Dear Margo: More on the Hatfields and the McCoys

Margo-Howard_tall10Margo Howard’s advice

More on the Hatfields and the McCoys

Dear Margo: If your writer who was a Hatfield identified herself as a native of West Virginia, my home state, then I might have some insight into why this person, as you put it, needed to become less thin-skinned. People from Hatfield and McCoy country are often maligned by people who have never visited this beautiful part of our country to see its majestic mountains, lakes and streams. Appalachia and its people are frequently the butt of tasteless jokes (incest, wearing no shoes, having no teeth, acting like backwoods ignoramuses, and so on). Over time, this wears on people, as much as any negative, hurtful stereotype wears on other groups who are the objects of ridicule based on color, religion or geography.

Now living in the Northeast, I find the ignorance of many people in other locations in our country pretty astonishing. No one can seem to recall that West Virginia has had statehood since the Civil War, and that its secession from Virginia came about because of anti-slavery fervor.

Regarding the Hatfields and the McCoys, just because it’s “history” doesn’t mean it’s good or positive. — Mid-Atlantic Transplant Who Enjoys Your Column

Dear Mid: You make some valid points, for which I thank you. History, however, ought not be discussed only if it is good or positive. As for your beautiful home state, I did spend five weeks in Harpers Ferry with a movie company, and it is beautiful in a hardscrabble way. I was also informed by the then secretary of state that I was no longer welcome there because of a piece I wrote for “TV Guide.” (I never had occasion to find out whether he could make good on his word.) — Margo, reminiscently

M-I-L Troubles, No Joke

Dear Margo: I just had to write you about the letter concerning “Another Pushy M-I-L.” The situation described sounds all too familiar, as I am currently in the process of dissolving my marriage to a woman whose mother expressed similar vitriol. Some days my wife would just shrug and say, “That’s just how my mom is,” and other days she would dance to the tune of whatever music her mother was playing.

I strongly encourage all people in these types of situations to enlist the spouse’s help in either quieting the M-I-L or enforcing a persona-non-grata law if they cannot be civil. When we married, it was tolerable. When we had a child, she was worse. And when we moved closer to her, it became egregious. I’m not going to detail the blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say she would explode into screaming if I suggested she leash a troublesome dog. (“A dog would hang itself with a leash!”)

If the spouse stays neutral or, even worse, defends the vicious behavior, you will be passing through a private hell every time this person enters your life: big events, holidays and so on. No behavior will ever be bad enough for them to step in.

I used to think two people in love could live harmoniously no matter what families said or did. I still do, but with a caveat: If someone is toxic in a family and is allowed to stick around and pour poison freely, they will ruin the relationship. And God help you if you have children, because nobody will see any problem with bad-mouthing the parent who fled the craziness. Thousands of dollars for therapy, lawyers and court later, the children will be the ones who suffer most. — Mr. Green

Dear Mr.: Feel better now? When a mother-in-law runs roughshod over the in-law spouse, it is usually the case that she has done the same to the child. This may or may not be obvious before marriage. There are some happy endings, though, when an interfering, destructive m-i-l is invited by her offspring to take a hike. I must say that I have had a few good ones, and I try very hard myself to be a “good” one. — Margo, responsively

* * *

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


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

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

19 Responses so far.

  1. avatar clutzycook says:

    Really Margo?  Two days in a row of reruns? 

  2. avatar Cindy M says:

    L #1: It’s a big nation, and people in every region I’ve visited (or lived) tend to be surprisingly parochial. When I moved *here* I discovered the notion was that all people of my racial background are rich, endlessly privileged, never ourselves work for a thing. None of my ancestors ever shoveled snow or worked in a coal mine or labored in a grimy factory or ate boiled potatoes day after day during The Great Depression; nope. Rich and privileged, all of us! Coworkers were genuinely astonished that I actually WORKED for my paycheck! It wasn’t simply printed out and handed to me on a Sterling Silver platter because of my skin color! 😮 So I’m not surprised you’ve encountered various attitudes or ignorance.
    L #2: What you say is true. I was blessed with 2 terrific M-I-L’s; actually the 2nd is the mother of husband’s half-brother. I dislike maligning my own gender, but it does seem (aside from mental illness in some) that certain types of women only “think in the nest.” They cannot or will not try and socially expand. I’ve known a few (fortunately just that) office coworkers who couldn’t stop being “mom in charge” once she got to the office; God forbid you use a pen from her desk and don’t replace it EXACTLY where she’d lain it!! If others are maligning you, well…the truth always comes out.

