Dear Margo: A Rare Talk-Back Letter

Can parents be trusted to do the right thing? Margo Howard’s advice

A Rare Talk-Back Letter

Dear Margo: I know you do not normally print opinions regarding your advice, but I hope you will consider doing this with your response to the mother of the 7-year-old boy whose 8-year-old friend displayed inappropriate sexualization and reported that he’d performed oral sex on his older brother. You were right about the neighbor/friend, but you totally missed it on advising her about her own son.

Yes, her son sensed something was wrong and told his mom about it, but in no way does that mean that an 8-year-old has the maturity to remain safe in such a situation. He could become curious and uncertain. He could be exposed to the older brother. He may have been, in the manner of a child, asking his mother for help in removing himself from this “friendship.” He is at risk. — Midwest Mom

Dear Mid: You are correct about my rarely revisiting questions, but this situation is more dire than many, and I should have gone further with my advice — which a great many readers pointed out. Then, too, I neglected to articulate that many molesters have themselves been molested — and very often by a family member — so leaving things to the family may be tantamount to burying the issue. Here is just one more letter agreeing with you:

Dear Margo: I think you’re hoping the other mom will do the right thing, which is to get them into counseling and address the situation with third-party help. This is a hopeful assumption. My daughter was molested by her 15-year-old cousin when she was 4. Thankfully, I called the police and did not leave it to the parents to deal with the situation as they saw fit. It is often the case that a parent may want to keep the whole thing quiet, and therefore no authorities, no therapists. — Been There

Not Much Longer for Virginity

Dear Margo: I wrote you a few years ago about the fact that I was 27 and still a virgin. My sister was telling me to just go to a bar, pick up a guy and get it over with. I didn’t agree (and neither did you, lol). Well, long story short, I’m now 31, and guess what. I’m still a virgin. I have a full-time job, and I take care of myself, i.e., I am not ugly or obese. I know how to listen and be kind and loving.

The problem is, I don’t even get asked out on dates. I tried Internet dating, and it turned out that the first two men I met were married, and the third was quite literally the ugliest person (man or woman) I’ve ever seen. I don’t ask for much in a man, just that he be open-minded, not a racist or a bigoted fool (I have both black and gay family members) and not too old (my age range now is 25-40).

So, I only have two questions: What else could I do to meet someone, and how much longer should I wait before doing what my sister said and get it over with? — Virgin Be Gone

Dear Virg: Let’s focus. I don’t think your main objective is to lose your virginity, but, rather, to find a good guy to build a relationship with. I may sound like a broken record — sorry, a repeating CD — but the best way to meet someone who is not perverted, nuts or married (not that they are mutually exclusive) is through affinity groups. Do something that interests you, perhaps as a volunteer. Go to church or synagogue singles’ groups. Put the word out at work that you are in the market for a great guy.

As to your second question, I don’t think what we’re talking about is an item on a to-do list. I hope you will wait for it to mean something. — Margo, hopefully

* * *

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.


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29 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I can understand the concern here—however, the situation that LW1 is taking for granted as fact is but one possible scenario out of many. Some involve risk, and others do not. Is it right to err on the side of caution? Well, with that logic—could it be that the only safe place for the original LW1’s son is at home, locked in his room? 

    The point is, without being able to assess the situation by actually being there and seeing the actual interactions between the children—any advice is speculative.

    LW2: My vote is firmly in the “just get it over with” column. Sex can be really fun, healthy and highly enjoyable—but it takes time, patience and experience. And despite how unfair this may be, I would not run around advertising about being 31 and a virgin—a lot of guys will think you are 1) a closet lesbian or 2) odd or 3) a prude. Make that your little secret.

    The way to find a decent, interesting date is to look in decent, interesting places. Set the bar high, be confident, and go for what or who you want instead of waiting for them to make the first move every time.

    And Margo, CDs are passé—the modern equivalent would be a corrupt mp3.


    • avatar bleeble says:

      Honestly, I’d advise against the one night stand, especially since experience counts. But unfortunately, bad experiences can do a lot of damage, so I’d go to lengths to minimize that. I would think it’s more important to find a guy she can feel comfortable with and experiment with. That’s where the good experience comes from. The only thing brief encounters ever taught me was that brief encounters are awful. It’s just anecdotal evidence, of course, but many of my female friends have similar opinions that with guys they don’t really know well, they were selfish and it was pretty underwhelming. If a one-night-stand was an indication of the general sexual experience, I’d have abandoned men entirely for a life of reality television, batteries, and excessive amounts of needlepoint decorations. 

