Dear Margo: Acknowledging Priorities

Margo-Howard_tall10Margo Howard’s advice

Acknowledging Priorities

Dear Margo: My wife and I are in the process of adopting a little boy (age 2) from Ethiopia. He’s supposed to be coming to us in the next month or so.

Just last week, my sister informed me that she has planned a destination wedding in San Diego in two months. This is her second marriage. I told her I would love to be at her wedding, but my wife and I may be caring for a small child who’s just gone through a life-changing ordeal. This upset my sister and my parents. I was told we were being selfish for not being there for family and to just “bring the kid along.”

My sister means a great deal to me, and we will make every effort to be there. But if my child is having difficulty, I think that should be my first priority and we should stay home. Am I being inconsiderate or wrong for feeling this way? — Expecting

Dear Ex: I agree that your first priority is the family’s new addition. If your toddler is having a tough time adjusting, what he does not need is a room full of strangers, noise and music. I would only “bring the kid along” if he proves to be an outgoing and sociable child who welcomes noisy interactions. If it’s possible, between his arrival and the wedding, perhaps you could introduce a babysitter into the situation. Should you wind up staying home, you will just have to hope that your sister and your parents finally come around. And a second marriage is not a first. Ahem. — Margo, devotedly

Same Song, Second Verse

Dear Margo: I am a divorced, single 31-year-old woman. I was married quite young (22) and divorced after seven years. I began dating about a year after the separation and divorce. I had been involved with my ex since I was 18, so my dating experience was extremely limited, if not nonexistent.

My recent dating experiences have been quite upsetting, and there are times when I just want to give up. I’m an attractive woman, fit, university educated, professionally employed and financially secure, but I guess I am too conservative for this modern age. After a couple of dates, it seems that all the men want from me is to jump in the sack, and I am far from ready for that. After a few dates, I don’t even know how I feel about someone. I find myself getting really depressed about dating.

I’ve met men through friends, at professional networking events, bars, online dating sites (the worst!), and even through my mother and her friends — but it always seems the same. Is this the new normal, or has my luck just been atrocious? I take love and intimacy seriously. I find it hurtful that these men do not find it worthwhile to get to know me, and my self-esteem has taken a beating because I feel like nothing more than a potential conquest. Am I just out of touch? — Troubled in Toronto

Dear Troub: You need a new group of men. While what you say is true in many situations, the whole dating world does not play by these rules. For some women, sex has become somewhat meaningless, and the men they dally with are usually not looking for permanence, but, rather, a good time.

Of course, I have dealt with letters like yours before, and my advice remains the same: Lop off the men who expect sex as an alternative to “good night” with a simple, “That’s not the way I operate.” You might even find that a few of these “rejects” view you in a new light. Anyway, hang on. You are not the only one for whom hook-ups seem peculiar, not to mention risky. I just realized that if you add a “u” to the acronym STD, you get “stud.” — Margo, unyieldingly

* * *

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.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

28 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #2:  I cannot imagine dating in this day and age…it was bad enough 30 years ago when I was doing it! But Margo’s advice is very sound and there is no reason for your self-esteem to take a hit because the men you date want to bed you before you are ready for it.  I think many men, if not most, will take sex if its available, and may try their luck, but the good ones will respect your decision to wait until you are ready.  And maybe you want to take a hiatus from dating for awhile…or at least from searching for men to date (if you have been doing that) to get your self-esteem back to normal. 
    Letter #1:  To keep peace in the family at this point, I think you can tell your sister and your parents you will be there if it appears your son can handle the situation but you cannot guarantee your presence.  You are obviously right in making him your priority.  Bridezilla may not understand but frankly, I think people who hold destination weddings and expect the world to travel to their choice of exotic locale, are presumptuous.  Of course, I know of some people who hold them precisely because they don’t want to have that many people attend and the travel serves as a deterrent! All of that said, getting your son accustomed to a babysitter is not a bad idea…but as his parents you need to make the call when the time is right to do so.   

    • avatar Ariana says:

      LW#1: Or she could go on the offense and say: You knew we were trying to adopt a baby in the next months. Why would you schedule your wedding at the same time? 😉

      • avatar avast2006 says:

        More specifically, “Why would you wait until two months before the wedding date to announce — especially knowing that we were in the throes of adoption, but seriously, two months?  Did you wait until two months before the date to tell everyone else?  Do you have any idea just how inappropriate two months’ notice is for a destination wedding?”
        (Desperately wanting to add, “Exactly what kind of morons are you?” but I think it’s reasonably implied by the first three.