  3. avatar beiskaldi says:

    And yet another male writer who is sneered at. If LW2 were a woman and someone said ‘Feel better?’, it would be taken for the dismissive put-in-your-place comment that it is. And Margo would go on about what an evil battleaxe MIL is and how the LW is right to get away from the family that treats her so badly and the hubby that won’t stand up for her.
    I am not an anti-feminist apologist; I believe that women should be treated equally. That is, same rights and responsibilities. Don’t treat people of the opposite sex the way that you would be offended in being treated by them.

  4. avatar JCF4612 says:

    1) Just when I was wondering what’s your point, Margo said  you had some valid ones.  So I’ll just make this one … Bluefield, W.Va. is one of the great armpits of the nation. Am forever grateful my family turned down a transfer there.
    2) Mmm, so what else is new?

  5. avatar BeanCounter says:

    what the HELL, Margo?!?!?    “Feel Better”?!?!?   Like he’s whining and complaining?   Come on!   That was Passive Aggressive B.S. that is totally uncalled-for! 

    • avatar Davina Wolf says:

      I agree–was shocked to see Margo’s response and completely agree with the letter writer, having had similar experiences with toxic relatives and thus a similar outlook. 

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Well I agree with your main point, but those superfluous question marks, exclamation points and cap locks were also uncalled-for.

  6. avatar Lisa S. says:

    LW#1, If you’re going to rely on local stereotypes to limit where you go around this nation, by all means, please stay the hell home. If you are willing to take the stereotypes with a grain of salt and explore this vast and beautiful nation, please hop a plane/train/automobile.
    LW#2, Wow, stooping to a level of man-bashing when if that had been a woman writer you would have been all up behind her for the statements. The WoW site is crap to begin with and if you’ve drunk the kool-aid, next week will be my last visit to the site. 

    • avatar Kriss says:

      I have to agree.  the site really sucks since their last change.  lately, the only reason I’ve been coming here is to read Margo’s column but if it’s just going to be more of this & the bad advice she’s been giving lately, then I won’t even continue doing that.

  7. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    Is this really Margo answering questions or a intern while she is on vacation?   And to answer the unspoke question:  Yes, I do feel better.

    • avatar clutzycook says:

      Well that would at least explain the two days of follow-up letters (unusual for Margo) and the snarky response to LW#2

  8. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I hate Philadelphia, myself.  I’ve found it to be far uglier than any other place I’ve visited in this nation, including West Virginia (which is far less *hardscrabble* than the streets of Philly in my opinion). 
    LW#2:  I have no idea what got into Margo being so snarky because I think your letter made a good point.  If there is a toxic family member undermining a marriage the only way it will work out well is if the spouse with the toxic relative takes a stand for the marriage.  Your letter is a cautionary tale for people who see the in-law problem before marriage but think *it will all work out because we love each other* and do not recognize that their intended either cannot or will not break the bond with their toxic kin.  Toxic mother-in-laws are not restricted to mothers of sons.  Toxic mothers of daughters can be just as destructive. 

  9. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – To quote Margo, “Feel better”?   Sorry couldn’t help myself.
    LW2- Good move and sorry you had to put up with that for so long.

    So, is Margo retired? Ill? Dead? What?

  10. avatar Ariana says:

    Since we only get two posts a week, I also vote: Down with Read-Ons! We get enough re-hashing in the comments that people write here.