Dear Margo: Is This Geezer Creepy? Yes

My boyfriend made an inappropriate comment about a teenager on the beach. What should I say? Margo Howard’s advice

Is This Geezer Creepy? Yes

Dear Margo: I am dating a 57-year-old man who is quite wonderful in some ways. But he sometimes says disturbing things. Today, he reported that he walked down to the beach and studied “40 or 50 teenagers” to see what they were wearing. He wanted to tell me all about the current state of teen fashion at the beach. I told him I did not want to hear it. Conversation over dinner was awkward because I could not get this strange conversational overture out of my head, and he seemed not to be able to think of anything else to talk about.

He has not shown any particular interest in fashion until now. I know that many older men check out teenage girls, but isn’t it kind of a creepy activity, and one you wouldn’t tell your girlfriend about? I’m wondering whether he has inappropriate proclivities. He also asked me once if it was odd for him to check out his daughter’s boyfriend’s female friends on Facebook. I said yes. He responded by defending his decision to do so … and then did so.

He also told me his wife (now deceased) slept with their daughter until she was 10. About a year after the daughter got her own bedroom, she stopped speaking to him for seven years. He has no explanation for any of this. — Greatly Confused

Dear Great: Unless your 50-plus fella works for Women’s Wear Daily or a garment manufacturer, his interest in teenagers’ beach attire — with a sample size of 40 to 50 — is a signal that there is some psycho-sexual screw loose. And the fact that the subject was of no interest to you and he was stuck for conversation confirms my “diagnosis.” This man sounds like he’s come from a strange place with secrets and dysfunction. I would head for the hills and look for a man who is wonderful in other ways. — Margo, honestly

School Daze

Dear Margo: Three weeks ago, I moved to rural Mississippi with my family: wife, three kids all under 9, and my mother. We decided to send our kids to public school instead of private school, as we had before the move. This decision was based on our kids’ wish for “more kids to play with” and my wife’s idea that this will be a good way for us to acculturate the children.

Despite our thorough research of the school system, we are uncovering many unsavory surprises. Even with a zero-tolerance bullying policy, our oldest son has come home crying multiple times. Our middle child, a girl, says her teachers are mean and never listen to her. Our youngest seems fine, but then again, he was never much of a complainer. So now my wife and I are debating switching back to private school. Our hesitations come from our hope that if we wait out the rocky beginning, our kids will get stronger and more able to cope, but we hate to see them unhappy. What do you think we should do? — Undecided Dad

Dear Un: First, three weeks is not a very long time for kids to fit in anywhere, let alone with children who have most likely been in school together from kindergarten. And when you say you’re considering private school again, is there even one in a rural area? (And, of course, private schools are not bully-free zones.)

I would wait until the end of the year before making any decisions. In the meantime, you and your wife might go to school and talk with the teachers. Explain that the kids seem to be having trouble, and see what information you get back. Between giving your kids more time to get acclimated and taking a measure of the teachers, I think the answer you are looking for will become clear. — Margo, patiently

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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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73 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Dan Patterson says:

    As always, Margo gives the best answers to both these problems. (She really is superb.) I would only add one observation. Undecided Dad should also base his decision about private schooling on a couple of other factors. Mississippi is rather notorious for its sub-par educational systems; the state spends less on education than any other state. Be certain your kids are getting at least an adequate education , this is the most important point, surely. Also, one is apt to find a good deal of bigotry in rural Mississippi, even in its school systems. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s been well-documented, even in recent years.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Dan, those are exactly the points I was thinking about.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Re: L#2: I live in Houston, Texas, and the two public school systems I would be the least likely to send my children to would have been Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rural, suburban or urban setting, they have uniformly poor standards of academic education, high tolerance for bullying, racism and other profiling and bias issues, and are frequently known to mix religious science (an oxymoron) such as Scientific Creationism and New Earth Theory into the curriculum. This also holds true for certain small town and rural districts in Texas (we are in Humble ISD, in an Exemplary set of schools that send a lot of kids to excellent colleges all over the country).

      The first few weeks of school can be challenging for children…especially if they have moved to a completely different environment and region of the country. However, in this case, I would pay very close attention, be certain to get to know the teachers and administrators of the school, express your concerns not only verbally, but in writing and listen carefully to what your children are saying and how they are saying it.

      And, as Margo said, private schools are not always havens free of bullying. Some are quite the opposite. In Mississippi, a lot of them will be affiliated with certain churches…so choose very carefully as some are extremely restrictive, the curriculum can leave a great deal to be desired, and the discipline can be corporal.

  2. avatar Violet says:

    No long advice for letter writer 1 other than lace up your sneakers and RUN away from this freak ASAP.

    On letter 2, I might be a bit more proactive on the bullying issue, not just make the kids ride it out or toughen up. I was a shy kid who was mercilessly teased and tormented and it made me hate school and there were no consequences to the “poplar” bullies. When I changed school environments, I graduated valedictorian of my class. You have to try to figure out what’s going on and see if your children can be given tools to make the situation better or the school will have to step in.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Violet, for the life of me I have never understood why adults allow that kind of bullying to go on and leave kids on their own to “work it out,” or figure “it’s just kid stuff, they’ll toughen up,” or “oh, pooh, everyone gets teased, deal with it.” Sometimes it turns into friggin’ Lord of the Flies and the adults are absolutely clueless.

      If the popular kids deface your property, threaten you, beat you up and take your lunch money, you’re supposed to figure it out yourself. But if you’re an adult in a shopping mall and some goons do the exact same thing, they will be up on charges. Or, if a co-worker harasses others incessantly and creates a hostile environment, HR gets involved and in some cases charges or a lawsuit can be brought.

