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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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Responding to Poor Judgment


Dear Margo: This past year has been amazing for me. I successfully passed my first semester in college with a 4.0 while juggling friends and a job. I have a very goal-oriented boyfriend who is compassionate to boot! We have a lot in common and attend the same nerdy clubs at our university.

My problem is my mother. While I love and respect her for struggling to raise my siblings and me as a single mom for 17 years, she has a problem with my changing friends. In high school, I was a recluse who clung to two friends who weren't exactly the best people to hang around with. One used me each time her drug addict friends bailed on her, but my mother thought she was a perfect angel. My other friend (a guy) would constantly berate me about my fashion sense and tore down my self-confidence in order to keep me from having other friends. Mom thinks of them as role models I should keep in my life forever.

Since graduating, however, I have found a group of friends that makes me feel comfortable and accepted. They're nerds like me who enjoy talking about philosophy and social problems, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. My mother always asks about my old deadbeat friends, and because I live at home, she has a curfew for me — but she didn't for my brother, who, by the way, washed out of college. What can I do? I know I live under her roof and should follow her rules, but I feel as if I deserve a break every now and then. — G.M.

Dear G.: Hats off to you for finding your way, basically on your own. No offense, but your mother does not sound very sensible. If at all feasible, I would try not to live at home.

This may not be possible now, so what I would suggest is that you remind your mother of your brother's no-curfew rules relative to his college career, and I'd explain the problems with the friends she "approved of" for you. As they say in surgery, "all bleeding stops," and this tug of war with your mother will not go on forever. — Margo, futuristically

The Chatterbox Family

Dear Margo: I am part of a large family (we are from Hungary) of which my brother and I and our cousins are the first ones to be born in this country. We, of course, are more Americanized than our extended family. One thing I believe has to do with "the old country" is that our parents, aunts and uncles are constantly telling one another what's going on with us. They call us "the younger generation," and our doings seem to provide no end of fascination for them. Is there any way we could tone down all this chatter? I don't really know what to say to my folks. — Seeking Privacy

Dear Seek: If only you were from Russia, I could sympathize with you about the blabbers Karamazov. (Sorry, couldn't resist. That is actually a chapter title from a "literary" advice book called "Much Ado About Loving.") In any case, I kind of understand the old folks' involvement in their children's affairs, don't you, a little? If you feel there is too much information out there, you might try to let your parents know that those of you under 35 wish there was reduced discussion about your personal lives. You also might try telling them less. What you don't know you can't pass on. — Margo, proactively

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.




15 Comments | Post Comment
Don't bother explaining things to your mother about your erstwile friends - she'll only get defensive and more pushy. Just get evasive - dunno, haven't seen him/her much lately, been busy with other things... If she gets really obnoxious, THEN you can remind her of a few things about them she may have forgotten to remember.

Your only hope for change is to move out. Two options: take an appartment together with some roommates, or forget about summer classes, work full-time + all summer and save your money for your own place in the fall. Perhaps you can look into dormitory solutions at your university - see what kind of on-campus accommodations they offer and if there is anything available.

I would have been tempted to suggest you team up with your friends and all take a place together, but... bunking with friends is sometimes the best way to make enemies - good to talk to is not necessarily good to live with.

P.S.: Did your mother put you down and shred your self-esteem like your male friend too? If that is the case, then don't even bother to remind her of his behaviour - she agrees with him.

"Our doings seem to provide no end of fascination for them."
That's pretty much ther gist of it. Live through your children, they are the future, and that type of thinking.

"Is there any way we could tone down all this chatter?
Not really. Don't tell them more than you have to and put a clamp on the details you don't want screamed from the rooftops. What they don't know about they can't circulate.

I don't really know what to say to my folks. "
You don't need to say anything - they're doing all the talking!

You obviously love them nevertheless. They themselves certainly care about you very much, otherwise they wouldn't be so fascinated. As much as you think their attention is over-the-top right now, there may come a time when you'll miss being centre-stage. Don't sweat the small stuff - they won't be around forever.

Comment: #1
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:53 PM
LW1—“I live under her roof and should follow her rules…” And that's basically the crux of it. By living at home, your mother is privy to the intricacies of your life. She knows who your friends are where you're at and what you're doing at all times. Your mother probably imposed the curfew because she saw your brother flunk out of college and didn't want you to make the same mistake. She waxes on sentimental about your high school friends because it's her way of ignoring the fact that her little girl is all grown up now. Either sit down with your mother and have a heart to heart with her during which you essentially explain to her exactly what you told Margo, or, as Margo suggested, find your own place.

