Dear Margo: A Wooden Friendship

Margo Howard’s advice

A Wooden Friendship

Dear Margo: I am a happily married male teacher at a small school. Several years ago, a new teacher, “Louise,” came to work, and since we were teaching the same children, we developed a good relationship (platonic). She is outgoing and funny, and we joked and laughed together often. For instance, I teach woodworking classes, and when she would bring her homeroom to shop, she would admire something I had made, and say, “Why don’t you make me one of these for a wedding gift?” I would respond, “I’ll start as soon as I get the invitation,” and we would both laugh.

Well, the wedding came and went with no invitation. Almost all of our mutual friends went to the wedding. I was quite hurt, but I chalked it up to experience, reevaluated our friendship and moved on. Louise took a couple of years off, had a child and then came back to work. However, she continues to make comments like, “Why don’t you make me one of these toys for my child?” I have never mentioned her wedding or my feelings about it. How should I handle this new relationship without hurting her feelings? — Want To Keep It Professional

Dear Wants: There’s an old proverb that says you can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails. I think this is what you’ve done, and properly so. Imagining that you were better fiends than you were is causing you to suffer from illusion deprivation. You will recover in no time. While it might feel satisfying to say, “I’m still waiting to make your wedding present, but the invitation never came,” this is not what I would suggest.

Instead, to respond to her “subtle” request for a toddler present, I would just laugh and say, “Oh, that’s kid stuff.” I believe this babe erred in not inviting you, given the givens, but so be it. For someone who likes hand-wrought wooden things, she certainly didn’t play her hand very well. Onward. — Margo, inconsequentially

More Family Stuff…

Dear Margo: Both of my parents were married once before and have children from their previous marriages. My father got custody of his children; my mother did not have custody of her daughter. I grew up with my father’s children and am very close to them, but I only met “Hillary” a handful of times. Although I am equally related to them all by blood, I only really consider my father’s children my siblings.

Now, I’m getting married, and I don’t want to invite Hillary, but I’m worried my mother will be upset. It’s going to be a very small ceremony, just for close friends and family, and to be blunt, I think of Hillary as neither. She’s never met my fiance, and I’m not even sure she knows I’m gay. However, I know it has bothered my mother in the past that I am much closer to my father’s children than I am to hers. I think she also feels guilty that she is not very close to Hillary. In many ways, I think she feels more like a mother to my father’s children.

Hillary has never been less than polite to me, but she clearly doesn’t think of me as a brother, just as I don’t think of her as a sister. I’ve thought about just inviting her, as she most likely would not come anyway, but I’m not sure. What do you suggest? — Hesitantly

Dear Hes: From what you say, I would guess Hillary doesn’t give a fig whether she’s there or not. I think the consideration should be your mother. Let the decision be hers, which will make both of you feel good. If it would please her to have an invitation proffered, then do it — for her. Hillary is, after all, one person, so should she accept, yours will still be a small family ceremony. Because your instinct is she won’t accept, the odds are in your favor for getting things the way you want them and still looking generous. — Margo, strategically

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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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27 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:


    Why should you care?


    It’s about how your mother feels. Do what she wants to be kind, but after that, don’t worry about it!

    Best wishes for a happy married life together!


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of Northern, CA where we’ve had non-stop smoke all summer. Cough. Hack. Wheeze.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      LW1 cares about hurting HER feelings. He sounds like a great guy. He says he is happily married, and I hope he is, because he sounds like a great catch. The letter makes it sound as if he has certainly moved on, realized the other teacher was not as much of a working friend as he thought. But now he does not want to make an off-the-cuff remark that would hurt HER. Margo realizes this, too, and gave him advice not to say, “I’m still waiting to make your wedding present, but the invitation never came,” instead fluffing off her remarks about a child’s toy. Eventually, as he puts her off, she will get the idea she erred. Because she did.

  2. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: Pretty simple answer. “I’d be glad to make him/her one. This item goes for $40”. I’d be curious why you weren’t invited. Maybe it truly did get lost in the mail. Maybe she wonders why you never RSVP’d & thinks you are a chump. I’d get it out in the open. I had a party years ago & I had two gals tell me afterwards that they never got their invite. It was a postcard. One even said she would have happily come & that she didn’t have any plans that day so she was bummed not to get the invite. Perhaps I’m gullible to believe her, but she sure sounded sincere & never lied to me before. Another gal I personally invited, she came & weeks later she told me she found her paper invite inside a magazine. The third girl got hers weeks later with a note from the P.O. bc it had been partially destroyed in the mail.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Should have read the first gal got her in the mail (not the third gal). I think there was a third gal who had issues but my memory fails me.