      Why the double standard? And why do we not teach this to the bullies: what you are doing is a chargeable crime? The fact that they are 8 is no excuse; it just means that it’s time to teach them in no uncertain terms that it’s wrong and unacceptable.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Lila & Violet: My son’s middle and high school have a “Zero Tolerance” system for dealing with bullies. When students report an incident, the offender is put on a watch list (they are not all completely stupid…they try to avoid being caught by teachers, etc.). This goes out to all staff. The bullying students have points added for each incident reported; if they are caught it’s immediate suspension, no matter how much their parents whine or protest. A bully with two offenses ends up in the “Alternative Program” at a different school for the long term…which consists of sitting at a desk all day, working, with supervised lunches with no talking, then back to work. No electives, no socializing, and a wicked PE class with no mercy (girls and boys).

        Bullies with three offenses are expelled. End of story. The parents can try to get them into another school in our area…but a report goes out to all principals. Once they reach middle school, or worse, high school, it’s very unlikely that a principal will except a student with a serious bullying problem into a school. This happened to a boy who bullied my son, who told his principal, then two other boys, who also told, then got caught by the coach (yep, even the coaches are on board…and the kid was in Athletics and Football) planting his cleats in another boys leg. Expelled. Well-off parents, who screamed “Not our son, you can’t do this!”, no racial profiling…and the kid was gone. No retaliation from his friends either…getting expelled is not a good thing. That student is attending a private school, because no principal in our system would take him.

        What a shame that not all schools are like this, eh? I think of all of the kids dead by their own hand because of bullies…and those who have taken others with them…Zero Tolerance should be the only answer.

        • avatar D C says:

          “then got caught by the coach (yep, even the coaches are on board…and the kid was in Athletics and Football)”

          That’s profiling, and profiling is wrong.  I am quite suprised that an individual so seeminly evolved as yourself would say something so provocative about a subset of teachers.  I happen to know MANY coaches who care very much about the subjects they teach (advanced placement classes in math, science, chemistry) and about the students they work with. 

          Stop hating on coaches like all the other sheep. 

          • avatar Mandy says:

            DC, I think you need to reread what was written. The original poster was talking about the bully getting caught by the coach. Nothing negative was said about the coaches. In fact, it seems the original poster was praising the coaches for being on board with the zero tolerance reporting policy.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            @D C: whoops D C, you did it again. Mandy is spot on in regard to my intent…I wasn’t stereotyping coaches. I’ve had two sons in public school for over 16 years…and the male (and female) coaches were some of the most decent, caring educators I have ever known. Not only did they help my older son, who is high functioning on the autism spectrum, with his coordination, balance and sense of physical self and spatial awareness (autistic people frequently have issues with all of these), but they insisted on fair play, even when he was guilty of bullying in high school (which I supported fully…the coaches, that is), tolerance, restraint and control.

            This comment, ““then got caught by the coach (yep, even the coaches are on board…and the kid was in Athletics and Football)” from my post was directed at those who think all coaches are troglodytes to stop moronic comments. It worked…and then came you. You made a comment on another Margo thread bitterly complaining of the hostility and attacks rampant on this site…and here you are…one of the worse offenders. Lacking pejoratives and writing with a semblance of coherence does not compensate for making specious assumptions, and name-calling. Sheep? Really? Even you, one of my most persistent detractors, should know better.

            I have a term that might apply to you, given the other post and this reasonless, and thoughtless attack: Hypocrite.

      • avatar mabel says:

        Lila – Thank you, thank you, one thousand times thank you!!! I have said the same thing for years. Things that are illegal for one adult to do to another adult should be illegal for a kid to do to another kid. Obviously the penalties should be different (a 3rd grader shouldn’t go to jail for assault for shoving a classmate), but I think a big part of the problem in society today is that behavior that would be considered criminal in adults is labeled “no big deal” or “just a part of growing up” in kids, and when these kids are grown up it comes as a surprise to them that suddenly the things they’ve been doing without consequences for years are getting them arrested.

        When I was a teen and bullied so badly I attempted suicide five times between the ages of 10 and 14, instead of telling me that “it gets better” people who should have known better (like guidance counselors and psychologists) said things to me like “Well, you need to figure out what it is about you that invites this kind of behavior from people” and “If you can’t figure out how to get along with your peers now, you shouldn’t expect to be able to get along with your peers when you’re an adult either.” Yeah, well… I’ve been an adult for a couple of decades now, and when I sit and eat my lunch at work none of my coworkers walk up to me and spit in my food for no reason at all. Nobody has walked past me in the office and slammed a book across the side of my face with no explanation and no provocation. And if anybody DID do those things, I don’t think that the police and the HR department would tell me that I’M the one with the problem. And I think the person who did those things would be facing some consequences for them. But if you’re 12 years old and get treated like that every day, you’re told you need to suck it up and deal with it, and oh, yeah, you’re the one who has something wrong with them.

        I pay $1,200 a month to keep my own 12-year-old daughter in a private school where she has never had these issues. And if these issues arose, and I had no other options, I’d home-school in a heartbeat. My BFF from high school is home-schooling her kids for similar reasons. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that parents should not allow their kids to be treated like this NO MATTER WHAT. Protecting my daughter from the five years of living hell I had to go through is my absolute top priority, and if I had to move thousands of miles away or sell everything I owned in order to do that I would.  

        • avatar Lila says:

          Mabel, I am SO with you in all of this, and glad you are protecting your daughter from these things. In my opinion, a child abused by their peers is still abused, just as much as if they were abused by a parent or some neighborhood creep. Different, sure, but still terribly damaging. Kids don’t have choices – they can’t quit their job or move away to get away from abuse – they’re trapped, and that makes it even more crucial that parents and teachers stop the abuse immediately, and SHOW that there are consequences for hostile behavior.

          You should write about this! Click my name or avatar, several of us regulars are trying to get a sort of meeting-place started.

