Dear Margo: In the Top 10 of Dumb Ideas

Should girls and boys be raised with different standards of safety? Margo Howard’s advice

In the Top 10 of Dumb Ideas

Dear Margo: My husband and I are expecting our first child, which is wonderful, but I am worried that our parenting styles will clash due to different upbringings. As a teenager, I had a strict curfew, didn’t drink until I went to college, couldn’t date without my mom approving the guy, etc. Hubby, on the other hand, is a youngest child, and his otherwise smart and nice parents let him run completely wild, staying out all night and going out of town to college frat parties as a high school student. Starting at age 12, he drank a ridiculous amount, showed up at school events wasted, drove drunk, smoked pot and did coke.

He agrees that if we have a girl she will be subject to the same restrictions I grew up with. But if we have a boy, he thinks we should behave as his parents did. His argument is, “Well, I turned out OK.” My take is that a lot of bad things could’ve happened, including him getting killed or killing someone, and he has friends from that era who now are complete wastoids. How do I have this conversation without implying that his parents were dumb? — Expecting

Dear Ex: Dumb? How about nuts? And did he turn out OK? Just asking. It is interesting that he’s decided that the way a child should be raised depends on the gender. Without calling his parents names, you could suggest that when he was a little boy his parents were super-permissive because maybe they were hippies? (Or maybe he was raising himself because he was the youngest?)

Do point out that his sexism goes against all time-tested childrearing advice. All kids need and thrive on fair discipline and boundaries, not just girls. (You might mention his friends, and tell him it’s a miracle he is not like them.) Let us hope you have a daughter, but if not, I hope you prevail in not letting your husband relive his wild days through a son. If you need backup, book an appointment with a kiddy shrink, and let that person be the neutral (and expert) mediator. — Margo, gender-neutrally

Lifting a Real, Live Dumbbell

Dear Margo: My husband is 13 years my junior, and up until a year ago, that did not bother me. Then I found out that he’s had numerous affairs throughout our relationship. We went to counseling and are doing well. I am still healing and want to trust him. I’m just concerned that he will cheat on me again and I won’t be any the wiser.

Well, yesterday at a graduation party, he picked up his sister-in-law. I mean he actually picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. I am positive there is nothing between them, but I did not like it and told him so. His reaction was to get angry because I “made something out of nothing.” I just don’t see what would possess a grown man to pick up another man’s wife, although he does fancy himself a weightlifter. What do you think? — Overly Sensitive?

Dear Ove: It sounds like he was weight training with a real, live dumbbell. And now I’ve got a question for you: If a woman was physically lifted off the ground, what would possess her to wrap her legs around the man’s waist? I saw this happen once, and the gesture — on the woman’s part — said to me that they had been intimate. Let us just say that this was immature and in very poor taste on the woman’s part, so I would hold her the aggressor in this particular situation. I also think that, given your history, your husband’s greeting to his sister-in-law should have been a peck on the cheek. Unfortunately, once a guy is in this particular doghouse, everything he does will be looked on with suspicion. Good luck. — Margo, restrainedly

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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.


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

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96 Responses so far.

  1. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: Your in-laws were lazy idiots. Margo’s right, its a miracle he lived to adulthood and turned out decently.

    LW#2: Seriously Margo you are blaming the s-i-l and saying she’s the aggressor while letting the husband off the hook? While I think both behaviors are inappropriate, to lay the blame on her alone for wrapping her legs around the husband is about as sexist as LW#1’s husband! The fact that the LW’s husband got incredibly defensive and angry is also a sign that something isn’t on the up and up here. How did his brother feel about this type of intimate contact between his brother and wife? I know my husband would feel incredibly uncomfortable if I did that with one of his brothers. I think both of you need to sit down with your spouses and talk about this inappropriate contact!

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      In my family, a brother who did that would probably end up with a knife in him.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Um the SIL was wrapping her legs of her own accord. Picking a woman up in a hug is one inappropriate thing, but minor. Wrapping your legs around a man? Pure Slutism.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Um the SIL was wrapping her legs of her own accord. Picking a woman up in a hug is one inappropriate thing, but minor. Wrapping your legs around a man? Pure Slutism.