    • avatar tundrasomething says:

      My sister got mail at my parents house one time while I was staying there for vacation and I was supposed to deliver it when I drove up to her house, but ended up forgetting to give it to her. Packed it in my luggage and hauled it home to Alaska with me. Found it when I was traveling down to see my family again so I carried it back with me to the Lower 48. Then, when I got there I off-handedly mentioned to my sister that I had some mail of hers that I had been dragging all over the country for a couple weeks that I still needed to get to her. I thought that it would be no big deal because what adult gets important mail at their parents anymore? But apparently a wedding invitation for her had been in that small batch of mail and she had been waiting weeks for it and freaking out because all her friends were getting their invites and hers still hadn’t showed up. Everyone was very relieved she finally got the invitation, particularly my father given how she would call in the evenings and make him get out of bed to see if she had gotten anything that looked like a wedding invitation in the mail…..

      So, crazy things to happen to wedding invitations sometimes. Might not hurt to ask a mutual friend if they were on the list to begin with.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  Maybe Louise is just making polite conversation and doesn’t really want a wooden object.  Or maybe she is a thoughtless jerk.  Or maybe your invitation got lost in the mail.  Either way…continue being cordial to her but consider her more of a work colleague than a friend.

    Letter #2:  Margo is right…honor your mother by inviting Hillary if your mother wants to invite her.   For all you know, your invitation may be the beginning of her establishing a closer relationship with you or it may bring her closer to your mother.  One more person is not going to destroy the small family atmosphere of your wedding and it seems foolish to let your priniciple of *we don’t want anyone there who isn’t really close to us* hurt your mother, particularly since in reality Hillary is your sister, the fact that you were not given an opportunity to develop a close relationship with her is not your fault or hers, and you have no reason to believe that she isn’t a very nice person.  She may feel like the black sheep of the family, that she is less loved by your mother than you, and excluding her may reinforce that feeling and driver a further wedge between her and your mother.  Surely you wouldn’t want that. 

  4. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – My advice would be to say “You know Louise, I have always wondered why you didn’t invite me to your wedding….just curious”  

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – My advice would be to say “You know Louise, I have always wondered why you didn’t invite me to your wedding….just curious” 

    So many people are uncomfortable in asking pointed questions, when most of the time it is perfectly appropriate to do so. The truth is she may be engaging in nothing morethan small talk and friend banter with no real intent in connecting with you. That could be a real intent on her part, and you may be reading more into her intentions than are there. You see her as a friend, while she in return sees you as nothing more than a coworker. I would suggest you take a deep breath and have a real conversation for once.

    Letter #2 – I think this letter writer is placing far too much pressure on this situation. I would suggest that he not invite Hillary. Trust me, I recognize that I look at many of life’s issues in a manner most people don’t these days, but marriage to me is a serious and sacred event. It is something that changes the lives of two people that is legally and emotionally profound. It is not (as so many people consider it to be) just a big party to celebrate two people committing to one another.

    I believe you have every right to have only the people you want to attend…..attend. If you don’t want her there, don’t invite her. IF (and she probably won’t because it doesn’t sound like you are close) she asks why she wasn’t invited, at that time you can have a frank conversation and be honest and explain you only wanted people that you have a close and intimate relationship in attendance.

    It sounds like you have been living an honest way up until now when it comes to your relationship with her, don’t start lying and playing games now. Inviting her with hope that she won’t attend is childish and immature.

    • avatar mayma says:

      It’s “lying and playing games” to include a family member?! Huh?!?! It would be a fairly easy stroke of generosity that would likely have no bad repercussions, as opposed to an exclusion that will very likely cause his mother pain, and maybe the half-sibling too.

      A “serious and sacred event” is the best place to make the generous, loving choice.

      • avatar Sheri Dedmon says:

        Just because you are related does not mean you are family. I know this from experience with my aunt and cousins. My family is seen as trash by them and virtually ignored unless we have something we can give them– $25,000 loan for instance or to buy my oldest cousin a brand new car (or give him my car because the one we gave him wasn’t flashy enough for him). Are these people I should invite to any life event? No! And frankly, letter writer two shouldn’t be forced too either. Has the sister made any efforts to get closer or establish a more solid relationship? Doesn’t seem so– seems she wants nothing to do with them beyond the minimum to me, so I’d do the same. If Mom wants a better relationship then it’s for her to make the step and bridge the gap– not the writer. Sorry.