        • avatar D C says:

          Mabel, it got so bad for my son that when the bully threw a textbook across the table and nearly put his eye out, we finally had to press criminal charges to get the school to do anything about it.  Luckily he had no lasting damage.  We still ended up moving to another district.

          • avatar RB Hopper says:

            I would like to know how the school or the bully’s parents handled the criminal charges against that child. I’m just curious, I have never heard of anyone doing that and I think it should be done ALOT more!

          • avatar D C says:

            The student was suspended from school and we waited to hear from the court about what to do next.  Then we heard the family had withdrawn the child from that school entirely, so we dropped the charges with the understanding that the kid would not be back at school or allowed anywhere near our son.  I was glad we didn’t have to go all the way down that road because, as the parent of a special needs child, I could see that this other kid was special needs in their own way, and the parents just weren’t doing anything to get help for their child. 

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            D C: Too bad you dropped the charges. Having “special needs” is not a reason or excuse to make other people’s lives miserable, regardless of whether the bully is child or an adult.

            Why do I say this? My older son is high functioning on the autism spectrum. He has been diagnosed as bi-polar…but the diagnosing psychiatrist diagnoses ***everyone*** as “bi-polar” (so much so that it’s a standing joke among the therapists, psychologists, and other personnel who work with him regularly). It is more likely that he has ADD, and a personality disorder…but his father will not allow him to be re-assessed, and he is now an adult.

            His step-father and I spent most of his childhood working on his very serious issues with bullying, identifying with violence and aggression (no, he was NOT exposed to these things by me, his father or any REAL person). We limited his media exposure, and taught him to understand boundaries and consequences. His father’s family allowed him unlimited access to cable and increasingly violent video games. Again, try to get a judge to refuse visitation when there is NO abuse or neglect as defined by the courts.

            He would bully other children. We had zero tolerance, as did the school. It stopped by the time he was ten. Then he went to live with his father after he became violent (6’2″, 250 pounds) at sixteen with his six-years younger brother and me. He was angry because he had homework…not beyond his ability. He was under a psychiatrist’s care, seeing a therapist, had excellent care and supervision at school and I was at home. At this point he began bullying other children…students with CP, MS, mentally challenged kids, kids in wheelchairs, black kids (we are not racist, biased) kids he thought might be Jewish (a complete WTF moment for us). If he had injured another student, or bullied them into a serious breakdown, and his father (who had custody by then) had been sued…he would have deserved it…whether my son had “special needs” or not. It’s not a good idea to let a violently inclined 16 year old play uber-violent M rated video games 24/7…or watch “Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated” 21 times back to back. Unsupervised.

            He tried to strangle his ten year old brother, and punched him in the chest so hard that he couldn’t breathe. He tipped a student out of his wheelchair, and threw a backpack at a teacher. If the school had expelled him, or sent him to BCS (the behavioral section for disciplinary cases involving special needs), or a parent had sued…I would have fully supported them. He knew what he was doing. Four different licensed clinical psychologists, and two psychiatrists (neither just pill-pushers), confirmed this. He was getting what he wanted at our house, or at school.

            I’ve known far too many “people with special needs” who do as they please because people let everything slide, because, well…they have “Special Needs”. So do I: schizophrenia and bi=polar disorder and OCD qualify. I took responsibility a long, long time ago…and so do a lot of people. Don’t give people who can learn such an easy excuse. That’s how people get hurt. Or dead.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Excuse me, I should have written, “He wasn’t getting what he wanted at school…etc.”

            I was irate.

  3. avatar Hewson_p says:

    On the one hand I agree that three weeks is a short period of time.  However, I would recommend that the parents get into the classroom to observe and also to talk to the teachers.  I would try to understand what the teachers’ approaches are in introducing the children to the classroom and also in terms of getting to know the children themselves.  Based on that conversation you can get a better sense of whether or not the teachers are truly looking out for the needs of the children versus just going through the motions. 

    • avatar Lila says:

      Hewson_p, doesn’t having a parent sitting in the back of the classroom observing change the dynamic? I suspect that neither the teachers nor the bullies will act the same as when the parents are not around. Plus, now the kids have the problem of being singled out as the ones who “had to have their Mommy come to school with them.” The bullies will have a field day with that.

      • avatar L T says:

        Yes, it will change the dynamic. When I was in high school (more years ago than I care to count), I asked to be moved to a different English class because of how the teacher treated me and certain other students who weren’t in the proper cliques (cheerleaders, the Prom Committee group she supervised, etc.). They refused to move me, but other students must have complained as well, because one week the Vice Principal sat in for two or three days. Those were the only comfortable, enjoyable days in that class all year, and the verbal abuse and poor teaching picked right back up the first day he was gone.

      • avatar Hewson_p says:

        Hi.  I think these are good points.  And, truthfully, before I sat in on a classroom for my child, those thoughts held me back.  But, I got lucky that my child is at an age wherein they allow the parents to occasionally help with the schoolwork.  So, it wasn’t clear that I was there to “spy”.  And, I started relating to the kids on their level and also showed up enough times that the teacher started to relax.  And some of the kids and the teacher started to show their true colors. 

        So, with that information in hand, I was able to talk to my child about handling these interactions with specific individuals.  And I was able to say to the school “I think this teacher might be making a few missteps with the kids in the class and here’s why”.  The teacher was seasoned and generally well liked, but she was still doing things that were blowing it with my child and a few others.  The school system heard me out and did some coaching.  Things got better!

        Please note that I am also not in the least bit trying to discount anyone else’s parenting or personal experience with bullying.   I’m merely trying to make the point that gathering more information can often help with deciding the next steps. 

    • avatar D C says:

      My youngest, a special needs child, was a target of bullying in junior high such that we had to move out of the district.  They would not allow a parent to visit a classroom at all, and of course, you couldn’t have anyone video the class because that would infringe on the rights of other students.  We couldn’t sell our house for a reasonable price either, so ended up renting it out so we could move to another school district. 

