Dear Margo: An Odd Wish

Margo Howard’s advice

An Odd Wish

Dear Margo: I am one of a circle of “girlfriends” all in our 70s and 80s. We all wound up in Florida from different places around the country. Since most of our husbands have passed on, we are a support group for each other, as well as being friends. Whereas most of us have lived through trouble with our children, one of the women is now having difficulties with her granddaughter, “Gladys.” I would like to give her some useful advice, but I don’t know what it is! Maybe you can help.

Gladys, 50, has pretty much made a mess of her life. She’s never been able to sustain a marriage or a job. She has a modest amount of money. (Both of her parents are deceased.) What she is asking of my friend — her grandmother — is that she lie so Gladys can get into assisted living. My friend is on the fence. She does not approve of lying, and she is not sure that a retirement set-up is the place for a woman who is 50 years old. What should I advise her? — Jessica

Dear Jess: This I have never heard of before. Most people who actually belong in assisted living initially have some qualms about being around “all those old people,” not to mention whether they actually need “assistance.” I don’t know if Gladys thinks this is a good idea for husband hunting, living frugally or what, but such places require documentation, such as a birth certificate or a Social Security number. When the government is involved, as it often is, the minimum age requirement can be 55 or 62, depending on various factors.

I would advise your friend to tell her granddaughter the following: She will not lie about the age issue; she does not know how to forge a birth certificate; she doesn’t find it a good idea; and until Gladys is actually eligible for assisted living, she should find an affordable rental or a roommate. — Margo, appropriately

Putting Food Allergies in the Right Hands

Dear Margo: I have a life-threatening food allergy whereby eating even the tiniest bit of the offending ingredient, or even cross contamination with a knife, could literally kill me. I have attended many social events and thought your readers similarly afflicted could benefit from knowing my way of handling the problem.

When you arrive at a venue, ask a server to direct you to either the catering manager or the restaurant manager. Tell this person exactly what you are allergic to. I promise you, they do not want you to have a reaction on their premises and will do their best to accommodate your needs. This is discreet and does not require the host or hostess to deal with your food allergies. — Safely Eating Out for 32 Years

Dear Safe: Your solution to what is becoming more and more of a problem is a good one. I like the aspect of dealing with the person responsible for the food rather than the host or hostess, who might possibly garble something in the translation — or feel burdened by having to relay messages that one diner is kosher, another is lactose intolerant or can have no gluten … and hold the peanuts.

Don’t laugh. Years ago, Carol Channing was eating macrobiotic, and she would bring a brown paper bag with her food into very chic restaurants. The important thing for people at risk from certain foods is not to keel over — or even have to use their Epipens. — Margo, preventively

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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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34 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#1: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Tell Gladys you won’t lie to help her and risk being alienated.

    Lie for Gladys and risk the lie becoming known and she’ll be in trouble and maybe even kicked out of her own senior community (somehow Im assuming that’s where she lives). If gov’t assistance is involved, perhaps even in trouble for fraud.

    I’d personally rather risk being alienated, but offer to help her find her a place and/or roommate. My grandma was so sweet she could tell you to go to hell in such a nice way that you were happy to go. Perhaps your friend can turn on some of her charm when breaking the news to Gladys.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Re Letter #1:  Gladys does indeed have a very odd wish.   Its unclear from the letter what Gladys wants grandma to lie about…age…finances…health?  My mother’s assisted living arrangements were far more expensive than a comparable apartment would have been but did include maid service, meals, laundry service and medical assistance (not to mention peace of mind for us as mom grew wiftier by the day) so it was well worth it.  Maybe Gladys doesn’t want to cook, clean or do laundry? I don’t know if goverment assistance is involved in this arrangment but if it is, and Grandma assists in the fraud, she is leaving herself open to prosecution.  I would advise Grandma not to lie and let Gladys fend for herself.  Very weird.

    Re Letter #2:  Good advice for everyone who requires a special diet due to allergies, other health reasons, or simply a matter of preference.  As many have pointed out in these comments, hostesses and event planners do not necessarily have the same definition of vegetarian, gluten free, macrobiotic or whatever the diet is as does the person requesting or requiring it.  Best to make it crystal clear to the person actually preparing the food yourself.    

  3. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Gladys shouldn’t. I’m 47, can’t fathom “turning to Grandma” for “help” like this. Gladys probably won’t, but she should tell “grandkid” to grow up (finally; should have started 25 years ago) and take responsibility for herself. But no, Gladys will likely go through all sorts of emotional contortions over this, possibly alienating friends in the process while being held hostage to her loser granddaughter. Want to bet “grandkid” winds up living with her? So this is what I can look forward to in 25 years…a friend’s 50-year-old “grandkid” like this. Terrific.

    L #2: Good for you.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      Whoops Letter #1 (too early in a.m./not enough coffee)…”Gladys” is the granddaughter. Sorry for my mistake.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        I thought the same thing at first. I dont know any 50 year olds named Gladys. More appropriate to the age of the grandmother.