  6. avatar toni says:

    I’m an artist and have given away a lot of work, but had one “friend” who became abusive about it and start demanding things to be “given”. I finally told her to stop shopping in my home because I didn’t shop in hers.
    LW1: laugh and say oh my work has value! But it is for sale – and quote a price. There’s no need for meaningful dialog on this. Just set the boundary, you will feel so much better!! I know.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Seems you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. You say Hillary has “never been less than polite to me.” So go on and invite her! There is no overt hostility between you two. Sure, there’s no smarmy relationship either; but there doesn’t have to be. She IS your half-sibling. Considering it’s an “easy come/easy go” polite semi-relationship; again, why the fuss on your part? Frankly it’d be small and immature of you not to invite her.

    L #1: I’d just laugh politely like you did before (the wedding gift hint). She’s got some nerve.

  8. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I find it unlikely that the invite was “lost in the mail,” because every person I know who has invited me to their wedding has mentioned it several times before the actual event, especially IF WE WORKED TOGETHER and saw each other regularly. These two have discussed the wedding invitation quite a number of times—and I can guarantee you the bride would have said: “why didn’t you come to my wedding?” if an invite had indeed been sent. The next time she asked for me to make her something, I’d laugh and then make one. For someone else.

    LW2: It’s your wedding to plan and your fallout to deal with if there is any. If you don’t care—then don’t invite her.

  9. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 2 – This daughter did not grow up in your family – her father had custody. I wonder how many years she might have felt left out and not wanted by your family because she wasn’t an integral member. Not getting an invite could be the final slap in her face showing that she’s not family enough for an invitation. Invite her knowing that you did the right thing for future harmony.

  10. avatar Sue ZQ says:

    For LW1: If I were in your shoes, I might try something like this: Next time she jokes about a present, say “Ah, remember when you used to joke about a wedding present?” After she responds, say “You know, planning a wedding can be so hard these days, and big ones are so expensive. I totally understand the need to limit the guest list — but I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to celebrate your wedding with you. I did want to let you know that I wish you and Biff the best.”

    That way, if there were some misunderstanding, she’ll have the chance to clear it up. And even if not, you’ve addressed a touchy subject.

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 –
    “Why don’t you make me one of these toys for my child”?
    “Why don’t you come up with some new schtick”?

    Okay that’s not nice but I do hope he just realizes she’s kind of clueless and he can laugh it off.

    LW2 – Don’t invite her but if it comes up later tell her the invitation must have been lost in the mail since I guess that happens a lot.

  12. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – I was just thinking (hate when that happens) –
    Every morning I run with my dogs on a trail through the woods near my house. Every morning we pass the same guy on a bike who hollers, “Lots of rabbits out here for them to chase” (every freaking morning he says the same thing….every time…).  And, every morning I respond, “you betcha” (every freaking morning I say the same thing….every time…) and we all go our merry way down the trail. …. just like LW1. She has a routine (irritating and unoriginal) “thing to say” everytime she sees him and probably isn’t even aware she says the same thing every time. the guy on the bike and me with my dogs.  If he did make her kid a toy and gave it to her she probably wouldn’t have a clue why he did it.

  13. avatar Briana Baran says:

    L#1: Why someone is bothered by work relationships is beyond me. In the case of LW1, we don’t know what the woman’s intent was when she made her comments before her marriage; whether idle chat, real admiration, a bid for a free bit of nice wood-working, or just something to say because she in no way relates to LW1 and could think of nothing else. He took it as signs of a real friendship that carried beyond the workplace. She obviously did/does not. I don’t see this as insulting or necessarily a negative.

    He speaks of their “other work friends”, but were those other friends female and single? Did she socialize with them outside the workplace? Were they more in her age group? There are so many factors that could be in play.

    I worked in the same place, a very small company, with the same set of six employees, for almost 9 years. We were friends, we were very close, and we occasionally got together outside of work. But mostly, our personal lives were very divergent, and many “events’ did not include everyone. No one got upset or hurt. I spent four years at my last job, and while we joked and laughed and got along tolerably well, I did not socialize much beyond that, nor did several of the other women.

    No need for Big Questions, snarky comments, or hurt feelings. Just carry on.

    L#2: Weddings. In a couple of years, will be reaffirming our vows. We already know who we’ll invite, provided they’re all still above ground, though I suppose ghosties would be welcome, and my son might actually have a girlfriend or friend he’d want to have tag along. No gifts, no hassle, no fuss if someone says, “Can’t make it”.

    I have trouble with the whole “Should I invite so-and-so?”. Someone the person loathes, or barely knows, or who is a friend of someone else who will get their panties in a wad because Person-X was, or wasn’t invited, or is Whosit’s ex but dating (or married to) Whatsit, or doesn’t get along with Mac, or has noxious children, or whom both partners love, but everyone else has “issues” issues with for some reason. Inviting people to your wedding should be a matter of personal choice based on the partners’ relationships with the selected guests. If you don’t have a good relationship, or any at all, with a given family member, there is no reason to invite that person. Especially not to please another person. I realize that this becomes problematic when it involves couples. Can you say, “I adore you, but I loathe your SO because of ____, so don’t bring him/her”? I know that’s not PC, but sometimes the reasons for not wanting a certain person at your wedding are completely justified. Some people are THAT horrible, out-of-control, and toxic. My personal solution would be simple…don’t invite the couple, and be willing to frankly explain why in the simplest, least obnoxious way possible.