      I would suggest that the parents get seriously involved (teacher conferences, administrator conferences, attend school board meetings) and become so visible that your kids will be known to have parents that care.  The old squeaky wheel thing. 

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You’re not greatly confused, you’re in denial. He’s a creep and likely also a scumbag.
    L #2: Rural MS, ya’ll? Are you from the North? That could be some of the “problem”…because some Southerners still haven’t gotten over/forgiven the Civil War. It’s an impoverished state as well. I’d get them to private school, if able. There’s a reason 2 of your children are crying and/or complaining and I’d HEED THAT. And I’m not a parent, but do see the headlines.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Thank you Cindy Marek: “Rural MS, ya’ll? Are you from the North?”

      I was born and raised in Chicago. I’ve lived the last 29 years in Houston…y’all. While there are some people “down here” who haven’t forgotten “The War Between the States” (if you’re going to be disrespectful of the South, be consistent)…I’ve seen nearly as many Rebel flags on pick-ups in Northern rural Illinois, where my mother lives (not very rural now, but still a lot of farms, hyuck-hyuck) as there are here. And just as many rednecks. And ignoramuses who think Southern equals stupid.

      Might I generously point out that many Northerners come to the South with the attitude that everyone born South of the Mason-Dixon line is a blithering, inbred moron? Poverty doesn’t mean cruelty, nastiness or a lack of compassion or hospitality, either. If the kids at the school are picking on anything regional, it might be the dialect or accent…and my dear, every time I visit Chicago, everyone has a good laugh because 30 years in Texas does rub off a bit…and my son and husband are Texan through and through and we all sound so ***quaint*** and dumb, you see. Y’all. All y’all.

      If supposedly intelligent adults who should know better think it’s hilarious to listen to a slight Texas accent, just think what a group of ***rural MS kids, y’all*** think of one from Boston, or the Bronx, or Staten Island, or Maine. Kids. Elementary school kids, who are not know in any time or place for their kindness or compassion. Or impulse control.

      Jist giss Ah’ll set on th’ poach an’ have me a glass a swee’ tea, y’all. W’ ma dawg, ‘n’ ma s Ol’ Bessie. Shee-it.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      re: LW2.  That was my first thought as well, Cindy.  I wonder why they decided to move there: was it a move to be closer to family?  A job move?  Want to escape from the big bad city?  It could be a North/South thing, a city/country thing, depending on the race involved, it could even be a racial thing.  I have amily in the south and even though I am FAMILY I always here about how bad the city is, etc. whenever I visit them.  It’s hard enough for adults, it’s brutal on children.  Adults know enough to keep their predudices to themselves for the most part, children don’t have that filter yet.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        @lisakitty: When children express prejudice based on race, regional origin, ethnicity, religion, etc., in elementary school in the form of bullying…do you think they’re actually coming up with those feelings, whole-cloth, on their own? Or are those picked up like a social disease from the adults who “know how to keep their prejudices to themselves”?

        Children are taught to have filters by their parents…and also taught empathy, compassion and that everyone is the same under the skin…or, alternatively…that the color of your skin, the place you were born (city or country, state or region, North or South), your religion, your parents’ politics or sexual orientation…makes you a bad person as opposed to a Good Person. Parents frequently lack filters with their children, in fact, lack any whit of common sense, and teach their children every bit of divisiveness, anger, fear and hatred that they themselves have, without any background, rationale or explanation. And they never bother to teach said children that it isn’t all right to express these sentiments as bullying.

        Children don’t come out of the womb as bullies. They’re taught that it’s acceptable, even laudable behavior. I just love how everyone blames the schools…who are held hostage by litigious parents who scream bloody murder and threaten to sue if their little monster(s) get a day of detention, or if a victim who is tired of getting his/her head slapped, bounced off of a basketball, getting kicked by cleats, kidney punched or spit on rises up righteous and blacks the pissant’s eye. As my sons’ middle school principal put it, there are parents who are bigger bullies than their kids…just as mean, just as cowardly…and he profoundly wished he could expel them too.

        By the way, my older son started bullying in high school, and we and the school cooperated, and collectively came down on him like a 16-ton weight. He stopped immediately. Then he decided he wanted to live with his dad…who is a racist, a misogynist, and a few other things, and isn’t shy about his feelings (no filters). My son started bullying again…of all things, other kids with special needs (my son is high functioning on the autism spectrum, with average intelligence) who had no way of defending themselves. Because dad said he wasn’t ***like*** those kids…and had been doing so for years. Kids with CP, kids with speech problems…just kids. And Asian and black people. WTF? Dad and grandma…again, no filters.

        My younger son was bullied for religious reasons, and because he has no racial or ethnic biases. I’ve met some of the parents of those little darlings…not people I want to know better. And while they may live in Houston…ask them where they came from…New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, California, Oregon, Washington…

        • avatar Lila says:

          Briana, “… the schools…who are held hostage by litigious parents who scream bloody murder and threaten to sue if their little monster(s) get a day of detention, or if a victim … rises up righteous and blacks the pissant’s eye… there are parents who are bigger bullies than their kids…”

          YES! What you said! And nothing makes me madder than hearing about a bullied kid who finally has had enough, then HE’S the one who gets in trouble for taking the bully down a peg. Ugh.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Hello Lila: Just wanted you to know I have visited your site. Beautiful. I will comment soon. And also post on my own dubious forum. And the lovely Mr. Wow’s.

    • avatar A R says:

      Cindy, do you actually KNOW anyone from the south who “still hasn’t gotten over/forgiven the Civil War”? I’m not asking if you know someone who is a bigot or who dislikes others who are not like him or her. I’m asking specifically about the “Civil War” statement.

