Dear Margo: Driven Crazy

My family wants me to learn to drive, but I feel it would endanger myself and others: Margo Howard’s advice

Driven Crazy

Dear Margo: I am currently suffering mild psychosis. I’m 23 and have no driver’s license. My family wants me to get one because they don’t like driving me around. My fiancee doesn’t have one, either, but she’s out of school now and is learning this summer. The trouble is, I have disabilities, and I’m afraid I’ll kill myself or someone else if I drive. First, I have ADHD. I can’t sit still or pay focused attention for very long. Second, I have Asperger syndrome. When I’m paying attention, I tend to miss the big picture of what’s going on around me. Third, I am bipolar. Normally, that’s fine because I take meds, but occasionally, unpredictably, they need adjusting and I develop problems causing stiff muscles. When I stretch them, I get vertigo, and there are also times when I have no depth perception and see double.

My fiancee understands, but my grandmother, my mother and her fiance all keep nagging and pressuring me to learn to drive so I will be “independent.” It’s hard for me to ignore what they say because I live with them and they’re my family, but they always seem to bring it up when I’m at my most sensitive. Is there something I can say to them or show them that will convince them I can’t drive? Also, are there any resources for people in my situation? –Afraid To Drive

Dear Af: No offense, but your family sounds a little bit sadistic, a little bit clueless, and a little bit ignorant. It is nice that they want independence for you, but driving is not what you should be doing, both for physiological and emotional reasons. You would be a danger to yourself and to others. (I am in your boat, in a way, because driving started to make me nervous, and I gave it up.)

I would ask your treating doctor to explain to your family, in detail, why it would be dangerous for you to drive. (Maybe show them this column.) I am not exactly sure why they don’t take your word for it, but that appears to be the case. As for resources, some cities have a version of “The Ride,” a free service for people with disabilities. Check in your town. There are cabs and buses, of course, and soon your fiancee will be driving. Good luck, and stick to your guns. –Margo, rationally

A Tin Cup in a Wedding Invitation

Dear Margo: The daughter of dear friends is soon to marry. The couple is in their early 30s and has lived independently for several years. This is the first marriage for both of them. The invitation included a card stating that since they already have two of everything they would appreciate a monetary contribution. A check of their website suggests contributions to their European honeymoon or down payment on their house. Call me old-fashioned, but this seems beyond tacky. Checking with a close friend revealed that they don’t want to bother with checks or cash; they only want contributions through the website! I’m inclined to send a nice handmade card! Am I missing something? –Old Lady in Texas

Dear Old: You are missing nothing, my dear, but these 30-somethings sure are: manners and judgment. Old and new etiquette dictate that you do not mandate what a gift should be, and you certainly never ask for money. The specification about “website only,” lest they be burdened with checks or cash, is cheeky impudence. I even have something of a problem with registries because, really, who wants to send, say, one place setting? In any case, send them whatever you like — a handmade card would be just fine if that suits you. When the last dog is shot, do let me know if they managed to finance either their European honeymoon or a down payment. –Margo, disrespectfully

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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153 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Most likely you won’t qualify for a license (few, if any doctors will sign off on you under unpredictable meds because of the malpractice risk)—so this is probably a moot point.

    LW2: How odd.

    1) If they were that concerned with saving money for a trip or a down payment, you’d think they would elope or forgo a ceremony. 2) Contributing through a website isn’t free—they’re going to have a chunk of change taken out by PayPal or whatever service they use, which isn’t very bright, considering a trip to the bank takes all of thirty minutes, tops. So are all of you supposed to Skype to the wedding as well, or actually show up somewhere? If it’s the latter, I’d bring whatever gift I felt like giving, and tell them to enjoy it (perhaps a book on etiquette, with chapters on how to act civilized while traveling to other countries or modern, tasteful ways to throw a wedding without alienating/angering your guests or appearing lazy). Or make a contribution to a wonderful charity (like the ASPCA) in their name.

    3) Get ready for that mass “thank you” email. You know it’s coming.

    • avatar A R says:

      Ugh, you are right about the payment service, but then if they are that stupid, I doubt they care about the fees either. After all, it’s not *their* money! :)

      I’d probably send a card of congratulations only, but then I am passive-aggressive like that when someone offends my sensibilities. Own it, baby.