  2. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Because he betrayed your trust, as Margo said, he will forever be under extra scrutiny.  That is the price a cheating partner must pay and must expect. The problem is and the bigger question is, do you want to go the rest of your life constantly questioning every move, glance or act on his part?

    A real man in this situation that truly loves his spouse would go that extra mile in gaining his wife’s trust and in this situation with the SIL, instead of reacting in anger would have instead apologized profusely and promised that nothing like that would happen again. I disagree with Margo, the SIL was not the aggressor, her husband was. Had he not picked her up there would not have been the “wrapping of the legs” around him. HE needs to be more understanding of the doubt he has placed in his relationship, if he can’t, I would tell this letter writer to leave. Why remain with someone in a relationship with an insensitive man? I don’t care how loving he may be in other instances.

    Letter #1 – Ugh! This conversation drives me nuts because it is such a no brainer.

    The letter writer’s parents raised her in the correct way. And before anyone points it out – I do realize in saying that I am implying there is a right and wrong way to raise a child. A child needs boundaries, needs to know there are family morals and values that must be upheld. There needs to be respect for what your parents say can and can not be done. If a parent says no sex, alcohol or drugs under the age of 18, instead of telling themselves “Oh please, everyone is doing it….” they need to have respect for what their parents say and avoid those things. This letter writer did. I did. And countless others have as well. Does it mean people like us are somehow stronger in terms of rejecting peer pressure OR does it mean we listened to our parents and had respect for what they said?    I say it is a bit of both.

    It is just irresponsible (how your husband was raised) and should not have experienced so much at such a young age. It breaks my heart to hear of young (12 years old) getting drunk… sad.  And because we all know as society involves, so too do the dangers of what can harm young people. 50 years ago when people smoked weed it was assured it was nothing more than marijuanna. Now, it is often times laced with things that could kill. A child can purchase what they think is cocaine, only to die later because it was instead rat poison.

    If I were this letter writer I would have a sit down with the father to be and stress this is a serious conversation they need to have, and stress that the child WILL be raised with boundaries. Male or female, there will be a set of family rules that will be put down.      

    • avatar Lila says:

      Belinda, very true about drug dangers. It has also been shown that alcohol consumption has a really damaging effect on young brains. For that reason alone it’s well worth keeping kids off of alcohol until they are out of their teens.

    • avatar James says:

      Marijuana is certainly stronger these days than in previous decades, but the idea that it’s commonly “laced with things that could kill” is nonsense. Cocaine, on the other hand, can’t be shipped in pure form; it has to be cut with something, and what’s added to it (fentanyl, for example) can be dangerous or even fatal.

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        Truly paranoid nonsense.

        There are plenty of real dangers without having to make things up.

    • avatar martina says:

      You have to be careful about what boundaries are set because forbidden fruit tastes sweeter and thinking they know better and needing to push the boundaries is what being a teenager is all about.  I allowed my daughter to drink alcohol (in moderation at family gatherings) starting at about 15 – I am a strong believer in the forbidden fruit philosophy – and now at 18 she doesn’t drink because she doesn’t like the taste except for the occasional glass of champagne.  She has no desire to take drugs and is confident enough not to give into peer pressure.  I had no set curfew.  It was more of what are you doing and what time do you think you’ll be home and that she needs to keep in mind that she needs to be alert for work or school and she’d better not be cranky if she’s planning on being out late (boy can she be a female dog if she doesn’t get enough sleep). She was not one to be out wandering around 2 or 3a.m. Though, she sometimes doesn’t get home from the amusement park she works at until 1a.m.

      I have raised my child this way because I have seen both sides of the fence.  I saw how drastically my friend rebelled at very strict parents but then I had my little adventures when I was young and believe that is a rite of passage.   But, I knew not to take drugs and held off on sex and not because my parents told me not to but told me to be responsible about it. Saying you can’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex and have to be home by 11:00 is a red flag for them to do exactly the opposite.