      I am Mississippi born and Georgia raised, and *I* don’t know *anyone* who fits that criteria. Bluntly, I think comments like that are the main reason that naive people still actually believe that southerners are backwood, uneducated bigots.

      I for one don’t appreciate it. It just perpetrates a useless, stupid myth.

      • avatar Lila says:

        A R, I’m in my 40s and when I was in high school / college in Virginia, yes, I did know a few people like that through my part-time job – people my age. They didn’t go around spouting it, but I first became aware of it when my choice of words was corrected from saying “Civil War” to “War Between the States.” That was followed by quite the passionate lecture about how the war was unconstitutional, the South should have been allowed to secede but was wrongly forced to remain in the union, it wasn’t about slavery, and even – as my jaw dropped – that slavery wasn’t a bad thing, and the slaves weren’t mistreated. Then there was the TV series Roots, which generated a lot of buzz in those days. It was roundly denounced among these same people as “propaganda” and a bunch of made-up hooey. If you pointed out that yes, it was mostly fiction based on a historical record, but asked – don’t you think that things like that happened? – you would get the same indignant outrage and denial. I mean – this was real anger, and the conversation with one particular guy generally ended with him putting me down as ignorant, and stalking away in a huff. It was very much a personal insult to him (and his family was the same way).

        This was in the southeastern region of Virginia, which still has a large black population. Our black co-workers would listen to these discussions off to the side, but never, ever said a word one way or the other.

      • avatar sparktest says:

        Yes, I do know some people here in 2012. I would like to submit some of my Louisiana relatives as living proof.

    • avatar sparktest says:

      LW#2 and Cindy Marek: I agree, the accent issue could be very legit. When I moved from Louisiana to Oregon at age 13, the introduction to the new school district was very rough. I had an accent of course, and the junior high school kids were not shy about telling me they know I was stupid because I had a Southron accent. Plus as Margo points out, I was starting school with group of people who had grown up together since kindergarten. What helped the most was getting good grades (proving that despite the accent, my grades were just as good), and participation in sports and music (non-academic ventures where you could just be one of the group).

      I did find cultural differences as well as curriculum differences between LA and OR. While OR had the second highest literacy rate at the time, and Louisiana one of the lowest, I found my grammar was better than my peers (I ended up grading papers for the teacher), and my education in history was better. So while the stats said one thing, my public school education in LA did just fine in OR, but there were “catch up” areas. By comparison, at that time, I found teachers a bit too strict in LA, but conversely a bit too lax in OR. I have to believe it works the same when you go the other way.

      Another difference I found is that what you did to “play” in rural LA vs. suburban OR were very different. The former usually involved things you could do without spending money – fishing, hunting, crawfishing (all experiences I would happily give my kids today), and in OR play meant going to movies, going to the mall, going to the under the bridge Saturday market to “hang out”.

      My point to you is that you have not just moved geographies, you have moved cultures, and while your kids may be having a rough time of it, there may be more than one cause. Moving anywhere else at all other than where they grew up could produce tears at the 3 weeks point, it’s just ALL new. They will need to join activities to fit in, even if it is not something they have done before or are comfortable with. Over time, they will be accepted.

  5. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#1 – We’re pretty quick to jump to the pervert conclusion. You didn’t want to hear the observation about teenage clothes? Perhaps he wanted to say that everyone is so sloppy or they are all wearing throwbacks to the 70’s or some other observation. Did I miss something about these being sexual observations? I often look at crowds wherever I am and am amused at different clothing choices. That doesn’t make me a pervert by any means. I would be much more concerned about the reason his daughter didn’t talk to him for seven years. You say he has no explanation – did you ask? Does he refuse to discuss or does he say he doesn’t understand or does he make an excuse? I check out my kids’ friends on facebook because I want to know what her gang is up to. You don’t say what you mean by “check out.” Is he seeing what their interests are or leering over posted pictures or what?

    Now, added all together perhaps there is a problem there but the beach thing really threw me. I would say the biggest problem in your relationship is that you aren’t communicating. He makes an observation at the beach and you don’t want to hear it. He didn’t speak to his daughter for an extended period of time and you haven’t probed. If he won’t or you don’t want to discuss, that’s a real problem.

    LW#2 I agree that adjustment to a new school takes a long time but no one should have to tolerate bullying. You have heard the children’s side of this. Did you go in and speak with the teachers? Take them concrete examples and ask for a plan of action? This isn’t going to just sort itself out and I agree with other posters that you can’t just let kids try to figure it out for themselves. There is no guarantee that a private school would be any better if you are not engaging with teachers, coaches, administrators.

    • avatar ann penn says:

      LW1 said he went to the beach to observe how the teen girls were dressed. Doesn’t that imply bathing suits for many of them?

      Further – his wife slept with the daughter for ten years; after a year of sleeping “alone” the daughter stopped speaking to him. Anyone else suspect he is a pedophile? And maybe his wife had known that and was “protecting” the daughter for those ten years?

      LW2. I was not a “helicopter parent”, but my son had some serious illness that left him entering jr. high underweight; add to that he didn’t start his vertical growth spurt until about age 16 (he’s now over 6’5″ and quite healthy). In jr. high he was bullied. Sometimes his lunch was stolen. One day I sent a special lunch with a brownie dessert that had cayenne pepper in the middle. A friend piked up the brownie since my son wasn’t eating it; he told the friend “you don’t want that” but the friend took a bite anyway. His lunch was never stolen again. One day he arrived home and reported being bullied on the bus. I got in the car and followed the bus to the stop where the two bullies got off and confronted them. NO more problems. In fact, he and one of those are now on friendly terms.

      • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

        AnnPenn….You sound like my mother. My mother was no helicopter mom, but if I came home complaining about being made fun of on a regular basis…it was handled immediately.