    • avatar Chris Glass` says:

      On Letter 1 – Don’t assume that a DMV won’t give a license to an impaired person – they often do. My husband went in to renew his license two years ago and told the clerk he had Myasthenia, osteoarthritis, diabetes, along with a list of other physical issues. He was issued a 10 year unrestricted license. When my son went to renew his license a 92 year old women who couldn’t see had hers renewed because she had no other way of getting herself to the grocery store or doctor. This kind of thing happens across the country not just in my state.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        There’s a major difference between an impaired driver who takes an anti-inflammatory and one who takes a medication that may cause drowsiness or unpredictable behavior. It should say VERY CLEARLY on the bottle whether or not driving or operating heavy machinery is considered to be safe. If someone gets pulled over for driving erratically and the blow test doesn’t show booze, the cops are going to do a blood test to screen for drugs. A positive result is going to get them a DWI.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        I worked a a case manager at a rehab hospital and my husband is a physician. Let me tell you that people go absolutely ballistic if you take their license away. Thus, Very few people are willing to do it. I would approximate 5% of drivers are impaired. LW1 is wise beyond his years.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Boy howdy—my mom certainly did (went ballistic). Even after she wrecked her brand-new car because her meds made her fall asleep at the wheel.

  2. avatar Mush says:

    LW1: I once stopped driving temporily because where I sometimes perceived objects (like cars) were not where they actually were. This was due to a temporary medical condition. The final straw was when I slid to a stop thinking I missed my turn (i was only driving 20km) but it turned out I was 25 feet before the turn. I had the same problem with family and especially my boyfriend. Many people are simply unable to understand until it happens to them. Its a character flaw. We should never ever allow others to force us into dangerous situations whatever the reason. 

    LW2: In a time where many couples live together before marriage and household items are much easier to accumulate, maybe its time to revise the gift giving standards…if nothing but to keep less garbage out of the landfills.

    • avatar RL says:

      Re LW2: I agree with you, but I also think it is tacky to specify. Since I’m single and don’t have kids and don’t ask people to spend money on me to celebrate my birthday, etc., I don’t give gifts for any occasion. I’ve always though it too much to ask people to give you gifts. If your family and close friends elect to, that’s one thing, but I really don’t like the whole indirect/passive solicitation dynamic.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      When I read LW#2, I thought it might have been one of my guests for my Oct wedding, until I read the part about wanting to use the website.  But yes, that is nearly identical situation, except it’s a Costa Rica honeymoon instead of an European one that we are going on.

      I didn’t want to have to play my “Asian card” but as you can tell by the reaction by people on this board, for some reason, suggesting a monetary gift (of any amount) is considered so tacky by the older generation though suggesting $100 silverware somehow is totally fine.  When you consider the economy the way it is, it is so ridiculously impractical and wasteful.

      So I played my Asian card.  I was born in Asia and I kept some Asian traditions while adopting all of the better American traditions ( I would say I’m about 90% American, 10% Asian).  Asian wedding gifts are money in red envelopes.  Asians know how expensive a wedding can be, how a new life for a couple with dreams of kids and house can be.  We don’t need $100 dining sets or $200 bed sheets.  We need money for down payment for a house, or paying off our student loans or wedding expenses.

      Of course, I said that no gifts are necessary, but if you wish to get something, send us red envelopes.  I also said in lieu of that, we would be also be very happy if you contributed to a cause dear to us – cancer cure research.  And also, of course I would be totally happy just for the guest’s attendence without giving us a dime, a donation or a kitchen set.  Totally optional.  It’s way better than adding more to landfills (the old kitchen set or whatever).

      Sorry old folks, it’s the new millenium and while some traditions are great, this one of wedding registries instead of money can go to the landfills.

      • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

        It’s not just Asians.  Italians, for example, also give money at weddings.  My grandparents have never given a non-monetary gift at a wedding and I always give money too.

        The issue is not with giving money at weddings.  Obviously, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.  The issue is issuing invitations in which you dictate to your guests what form their generosity should take.  Such an action is presumptious, ungrateful, and contrary to the very idea of gift-giving.

        And, as I said earlier, I’m in my 20s.  Demanding specific presents (and implicitely stating that any other gift would be unwelcome) is rude.  That’s the long and short of it.

        • avatar amw says:

          Maggie, I’m in my 20s as well. Perhaps we had a better upbringing…but I’m glad I’m not the only 20 something that also feels the bride and groom are way off base.

