Dear Margo: To Tell or Not To Tell

With a wedding just around the corner, should I tell my conservative parents about my past, liberal relationships?  Margo Howard’s advice

To Tell or Not To Tell

Dear Margo: My problem, if you could call it that, is that I am a bisexual woman. Not bisexual as in I’ve had the occasional drunken romp with a lady, but bisexual as in I’ve had girlfriends. My family is ultra-conservative, and I have a feeling that if I told them, I would not be allowed to see my nieces. I had to explain to my stepsister that homosexuality is a completely different animal from pedophilia, and I know where she got that idea: my parents. I have let on to my stepsister that I have fooled around with women, but have not told her the extent of it, and she has let it slip that she has done the same thing, as well, although I suspect she’s firmly in the “fooled around” category.

My parents are old and are against gay marriage with the highly refutable logic that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” I am getting married to a man next year and am worried that it may come out at the wedding. I have no problem telling my friends. It is just my family members in another city who don’t know, so the likelihood that it will slip is about 50-50.

My husband-to-be encourages me to tell them, but understands the quandary I am in. My deal is that if I am getting married to a man and intend to spend the rest of my life with him, isn’t it kinder to my parents to let them think their daughter is hetero, or am I letting the entire LGBT community down by not telling them and risking rest-of-my-life outcast status? Despite their views, they are the only family I know. — Not-so-Innocent Bistander

Dear Not: Because you say your parents are “ultra-conservative” and old (and benighted), I would not give them information that, in a way, is none of their business and would also disturb them greatly. There is nothing to gain. You are getting married, and that will give them pleasure — and you’re doing it in the way they understand: a man and a woman! I don’t think you are letting down the LGBT community. Your peers know, and more importantly, your husband-to-be knows, so let’s leave Mom and Dad in the 20th century where they are comfortable. — Margo, contentedly

Waking Up to Weed Whackers? No, Thank You.

Dear Margo: We are an older, retired couple who like to do our yard work in the summer during the cool morning hours. Starting at first light, around 6 a.m., is when we prefer to do our yard work. By 9 a.m., it is much too hot to continue working outside.  Our next-door neighbor, who we really like, has asked us not to do any yard work before 9 a.m. The noise from the weed whacker, edger and lawn mower wakes up their baby. What to do? — Up and at ‘Em

Dear Up: What to do — at 6 in the morning? Be quiet, for one thing. I, personally, would find making any kind of big noise outside “at first light” grounds for calling the police. I can tell you, having lived in southern California, that the sound of weed whackers is an awful, annoying sound at any hour.

I would hope you’d accede to your neighbor’s request, because common courtesy dictates no noisy anything before 9. I don’t know which desert you live in for it to be too hot to be outside at 9 in the morning, but if that is truly the case, I suggest you change your yard work schedule to perhaps 6 in the evening. — Margo, respectfully

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


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103 Responses so far.

  1. avatar animelily says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only bisexual in a monogamous straight relationship.
    If it helps the OP, I did tell my parents. My mother thinks I was just “experimenting” and my father still thinks homosexuality is a sin. It didn’t change their opinions, which didn’t exactly help the LBGTA community any.

  2. avatar D says:

    I am going to have to disagree with Margo regarding LW2.  I live in the Midwest.  I jog in the mornings because it is the coolest time of day.  My start time is around 5:30 AM.  At times this summer, the temperature at 5:30 AM has been in the low to mid eighties.  At 6 PM the temperature has been in the upper nineties and sometimes triple digits.  By the time it gets down to a manageable temperature, it is too dark to see anything.  I am assuming that this couple is not doing yard work everyday.  If I were the older couple, I would explain to the neighbor my reasons for morning yard work.  I would also tell them what days I am doing yard work so that the neighbor can be prepared.

    • avatar impska says:

      I agree. Of course we all know that 5:30am isn’t the best time for our neighbors, but there have been some weeks this Summer when the evenings are too hot. A few weeks ago, I was talking to my husband about whether or not to get up that early to do the yard work when I looked outside and saw our neighbors out with flashlights mowing the lawn in the dark at 9pm. We laughed and joked that it was one way to schedule it.
      But if we had a baby, 5:30am or 9pm would both be inconvenient times.
      The older couple should do their yard work in the evenings whenever possible, but the truth is, in the height of Summer, sometimes early morning is the only option when you can’t afford to hire someone to do it at a more convenient time. If the neighbors have that much of a problem with their scheduling, then they should offer to help the older couple out during an hour that works better with their baby’s sleep schedule.
      Sorry, but “We’re old, and that’s the only time we can manage it without help” is all they need to say. If their neighbor decides to be angry rather than help out, so be it.