      The idea of a girl being raised one way and a boy another is ridiculous and outdated.But the letter writer also needs to keep in mind that that child is not there yet and if her husband turned out OK once he has that child in his arms and his protective instincts kick in, he may realize that he doesn’t want either child to take the risks that he had.  I always thought that I would give my child the freedom I had as a teenager and when those years finally came I couldn’t.  I often wonder how my mother could have given me as much freedom as she did without worrying about me because I couldn’t.  It could very well be that as his children get older that they will bot decide to take a middle road with either a boy or a girl.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        Wow Martina! What can I say?

        You need to pray to whatever God or higher power you worship that your child is still alive….your idea of raising her is so foreign to what I would ever respect, I am left stunned.

        Parents every move when raising a child is judged by that child. The lessons they learn about life come from their parents. In most towns, cities, hamlets and states in America, there are curfews for young people. Most have set curfews that by law teens must be home and/or not on the streets after 11 p.m.   For you to tell your daughter she can stay out as long as she wants, even when you know it is against the law, speaks volumes.

        In most of America it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. But for you, its okay to allow your child to drink because after all it is only a little. It makes no difference to you that you are breaking the law, because the government isn’t going to tell you how to raise your daughter…..right.

        And as you said, teens will always try to test boundaries, “that’s what being a teen is about”

        Actually it’s called the formative years for a reason. It is the important part of all our lives when we learn to put all that our parents taught us into real practice out in the world with other people. School, part time jobs, turning down drugs and alcohol – saying no to being pressured into sex. And then when we turn 18 and we are finally deemed adults by our country, we go off and live by our own terms. That is how it is suppose to work and does work for millions of people.

        What a cop out it is to hear people speak proudly of teaching their kids the law doesn’t matter, life is about doing whatever you want, whenever you want and essentially view me (your parent) as your friend first and parent 19th or 20th down the road.

        It’s sad.                    

        • avatar mmht says:

          Wow Belinda, can you see everyone from up there on your high horse? In Martina’s defense, MANY countries allow children to drink wine, in small amounts, as young as 5 y.o. Its just part of their culture. It might not be common in the U.S., but that doesn’t make it wrong. And to use the law as your reasoning is a cop out. Are you telling me that you never speed or have ever in your entire life littered, rolled a stop sign, etc?

          Martina never said she allows her daughter to get wasted every night, she said a small amount of alcohol at family gatherings only. What gives you the right to criticize how she has raised her daughter considering you have never met her daughter to decide if she’s come out ok or not. Because I”m certain your children are PERFECT in every way b/c you raised exactly to the letter of the law. Get over yourself and your judgmental attitude!

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            “MANY countries allow children to drink wine, in small amounts, as young as 5 y.o. Its just part of their culture. It might not be common in the U.S., but that doesn’t make it wrong.”

            Actually it does make it wrong. We don’t live in France, this is America and in America the legal age for anyone to consume alcohol is 21. Any parent that allows their child to drink alcohol is not only breaking the law, but they are also showing a lack of parenting skills. 

            As for the rest of your rant, and your assumption that everyone breaks the law once in awhile…..that speak volumes about how you think and probably live. And not in a good way.  

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            While I agree with the crux of Belinda’s statement that maturity is key for being able to participate in activities that are considered “adult,” I’ve always thought it kinda stupid that an 18 year-old is adult enough to kill for his country as a soldier or vote for President, but they can’t legally have a beer.

          • avatar mmht says:

            David, I agree with you. It all depends upon the person and their maturity level. If Martina had said that she allows her daughter to get drunk every once and awhile but only at home because she’d rather they do that at home then being out there possibly driving, then yes, I’d feel much differently about her parenting skills. But, having alcohol in small amounts at family gatherings every once in awhile is no big deal. The age of consumption of alcohol is relative to the area you live in. In the U.S. it used to be 18 y.o. in some areas and changed only within the last 30 years. What makes a 21 y.o. any more mature and capable of handling alcohol rather than an 18 y.o. is something I don’t fully understand. Especially, as David pointed out, that 18 y.o. is apparently mature enough to fight and die for our country.