LW2—My question is who is telling the family all of your business? If you're broadcasting the minutia of your life on social networking sites, then stop it. If you're revealing intimate details about your life to your folks during dinner, stop it. When someone asks you a personal question, you answer it vaguely in monosyllabic answers or change the subject. If something exciting happens in your life, keep it to yourself. You control the flow of personal information, not your family. Soon, the only gossip your family will have to spread is information that's common knowledge anyway.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris
Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:42 AM
LW1: You know the answer. Move out, and fast. I think if you were able to go to college, get good grades, have friends and a job, you are quite capable of saving money to move out. Give yourself, say, 6 months, to save as much as possible. Then find a roommate and move out. At this age, you need independence as well. Tell your mom your other friends are not what she thought. WHy does she think highly of them, by the way? Seems odd. Hunker down for a few months and dont' spend money on anything - just focus on saving to move out.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Salty
Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:04 AM
LW1: Your mom is trying to hold onto the person you used to be. She sees you moving into a totally new life that she has no understanding of and no connection of, and doesn't like it. It's not uncommon for families to try to hold back members that move 'up" educationally and socially; something like families that will sabotage addicts or alcoholics that are sobering up, or fat people that try to refatten successful dieters. Success on the part of a family member or social circle is often seen as a negative judgment on the others.
Comment: #4
Posted by: partsmom
Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:48 AM
Re: partsmom
"Success on the part of a family member or social circle is often seen as a negative judgment on the others. "
How true. They will then devise what Susan Forward called "change back" maneouvres, designed to bring the errant one to the (dysfunctional, drug-using, drinking, overeating, etc) flock. And this only happens coming from people who are NOT happy the way they are, but are too weak to do anything about it.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:29 PM
As they say in surgery, "all bleeding stops," and this tug of war with your mother will not go on forever. —

Oh yes it can! It did with my mother-----till the day she died. She tried, on her deathbed, to make me promise to come back to my (her) old way of life and live as eh thought i should. I was in my 60s at the time! She kept saying I must hate her since I did not do as she wanted.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Jennifer
Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:44 AM
@Jennifer: The "all bleeding stops" references the fact that in surgery, if you can't get the patient to stop bleeding, they will die -- at which point, the bleeding stops because the heart stops pumping.
At least the way I interpreted Margo's use of this grim saying was that fighting with your mother can stop either of two ways: you work it out, or the conflict lasts until she's dead. Obviously, as with the surgeon from the metaphor, it's preferable to find a solution while you're both alive to enjoy an improved relationship, but at the same time, your problems can't last forever -- because the two of you won't last forever.
Comment: #7
Posted by: SarahLovesFabric
Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:09 AM
LW1: As Chris noted, your mom implemented this curfew with you BECAUSE your brother washed out. Parents -- good ones, anyway -- try to correct their mistakes, and she clearly believes that he had too much freedom and became overwhelmed. And I gotta say, she may be right. Although you've had an impressive start to your college career, it is just that -- a start. You are approximately 1/8 of the way through a traditional 4-year degree program, and you've presumably had introductory survey courses, rather than the more difficult ones that tend to follow.

I say that not to put you down, but to bring some realism to the discussion. You haven't yet avoided your brother's ultimate fate, only (presumably) avoided duplicating his start.

Which is why I'm going to advise you to learn to let your mom's words roll off your back. What you're doing in terms of living situation apparently is working well enough for you that you've made friends, got a boyfriend, held down a job and oh, yeah -- got good grades. Without having to worry about distractions like trying to get along with an obnoxious roommate, loud parties next door, a broken water heater and a reluctant landlord, grocery shopping, and trekking out to a laundromat. If you must, make that change next year or the year after -- not during the adjustment to college life (which lasts about a year).