  2. avatar Ariana says:

    At your age, your best luck may be to meet someone through work or professional colleagues, instead of places like bars. The work environment automatically sets you up to get to know someone better without the expectation of jumping in the sack.
    You’re also more likely to meet someone who is on the same page as you with regards to career and life goals.
    When you meet someone in a professional environment, you have more time to decide whether or not you want to pursue a romantic relationship with them. Make sure that it’s allowed in your company though. If it’s not, you’ll need to make an effort to expand your circle of professional contacts and meet someone perhaps at a different company through one of your colleagues, e.g. are there any after work parties where you could invite people from another company? My company has a habit of contacting the same department in our sister companies and meeting up after work for an exchange of ideas at least once of year.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      Great ideas.  However, I would caution the letter writer against dating co-workers or anyone she has to have extensive professional interaction with (clients, peers, etc) as when the relationship breaks up, it is extremely uncomfortable.
      It can also cause irreparable damage to your career (especially if you are in a career where you have to work a lot with peers in other firms/companies, like law or medicine).  One woman I worked with dated a co-worker: he was, shall we say, not very discreet, and before she knew it, people she hadn’t even known before were greeting her with “Oh, you’re the one who’s dating ___!  He’s told us all about YOU.” (wink wink).  She is a lawyer and it did affect her career.
      Other options for the letter writer:  church, sports groups (like hiking groups), musical concerts (I met my boyfriend at a concert in the park), meetup dot com interest groups, political groups, etc.

  3. avatar Toni Jean says:

    LW1, it seems also an undercurrent to the situation that your amazing new arrival is being viewed as somehow less than a ‘real’ son. If you had a newborn expected would they say just bring the kid along? Your son may be two but he WILL be newborn to your family and have all the needs of a new arrival, a stranger in a strange land. How wonderful that you and your spouse know to put his needs first. You are already great parents!

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I kinda got the same feeling from that. Maybe the family didn’t approve, but I can’t imagine why not. My cousin is trying to adopt as well, we’re very excited for her.

    • avatar avast2006 says:

      Actually, that’s a fairly common request:  “Oh, come on, just bring the newborn along” or “Oh, come on, just leave the newborn with a sitter.”

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Is it really that common a request for people expecting new babies? If you had a sister who you knew was having a child in two months… would you also plan your destination wedding for exactly the same time and complain when she won’t come? The whole situation is weird and there are details missing here.

  4. avatar Cindy M says:

    L #1: It’s your sister and parents who are being selfish! And it’s her 2nd wedding besides. I take it the child you and spouse are adopting is a toddler already (not an infant)? My best friend was adopted from Korea when she was 2-1/2.  Despite now finding herself in a ho-hum small Iowa town, with stable and quiet adoptive parents, apparently the overall change was traumatic to her; though 1-1/2 years older than me, we were in the same school grade (she had difficulties learning English, and other troubles – despite being of normal intelligence). So chances are it will be a major adjustment (and maybe downright bewildering) for this Ethiopian child. Your sister and parents definitely are not taking into consideration the switch from life in a likely very poor Ethiopian village or orphange to busy, loud, hurried, hectic, modern American life (and likely now too surrounded by people who look a whole lot different). Do what is best for that child!
    L #2: Kudos to you. I’m 47, btw, married 20 years. Stick to your principles and ethics. You will find Mr. Right — and he alone is worthy of you.

  5. avatar misskaty says:

    I also live in the Toronto area. It is one of the WORST areas to date for women, second only to NYC. But I assure you the “good ones” are out there. If you’re looking for “the package” then of course you will meet players who expect you to put out. (You know the ones I’m talking about – socially smooth, well-dressed, up & coming in his field, the ones we see on tv and think “I’m successful so I should have that.”) So give the “regular” guys a chance and they will like and respect the fact that you take your time. And after a few dates, if you like the guy, it’s fully ok to tell him straight up that you feel some pressure (imagined or otherwise) to put out, and you just don’t work on that schedule. If he’s the real deal, he will respect your directness and stick around to find out more about you. (And peversely, they respect you more for valuing yourself like that. Men like that kind of “challenge” to win you over – within reason of course.)
    I second the commenter who suggested the work angle. Let the office gossip know you’re single and s/he can spread the word. If you divorced while at the same office, they may not have realized you’re back “on the market”. (I didn’t realize it but people at work thought I was married!) Also as I said, give the “regular” guys a chance, or guys who are now divorced with kids (imo much better than the guys who are 45 and never been married!). I know a few regular joes who would make amazing husbands/fathers but they can’t get the ladies to look at them. (While the players are still single at 45!) Good luck.