          • avatar Shannon R says:

            I’m another 20 something that was raised properly! I think presuming of gifts is completely outrageous. So is the new norm of spending $20,000 on a wedding. THERE is your down payment on a house! You invite people to your wedding because you want them to share in the day, not be extorted at the Dillard’s registry. Also the parade of engagement parties, showers, housewarming parties, etc that are tacked on to the wedding events that all require gift giving. By the time you even GET to the wedding you’ve dropped $300 or more on all events. I’m so tempted half the time when people holler we’re engaged! to say “Sorry, I can’t afford for you to get married.”

      • avatar Chris Glass` says:

        This issue is not giving money – that is something that I do figuring that there are many things it can cover at the discretion of the couple. It is the way that an invitation is worded. In the past a couple would tell friends and family verbally that money would be a welcome alternative to another small appliance or set of sheets. It is not something that should ever be part of the original invitation. Telling people that you will only accept money or a destination honeymoon contribution is beyond tacky and looks greedy.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I think if the wedding guests had secretly chipped in for a down payment on a house or bought the couple a trip to Europe, that would have been a fantastic surprise that would have provided for some great memories for everyone involved.

          But the couple decided they didn’t want involvement or any surprises, which totally deflates the whole gift-giving process for the guests and turns it into an obligation.

          And as far as the cultural traditions mentioned earlier involving money trees and the like—I bet those money trees had cash and checks attached to them, with nary a credit card number or a direct deposit slip to be found.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        Armenians give money or jewelry. And some decide the amount based on how much the wedding cost and how many people are guests in their party.
        I hate giving money because I want the receiver to remember me when they use that gift. But then is making it about me, not them. However, I always remember the gift giver when I use/see my gift. …. But your point is a valid one…
        If there is a registry, I try to get something off of it. If not, money.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  You asked if there were any resources for people in your situation.  Yes.  Public transportation, cabs, or arranging for and paying for a chauffeur.  If your doctor says you shouldn’t drive, then giving that information to your family should convince them to stop insisting that you learn to drive.  Offering them gas money and repaying them in other ways for their services to you might also make them less insistent that you learn.  I am less inclined to demonize your family than Margo is.  Perhaps by *independent* they mean you should stop sponging off of them and expecting them to cart you around wherever you want or need to go at the expense of their time and money.  You don’t say if you are employed or not.  If so, paying for your transportation should be part of your budget.   If not, I assume you are getting some sort of government money.   You may have to spend some of it for bus or cab fare from time to time.  Or at least offer to pay for some gas.

    LW#2:  Send a card (handmade or not) and don’t attend the wedding.  The bride and groom are wrong.  They know they are wrong.  But they don’t care.  They have *rationalized* turning their wedding into a money grab by telling themselves its the *modern* thing to do…or its *convenient for the guests to know what to give so we are doing them a favor*.   Or go to the wedding and buy them a nice crystal vase or something.  I would say don’t go and because they are such on-line advocates, send them a congratulatory e-card but that will only compound the situation by adding more bad manners to the deal.    

    • avatar francophile1962 says:

      LW1: One thing to consider is where this poor guy lives. I grew up in a small town in Michigan (10,000 ppl at the time), and even though it was a college town, there was NO public transportation, cabs, or any of the other options suggested. At one point, we had “Dial-A-Ride”, but even that failed. I agree that the gent needs to find another place to live if he wants to assert his independence, but it could be tougher than it sounds.

    • avatar Kari Bergesen says:


      You don’t wish to demonize his family but it’s okay to demonize him?
      How do you know he is “sponging off them” and asking them to “cart him around”?
      That just isn’t fair. Some families are really not generous to their own relatives and DO NOT
      understand mental health issues.

      By the way, public transportation is one thing – hire a chauffeur???

  4. avatar D says:

    I am confused. What is wrong with asking for money? If the couple has enough stuff, requesting more stuff will only take up space, which it seems they do not have. Also, asking people to contribute via a website makes it easier to keep track of who gave what for thank you note purposes.

    I would caution against sending something that was not requested. That is a recipe for getting the sender’s feelings hurt.

    • avatar Cherubim says:

      I really don’t know what the fuss is about, either. This is what every single one of my friends has done, and it seems to work out fine. I guess the older generation will either get used to it or stop attending weddings altogether. Seems a shame they can’t adapt even in the slightest way.

      • avatar A R says:

        Cherubim (and D), it may “work” in the sense that they ask, and others send, but asking for money has long been considered crass and vulgar in many civilized cultures. Civilized societies have norms and mores to allow people to live together harmoniously. It has nothing to do with age. Age is simply an excuse used by those who don’t want to comply with established norms. Don’t seek an excuse; just say, “I don’t care what is civilized. I plan to do what I want anyway and damn the consequences.” At least others will know where you stand when they mail you handmade cards and etiquette books.

