Dear Margo: Unimaginable Destruction by a Mother

A mother refuses to take her child’s side after abuse. Margo Howard’s advice

Unimaginable Destruction by a Mother

Dear Margo: I recently learned that a cousin was an incest victim from age 10 until she graduated from high school. (It was her father.) When she told her mother, she reacted by blaming her! My cousin was so debilitated by the incest that she never went to college and never found a job. She lives on the opposite side of the country from her mother, who financially supports her. The mother calls her at least five times a day. She forbids her from letting any family members know about the incest and says, “Get over it. It happened more than 30 years ago.”

I have encouraged my cousin to have nothing to do with her mother, who stayed with the father, by the way, and never turned him in to the authorities, never mind making him go to therapy. He has since died. It is very difficult for me to have a relationship with this cousin, who continues to say her mother is “great” despite letting the incest happen, demanding it be kept secret and telling her to get over it.

Additionally, my cousin has forbidden me to tell anyone for fear of my aunt cutting off funds. I feel like I am carrying a very heavy burden. Any advice for me? — Elephant on my Shoulder

Dear El: This truly sad situation is a tragic blend of damage, denial, need, ambivalence, blackmail and dependency. The mother sounds evil, and the daughter seems destroyed. The toxicity inherent in this drama is heartbreaking.

As for your questions: Because the molester is dead, there is no need to warn anyone, hence there is no need to breeze it around. The (financial) consequences would be dire for your emotionally crippled cousin. It is pathetic and revolting that this young woman needs to tell herself — and you — about her “great mother,” but that’s what’s going on. Don’t stop talking with her, and suggest she not answer her phone quite so often.

The only other constructive thing you could do is encourage her to see a cognitive therapist to try to salvage a life. If the wretched mother’s funds won’t support that, tell her there is free and low-coast help that can be located — Margo, unhappily

Special Requests

Dear Margo: I need your help. This year I developed non-celiac gluten intolerance and have found a great deal of comfort from completely avoiding gluten. It is a challenging diet, and I find that eating meals I prepare myself is the easiest.

However, this summer one of my very best friends will be getting married in Chicago. In addition to attending a reception, there also will be a rehearsal dinner and a Sunday morning brunch. As I’m sure you can imagine, I am in a sticky situation. My friend already has a lot on her plate. How do I manage to get meals that are gluten-free? Is it appropriate to ask for a special accommodation from my friend and offer to pay for whatever extra costs it incurs, or should I just plan on packing gluten-free food bars in my purse and munching in the restroom? — Hopefully Eating Gluten-Free

Dear Hope: If all the wedding events are in event spaces, which is my guess, it is easy to get a substitute meal. It is not asking too much of the bride to get this taken care of. (And I’ll bet you’re not the only one.) These days, restaurants ask who has an allergy to what, many people eat vegan or vegetarian fare and others keep kosher. There is no need to offer to pay, and certainly no reason to eat food bars in the ladies room! — Margo, unselfconsciously

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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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74 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: If I were you, I would keep a little secret of my own—I’d approach the mother and tell her that if she doesn’t want her exceptionally dirty laundry spread throughout the rest of the family, she’d better pony up some funds for your cousin to get some therapy, post-haste. And if she didn’t, I’d make damned sure she led the most miserable life possible for the remaining time she was alive.

    LW2: “I’m vegetarian” is a lot easier to comprehend and… digest… than “non-celiac gluten intolerant.” I would be inclined to think the wedding caterers can easily supply you with fish and/or a veggie plate for the day, since partial or complete vegetarians are very common—just keep some bars in your purse just in case.

    • avatar B.eadle says:

      Gluten is in more foods than you might think…including a lot of sauces. Getting a vegetarian meal does not mean that it would be gluten free. Fish, since it was mentioned, is often dredged in flour before cooking.

      I think she can tell the bride her issue and ask for the name of the establishments where the events are to be held. She can then simply call them herself and ask for a gluten free meal. That saves the bride any extra work.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I know what gluten is—my point is that she’s writing to Margo to ask how to simplify possible issues with asking for a gluten-free meal. It’s one thing to ask at a restaurant, and even then it’s sometimes very difficult to obtain gluten-free options. Asking during something that is prone to having a limited menu, such as a wedding—is likely going to be even harder. That’s why I am suggesting that she put her needs into a context that the caterers are likely prepared for, and she can always specify “no sauces” or “nothing with flour.” It’s one day she has to manage to get through.

        • avatar B.eadle says:

          9 times out of 10 asking for vegetarian will get you a pasta dish. So, when that happens and she looks down and says – I can’t eat this – now they are going to have to scramble. Why all the mystery? Just tell the truth about it. Instead of trying to make things “easier” by beating around the bush about it, she should just be honest. I live in a wee little town and even we have gluten free options at our restaurants. As long as she offers to call herself what does the bride care? It isn’t any extra work for her.