    • avatar misskaty says:

      Just wanted to add… on second read, LW2 could be a little… uptight? No you don’t have to sleep with anyone right away, but have fun with it… be flirty, be social, try to make the other person smile & feel good. You take your love life very seriously… but in a city like Toronto, maybe serious up front isn’t the way to go. Everyone knows the rules. People are seeing multiple people, and assume others are doing the same, until they find someone they connect with and want to see exclusively. Then they have “the talk” and it becomes something serious. So just take it casual and fun, and you just might make a connection. Give a goodnight kiss or two (or three!) just to see how it goes. Allow the “grey zone” of dating, so something can grow. And if they want something you’re not comfortable with, just let them know in a friendly & confident way. (I had to learn these “rules” too, by the way… from my TO friends with much dating experience.)

  6. avatar JCF4612 says:

    1)  It’s not a first wedding. If the adoption gets delayed, you can go at the last minute, but otherwise let them stew. No matter how you slice it, more notice than two months is typical for a destination wedding. 
    2) Keep looking, and thinning the herd based on their behavior.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      I had the same thought on 1.  International divorces are notorious for being delayed, they well may be able to go to the wedding.

  7. avatar lebucher says:

    LW#2, definitely hold onto your values.  Decent men will respect you for that and see you as a higher value potential mate.  The players, whom you don’t want anyway, will quickly move on to easier prey.  I had an interesting conversation with my fiance on this subject, and he stated clearly that women who were too quick to jump into the sack were a serious turnoff for him.  He assumed they were promiscuous and not looking for a stable relationship, and he was not interested in that.  He wanted a real relationship.  So not all men are trying to score right away.  But many will take you up on it if they can get it, and some of them will then write you off as true relationsihp material.

  8. avatar judgingamy says:

    As a veteran of a wedding message board, I suppose I should just be impressed LW 1’s sister didn’t tell her brother he needs to come to her wedding and he should leave his son at home, since he may upstage the bride at her wedding.I have actually heard from brides who want to know why their siblings or their husband’s siblings won’t just leave their kids or pregnant partners at home so the kids or pregnant women don’t “take away the attention from the bride”. Anyways, I guess LW will have to wait and see how it goes, but I hope he is not bullied by his family into going if that would not be in his son’s best interest.
    LW2- sorry, girl, that’s kind of the way it is. You can mitigate it though by keeping the first few dates in public places and not drinking a lot. If he suggests meeting at a bar at 9 pm or coming to his house to watch a movie- skip it, at least until you’ve been dating a few months. Also, if you are mentioning early that you are recently divorced and not ready for anything serious, you could be putting out some signals that you ARE looking for just something casual.

  9. avatar Rustie says:

    For letter write 2 – like Margo says: hang in there.  My son is dating after a horrible relationahip.  I asked him if he and his new friend were sexuakky compatible after they had dated several months. He said – I have no idea, as she is saving herself for marriage.  I was surprised. Both that at her age (near 30)  she is a virgin and surprised that son seemed perfectly fine with this. I asked him had he ever heard about not buying a car without test driving it? He kind of chuckled, and said:
    “I believe this car will go the miles for me, so I am taking her at face value; it’s a great feeling for me and I have decided that maybe I should have been looking at cars like this one a long time ago, instead of the modern, jazzed up, high speed versions”.
    I have never been more proud of my son that at that moment. I learned a valuable lesson from him.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Rustie – So what did you teach your son that gave him the (awesome) idea that she’s worth waiting for? Or was it the bad relationship coupled with finding the right woman? Just asking as the parent of a teenage boy. My son knows the whole birds and bees aspect, the biology involved in having kids, etc. and I would love to have him wait as long as possible. Until he’s out of college at least – but I’m also realistic in that it’s probably not going to happen.