            As for Belinda, it speaks volumes about your morality to make judgements on others that you have never met in your entire life, do not fully know their situations or understand their situation, and base your entire judgement on a simple comment made on a message board. I think you need to ask yourself why you feel you have the right to judge others. The only person you should be judging is yourself.

          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            Actually, depending on the state, a sip at home may be perfectly legal so long as it´s not extended to other people´s kids.

            And teaching responsibility is not bad parenting.

          • avatar wendykh says:

            It makes the LAW wrong not the person.

        • avatar martina says:

          “Actually it’s called the formative years for a reason. It is the important part of all our lives when we learn to put all that our parents taught us into real practice out in the world with other people”.
          Belinda, this is exactly what I have done. My daughter is one of the most responsible young adults I know. She is highly regarded and respected by other adults. She is the one who, when confronted with a room full of teenagers sitting on their cell phones, goes to sit with adults to have adult conversations. Disallowing children to do anything and then throwing them out there when they are 18 and saying do as you will is irresponsible. My daughter did not, and at 18, still does not have free rein to do as she pleases. She has boundaries but they are reasonable and based on the situation. I gave her the opportunity to think about the consequences of her actions and to occasionally make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I eased her into experiences so that she would handle them responsibly when she was legally allowed. How many times have I heard of alcohol poisoning of “adults” who turned 21 because they could finally drink and then binge on their birthday. I don’t have to worry about that happening to my daughter. Boundaries need to be set but one also needs to be careful about how strict they should be.

        • avatar wendykh says:

          Wow. What’s sad is your US Centric view. Martina’s view is extremely common outside of the US where strangely most children aren’t turning into raging teen drunks and drug addicts. I’d never raise my teens in the US with their draconian puritanism. Sure we have drunks and druggies outside of the US, but nowhere near the insane order in the US. So glad I left near 20 years ago!

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Something I might point out to everyone regarding Belinda Joy and her supercilious judgment of parents: not only has she frequently attested to the fact in previous posts that she ***has no children***, and never has, but she has also made it absolutely clear on numerous occasions that she dislikes children intensely. She has also claimed quite proudly to have deliberately and actively interfered in the raising, and adult lives, of her nieces and siblings, even to the point of attempting to break up relationships SHE didn’t approve of based on her hide-bound, spinsterish ideas of what should constitute morality and proper behavior for the children of a lesser god (that would be everyone) who can’t possibly achieve her superior, self-attested, celestial status.

          I wouldn’t even try to argue with her. According to her, she’s never committed a single sin, breech of the law, mistake, or act of bad faith in her life. It’s like talking to a stone angel with a pupiless gaze.

        • avatar Lym BO says:

          I actually agree more with Martina than Belinda. Tasting a bit of alcohol isn’t going to land someone in jail, nor will be be detrimental to the child. My dad let me try it ( a tiny sip) when I was younger. I thought it was the nastiest thing ever consumed. To this day, and partly for that reason, I do not drink & never have had more than a half a glass of anything -ad then only if fruity & devoid of any alcohol taste. In the Catholic church, it is permissible, & I assume legal, for children to take communion at a young age (8?).
          My parents also trusted me & allowed me to stay out late. Usually that was watching a movie at a friends house. It ain’t no big thang! As far as curfews in most towns, teens are permitted to be out past the set curfew if they are working or returning home after work.- like Martina’s teen. Law enforcement isn’t going to pull teens over simply for curfew reasons unless they up to no good.
          I often think Belinda writes merely for entertainment value because her views are so narrow & obviously saintly they can’t be true. Who could stand to be friends or a spouse to someone so someone who thinks they are holier & more righteous than God himself?!

    • avatar Diagoras says:

      Well the part about the parents approving of every date is going too far. Parents should know who the date is, but teens need to learn how to choose their dates and they can’t do that if parents do it for them. Plus, it just turns into a power struggle and the couple ends up sneaking around. Better just to give them the tools to make good decisions.