      • avatar D C says:

        Impska – Perfect answer.  I  wonder if the young parents have a “silent when baby is sleeping” household.  My sister-in-law tried that back in the day, and my mother in law told her that was going to come back to bite her.  Babies get used to noises and can sleep through it if you expose them to it. 

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Yeah, but jogging is quiet.  I’m in south Texas, where it’s been 103 for the past two weeks, and have been jogging at 8:00 in the evening, but jogging doesn’t wake up the neighbors.  There is no way I would *dream* of running a motorized implement at such hours.
      If it’s too hot for them to do yardwork after 9:00 in the morning, they need to hire a temporary yard-man (I bet there’s a neighborhood teenager who can do it; they should ask at church, if they go, to see if someone is willing to do it for free or at a very reduced rate).  Weed whackers at 6:00 in the morning are unpardonable to those of us who are still managing family lives and have to run on work schedules.  Being old doesn’t mean you can do anything you want and play the elder card.

    • avatar GabbyM says:

      They also need to check their local bylaws. In my city, it is illegal to make noise before 8 AM on weekdays and 9 AM on weekends. Unless they want a visit from the police and a large fine from Bylaw services, they better check it out.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Oh sure. Tell the baby not to expect to sleep in on mower and weedwacker morning!

      • avatar Jody says:

        I live in the Midwest as well… The Gateway City,  otherwise known as The Lou (home of the Arch).  Yes, the temperatures this summer have been agonizing at times.  However, I agree with Margo in regards to not running a weed-whacker or lawn mower, or anything else at ANY un-godly hour.  I understand it is possibly cooler at 6:00 am, but not everyone is an early bird.  And, aside from the young neighbors with the baby, my bet is everyone else is upset about it too, but have not said anything.  These days, I hear lawn mowers, weed-whackers, and blowers (which I do not understand the concept of blowing something around instead of scooping it up) EVERY DAY.  Not everyone is on the same schedule on my block.  I also have neighbors who work nights, and would appreciate a quiet sleep, without the dog barking incessantly 2 doors down and no one comes out to quiet him or take him inside.
        The only thing anyone should hear at 6:00 am are the birds singing.  Period.
        Maybe I need to consider living in a more rural area.  As I read this I think… my neighborhood, though charming… is quite noisy.  Ugh.
        Whatever the matter…. be polite….. it goes a long way.
        PS:  I REALLY hate leaf blowers.  They are noisy, waste gas, and only serve to blow stuff around.  I don’t get it.  Just get a rake and a leaf bag and scoop it up and put it in the bag.  How difficult is that?  Seriously.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      D: you are the reason neighborhood wars start.  If they can’t tolerate the heat, hire a lawnboy or desert scape, DO NOT intrude on your neighbor’s peace and quiet.  There is nothing worse than getting constantly woken up by a rude neighbor and that is just what this old couple are.  And yes, I’d call the cops or whoever if they kept it up.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I also live in the Midwest. There are a couple options here.
      1. Suck it up. If you drink plenty of water it won’t kill you to work at 0900. 
      2. If you really, really want to do your work at 0600 then there are these things you might have used when you were a young adult or teen-pre-whacker days  They’re still around.  They’re called clippers. I realize they don’t work quite as quickly and you might have to bend a bit but they do the job just fine & don’t require electricity or gas to run them. Nor do they annoy your neighbors or your lungs, hair, etc. And the bending and stretching might be good for you. 
      Good luck! 

    • avatar mmht says:

      Completely disagree with you.  I also live in the Midwest so I understand the issues with the heat, however, this is about being a courteous neighbor.  Many neighborhoods actually have enforced quiet hours to stop this sort of thing from happening.  To insist on doing noisy yard work very early in the morning after you have been requested not to, and for a very valid reason, is just plain rude and inconsiderate. 