    I don’t see LW2 as being childish or immature. Family members can be very insistent about who they want to come to YOUR wedding, and that is one thing that must be completely under the couple’s control. Especially if said couple is basing their invitations on the concept of closeness, not on the modern trend of inviting people, then asking for a list of these guests’ friends to also invite to up the ante in order to pay for the extravaganza, rings, honeymoon, house, etc.. The LW isn’t hoping that the sister won’t come, he’s just saying that he doubts she will, and it’s clear that his mother is putting a lot of pressure on him about a person who he doesn’t know or consider family, and who clearly feels the same way about him. He cares about his mother. That’s pretty nice, actually. If anyone is harboring a bit of selfishness, it’s mom.

    He should probably not invite Hillary. He’ll be relieved. She’ll most likely be relieved. If their mother is upset, he can explain that he understands, but a wedding isn’t the place to begin the process of bringing siblings together…it’s about bringing him and his partner together, and that is his focus, and he hopes it will be hers as well. Gently. With love.

  14. avatar JCF4612 says:

    You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails … A huge thank you, Margo. Had not run across this before and am in adjustment mode right now on a situation that developed last week.    

  15. avatar persey78 says:

    LW2-Invite her…get over yourself and do it. She is not evil, she didn’t molest you, she never called you horrible gay slurs, but she is your mothers child too. Just invite her. She is family. Because of a lack of invitation, my BF’s stepsister will not have her step mother, or two step siblings at her wedding. The cut was so deep that even though neither of her step siblings like her, they would have gone if this one person was invited. Now I am sure your mother will not boycott your wedding, but why make her feel like her other child is less. That would be a real nice move on your part to invite and welcome.

  16. avatar redhead says:

    LW#1 – Maybe it was just a matter of economics. I would love to invite everyone to the wedding, but you have to draw the line somewhere after immediate family and friends. I would let go of not getting an invite, and be the bigger person, and make her kid a damned toy.

  17. avatar redhead says:

    LW#2 – Invite her, she is family whether you are close or not. If she chooses to come, great.

  18. avatar Briana Baran says:

    After having read all of the comments regarding L#2, I wonder if the same letter appeared on my screen as that which appeared on most other reader’s. LW2 made both of the following statements:

    “Hillary has never been less than polite to me, but she clearly doesn’t think of me as a brother, just as I don’t think of her as a sister.”

    And about his mother: “I think she also feels guilty that she is not very close to Hillary. In many ways, I think she feels more like a mother to my father’s children.”

    He and his partner are having a very small, very intimate wedding, for close family and friends. Clearly for people they know well, and who probably know each other. This is about taking their relationship to a new level, and celebrating their love with those most dear to them. It is NOT the time to assuage his mother’s guilt over her lack of a relationship with her daughter, to begin establishing a sibling bond between two virtual strangers, or to potentially cause discomfort in a small, private gathering.

    If this were one of those 200+ guest affairs, at which many of the guests don’t know each other, one more unfamiliar face would not stand out, or feel singled out, or cause the couple to feel as if they ought to go to extra lengths to make that person feel comfortable…something that could very well have the opposite effect. Family is an accident of fate…you don’t get a choice, and genetics don’t mean that you know, love or even like a given person, or that they must be included in life events. My first wedding was a near disaster because I was made to feel obligated to invite all of the family, on both sides. One of my cousin’s DH was selling cocaine to the other guests, my new BIL were feeding their noses in the bathroom with a couple of my cousins, my SIL got into a fight with my BIL in the parking lot with her skin-tight dress riding up over her panty-less backside and her crotch hanging out, my own sister got drunk and fell three times on the dance floor (my father insisted on an open bar ALL night…I was the only sober person), my dad and mom were fighting, and they invited the man who sexually assaulted me for three weeks when I was 16 to the wedding and reception. Yeah, family.

    Rusty and I got married by Judge Ted Poe at the courthouse. His mom and best friend were our witnesses. In two years, on our 20th, we’ll have a renewal, and invite a few old friends, my sweet MIL, and maybe a couple of her sisters and nieces. No gifts. Maybe my younger sister. Who probably won’t turn up, because I live in Texas, though it would be nice. That. Will. Be. It.