  4. avatar BlueeyedSara says:

    FYI, minimum age for many retirement communities is 55.

  5. avatar Kathy Wulff says:

    How does someone 70 or even 80 years old have a 50 year old GRANDdaughter? Unless she’s pretty close to 90 and she and her daughter both had their children fairly young.

    • avatar Julp says:

      Not that bad, if grandmother is 88, she could have had her daughter at 18 (not unusual for WWII era) and her daughter would have been 20 when she had Gladys (little unusual for 1962 but not “young”). 

    • avatar staili says:

      The grandmother could also be a second wife, and the granddaughter is the granddaughter of the first wife. Of some other situation involving stepchildren or adoption.

  6. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – Sure, go ahead and lie for Gladys. However, know that once you do this, you give up all right to complain about “those people” that scam the system and are ruining America. (sarcasm)

    She should not lie for Gladys and should instead give her the best gift she could receive. Tell her
    No, I will not lie for you” and allow her life to unfold from there however it unfolds. I have sympathy for teen and those in their early 20’s that are making their way through life. Coming to grips with integrity, honor and self esteem. However, once you hit the age of 50 you have lived a long life and all those lessons should have been learned. Grandma is not doing her grand-daughter any favors by enabling her so late in her life.

    Letter #2 – It is indeed a good idea to deal directly with the caterer to negotiate a safe meal for yourself if you have allergies. And I may add if there is an additional cost, this should be at the guest expense.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Good point that it should be at the guests’s expense, but not sure how easy that would be in pratice. Caterers aren’t going to take cash from a guest at an event.  A bill is given to the host from the caterer. I guess the only thing would be to contact the host and ask if there were any additional expenses due to the diet change. I’m not sure it’s worth the extra effort of tracking down the host of every social event to check in case there were extra fees and how to get in touch with the right person to pay them back.

      • avatar shazzanorth says:

        The idea is not to cause a fuss about your dietary restrictions. Most caterers and restaurants have enough flexibility (and common sense) to be able to provide price comparable options. Caterers accept cash but I doubt it would be necessary.

  7. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Excuse me, but if the girlfiend circle is in their ’70s and ’80s, how is it that the granddaughter is 50? I suppose if friend were 89, that might be possible, but it’s pushing it. It sounds like the “grandaughter” want to live in one of the ubiquitous “55 and over” placec in Florida. Those are not necessarily assisted living places.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Could it be that grandaughter wants granny to buy into the assisted living place so that she (the grandaughter) can sponge as a roomate. To qualify via age, the grandmother’s word would never suffice, so that may be subterfuge for what the 50-year-old is really angling for.   

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Unfortunately, even in this age, teen pregnancy is all too common. My mom’s friend was a grandmother at 32. My brother started at 17 and his son did too.

  8. avatar Someone Else says:

    Hi y’all.  I just joined the group and this is my first post.  I would like to say that my grandmother was 19 when my mother was born and my mother was 18 when I was born.  That means that my grandmother was 37 when I was born.  When I turned 50 my grandmother was 87 and lived several years after that.  The LW does not say that the ladies in her group are 70s and 80, but that they are in their 70s and 80s (which does include 87, 88 and even 89).  In fact, I have two very spry friends who are 90.  It is quite feasible that one of these ladies could have a 50 year old grandchild.  Had my mother’s older brother (he was 4 years older than she)  started reproducing in his teens, Grandma would have been an even younger grandmother.

  9. avatar persey78 says:

    LW2-Okay first off, you need your server involved in the conversation as well. Yes the manager might tell the kitchen, but the server puts in the order, and if they then need to hear the same thing from the manager, or the manager doesn’t tell them then they might not put in the modifications on the ticket.
    The most common restaurant computer systems have an option that says Allergies, that will print at the top of the ticket. If there are any food restrictions at all, I click that button first. It lets the kitchen know they have to handle it with different gloves, knives, or whatever is needed.
    We have computers all over the restaurant to enter orders, but when I have medical modifications to meals I always use the computer in the kitchen to do it. I will walk in and say loudly enough for the whole kitchen to hear “Table 15 Gluten Free order being put in now”. The head chef or expo will then ask what they are getting to eat so when they see the ticket they know what is going on. I tell the manager as well, and they will usually go by the table then and check in and say hi (which they do, but not before any food comes out) and then will check make multiple times to make sure everything is good for them.
    Don’t EVERY bring in food from outside. Please. If you can not eat of the menu, go somewhere else or don’t eat. Because what will happen is if you get sick, they ask you where you have eaten and when you say the restaurant, they are going to get a world of hurt that is unfair because either you didn’t wash your veggies properly and got sick, or the other establishment that you brought your food from didn’t prepare it correctly.
    Finally if you have an allergy, especially an allergy to what that establishment specializes in, like seafood, bring your epipen if you need one. It is not just what you eat, but if you are sensitive, there is shellfish EVERYWHERE and you are asking for a reaction. It is in the air. You are putting your life in danger, and we are going to suffer from it as well, and as the mother of someone with eating restrictions who is also a server, I would never put a restaurant in that position. It is grossly irresponsible. If you have an allergy, your epipen is as important in a restaurant as your ID if you want alcohol.