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  Hetero/bi/homo sexual history is no one’s business but your own.  If you choose to share it with your future spouse, it is your decision but in my mind not obligatory.    In my day *conservative* parents meant that they expected their daughters to be virgins when they married.  I’m pretty sure that my conservative but  intelligent parents knew when I married at age 32 that I was not a virgin but they didn’t ask and I didn’t tell.  I don’t know why you think you owe the LGT community anything at all.  (If anything, your choosing to marry a man could be construed as *selling out*).  I suspect your parents know more than you think they know and have decided to keep their own counsel.  But, if they don’t,know your past sexual history,  I don’t see why you feel the need to tell them you had prior lovers who were girls anymore than you would tell them of all your former male lovers.  Who tells their parents the details of their sex life?  As for others *bringing up the issue* at your wedding…well there are always one or two boorish wedding guests who want to put a turd in your punchbowl just to be mean.  If its not over your former sex life, it would be some other *transgression*.  Most guests ignore the party poopers. recognizing them for the mean spirits they are.   Congratulations, enjoy your day, and look forward not back. 

    Letter #2:  I hate heat.  Live in Dallas, Texas in the summer without A/C (as I did in 1974) and you will be a Scarlette O’Hara claiming *I will never be hot again*.  And for me…hot is 70 plus degrees.  I don’t wear a coat in winter unless it is below 20 and then there has to be a huge wind.  That said…six am is too early to be making motor noises in your neighborhood.  I sympathize with your need to do your lawn work while it is cooler but my heart goes out to your neighbors who are not early risers (as I get older I rise earlier but the rest of the world does not). Of course, if you are up at 6 AM you are p robably in bed at 7 or 8 pm so doing the work afer 6 pm is not an option for you.  Hire a lawn service, do the work after 9 AM or after 6PM. 

    As much as I hate heat, I hate to be awakened by obnoxious noises more.  I am fully supportive of the Komen Foundation and the race for the cure.  Because I live in a *city within a city* which is all residential and has 20 mph speed limits, my neighborhood is ideal for the annual Race for the Cure.  It us usually on a Saturday morning in the fall.  My house is near the starting point where they want to jazz everyone up.  The way they have chosen to do so is with a big bass drum which repeats itself for an hour or more starting at 8 AM.  Even if I am awake before the drum starts…the sound is enough to make me want to stick a key in my eye.  Windows closed,  concrete walls and all, that big bass drum just keeps pounding.    For 2 or 3 years we thought someone in charge would wise up and ditch the darn drum.  Didn’t happen.  We complained.  The past few years the drum has not been an issue (they may have moved it down the road).  

    Well, at least we don’t have wind farms next door.   

    • avatar Barbara says:

      Well said on both counts.
      Why on earth would anyone bring up the subject at a wedding?  The point is to celebrate the occasion at hand.  No reason to discuss your sex life with your parents at all.
      If it is so hot that you can’t use your power tools, how can your grass, bushes and other plantings be growing so much they need such early morning vigilance?  It sounds to me as if your neighbors have been quite polite in their request for a peaceful morning.  I’d say either find another schedule or landscape with lower maintenance plantings so you don’t have to garden in the middle of the night.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      Bisexuality/homosexuality IS an obligatory subject to share with a spouse if the person is a man. Sadly, HIV and AIDS have disproportionately affected the gay community. If it is a man who is marrying and he has had gay encounters, he needs to be tested for STDs before marriage so he does not put his wife at risk. I know of at least one case where the husband did not tell his wife-to-be of his gay encounters. They married, and he  infected her with AIDS. She nursed him until he died; later, so did she. Telling can make the difference between life and death.

      • avatar Mandy McNalis says:

        Citation please.  Your anecdotal evidence of “I know of at least one case…” doesn’t count.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          “I know of at least one case where the husband did not tell his wife-to-be of his gay encounters”
          How tragic. I bet there are examples where the man (or woman) became HIV+ as well through heterosexual sex too, and then infected their partner. Knowing such things can make the difference between coming off as informed, or a paranoid bigot.

      • avatar Carrie A says:

        If anyone, be it a man or a woman, is getting married and has had previous sexual encounters with people of either gender they should be tested for STDs and AIDS.  That just makes sense because, FYI, it is just as possible to get STDs and/or AIDS from heterosexual sex.

