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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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Of Relatives and High Horses


Dear Margo: My family had another miserable Christmas dinner at my sister's house. I'm 55, and I have two brothers, two sisters and an elderly mother, 78. My elder sister insists on having holiday dinners at her house, even though she always seems miserable during the event. This sister and her husband are professionals and are the highest earners in the family. Her children ignore me and my family, as well as one of my brothers and the other sister. If they say anything, it is something rude or snarky. I am a college-educated woman with a good job. I am well-traveled. We own our own home and are financially in good shape with retirement on the horizon. We always come over well-dressed, and we're well-spoken. And we always bring something. In other words, neither we nor my other siblings have done anything to deserve the silent or rude treatment that we get.

My question is: How do we handle this situation? If it weren't for my mom, I wouldn't hesitate to simply skip these events, since we all live within 25 miles of one another and can see one another whenever we want. I don't believe that talking to my sister would be helpful since we've never been close, and she has looked down her nose at me since childhood, regardless of my accomplishments. I have thought of having my daughter's small family over and then visiting Mom afterward for coffee or simply declaring a "holiday from the holidays" and going somewhere for a vacation. I'm sure that other people out there are going through similar circumstances. If there's a better solution, I'm willing to listen. -- Second Sib in S.C.

Dear Sec: Too bad about the pretentious and rude children, who sound as though they've inherited the views of their mother. With snooty behavior like that, they are going to have trouble at more places than their parents' dinner table.

I very much like the idea of stopping in for coffee, and I like the idea of getting out of Dodge even better! Short of reading these kids the riot act, which I know is unlikely, avoidance is the best solution. Your immediate family need not be pinatas for those kids from the lucky sperm club. -- Margo, pragmatically

Workplace Troubles

Dear Margo: I suspect you do not, but most people work in an office. Wherever there are different personalities, there are all sorts of things you'd love to tell your boss — anonymously. I thought you and your readers would like to know about a free new service at that helps you do just that.

Think of this website as a virtual version of the classic suggestion box. Upon signing up, an employee is prompted to enter their own email address, their boss's email address and a thoughtful message about what is bugging them. The site then delivers said message to said manager, who can review the complaint and reply in kind, all without knowing who they're actually talking to. — Hope This Is Helpful

Dear Help: You are right on the money about there being workplace troubles galore, and often the person who would like to report the difficulty feels unable to do so for a number of reasons. Sometimes the trouble has to do with a relative who is employed, the boss's secret or not-so-secret romantic interest, or an employee who somehow has ingratiated him or herself with the boss despite poor performance, just to name a few possibilities on a list that is endless. (And you are correct that I do not work in an office — which is a good thing, because my "office attire" is a nightgown and robe.) Thanks for the good suggestion. — Margo, remedially

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.




20 Comments | Post Comment
The correct answer is to go and shower your mother with attention. Ignore the brats, sister included and focus on your mom. Once she's gone you can skip out.
My Dad's family hated having parties because it meant you had to invite everyone. All the parties of my childhood involved yelling because two of them had mental problems and short tempers. As I grew, the fights stopped at the parties. My Gram died last Christmas. I'm the only one in the family that actually likes all of them. Now the only get togethers they have had are funerals and my daughter's birthday party. The only reason the fighting stopped was for myGrandmother's sake. If those 7 can make nice a few times a year to make their mother happy, you can too. You say you don't think she enjoys the party? Well do what you can to make it great for her. She'll most likely be gone too soon for you. When she is you can stop by or just not go.
Comment: #1
Posted by: MT
Sat Jan 5, 2013 4:08 AM
LW1 - Now is the time to start your own traditions. At your age you may have your own grandchildren. I would state to my mother and siblings around July that I am hosting a Christmas dinner for my family (children and grandchildren) and they are invited. If they choose not to attend you can always drop by like you say for coffee and desert. But at least everyone will have a choice including your mom. And unless she plays favorites why would not everyone come over to your house? In addition you will still see your mom on Christmas Day. People can live to be in their 90's and why subject yourself to hostility on Christmas Day for another 10 years. In addition your sister and her snot kids need to learn that they just can not get away with this. I do not like the idea of going away unless that is what you want to do. This is running and not dealing with the problem. Plus you would not get to see your mom on Christmas Day or start a new tradition with your grown children and their family. I feel for you. When my mom was alive there was chaos but there was also love and acceptance. Of course the Christmas was at her house. Now my mom is gone and each of my sisters have Christmas at are own house and I miss my sisters but we do not live near each other. So go ahead be brave start a Tradition of Christmas at your house.
Comment: #2
Posted by: cecile
Sat Jan 5, 2013 6:33 AM
LW1: Are these kids teenagers? If so, then it is understandable that they might not pay much attention to you. They should say hello, how are you and such though. However, if it's just the kids, and everyone else is nice to you, then no need for the drama. You talk lenghtily about how great you are, and think that's reason enough for someone to be interested in you. But you also have to initiate conversation. Ask the kids about school or college, or about the last movie they saw.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Salty
Sat Jan 5, 2013 6:48 AM
Margo is correct - simple avoidance will resolve your dilemma. I'm wondering though if your difficult history with her may be coloring your perception (your reality) that your sister is aware her children's attitudes are spoiling her celebrations.