        As far as the kids in school:
        1. You moved thousands of miles away to an unfamiliar environment….Your kids (all under age 9) are now there with mom, grandmom and you….plus a new school, farm country, new neighbors, new kids, new EVERYTHING. 

        I am not saying that your kids are not being bullied or the teachers are not being mean….but this might also be a behavioral manifestation of the fact that your kids are pissed about facts stated above.  Don’t be so quick to think that your little darlings are so happy with their new circumstances.

      • avatar htimsr40 says:

        I know there are people who think it is skeevy and pervy for men to ogle the teenage models who grace the pages of Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue. It isn’t.

  6. avatar hmna says:

    “And when you say you’re considering private school again, is there even one in a rural area?”

    Oh, yes, especially in that part of the country. A lot of them sprung up about the time that integration was being enforced. I can’t speak for Mississippi. But I can speak about South Carolina. A lot of private schools opened up in the late 60s and early 70s when the final push to integrate the schools was happening. And most of those private schools are still open today.

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      You’re right, HMNA. I’ve vacationed in Hilton Head and Savannah for several years, and I noticed that there are indeed many “private academies” catering to white students there. So even if there are private schools in LW2’s area, he’ll want to check out what they are like.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      I was going to say: Private schools in the Deep South aren’t necessarily a winning situation. I went to public schools myself, but my guess is that a fair number of them are still mostly white, and I’m not sure I’d want my kids picking up some of the attitudes that I know they might get from children whose families wanted to send them to de-facto segregated schools.

      Absolutely step in on the bullying, but be very, very, careful researching new schools if it comes to that.

  7. avatar butterfly55 says:

    LW1 – I would be most worried about why the wife felt she needed to sleep with the daughter, was this to protect her from him? And then the not talking for all those years, something very odd in his past, that would worry me much more than any fashion observations.  There are other fish out there and ones not as fishy as this one.

    LW2 – back up you children, go to the school and visit with the teachers and counselors, get the feel of the place, don’t make them face an entire year of terror if it is bad, but be careful that they don’t go from bad to worse, make sure of the attitudes in any private school you may consider because I have seen them to be even more  into bullying in some places, either ways best of luck to your kids because it is so hard on them to make it through something like this.

  8. avatar L T says:

    I don’t think LW#1 jumped to the pervert conclusion because of the beach incident — I think that incident just solidified concerns she already had due to the family situation. I’m sure he’s “wonderful in some ways” (what a ringing endorsement!), but most predators are; blending in is how they get away with it.

    My gut instinct is that him telling her about “studying” the “fashions” had more to do with a concern that someone was going to tell her about his creepy behavior and he wanted to have an explanation in advance. I’m not saying I don’t expect a 57-year-old man to look at a young girl in a bikini; that’s not necessarily creepy in and of itself. But 40 to 50 of them, under close scrutiny, and then making the poor decision to describe your activities to your girlfriend? Yes, something’s off. Run, and run fast.

  9. avatar D C says:

    Letter Writer 1 should go ahead and listen to her boyfriend’s comments.  Sounds like he’s testing the waters to see just how well they go together.  She needs to hear just how his mind is working in order to decide if she does indeed need run the other way, AND perhaps alert the authorities to a possible predator.  I imagine she’d feel pretty bad if she just turned and ran and a little while later heard on the evening news that her former boyfriend had assaulted a young girl. 

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Alert the authorities about what?  Maybe he is a pervert, but there has to be a crime.  Looking is still not a crime yet.  She needs to have a serious talk with this guy.

      • avatar D C says:

        That’s what I’m saying — hear him out.  He might divulge a lot more than she thinks if she offers an interested ear. 

  10. avatar Stan says:

    L#1,  I am 53 male and single.  While sitting outside of Starbucks in a college town last month I was amazed at how out of touch I had become.  I had to call my girlfriend, who has two daughters in college, and tell her that out of the 20 or 30 girls I had seen entering the store all were wearing black tights and Uggs, except one girl in grey tights and two in jeans.  My question to her was: When did this happen?  No sexual or perverted interest, just surprise.  Unless you listen to his comments, how do you know what his observations were?

  11. avatar lindsayRO says:

    Re: LW 1; I find it amusing how quick most commenters, as well as Margo, are so quick to find this man guilty of being a pervert when it’s obvious the LW wouldn’t even listen to him. So he studied teenagers–it doesn’t say that he ogled young girls but the assumption is made. Are all teens girls? He may have wanted to let on how appalled he was to see young men with their pants hanging under their rears, and young girls with their breasts practically hanging out. How in his day he’d have earned the whooping of the century were he to venture out like that.
    So he watches his daughter’s bf’s female FB friends–it may be nosy, but he may be concerned for what is going on between this bf and these other women.
    n between this bf and these other women.

  12. avatar A R says:

    If you’ll pardon my saying so, I read the letter twice and stilll don’t see any events that sound like actual “bullying”. Bullying is a very specific thing, and the term should not be casually tossed about. A child being unhappy, a teacher not listening, and crying over a recent move could be just young kids who are unhappy with the move itself.

    If you want to put them back in private, by all means do so, but three weeks is an awfully short amount of time by which to make a judgment.

    I suggest you talk to the children’s teachers before you make a decision, but with it being near the end of the academic school year in many states (summer break looming), you might want to give it a few more weeks.

  13. avatar lindsayRO says:

    And as for the daughter and wife issue, from the LW’s phrasing, I can’t figure outbif it is the daughter or the wife that wouldn’t speak to him. Maybe it was a matter of “Honey, she’s ten. Don’t you think she should be a big girl and sleep on her own now?”
    I am a thirty yo women, FWIW.