      • avatar BeanCounter says:

        Just so you know, you don’t “infect someone with AIDS”.   by definition, it’s a “syndrome”, not a disease.   HIV is the virus.  You can infect someone with HIV, not AIDS.  lol.   by the way, we all die one day, and I know many gay men who are living their lives in better health with HIV than most of my family members who are compulsive “packs a day” smokers or grossly obese.  it’s not the death sentence it used to be, and I suspect your image of the disease is that of the 1980’s….when it was a relatively quicker death sentence.   Also, your comment about the gay community and AIDS has zero bearing on the letters written to Margo.   The LW#1 is a woman who was in lesbian relationships which has a significantly reduced risk of STD’s.  

      • avatar P S says:

        Re-read the letter. She HAS told her husband, as evidenced by her saying he encourages her to disclose her sexual orientation to her parents. It’s the PARENTS who are at the center of the dilemma.

  4. avatar etiennewestwind says:

    I know squat about deserts, but in mid-Missouri, the humidity usually guarantees that 6 pm is at least as bad as 9 am.  And the humidity can be stifling at 4 am, especially if we’ve had a substantial amount of rain and/or rivers swollen to near flood stage to due to heavy rain and flooding up north like this year.  However, as someone who works nights and knows just how annoying lawn mowers and weed whackers are, I would never dream of starting them at 6 am.  In my neighborhood, 8 am is usually considered acceptable.  The key to yardwork is plenty of hydration breaks, and if its really bad and you’re not used to working outside, not to do all of it in the same day.  Which due to my work schedule and the frequent thunderstorms we had for a while there is how my back yard didn’t get mowed for six weeks this summer.   (Back yard is not seen by as many people and has less crab grass anyway.)  As LW2 and spouse are not just arriving home after ten-hour shifts at 9 am, I imagine they have more free mornings to do the work.  
    Now, not all people handle heat as well as others, and I believe that as you get older it can hit you more.  So if the couple in question  truly can’t work after 9, and don’t want/can’t afford a lawn service, it might be time to take up the time honored tradition of paying the reliable neighborhood teen to do the work.  
    I’m not sure what to say about LW1, except that I wonder why she’s so sure her parents would automatically believe anything said by people they don’t know over her.

  5. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    I live in Phoenix where the summer temperatures are always above 100 and often over 110 so i symptathize about the joys and comforts of erly morning gardning. Nevertheless, in my neighborhood no one would even think of using noisy devises iin their yard before 8:30 or so. It is even possible that our community association forbids it. 

    Homeowners have the legal right to ‘quiet enjoyment”. It is selfish of you to destroy their joy of home ownership just to suit your comfort and/or desires. 

    You have seveal choices. Get someone else to do your summer yard work at a reasonal hour- after 9 am. Or do it yourself after 9 am. If you choose to be a bad neighbor and ignore their polite request, the next person to explain the rights of quiet enjoyment to you may be your local police. 

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Well said Nikki!  I lived in Phx too and would never think of making such noise at those hours. 

  6. avatar Briana Baran says:

    L#1: I am bi-sexual. I am in a completely monogamous hetero marriage of 17 years. It isn’t anyone’s business, including that of the LGBT community, whom you’ve had for a lover in your previous life (and not all members of the latter group consider it to be “selling out” to find an opposite sex partner…those who do are just as bigoted as someone who thinks that being gay is a curable disease or a sin). It is wonderful that your fiance knows and accepts you as you are…my husband is the same. I have two dear friends, and one sister who know…and who accept…but I’ve also lost friends by telling them.
    My mother “knows”, but I don’t think she really understands. In the case of your parents, the best advice really is to leave the “sin” unconfessed. They are not likely to change their convictions at this stage of their lives, and the revelation could very well cause a rift between you and them at a time when you should be feeling happiness, and they, delight and satisfaction in your marriage. If someone says something at your wedding, it’s unfortunately true, there is always someone at a wedding willing to try to make a scene. It’s up to you to refuse to enable them.
    L#2: I live in Houston, Texas. When it’s in the triple digits during the day, it’s sometimes in the high eighties at 6 am…and sometimes not…but the humidity can be cloying, and there really isn’t a good time for yard work. I grew up in the Chicago area…and the same holds true for summers there, and all over the Midwest. However, in the desert states such as Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, and also parts of California, temperatures can vary enormously from 6 am to 9 am…so much so that one may need a jacket in the early hours…and be unable to even use the swimming pool in the early afternoon because of the tremendous heat.
    I think that 6 am is very early to be doing yard work, especially with weed whackers and leaf blowers in operation. These machines produce some of the most high decibel and atrocious noises of any convenience tools ever invented. But suggesting to the LW that he get a yard service is specious at best. Depending on where one lives, these can be very expensive (and no, it isn’t going to be the boy from down the street…this is actually a job that adults do). It is a very different thing to go jogging than it is to be running the full compliment of yard machines. One is silent…the other qualifies as noise pollution…even during full daytime hours. 
    I have a solution…but I’m sure that the LW won’t like it, and that there will be screams of protest. If he must do his yard work at 6 am, go retro. Use a rake, weed cutter and a hoe to get those weeds, and a push broom to clear the drive and sidewalks. A hand edger works nicely on the lawn…and the wire never tangles, you don’t need an electric cord, or, alternatively, to fill it with gasoline. None of these stir up the horrible dust, and emit the fumes and exhaust that the power-driven varieties do, and they are virtually silent. Save mowing for last…and use an electric mower if your lawn isn’t huge, as they are much quieter, lighter, and easier to manage. Drink lots of water.
    O, you’re too old and out-of-shape for this? Well, you said you were “older”, not old, and yard work with hand tools is an excellent way to stay fit, dust and fumes are terrible for you and the environment, and for that sweet baby. It’s the best solution that I can come up with…and just a thought for you…I did our yard work…push lawnmower, hand edger, push broom and hoe…when I was 38 and pregnant with my younger son. In the Houston summer. Kept me in excellent shape, had a healthy baby…and no noise or dust. And we have a rotten, bumpy, lumpy lawn and huge driveway, and many pine trees that drop thousands of needles.
    Just some thoughts.