Please consider that Sis may not understand or even know the reason(s) for her gloomy disposition and for her, the holiday season merely underscores her general discontent and frustration. Perhaps hosting holiday dinners is her way of reaching out to her family. Perception is reality - high expectations and anxiety over producing the 'perfect' event may be contributing to her bad humor. Perhaps on some level she also understands she's a 'miserable' failure. Despite your differences, it seems you both are able to muster a cordial 'ceasefire'. If you enjoy the company of your other family members - mom, brothers and sisters there's no reason to let childhood gripes - or 'bratty' children get the best of you.
Comment: #4
Posted by: shar simonelli
Sat Jan 5, 2013 6:53 AM
LW1 -
A vacation from the vacation sounds like a wonderful idea. Start planning your trip for next year now. Maybe you can invove the other snobbed siblings. Perhaps all of you can even take Mom. Speaking of her, what's her take of the situation? Is she in denial about the whole thing, or aware of the situation? In that case, what is her attitude about it?

Both MT and Cecile also had very good, constructive suggestions and I'm sure other posters will too. Keep on reading.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Jan 5, 2013 6:54 AM
Re: Salty
Yes, except that the snotty behaviour is not directed only at the LW and her family, but also at another sister and brother of hers. It would seem that the kids are cordial and friendly to one aunt and uncle of theirs (probably their mother's favourites), and nasty and rude to everyone else. Margo is right that this kind of attitude will not serve them in other areas of life and, right now, they,re being trained by their mother to only be civil to the people they like - just like her.

Comment: #6
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Jan 5, 2013 6:59 AM
LW1--"I don't believe that talking to my sister would be helpful since we've never been close, and she has looked down her nose at me since childhood, regardless of my accomplishments." And there's your answer. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree dear. Your haughty sister views you with disdain and therefore so do her children. The holidays are supposed to be warm, happy occasions; not battlegrounds of wills or events at which you're miserable and feel belittled or abused. Tell your sister point blank that you don't enjoy her holiday parties and that you and your own family will be having dinner together going forward. Invite your mother to your house, or stick to your plan of visiting her for desert at your sister's home after your own celebration. If your sister throws a hissy fit, tough shit.

LW2--I'm a big believer in honesty and being forthright. I also believe in standing up for my convictions. While sometimes awkward or painful, difficult conversations face to face are far better and much better received (and respected) than anonymous notes or "suggestions". instead of fooling around with yet another impersonal excuse to be in front of an idiot box, try getting directly in front of the idiot whose causing you consternation. You'll both benefit, trust me.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Chris
Sat Jan 5, 2013 8:54 AM
This year for Christmas we invited a friend who just moved here who's family is in Kansas over since we didn't want her to be alone (she usually goes home, but couldn't this year) so I planned a quiet day for three adults and our two roommates later in the evening. Because of a major blow up at a friend's family (they live with his parents because yay economy) we actually had five adults, two small children and our roommates earlier than expected in a two bedroom apartment (and a wound up dog and kitten, for extra fun). It was crazy to say the least, and it turned into a lot of work for me. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time and I in no way begrudge my friends' family coming over because serious crazy happened at their house. I enjoy a house full of people and I've been cooking large feast meals for a long time, so it's not like this wasn't something I could handle.
To get to the point, it sounds like LW1 has never had to do that. Her sister does it every year. I'm sure many of the BTL posters have had similar Christmases to mine and know how much work even a planned house full of people can be. If the sister seems miserable maybe it's because it's a high stress day with a lot of pressure. My solution would be either host it yourself (and walk a mile in her shoes) or offer to help. Maybe sister sees it as a duty she has to perform as the oldest and is as tired of it as LW is. As for the kids, since we don't know the ages they're probably somewhere in high school/college and I agree with Salty. LW is in her 50s, what is an 18 year old going to chat with her about if they don't have a close aunt/niece/nephew relationship? Video games? Fashion? Justin Beiber? They don't know, they're 18. How we learn how to chat with others is by being *shown* how to do it by older people who know how.
Comment: #8
Posted by: wyn667
Sat Jan 5, 2013 10:02 AM