Tune your mom out when she starts her nagging; change the subject. "Mom, nice haircut! Say, I'm off tonight -- wanna order in some pizza?" She can't prevent you from making new friends or force you to see the old ones -- she has no power here except to annoy. And that's a power you're granting her!
Comment: #8
Posted by: hedgehog
Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:53 AM
@LW2 -- Just FYI, American parents (and I mean those who were born and raised here themselves -- even ones whose families have been in the US for many generations) do the same thing. This isn't an ethnic thing, it's a parent thing. As just about everyone else has already told you -- tell your parents less, and they will have less to blabber about. But beyond that, please just let it roll of your back. If this is your biggest problem, celebrate!
Comment: #9
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:33 AM
@hedgehog and Chris -- I had the same thought -- that perhaps LW1's mom established the curfew specifically BECAUSE giving her brother no curfew obviously didn't work out so well. This is where being the younger child can kind of stink if the older sibling screwed up in some fashion. One semester does not a successful college career make. So, HUGE KUDOS for doing so well in your first semester -- that is seriously awesome! But it's likely going to take a few more of those to prove to your mother that you can handle additional freedoms, etc. As others have noted, start saving now to afford to move out. I believe LIse B is the only one who mentioned looking into your school dorms -- I HIGHLY recommend this, as that is usually MUCH CHEAPER than getting a regular apartment. Plus, some scholarships can be used toward room and board if you go the dorm route, and with your 4.0, you might well be eligible for some of those. Contact the financial aid center at your college, as well -- one of the counselors there can probably provide you with a whole bevy of information about various grants and scholarships that you might be eligible for that could be used toward dorm housing.

As Lise B and partsmom noted, while your mother is undoubtedly proud of what you accomplished, you are also moving further and further away from "her world," and so there can be a lot of mixed emotions for her. No way of knowing from your letter, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that your mother was unable to go to college and/or finish college. For as much as she loves you and your brother, I'm sure there's also some regret/resentment mixed in there, as she sees you go on to do some of the very things she would have liked to have done herself but was unable to do because she became a mother young (again, I could be wrong, I'm just making some guesses here), and some of that regret/resentment is leaking through in the form of her wanting you to stick with your old friends, etc. If it's possible any of this is the case, you might keep that in mind and try to just let her words roll off your back.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:45 AM
This is where being the younger child can kind of stink if the older sibling screwed up in some fashion.

True, dat. 'Course, we "originals" don't always have it so rosy, either -- we have the hard work of breaking in the parents, only to find that our good example has led to parents' figuring, "Hey, I didn't have to be so hard on them!" and relaxing the standards. :)
Comment: #11
Posted by: hedgehog
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:44 AM
LW1: You have a tough decision to make but this is a good life lesson. Your mother has low self-esteem and she thinks women have less value than men. Obviously she is not someone you want to emulate or have a close relationship with. You can either do your best to ignore her while you finish college or you can find a new place to live. Don't get stuck in the what you deserve trap - this isn't about what you deserve - this is about what your mother is capable of giving which has nothing to do with you. You decide your value - no one else. You leave that to other people and you will never be happy and what's the point of that?

LW2: You need to learn that this behavior takes nothing from you so you shouldn't spend so much time caring about it.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Diana
Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:28 AM
@hedgehog -- yes, I can remember my older brother being outraged when I got to stay up later younger, simply because by that time, my parents were "broken in" -- LOL. My brother went through a brief (and really, really mild) "rebellious period" in junior high. To be honest, he was really just a bit of a rascal, as opposed to getting into any sort of real trouble. But he was enough of a class clown that he was the reason that "Lunchtime With The Principal" was created at the school. As a result, when I headed to junior high, in every class, on the first day of school, as the teachers would read off the attendance list, they would pause at my name, look up and say with a frown, "you're not John Smith's sister, are you?" A couple of them even kept me after class to have a talk with me about how I'd better not be following in his footsteps in her classroom, blah, blah, blah. To say that it got old is not saying enough.

But when "John" got to high school, he really got his act together. He was a good student. He was a varsity athlete. He was good-looking. He was smart. He was funny. He was Mr. Wonderful. Everyone (teachers included) loved him. My freshman year was his senior year, and everywhere I went it was, "Oh! Are you John Smith's sister?" with shining eyes and a hopeful voice. Honestly, that got old almost as quickly!

Truly, though,I generally had it pretty good, so I'm really not complaining!
Comment: #13
Posted by: Lisa
Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:02 PM
LW1 has responded to comments made over at wowowow. For those of you interested, you may want to check out her comments there.
Comment: #14
Posted by: nanchan
Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:11 PM
@Lisa -- whoa, every single guy in my family would LOVE to claim the honor of being the reason that "Lunchtime with the Principal" was created!
Comment: #15
Posted by: hedgehog
Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:03 AM
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