        • avatar D says:

          Remember when I said previously that sending gifts that are not requested are a recipe for getting the sender’s feelings hurt? Sending handmade cards and etiquette books could definitely evoke a response that would hurt the sender’s feelings.

          • avatar mayma says:

            I don’t understand this logic, sorry.  I must send the gift demanded, otherwise I risk getting my feelings hurt when The Couple doesn’t like what I gave???  Surely, you are joking.  Do you understand that the proper response is to say thank you to any gift, no matter what it is? — because the gift itself indicates that the sender has considered you, has gone out of his way for you, has tried to make you happy.  (The etiquette book would be passive-aggressive, but you better believe that a handmade card is thoughtful.)

            Your response indicates that you have a certain view on the position of guest and Couple.  You seem to think that The Couple has to be honored in whatever way they demand, or guest will face their wrath.  I think that The Couple should just be happy that people want to hang with them and witness such a lovely event.

          • avatar D says:

            I am not joking.

            How will giving someone a gift they neither want or ask for make the gift receiver happy? The only person that might be happy is the person that is giving the gift. If I want cash, how is a handmade card thoughtful? The handmade card is just as passive aggressive.

            Personally, I think that giving the couple nothing is better than giving the couple a non-cash gift. I do not think that the couple will be be angry if a non-cash gift is given. Just do not expect them to be thankful of a non-cash gift.

          • avatar Matina Vourgourakis says:

            Wow,   Don’t you understand that a gift is not mandatory?  That you cannot dictate what you receive?  If you want cash maybe you should just go get a job. I give a gift because I want to, because I saw something that reminded me of you, that I thought you would enjoy. If I can’t afford to shower you with cash and can only make you a card with my own creativity I suppose you would act pouty and petulant, maybe send me a snippy email or delete me from your friends on facebook.  Where did such selfish behavior come from?

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            “Just do not expect them to be thankful of a non-cash gift.”

            Wow indeed.

            Try that logic the next time you give someone a gift that you’re excited about, and they turn their nose up at it, sniff disdainfully, and state: “This isn’t what I wanted. Can you return it and give me the cash?”

          • avatar Deeliteful says:

            Since I am “old” I agree with David, AR, mayma, Matina, etc. David, your last post reminds me of a Christmas several years ago when my niece opened my gift, promptly threw it on the floor and tore into the next one. Of course, she was just 2 y/o at the time. She made up for that the next year when she opened my gift, hugged it tightly and said, “Ohhh, I’ve wanted this my whole life!” In case you youngun’s can’t do the math, she was 3 y/o then.

            And, D, to keep arguing your misguided position only shows that you still have a lot to learn. Is that direct enough for you?

          • avatar Deeliteful says:

            Since I am “old” I agree with David, AR, mayma, Matina, etc. David, your last post reminds me of a Christmas several years ago when my niece opened my gift, promptly threw it on the floor and tore into the next one. Of course, she was just 2 y/o at the time. She made up for that the next year when she opened my gift, hugged it tightly and exclaimed, “Ohhh, I’ve wanted this my whole life!” In case you youngun’s can’t do the math, she was 3 y/o then.

            And, D, to keep arguing your misguided position only shows that you still have a lot to learn. Is that direct enough for you?

          • avatar Deeliteful says:

            Oops, how did that double post happen?

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            It’s bc you’re old. Lol!

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        If that’s what everyone in your circle has done, it’s fair to conclude you’ve got a slew of tasteless friends. Behavior that’s totally lacking in class has nothing to do with age or what generation … it tends to stem from ignorant upbringing.

        • avatar Kayt says:

          If that’s what everyone in a circle does then it is following the microculture’s custom. “Rude” is not following cultural rules. Thus doing the same thing as your clan might seem rude to non members,the same way someone standing close to a stranger seems rude in this culture but not in others.

    • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

      It’s rude because trying to dictate to people what they should give you as a gift, which is, by it’s very nature, a voluntary action on the part of the giver, is rude. 

      • avatar Michelles11 says:

        I agree with Maggie, you just can’t ask for money…it’s rude.  If they had just left that portion off of the invitation, they would have gotten it anyway.  To ASK for it is presumptuous

        • avatar Michelles11 says:

          And, I’m 44, so I’m not sure if I am considered part of the “older” generation…

          • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

            Heh.  I doubt 44 counts as “older.”  And, if it helps, I’m in my 20s.  Maybe only teenagers should attend weddings?