"LW is in her 50s, what is an 18 year old going to chat with her about if they don't have a close aunt/niece/nephew relationship?"

I have a similar age relationship with my niece and nephews and we are able to have a conversation without snide comments or discussing video games, fashion or Justin Beiber. I have lived in another town since they were born and only really see them on birthdays and holidays. We discuss what they are doing, how things are going and the world, in general. They are not stupid and do have an awareness of what is happening outside of their own lives. As a matter of fact, they seem to like these discussions since most people (especially their parents) don't see them as fully formed human beings but as "kids". They like talking about something more important than their friends or video games. They enjoy being a part of an adult conversation. Granted, the conversations are not long and involved, but they are able to participate without being total morons or jerks. You completely underestimate teenagers and their ability to interact with adults, even family members. These kids are jerks and they have learned this from their parents, who have basically encouraged them to disregard anyone who aren't up to the parent's standards.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Julie
Sat Jan 5, 2013 11:18 AM
You may be right, though I'd argue that they probably are 'fully formed human beings' since the age of the parents lends itself to older children (17-25). Also, the LW doesn't say her sister is rude to her, just miserable and 'looks down her nose', which could mean all sorts of things. The rudeness comes from the kids.
I'd also argue that while many teens and young adults are perfectly capable of having conversations with older adults that don't center solely on themselves, many cannot. I have a few friends who fall into this category from when I went back to school a few years ago (I'm in my 20s also, though presumably older than the 'kids' in the letter) I also met a lot of people who couldn't hold down a conversation like that (not just in their teens, sadly). I have a relation who at 21 is struggling to learn this skill. Your siblings should be commended for raising such polite children.
Comment: #10
Posted by: wyn667
Sat Jan 5, 2013 1:08 PM
LW1: You need to develop some self-esteem and a sense of humor. The fact that you list what you believe are accomplishments as an argument against being mistreated is pretty pathetic. It's like you're saying people less "accomplished" are deserving of such treatment. It sounds like your sister and her kids aren't the only aholes in the equation.

Comment: #11
Posted by: Diana
Sat Jan 5, 2013 1:34 PM
Diana got it right today. From the tone of LW1, if LW1 was sub-par in one of the areas listed, say a sloppy dresser or god forbid a renter, then perhaps the condescension and derision would be deserved. I think maybe the nieces and nephews (and maybe the sister too - maybe she "insists" because she feels obligated) are just sick to death of hosting the family Christmas celebration. At 55 you should have your own nuclear family traditions. If you continue to do something you hate every Christmas until your mom passes away you could be spending the holidays the same way for another 10 years or more. 78 isn't that old these days. Why don't you grow a spine and spend the holidays doing something that your own family can enjoy. You can invite your mom if you want to. I think you enjoy being a victim...sheesh!
Comment: #12
Posted by: EstherGreenwood
Sat Jan 5, 2013 10:03 PM
LMAO @ "the lucky sperm club".

EstherGreenwood is right. Create a new tradition: tell your sister "No thanks" when she invites you to her next holiday torture session, and have your own holiday party on Christmas Eve or whatever day you wish. That way, Elderly Mom and siblings don't have to pick between her and you, and at least have a fair shot at attending a holiday gathering that doesn't suck.

And by the way, the next time your sister's little brats say something rude to you, take them firmly by the arm and tell them that the next time something snotty comes out of their mouth, they'll be sorry. You may save them from a butt-kicking later, and frankly the last thing you should have to tolerate is some rude little kid mouthing off at you. Far less do you have to explain to *us* that you don't deserve your treatment because you have a decent job, clothes, etc. You don't deserve that treatment even if you were unemployed and the nicest clothes you owned was a track suit.