      When my son was younger, he hung around some kids who were “bad influences” but instead of telling him who his friends should be I did two things: 1-punished him for anything he did bad 2- Gave an extra punishment for being a blind follower if it was his friend’s idea. The result? He voluntarily dropped certain friends and made new friends that did not get into trouble.

    • avatar impska says:

      I agree. You set reasonable rules. You expect some to be negotiated occasionally (off hand, I can remember negotiating curfew and dating rules). You expect some rules to be broken and come prepared with a reasonable punishment.

      You educate your child, as well – because most us broke some rules growing up, so you want your child to be prepared for the world. They need to understand the dangers of drugs, I believe in allowing children to have alcohol in moderation at home so that they understand its effects (and understand what moderation means!), there should be ongoing discussion about dating (with safe sex discussions whenever appropriate).

      And you should always know what time your child is coming home. A set curfew with a specific, unchanging time is unnecessary. But when you set the curfew for the night, your child needs to be home (or at least in contact with a good excuse!) so that you know where he/she is and that he/she is safe.

      It’s hard for me to wrap my head around this guy growing up with no rules and feeling like his son should have no rules. Maybe all of the drugs and alcohol ruined his brain. How can you not have the capacity to look back as an adult and say “I had fun as a kid, but I really had no clue how close I came to danger.” How can you not look back and see the ways your parents messed up?

      I’m glad that I’m not married to this guy, because the level of immaturity that he’s displaying is shocking. It would disgust me.

  3. avatar Priscilla L says:

    So when a male swing dancer picks up a female swing dancer and she does the splits on his waist, it means they have slept together? I think this is a silly idea.

    It’s possible that they are good friends, or that she was afraid he would drop her. I don’t think it implies sexual intimacy.

    But, I think that if her husband really wants to heal the wounds caused by his cheating, he should listen to his wife and respect that this bothered her. It wasn’t nothing to her. He should realize that his interactions with other women are a bit suspect these days, and adjust his behavior accordingly. Building trust sometimes means sacrifices.

    • avatar Carrie A says:

      Being dance partners is a completely different situation than what the LW is describing. I don’t know what kind of friends you have but a guy picking a woman up and her wrapping her legs around him as a hello sure seems pretty intimate.

    • avatar mayma says:

      Come on. Why ignore all context and insert an entirely random context? Afraid he would drop her?!?! Swing dancing?!? They weren’t swing dancing, sheesh.

      Sorry, it’s just painful to read because that’s the device that many, many deceitful and / or controlling people use — trying to make the other person feel crazy, or “silly,” or unreasonable. “It’s because I might one day go swing dancing with my brother’s wife, isn’t that obvious?! Why are you so damned suspicious all the time?” [uh, because you in fact cheated on me for years and years and now you want me to think two and two equals five?]

      This business of undermining the other’s intuition is serious stuff, ugh.

    • avatar etiennewestwind says:

      What does swing dancing have to do with graduation parties?  Anyway, on the context of the letter, no male I’m “just good friends” with has ever tried picking me up.  Frankly, if a mere friend were to try, I’d rather be dropped than wrap around him in a way that might inadvertantly tell him there’s something more there.  A punch or kick might help that along if they proved unable to comprehend the words put me down…

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        If you are a very short, smallish woman, odds are that men have tried to pick you up like a doll at some point in your life. I generally find this intolerable. I give them one chance. One. I politely request that they put me down. I am not a doll.

        The last time a foolish male made this mistake he was going to toss me into a pool. I warned him. My friends told him I wasn’t kidding at all. Mr. Muscles thought it was a very funny joke. I bit his bicep hard enough to leave an enormous bruise. He very gently set me down, per my instructions. No one else attempted this stunt again, nor was I considered a social pariah for it, though HE lost a lot of respect for not being a good listener.

        • avatar etiennewestwind says:

          Fortunately, I´m not that small, but good for you.  All too many would let Mr. Idiot get away with that stunt.

        • avatar bleeble says:

          I am not tiny, and guys have tried to pick me up – to fl