    • avatar Florafloraflora says:

      Yes!  I was just coming here to give roughly the same advice to LW#2, that maybe they can give the weedwhacker and power edger (?!) a rest during the hot summer months, if not forever.  Hearing, and smelling the fumes from, one of those things next door at any hour would be just about enough to ruin my day.  

      I agree with your response to LW#1 as well: no point riling up homophobes, who are unlikely to change their minds, at a time when family harmony will make your life a lot easier.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      I’m in Houston also and there has been one death this summer of a yard worker due to the heat (and he wasn’t elderly).  So I am on the side of the LW2, it is very hot out there at 8, we’ve been setting records all summer.  My solution, let the neighbors do the lawn work when they do their own since they don’t like the time it is done by this couple.

      • avatar Carrie A says:

        If someone is so dumb they will work in their yard until they die I don’t feel sorry for them. I’ve had heatstroke and it’s not instant death; there are signs and there is time to do something about it. And the neighbors don’t need to do the LW’s yardwork just because they want to be so rude as to use a weed whacker at 6 a.m. They can do the quiet stuff at 6 and use the noisy things later as weather permits. If their lawn is looking less than perfect, well, it’s just a lawn.

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      Good advice, Briana! I was thinking the same thing, why do these people feel they must use all those power tools?

  7. avatar impska says:

    LW2: There is something else I would suggest for this couple: if it is truly so hot that mornings are the only time to mow the lawn, then they should cut irrigation to the bare minimum. Let the lawn go dormant, and stop feeding the weeds (assuming a cool season grass). Yes, your lawn may look yellow until it springs back to life in autumn, but it will significantly cut down on mowing and the weed whacker/edger will be all but unnecessary. Your county extension is a very helpful resource for lawn care.
    While I sympathize with you about needing to mow early morning – I sympathize with your neighbors about the weed whacking and edging. Whatever you decide, it is highly unlikely that lawn perfection is worth prolonging their suffering. Not only can you cut it down to once a month or less, there is no reason you have to do it all at the same time, and the weed whacking/edging can be done after dinner if it needs to be done at all.

    • avatar etiennewestwind says:

      Let the lawn go dormant, and stop feeding the weeds (assuming a cool season grass). Yes, your lawn may look yellow until it springs back to life in autumn, but it will significantly cut down on mowing and the weed whacker/edger will be all but unnecessary.

      That’s also assuming cooperative weather and weedsMy grass is dormant, however the crab grass is still going strong.  I do hope that spraying a different brand of crab grass control early next spring will do more than slaughter dandelions, but in the meantime, the lawn still needs to be mowed once a week so the crab grass height doesn’t get out of control. 

      • avatar Shannon R says:

        Go to your local farm and garden store and buy MSMA for crab grass.  It works way better than anything you will find at Lowe’s and Home Depot, is much cheaper, and also kills weeds.