out of town.
Comment: #3
Posted by: hedgehog
Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:43 PM
What nanchan said (excellent post!)
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris
Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:55 AM
Re: Chris
Yeah, I have nothing to add either.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:11 PM
Hey, you two crazy kids - get a room! ;-)

That makes three of us - that is great advice, Nanchan.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Carla
Sun Apr 1, 2012 8:01 AM
LW1 -- The only thing I have to add here is that you might want to read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker.

LW2 -- Let me join the chorus of those who said three weeks isn't long enough for your kids to acclimate to their new school and new home. I think both nanchan's and hedgehog's advice is good, but I'd start with hedgehog's advice before going to the school to observe. My only concern about sitting in on the class is that even if you don't say anything to your kids, they are going to react to you being there, and the other kids are going to figure out who you are -- which could potentially give them even more fodder with which to tease your kids. Meeting with the teachers and the principal could gain you some insight. Reaching out to other parents could shine another light on the subject, as well. I'd do more information gathering outside of your kids' classroom -- which will also give your kids more of a chance to acclimate -- before going inside the classroom.

But whatever you do, please realize that this almost certainly isn't about public versus private school. This is about moving to a new town and starting a new school in the middle of the school year. It's hard starting at a new school, but especially when you do it in the middle of a session, instead of starting at the beginning of the year. There are bullies and bad teachers in private schools, too.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lisa
Mon Apr 2, 2012 7:48 AM
Re: Lisa
While I agree that the kids haven't had long enough to adjust yet, and that there are bullies and bad teachers no matter the type of school, I disagree that private schools and public schools are the same. I attended both private and public (and briefly home school) and there can be a very big difference, especially if the children went to a religious school or a montessori. Class size, curriculum, and school supplies are all factors, and the teaching styles are often very different. I'm not saying that one is better than another, just that it may take extra time, and extra understanding, to help younger children through the adjustment period.
Comment: #8
Posted by: wyn667
Fri Apr 6, 2012 9:31 PM
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