      I don’t think she should hide the fact that she’s a virgin. Assuming she doesn’t really bring it up until they’ve reached that step, presumably she knows him well enough that she doesn’t have to be worried about him making snap judgments. Or if she doesn’t, who cares what he thinks? He’ll be gone in the morning anyways. 

  2. avatar blue tooth says:

    Regarding LW2, Margo I think you missed some things. Maybe it’s my age, but it’s been so rare that  i’ve seen a 30+ year old virgin that I feel like there are likely some other issues at work here.

    Right off the bat, LW2, your statement that you can’t find a decent man just doesn’t hold water. I know so many women who say the same thing, and yet I’ve seen them walk into a room filled with 50 decent, hard-working, normal guys who would just like a date, and say “there’s no one here!” That’s because they only see the 3 funniest, cutest, or “bad-boy” est men in the room, who are of course mobbed by all the other women in the room. The other 40+ guys in the room aren’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination. They’re just not Ryan Goslings, or Channing Tatum, or whoever else is the cutie du-jour nowadays.

    A lot of the people that I knew who were into their mid-to-late 20’s and still virgins had an element of fear in how they approached dating and relationships. They might have wanted to believe in that knight in shining armor, the Mr. Perfect that would just sweep them off their feet and fall in love with them and marry them and take them away to live happily ever after. They might have seen all the dating disasters and true-romance tragedies that their friends went through, and gotten scared of going through that themselves. Or they might have come to the conclusion that any guy who would woo them was just after their “flower” and only wanted to sleep with them, and then lose interest, and leave them. Or it could have been any combination of these.

    Dating can be really scary, especially when people have these idealistic standards. Finding Mr. Perfect or Mr. Right is so hard, and if you do find him (or her), how can you keep him, unless you’re Ms. Right, or Ms. Perfect, yourself? How hard is it to be perfect, and how often do you ever meet a guy (or girl) who is? And I don’t mean the guy who’s perfect when you meet him, and a week later it’s over and he’s a douche-bag. I mean the guy who actually is perfect. Dashing, handsome, athletic, smart, rich, sophisticated, funny, charming, caring, empathic, emotional, stable, loving. Who has all those qualities? And if he does, how does he ever sleep? And if he does, how are you ever going to keep his interest, let alone keep him.

    The point I’m making is that maybe there are things about dating that scare you, things about relationships, things about closeness and intimacy that scare you. Not just physical closeness and intimacy, but emotional closeness and intimacy. Maybe you have expectations or desires that you feel will never be met, and maybe the hurt of putting yourself out there and then getting disappointed and hurt, is too scary. If there are things that scare you, they’re worth taking a look at with a therapist. Because I believe that something is holding you back.

    From where I sit, and I don’t know you, and I don’t have the whole picture, I think perhaps your standards are too high, and you’re looking for the wrong things in dating. I don’t think standards “I want a millionaire” standards. I mean more along the line of, “I want someone who’ll have a connection with me that when they see me and I see them, we’ll just know it.” And I also mean dates that don’t go, “Is he The One?” But more like, “What can we do that’s fun, where we can get to know something about each other, and enjoy each other’s company.” And I don’t mean get to know something like, “The Story of My True Love in High School,” but more like, “I love dogs, and I suck at miniature golf.” You see what I mean?

    A lot of what relationships are built on is not just Love, and Starlight and Butterflies, but also the sharing of good memories. Like a day at the beach, or the museum, or a movie, or an activity like listening to music or playing with a dog, or sharing a plate of take-out while discussing the ways in which a good movie sucked. You build up enough of those fun times, and some real emotion starts to happen, and some real comfort, and trust, and closeness. And when that happens, sex won’t be such a big thing, and you can take your time rounding the bases from first to second to third.

    Alternatively, though, if you’re just not interested in sex with guys, it might be worth looking into that. And alternatively, if you’re frustrated about the lack of sex, relationship or no, that might be worth looking into as well.

    • avatar emma manderson says:

      blue tooth’s comment is incredibly wise. I think that sex as a beautiful, meaningful way of sharing love can be experienced only AFTER you get past the fear and clumsiness of the first time. This is why it’s a lot easier to lose your virginity as a reckless and slightly drunk teen. Otherwise it starts to build up in your mind as a deeply significant, life altering Important Experience, and gets too scary. I honestly believe the best thing for this woman is to go out and get tipsy and flirt. Take a cute guy home with you and even if the sex isn’t great, at least you have got it out of the way. There will be time enough for true love once you have got past that first stumbling block. Otherwise you will be in this stasis loop forever.