  14. avatar Kriss says:

    “He also told me his wife (now deceased) slept with their daughter until she was 10. About a year after the daughter got her own bedroom, she stopped speaking to him for seven years. He has no explanation for any of this.”

    while the statement by itself makes the wife seem odd, combine it w/ the rest of your letter & I’m betting he was pretty creepy to his wife as well & he knows why she froze him out, he just doesn’t want to share it w/ you.

  15. avatar Amy says:

    To LW#1: You NEED to tell your man’s daughter that her father is doing what he is. She obviously has trust issues with him, and this is just the icing on the cake. And after you do, leave this troglodyte and be glad you dodged a huge, perverted, lecherous, pedophilic bullet.

  16. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – This guy definitely sounds creepy and you should get away. I wonder though why you’re asking this questions of Margo and not him.

    LW2 – You moved to rural Mississippi for Christ’s sake what were you expecting? Private school down there won’t be any better. Was this a once in a lifetime career op or something?

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      RS—I am tagging onto your comment, so when lisakitty starts to bitch about not having gotten any special insight from my response to your post, just lie and say we talked about it on the phone.

      Anyway… my two cents’ worth on today’s letters. I’ll be brief.

      LW1: Your letter begins with “I am dating blah blah blah who is ‘wonderful in some ways.'” In advice column terms, this is the equivalent of being a nude teen left alone in a hot tub in the haunted woods whilst her BF goes to check what that unusual stabbing noise was.

      LW2: I stopped reading when you said you were in rural Mississippi.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        DB – May I call you DB? Anyway, LOL!!! I only kept reading after Mississippi for the WTF?? factor.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Here’s the question no one else has apparently thought to ask.

        Why would anyone deliberately move to rural Mississippi?

        Now, I appended this under David Bolton’s post because if there are any moronic attacks, it’s as good a place as any. I live in Houston. I was raised in very “urban” suburban Chicago…and moved to rural Illinois when I was 18. My sisters were younger…and the culture shock was enormous for them and my mother Not so much for me…I’m maladjusted anyway, and anti-social, so the lack of people, noise, and bahbah…and the open gravel roads and the dim boys with muscle cars…I was interested in driving the cars…not the farm boys…were fine with me. Rural Illinois was pretty country back in the ’70’s. I drove a tractor and was paid very well for it. I raced up and down unpaved roads, drank Black Jack with beer back and boilermakers, road my horse into town in Osh-Gosh bib overalls, a fatigue jacket and mirror aviator shades and loved the silence.

        But it had nothing on rural Mississippi then, now or any time, ever. Dirt poor, under or uneducated, racially divided, poor public schools, an overwhelming thunderhead of fundamentalist Christian, reactionary, Tea Partying churches looming over everything (ever hear of being river baptized? You will if you move there. Dunking). Entertainment is extremely limited…and depending on just how rural they’ve gone, there may not even be regular chain big box stores within less than an hour’s drive. A lot of insects, snakes, possums, raccoons and other varmints…and they all want in your house. Lots of pick-ups painted in dashing custom combos of primer red, Bondo gray and rust. Getting drunk, dancing, fighting and sex on Saturday night…and praying to Jesus and an unforgiving, Old Testament god in cheap suits and polyester dresses on Sunday morning. Kids DO play outside a lot more than urban kids…but they also have satellite dishes and 60″ TV’s in their sagging mobile homes and shot-gun houses, and sometimes a sparkling, shiny $60,000 dually in the dirt front yard with the appliances, tires, wrecks on blocks, chickens and goats. guns are everywhere, and everyone hunts and shoots…regardless of gender.

        Why would adults not trust Yankees? Because a lot of them think that a Southern accent means stupid and lazy. Because too many Northerners think that ALL Southerners mistreated black people, were backward and inbred, and committed atrocities during the Civil War…and that all persons from the North were Abolitionists (what a joke), kind and generous to black people (look up the riots in New York when all of the white people realized they’d actually have to fight to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation…and the hundreds of black free people who were murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes burned in protest). Why would kids pick at, or even be a little reserved with new children? Because they talk funny? Because they’ve been taught to be very vocal about their parents beliefs before they have anyway of their own to defend them, and they’ve immediately set up a barrier? Or maybe because kids are always uncomfortable making drastic changes…and moving house is number two of the most traumatic things that can happen to any human being?

        But why move to Rural Mississippi? It’s poverty stricken. It’s not a good place to get “close to the land” and return to nature…and enjoy that simple life…as opposed to living a comfortable suburban existence. It’s actually not terribly stimulating, a lot of hard work…and most people cannot cut it. Was it work? I can’t imagine that…there are no jobs anywhere in MS, except in the casinos. LW1 give no reason for the move at all…just that he moved the whole family.

        If you move to a new place, it’s up to you to make the adjustments. Three weeks is not a very long time at all. It sounds as if the children were not at all prepared for the change, and were dropped into the middle of the school year in what is probably a small community elementary in which all of the families DO know each other, and probably have for generations. It takes time for the “new kids” to adjust.

        But I have reservations about the parents. I am an intelligent and educated person, with an excellent vocabulary. I have a child with what are commonly referred to as “special needs” (autism and behavioral issues, and ADD) and another son with “uncommon” special needs (extremely intelligent, in that way that can make life difficult, unconventional, loyal to friends and agnostic). When I hear a parent using terms such as “acculturated” when referring to a choice of schools (what the hell?), and “unsavory” when commenting on unverified reports of “mean teachers” (I wish I had a dollar for every time my oldest said that…and I knew every teacher and administrator who worked with him…and not one was in any way mean) and his son crying (why? We are never told…and the LW is very vague on this point)…but that his youngest isn’t complaining (could it be the boy is actually content…not just “not much of a complainer”? Or that, being the youngest, he isn’t dare I say it, as spoiled as the others?), I wonder at the reasons for the move.