      • avatar Rustie says:

        The bad relationship probably played a part in his decision, but I know he falls back on the values he was taught.  I think the same values most parents instill were the same ones in our home. Do unto others as you would like done to you, work hard for everything you get, walk softly on hearts and relationshios, (in other words do not jump into anything) and I think the most important of all: Do not give up what you want most for what you want today.  In his teen years, I sit him down and told him I did not want an unplanned grandchild at his age. Further, if he was to feel the notion that he was going to become sexually active, I would provide the necessities. Needless to say, it was a bit awkward and he was embarrassed, but that conversation opened the door to many more of the personal nature. He never asked for the necessities, but I would have provided them, regardless of how much I disliked the idea. My son is now grown and successful in his own right, but he still comes to talk to me like he did when he was a kid.  I love it! It tells me I did something right.  You’re being interested and involved says a lot; just keep that line of communication open.  Good luck.

  10. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    LW#1 should borrow a phrase from Liza Minnelli when her mother, Judy Garland, got married for the 5th time: “I’m sorry I can’t make this wedding, but I promise to come for the next one.”
    Brides! Ugh!

  11. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – IMO you should go to the wedding.
    I’m going to assume you will be staying in a hotel. In the days leading up to the wedding, you should hire a babysitter and have that person bond with your new child. Take them with you to the state where the wedding is taking place and have them watch your new child as you and your spouse are away at the wedding for a couple of hours.
    Afterward, you can return to the hotel and your child and everyone is happy. Your family will be pleased you were there for your sister’s important day, and your new adopted child will not be emotionally scarred for life from not having you with him for a mere couple of hours.
    Letter #2 – I feel your pain on this one.
    My best advice is to live life on your terms and do the things that you love to do and the quality of men you desire will come forward. Do you like the arts? Theater? Book signings/book stores? Men more inclined for something more serious can be found in these venues.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Oh, sure: That’s a perfect solution. At 10 bucks an hour, let’s see, that would be about $500, plus another $300 or so for an extra hotel room for a couple of nights, plus meals. And that doesn’t count airfare, if necessary Yes! Let’s spend an extra $1,000 on this second wedding over and above the basic costs

    • avatar Ariana says:

      That sounds like a suggestion from someone who was raised in wealthy circumstances, perhaps even by an au-pair. Since they don’t yet have a baby, it is unlikely that they have already found a babysitter that they are comfortable with, let alone one they are willing to travel with out of town, not to mention the costs involved if you actually do find someone.
      I think they should pass up on the wedding. Any couple who only gives you 2 months notice for a destination wedding when they already know you are expecting a new baby maybe planned it so that only a minimum of people could attend. This couple is on their second marriage, so they should know better that people need time to make those kinds of arrangements.
      What I don’t understand is why the parents are also ganging up on her when the sister is the one who planned an out-of-the-blue wedding date in a different city. Sounds like that sister is the favored child, or the extended family isn’t that hot about the adoption.

  12. Letter #2: As someone who thinks that casual sex is the right thing to do for some people in some circumstances, I fully support your need to wait for something else and Dear Margo’s response. If you need more time and you need more commitment, seek it out and stick to that. The fact is, though, most people are not waiting long at all to get sexual. That’s today’s reality, for a host of reasons I won’t get into.
    Like I said, I support and encourage you. HOWEVER… there are some very important things to keep mind. First is that you’ll need to look for potential dates where you’re most likely to find men willing to wait. That isn’t likely to be bars, clubs, or free/low-cost websites. Also, be prepared for a lot of men to NOT ask you out again, or if they do ask you out again, do not expect that they aren’t getting sex elsewhere. Nobody should  assume celibacy or exclusivity unless that has been explicitly discussed and a mutual agreement has been made. Some men will keep “trying” even if you’ve told them that you are waiting, perhaps because they’ve heard “I’m wiaiting” from other women who “gave in.” Stick to “no means no” and if they don’t respect that, get away from them and consider filing a police report depending on what they do. Finally, if you find a great guy who is willing to wait… be very, very careful to not get yourself into a situation where you are living with, or married to, a closeted gay man, pedophile (assuming you have minor children), or someone with physical or emotional conditions that leave him without a sex drive or unable/unwilling to have sex. There ARE men out there compatible with you willing to wait, but there are these pitfalls, too. 

  13. avatar Community Manager says:

    We’re back commenting!