And don't worry about your "elderly mother". She had what, 50-odd years to solve the problem about having one of her daughters turn out to be a little a-hole and she didn't do anything about it. Frankly, the consequence of having to go to two holiday parties is getting off pretty lightly for her parenting fail. Just because she's 78 doesn't excuse her from her own complicity in allowing this dynamic to continue.
Comment: #13
Posted by: lilypants
Sun Jan 6, 2013 9:21 AM
I grew up in an unhappy house anyway, but every Christmas, I watched my mother be unhappy because we had to go be with my father's family. We kids liked it, of course, because we got a haul of presents there. We never really established any traditions at home. She's sad about it now, but it's not my fault that she didn't put her foot down.

When my husband and I were first married, we alternated between his folks and mine for a few years. They were 800 miles apart, so there was no chance of visiting both. One year, I told him I was tired of never waking up in our own house on Christmas morning, so we stopped. Our parents were welcome to visit. His did, mine never did. I didn't miss them.

By the time we had our son, we had our own traditions established, and the one year we traveled away from home, he told me it didn't seem like Christmas.

I don't understand why people keep doing things that they don't enjoy and that make them unhappy.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Sun Jan 6, 2013 11:05 AM
LW1 - if you don't like these dinners, then why go? Do something at your own home & get together with your siblings and mom in some other venue and at some other time. If you're not willing to even talk to your sister, then why would you ever expect her to change? Did you get her a mind reading kit for Christmas this year? It seems to me that you are hung up on wonderful your achievements make you. What does your owning your own house have to do with whether your relatives should talk to you at a family party? Does your conversation consist mainly of how wonderful you are for having a college education, a career, a house, retirement funds etc? Do you make comments about other relatives' financial or educational status? If so, it doesn't surprise me that your nieces & nephews aren't very pleasant to you. Try talking to other people about their interests and choose topics of mutual interest that are less personal.
Comment: #15
Posted by: kai archie
Sun Jan 6, 2013 4:52 PM
Only one person said anything about LW2. Something about the whole suggestion box seems off. It really does. I have small department but we have one employee that . . . at times difficult to work with. It is something we all agree on. Things have been said to our supervisor from time to time but I don't see any change. Would annoymous really help more? I doubt it. I think some other thoughts on this would be more helpful.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Kath
Sun Jan 6, 2013 8:21 PM
As a manager, if i got an annonymous email from the mentioned website I would disregard it. I know that my VP would as well. If it is annonymous it could be a hoax or it could be a bad apple trying to spoil the bunch for everyone.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Mish
Mon Jan 7, 2013 9:45 AM
This is LW1. I appreciate all of the comments about the situation, even the negative ones. I would like to point out a few things. Perhaps I didn't express myself very well. We are just people, no better or worse than anyone else. We're honest and hard-working. Our biggest sin, according to the host family, is that we're not rich and unless we win the lottery, we never will be.

The children of the sister's family are all adults in their 20's, so they are old enough to know better.

The event is massive, with about 30 people attending. No one else in the family ever hosts holidays unless my sister and her family are out of town. Then it usually is held at mom's house.

There won't a problem with explaining to my sister the reason why we won't be attending next year since she's never the one to call anyway. She leaves the calling to mom.

After the holiday I talked with my mom. She was the one to bring it up. She said that Christmas was a train wreck and she is quite aware of the attitudes and actions displayed during the event. She won't say anything to sis or her kids, but she gave me her blessing to do whatever I need to do. We will either have a small celebration at our house, or if my daughter and her family aren't here, we will take a holiday somewhere else.
Obviously, this is not the ideal solution, but as Margo has pointed out before, sharing DNA does not make you friends. Thanks for sharing and caring.
Comment: #18
Posted by: mbgirl
Mon Jan 7, 2013 2:49 PM
Re: mbgirl
And good luck to you dear, thank you so much for chiming in, and for the extra info. Happy New Year to you!

Comment: #19
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Jan 7, 2013 3:18 PM
mbgirl, I am glad that your mom is sensible. Enjoy your holidays with your family and don't give your sister another thought! :)
Comment: #20
Posted by: Eliza167
Mon Jan 7, 2013 10:27 PM
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