        To acculturate his family to a new and exotic subculture of Americana? To look at the natives at play? No, I would not willingly move to rural Mississippi…because I am not god-fearing, I am more liberal than not, I don’t much like Wally World, pick-ups, or chickens (especially chickens) and I am allergic to every bug bite and plant under the sun. I have no urge to slop hogs, live in the boondocks, or have to wait until cable for a new film…or have the DVD’s and CD’s I purchase censored. But the people there are still people, and three weeks is not enough time for a set of brand-new children in a completely alien environment to adjust, or to call out the school for “unsavory surprises”, and I’m not certain I’m exactly on board with moving ’round the country for the experience, and treating school like a petri dish where your children can “acculturate”.

        Anyone else have any coherent, non-aggressive thoughts on this?

  17. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Beach fashion doesn’t change that much from decade to decade, from tanks to teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikinis. Your guy is a bonafide creep who likes to eyeball and then yak about it. 

    LW#2: Acculturate? Am guessing you ain’t gonna impress the rural faculty when you show up to set them straight on how your children are fitting in.     

  18. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Ltr# 1: What are you waiting for? RUN!!

  19. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Ltr#2: No child of mine would have come home crying multiple times without me getting to the bottom of this. Yes, children need to learn how to adapt to a new environment. But I would make very sure that that there is no bullying going on..

  20. avatar sdpooh says:

    Regarding the father who wonders about public vs private school.  He should remove his kids ASAP and enroll them in private school if he can afford it.  It is not worth the warm fuzzy political correctness to put his kids a year behind in an inadequater school system.  My son left a private daycare/kindergarten above grade level and left public 1st grade below grade level.  He never caught up.  The teachers did not address any of my concerns and I could not afford private school.  He was diagnosed by the school district with a learning disability and then that was ignored by the staff at the school.  He finally was able to complete school at the age of 19, by doing a course at the local junior college that allowed him to move at his own pace online.  He completed his junior and senior year classes in 6 weeks and got his GED.  He has competed 2 years of college and works in a field he loves.  Don’t shortchange your child, if he/she is bullied, not properly taught or any other concern, get them out if you can.    

    • avatar R Scott says:

      Sounds like your child had issues beyond going to a public school. Sorry but a condemnation of public schools based on your son’s dubious history and your excuses is kind of lame. 

      • avatar sdpooh says:

        R Scott…I admit he had issues.  But, the fact remains, he learned in private school.  His learning disability was minor and if the school had followed the recommendations made by their own tester, he could have flourished.  They made the choice to ignore it.  I told them in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  The fifth grade teacher listened to me when I told him what was recommended nd my son did well. One of the 8th grade teachers listened and my child did well in that class.  The rest did not.  Even the principal of the middle school looked down on me an said “Who told you he has a problem”, with her hands folded on the desk.  I said “Your own district test people”.  She flipped open his file and rifled thru it.  “Oh, yes, well” she said when she found it.  Public school personnel are there on tenure and could care less.  I stand by my statement.  If this parent can afford it, private school is best, they can be held accountable because the parent is paying.  You get what you pay for and public education is the bottom of the barrel in this country.         

  21. avatar Artemesia says:

    in rural Mississippi you have chosen to move to a place where your kids will grow up ignorant. The schools are the worst in the country. The private alternatives are for the most part ‘seg academies’ and likely to offer the same lame science instruction and generally backward instruction as the public schools. Protect the kids from bullying and figure out how to augment their education because they are not going to be getting much out of their schooling.

    • avatar A R says:

      I attended rural Mississippi schools from first grade through eighth grade. I graduated from high school in Georgia, and as it happens, I’m working on my doctorate now.
      My point is this: the foundations of education begin in the home. The value one’s family places on education and the support a student receives from his or her parents or guardians is more important than the locale in which one grows up.

  22. avatar Irreverent says:

    Sorry to post this here, but I can’t post anywhere else.

    I guess WOWOWOW really is going down (the tubes…). I’m in Canada. I tried accessing the WOWOWOW website, and all I’m getting is a page that says “Forbidden – Users from your country are not permitted to browse this site.” So then I Googled Dear Margo. I got the page that lists all her previous articles (including yesterday’s and today’s), but when I tried to read today’s entry, I was sent to Margo’s December 30, 2010 entry. Then I tried yesterday’s entry, and had no problem accessing it. That’s when I decided to log on to see if that would work, and to leave this message.

    Update: Now that I’m logged on, I can freely access the Home page and other pages in this website. But I keep getting the same “Forbidden” message when I try to access the site on my iPhone because I’m not logged on through my iPhone. (I’m logged on through my desktop.)

    I sincerely hope Margo sets up her own blog like Mr. Wow has done. I’d really hate to not be able to read her posts anymore. 🙁

    • avatar Lila says:

      Irreverent, click on my name or avatar. Some of us are setting up an alternate spot. Just added today: Link to get to Liz Smith’s new HuffPo home (she will be there regularly starting 2 Apr), and a link to get to Margo. Also there is a link for Mr. Wow’s new personal blog.

      • avatar Irreverent says:

        Awesome!! Thanks, Lila!!

        P.S.: I have actually visited your new blog and contributed with responses in the past couple of days; I just couldn’t be “Irreverent” there anymore ^_^

        P.P.S: I just took a quick peek and saw the two new links. Yay!!! Thank you, Lila!!!

          • avatar wvdonna says:

            Mabel, I can relate. I was the designated whipping girl in my class in elementary school. One day, no one would play with me and I sat by myself and cried. This was 1st or 2nd grade. An older girl saw me, and told her mother about it that night. Her mom called my parents to tell them. My mom yelled at me. She wondered what was wrong with me and told me I was antisocial. I too considered suicide when I was very young. By the time I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t that popular, but I had friends and we had all matured. However, my mother’s words messed me up for a very long time.