    • avatar Pinky35 says:

      BLUE TOOTH – very good advice!

      LW2 – Focus on just meeting someone and getting to know them. Don’t focus on the fact that you haven’t had sex yet and that you need to experience it. It will come when you meet a guy worthy enough. Honestly, I think the majority of women who lose it at an early age wish that they had waited until they had someone special they could have shared that first time experience with. And having firsts with someone special will make it all that more enjoyable. In my experience, sex with someone you love is ten times more meaningful and fulfilling than a one night stand.

      Also, without knowing what you look like, if you want to attract more attractive men, why not treat yourself to a little pampering? Go get yourself a new dress, shoes, hair done, facial, nails, make-up, the works!  I know I always feel more confident in myself when I look my best. Doesn’t mean you have to go out there looking like a street walker, but when you take care of your appearance a little (and I do mean a little because a little can go a long way) you exude self confidence and that will help in finding a good man. Men are most attractive to a woman who is secure in herself. So, take care of number 1 and then go out and enjoy life.  

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Pampering is good, but more specifically, ask a girlfriend who gets a lot of positive male attention about your presentation.  Do your clothes communicate interest in the opposite sex?  I’m not talking about wearing microminis with stiletto heels.  I’m talking about wearing clothes that fit, that mark a waistline, that don’t scream “I give up.” 

        Some of us are born with little fashion sense — I sure was.  It can be learned.  Watch What Not To Wear, especially when the contributor has a similar body type to yours.  And again, ask a date-bait friend to go through your closet with you, go shopping with you. 
        Despite the old wheeze about “People shouldn’t judge me by how I dress,” the truth is that clothes are a visual form of communication.  That’s why every theater in the world has a costuming department.  Get some feedback regarding what you’re saying with yours.
        Too, the affinity group thing is HUGE — but make sure it’s a group that has a stable core, but new people come in pretty regularly.  People tend to size one another up fairly quickly; you want new men coming in pretty often.

  3. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: You’d best keep *sexually transmitted diseases* in mind. I work in the medical field and there are PLENTY of STD’s out there. Focus on relationship. I would agree with Margo re: religious singles’ groups, but my experiences with churches has always been very negative; beware that any religious group can (and probably will!) have some Jekyll/Hydes there.

    • avatar emma manderson says:

      Well sure, but I would’ve thought “always use a condom” is such a given that it hardly even needs mentioning. Yes, there are diseases that condoms won’t protect against, but it’ll take care of all the really nasty ones, at least. You can also catch all sorts of diseases from public bathrooms but the advice is never “hold it in til you get home”.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Condoms are hot. Far hotter than uncertainly—this much I can tell you. 

        • avatar casino la fantastique says:

          Also? Talk to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. Since you haven’t been sexually active, you should be eligible to get it. And I hope you’ve been hitting up the OB-GYN for paps before now! Very important.

        • avatar R Scott says:

          Hell yeah, condoms can be fun! I just love it when a guy gets……   sorry. phone’s ringing  

          • avatar JCF4612 says:

            Drats … if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a ringing phone that interferes with the facts of the matter. Put it on vibrate, would you?  

  4. avatar mayma says:

    I call a flag on “internet dating didn’t work.”  Three dates is nothing in internet-dating-world, and giving up after those few experiences is a clue to LW2’s mind-set.  (“I don’t get asked out” is another clue; what’s with the passivity?  Take the reins!)  Here’s a bunch of suggestions: 

    Try speed-dating.
    Try internet dating again.
    Go to (not a dating site but a meet-like-minded-others site).
    Take tango lessons and then go dance tango somewhere.
    Tell all your friends that you’re ready to meet someone (note that this is very different from whining to your friends about your crappy love life).
    Join a gym or running club or hiking club.
    Get a dog and walk that dog everywhere (or volunteer to do that for a shelter).
    Smile a lot.
    Think of something fun to do in your town and ask a new friend (male or female) to do it with you; this gets you in the practice of creating your own opportunities instead of just waiting for life to happen to you.  Do this a lot.
    Get a new job.  (Not really, unless you hate your current one.  The idea is just to get you thinking outside of your comfort zone.)