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      I think you misread LW#2-she is talking about catered events, but you are talking about restaurants.  It’s awfully harsh to tell grandma she can’t eat at your wedding because she has special dietary needs.  Plus, there are rarely computers and order screens set up at a catered event that track the tables and there’s usually a set menu without few or no options.
      I’m Type 1 diabetic and I always have snacks with me to ward off blood sugar fluxuations that don’t require an insulin shot.  Whether its a restaurant or a catered event, I’m pretty sure people would rather see me pull out a brown bag with apple slices and carrots than for me to pass out from hypoglycemia.

  10. avatar Queen Mum says:

    I just heard that Briana Baran died.  Is this our Briana?

  11. avatar Lilibet says:

    Here is the obituary. Someone signing the guest book refers to her husband as Rusty, so this is the Briana we know. This is so sad. I always enjoyed her unique perspective. It won’t be the same here without her.

    Briana Baran | Visit Guest Book

    Briana Maria Baran, 53, of Kingwood passed away suddenly Tuesday, October 9, 2012. She was born July 12, 1959 in Chicago, IL to Charles and Marlyn Maravolo. Briana is survived by her loving husband of 18 years James Wallace; two sons, Morgan Wallace and Ian Johnson; mother Marlyn Maravolo; mother-in-law, Patsy Wallace; two sisters, Bettina Mavazolo, and Becca Maravolo; many other relatives and a host of friends. A celebration of life will be at a later date.

    Published in Houston Chronicle on October 14, 2012

    • avatar Queen Mum says:

      I found the obituary after first finding the Dear Margo website.  I read so many of Briana’s comments and was touched by her insight and her self-disclosures that I felt as though I almost knew her.  So I did a search of her name and there was her obituary.  I feel like I lost a friend.  I’ll miss her comments.

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      I, too, felt as though I knew Briana from reading her posts. She survived some deeply troubling and hurtful experiences in her past with a bravery and self-knowledge that I admired. I’m glad that she finally found her soul mate in her husband, Rusty, and her pride in and devotion to her son Morgan were always evident in her comments. She will be missed.

    • avatar flyonthewall says:

      Yes, this sounds like our Briana and I am so sad. I followed her posts ever since she came to this site. She had a perspective and a way of writing that I really appreciated. I thought of her as a friend and I could relate to many of her posts when she spoke of her past experiences. I will truly miss her. My heart goes out to her husband and sons, if they are out there reading this.

    • avatar Irreverent says:

      OMG this is just so sad!! It’s truly hard to believe, life is really so fragile!!

      I will miss her, too. She really had a unique perspective on so many things, and her posts were really well thought out. I learned a lot from her posts. I feel she’s leaving a void that will be truly hard to fill in.

      My sympathies go to her husband and sons. She was looking forward to so much, and her family still needed her!

      (I’m sorry, I’m just really shocked!!)

      Rest in Peace, Briana

  12. avatar Lilibet says:

    Well, I’m sure Briana’s husband, two sons, other family and friends are very sorry she is gone so soon. They are the ones who knew her best and are the only ones who matter.

    Your comments are totally uncalled for and say more about you than they do about Briana.

  13. avatar Lilibet says:

    Well said, Irreverent. Thanks.

  14. avatar Lourdes says:

    LW1: I think “Gladys” is a nutjob.

  15. avatar Lilibet says:

    Yes, JCF4612, someone left very nasty comments about Briana that the moderator finally deleted. They also deleted Irreverent’s well written responses. They left my responses, which no longer make sense. With this explanation, maybe now they do.

  16. avatar Lilibet says:

    Yes, JCF, someone made a series of very nasty comments about Briana that were eventually deleted. Irreverent’s very well worded replies were also deleted, but mine remained as non sequiturs. I hope they make more sense now. This is my second attempt to reply to you, so I hope they both don’t show up!

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I knew Briana lived in Houston.  Always hesitated in trying to contact her “offline” and now regret it. She was such a lovely soul. The world will miss her.  Not just us.  What she leaves behind is a testament that some considered mentally ill are in fact mentally healthy. Far more than most in our society who believe their narcissistic sociopathic outlook on life is the norm.  It is not.  We are all one.  Briana was a testament to that as well.  Even in our anonymity on the internet we still connect. And bond.

  17. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    I have a friend, very stable and reliable, who applied to live in a small retirement community when she was about 50. She applied honestly and they let her in. She is now 65 and still living there. Why not suggest that Gladys do the same, on her own merits? They may be flexible.