    Going down the list, LW2, did you dismiss each and every one as not do-able or “wouldn’t work”?  If so, your thinking is the problem.  Tell yourself that you are going to create love in your life, in whatever format — romantic, altruistic, brotherly, whatever.  Oh, and stop identifying with that “virgin” label; you’re practically branding yourself with a scarlet V.  Forget about that and move on with solutions.

    • avatar casino la fantastique says:

      Same. 3 dates? Pfft. That’s nothing.
      My internet dating advice: First, use the free one (okcupid) . It has lots and lots of questions you can answer that help you match yourself and lots of space to write stuff about yourself. Second, check pictures, send a couple emails, and then meet for coffee or A drink. Don’t spend a lot of time emailing or calling before you meet, because you can build up fake chemistry that will just dissipate in person if you’re not attracted to the other person. See if there’s a spark right away. Third: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. When you first meet someone it’s so tempting to throw yourself into it. Remember that you don’t know that much about the person yet, so if it ends early, it’s not the end of the world.
      Last, please get yourself a good vibrator. I’m serious. Figuring out what makes YOU tick is half the battle when it comes to sex. Figure out what turns your crank. Take some “me time.” a few times a week to explore. (If you haven’t already).
      And last, sometimes short term relationships are really fun, if you’re mentally capable of having them. Not everyone is, though, and that’s okay, too.

      • avatar BKcagg says:

        Great advice! No one should expect someone else to make them feel good if they don’t know how to make themselves feel good.

    • avatar sparktest says:

      Mayma you have a great list! For some people it’s dancing, for me, I tried sailing, and then settled in for many years of tennis (and I didn’t learn until I was 38, and which has stuck for the last 10 years). You find out a lot about other people participating with them in a social setting first. For instance, when I first joined the tennis club I play at, I ended up across the net from a much more experienced male player who seemed to enjoy drilling me with the ball as hard as he could hit it (which really pissed me off so I gave it right back to him the same way). But the real lesson was, with this and other behaviors, this guy was clearly NOT dating material. If this is how he behaves in a social tennis setting (not a competitive event) all to win his game against a raw beginner, what consideration will this man give you in a relationship when the stakes are truly important?

      3 “dates” and it’s not working – SERIOUSLY? It took me 5 years of off and on internet dating. I met a lot of men. (And I thought speed dating was great fun.) With some people you meet you walk away saying to yourself, “there’s a reason some people are divorced”, and most of the men I met were some decent, hard working, do the right thing for their family kind of guys who were just not the right fit… for me. I still keep in touch with one or two. Yes, a few were married and shopping, you can usually figure it out if you are paying attention (then run away). I met the man I am with now 6 years ago, and we expect many more happy years together.  You get out of it what you put in. You don’t find a relationship, you build one. With someone you meet. After you meet them, you get to know them and build some history by dating. And at the risk of sounding crass, to some degree it’s a numbers game. The more men you meet, the more likely you will meet one you want to date, the more you date the more likely you will figure out who you want to be with in a longer term. It doesn’t sound like you’ve really made any investment in getting what you say you want from this area of your life. You haven’t even stepped on the road yet.

  5. avatar Sita says:

    LW#2, you’re not alone. I was 24 or 25 when I lost my virginity. Before then I was very well versed in the act of lovemaking either through books of movies. Besides I met a very nice, sensitive guy in college. He was upfront about not wanting to be married soon. And he didn’t think that our personalities are good together. I never had the illusion of marrying him either. But we were very compatible sexually. The first time was great.

    So my advise for LW#2 is to just take it easy, don’t get hung up on your age and the fact that you don’t have hands on experience, no pun intended. But do educate yourself in the art and when the time comes nobody will notice that so far you only have done “homeworks” but no “field trips”. I would not EVER under any circumstances go to a bar and pick up a guy. NEVER. There are too many loonies out there. I could cost you your life.

  6. avatar A D says:

    LW2: If you’re striking out that badly online, get some input.  Are you one of those people with super-generic profiles?  “Looking for a nice guy with whom to have some fun” says nothing; rewrite your profile to make it more specific and, if somebody emails you, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb a little bit talking about hobbies and things.  I’ve had terrific luck online, but I got my friends’ input on my profile.  You may get fewer responses, but you’ll get better prospects once you weed out the “window shoppers” by sounding as if you have your own mind, interests, and goals.

  7. avatar zz says:

    First time commenter here.  I have a step daughter who had two internet dates and gave up, because it didn’t work.  It usually takes a lot of meetings to find some really compatible dates.  It seems to me that the younger crowd expects too much.  My take was always to expect a nice conversation and nice lunch, dinner, drink, whatever, and nothing more.  If you connect you will know it right away.  Our LW2 needs to start meeting, and stop worrying about dating and losing her virginity.  Just get out there and meet people, one way or another.  And by the way,  I connected with a guy ten years ago, and we’ve been blissfully married for eight. 

  8. avatar MameSnidely says:

    I feel a little bad saying this, but I had (emphasis on past tense) a friend in LW2’s situation (virgin, thirties), and we tried everything to make sure they got some dates. We updated the closet a bit, we gave fashion advice, we made a point of coaching, etc. The person turned out to be a sexual predator, and other people were picking up on that vibe.  We weren’t, because we’d known them for so long. It might be worth LW’s time to get the opinion of a friends friend, someone that doesn’t know them to see if they shoot off a really bad vibe. If she does get an affirmative, she can hit up therapy in a hurry.
    Secondly, I had a non-predator friend in the same circumstances. It turns out he has a very, very specific type that does it for him, and it’s pointless to try anything else, LW may also have that issue.

  9. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – I don’t recall enough about the first letter to comment but that’s not going to stop me. Well, yeah it is.

    LW2 – Let’s focus. I think your main objective is to lose your virginity otherwise you wouldn’t be writing to Margo about for the second time. Go out. Have some drinks and flirt. Go home with the first attractive man that asks you and get it done. It’s a physical act. It’s not a mind blowing metaphysical journey to the top of the mountain. It’s going to be awkward (maybe) and uncomfortable (maybe) but get yourself passed this and start enjoying a happy, healthy and (in my opinion) very enjoyable activity that may just lead you the right man. Sex is fun and at your age I would wonder why, in spite of your litany of excuses/reasons you’ve not tried it.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Oh and by the way—there’s multiple levels to sex. It’s great—just like multilevel marketing, where you do what you’re comfortable with.

      And you can do it with the body part that happens to be handiest (pardon the pun).

      • avatar R Scott says:

        Yep, and great sex does not always involve some form of intercourse…. oh no….. lots of things to do and play with………….

  10. avatar G T says:

    Why are some people insisting her choice is to wait for a loving relationship because the alternative is a icky one night stand?  She could be waiting a long time with that mentality.  There are choices besides loving relationship and one night stand.  I agree that a one night stand is not a good choice for a virgin and could be traumatizing.  However, she could ask a trusted open minded male friend that she finds nice but doesn’t have a crush on to “show her the ropes”, perhaps one that doesn’t live immediately near her to remove any embarrassment.  Or she could go take some classes at a community college, join their clubs and do what most do in their student years, which is to get to know someone for a little while, then have a pleasant fling, which is not to be confused with a one night stand OR an audition for marriage.  A male student is generally not gonna be ready for something serious, but will be less put off by a virgin and willing to just have a little fun.

  11. avatar bobkat says:

    LW2: Do you have a nice male friend who wouldn’t mind becoming more than friends? You’d want your first experience to be with someone you at least like and whom you trust, not a stranger you met at a bar. I feel, that there’s a window, somewhere between ages 16 and 23 or so, in which most people lose their virginity, and the longer one waits beyond that, the more of a liability virginity becomes. Maybe the reason why you don’t attract men is that you unconsciously give off a vibe they pick up on. Losing your virginity to someone you already know will change that vibe and men will be much more attracted to you and persue you.

  12. avatar Sue ZQ says:

    “I may sound like a broken record — sorry, a repeating CD —”
    — a glitchy iPod!

  13. avatar impska says:

    LW2: I think three dates is too few to give up on online dating. I know several couples (including my own mother!) who found love online. But some of them went on dozens of dates. Some had to try multiple sites. And there were even a few bad relationships thrown in to boot.
    Online dating requires patience, but it does work.

  14. avatar SallyQ says:

    LW2: If you are single and not being asked out on dates, there is something wrong, but it’s not necessarily you. It could be your situation. 1) Read the book Why Men Love Bitches (don’t be put off by the title); 2) Meet lots more people (through work, city, gym, activities); 3) Be your most stylish, best self; 4) Never say negative, complaining, or critical things or give unsolicited advice; 5) Be happy and confident; 6) If you are hung up on a past crush, let him go. Good luck!