        • avatar toni says:

          David B I’m usually so down w your brilliant answers. Would you recommend the same dancing about and obfuscation if the LW had a seafood allergy?
          It sounds like you dont believe gluten is an allergy in the same fashion. You don’t want to be sitting within a hundred ft of that poor LW after her veggie bowl of pasta…

      • avatar Pinky35 says:

        When I helped with a menu for our office party, there were many people with special allergies. Everyone who had problems came to me and asked for a special meal. The restaurant was VERY accommodating to their needs and they were able to omit sauces and so forth for people with gluten allergies for no extra cost. I have a lactose intolerance issue, myself. So, I ordered a special salad with no cheese. It’s not hard to do. All the bride needs to do is ask. It is up to the guest to tell the host of his/her special needs, though. And the Bride should be the one to call the restaurant, or if the bride has anyone helping her with arrangements, she can pass along the information to that person. No reason for the guest to call the restaurant herself. And the guest shouldn’t feel guilty for asking for a special meal, either.

    • avatar etiennewestwind says:

      Aside from flour often being the sauce thickener of choice, most vegetarians consider fish meat.

      • avatar Koka Miri says:

        People who eat fish are not vegetarian! Please educate yourself.

        • avatar etiennewestwind says:

          Exactly my point.

        • avatar Koka Miri says:

          …Sorry, I misread your comment and can’t seem to delete mine. Agreed, etienne – thank you for pointing that out! It’s actually harder to make something vegetarian than gluten free. There’s a whole wall in most grocery stores for gluten-free, but vegetarian products are mixed in everywhere and most soups have fish, chicken or beef broth, even when they look veggie safe.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Read the ingredients, or make fresh. We eat strictly vegetarian (we are NOT vegetarian, but it’s healthy, why not?) at least three times a week. Look in the world foods section, especially Middle Eastern and Jewish. Or find a a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Market. Lots of strictly vegetarian Also, invest in a crockpot/slow cooker and go wild with legumes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, rice, spices and your blender.

            Also, Kitchen Basics makes a vegetable broth that is vegan, gluten and msg free, and is delicious. I use it as a base for making wild rice, along with olive oil, peppers, onions, garlic, saffron, all sorts of good stuff. Kitchen Basics has a website, check them out, they are a very health and allergy conscious company.

          • avatar toni says:

            Great answer BB!

          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            Yes, WOW needs to at the least let people edit their comments. Especially sense my phone won’t let me se the whole field I’m typing in.

            Reading labels and asking at resturaunts is critical. People who don’t have issues with eating meat, don’t stop to think about things that don’t look like chunks of animal muscle.

          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            *Since my phone won’t let me see…*

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          I know a lot of people who are vegetarians. Some eat fish, dairy and eggs. Some leave off the fish, but not the dairy or eggs, some leave off the eggs and fish, but not the dairy, and some subsist only on plant life. The latter usually refer to themselves as “vegan”. I am quite educated, thanks, and the terminology is coming from people whose preferences and definitions are decades-long.

          In any case, being vegetarian or vegan is a CHOICE, not the result of allergies or an intolerance, and is, somewhat peculiarly, treated with more respect then the physiological abnormalities that can actually KILL people. As it happens, I am not an anything when it comes to food, though I insist on eating meat from humanely, free-range, naturally raised (and I do know what that entails, thanks) animals, who are slaughtered by actual halal or kosher butchers (we even get out pork from a facility at which the butcher has been trained in this methodology, as well as the treyf cuts of beef and lamb), and sustainable fish sources. If we’re anything, it’s extraordinarily healthy, according to our doctors.

          I do have one peculiarity. My choice. I hope everyone will understand. I have a thing about chickens. I do NOT eat chicken except under duress. Chickens are ugly. They eat their own feces, regularly. They will kill each other in wild, frenzied mobs over a spot of blood. They are stupid, flap, cackle, and have nasty, beady eyes, and will drown because they don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain. They stink horribly. And. They. Taste. Bad. And have weird tubes and things in stuff I’m supposed to eat. Urgh. Blech. I will only eat eggs…and I wash the shells before I crack them.

          I loathe turkey, duck, squabs and fear Thanksgiving because I’m faced with this grotesque pinkish monstrosity every year. Don’t even talk about…giblets.


          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            I’d argue that icthyovegetarianism is actually semi-vegetarianism. (Restricted amounts of meat or only certain kinds of meat.) I realize certain Christian sects have established the notion that fish aren’ meat, but it’s eating fish muscles just as eating beef is eating cattle muscles. Most vegetarians made their choice for philosophical reasons against killing animals, which usually means they consider fish meat. Most resturants (at least the ones I’ve been to) get that. Ergo, asking for vegetarian is unlikely to net you a plate of fish. So that point stands.

            You do have to watch out for places that think it’s okay to fix the veggies with beef or chicken broth though.

            As serious conditions not getting taken seriously… food allergies seem to be faced with a strage mix of disbelief of how serious they can be, and people who mistakenly atribute some minor aliment to a food allergy. People then think that others are being dramatic.

          • avatar Hellster says:

            I always thought that a person who would eat plants, eggs, and cheese was called a Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian. A person who eats only plants and products made from plants, like pasta, and nothing that had parents is a Vegetarian. I was informed that a Vegan does not even use any kind of animal product (even wool, which does not involve killing the animal). Is that pretty much the sum of it, or are there other variants?

          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            I had a grade school social studies text that broke vegetarianism up into five categories if I recall correctly. Semi-vegetarianism, which isn’t vegetarianism so much as restricted meat types and/or intake over the cultural norms. Ichtyovegetarianism, which is vegetation and fish. Maybe eggs and cheese too. The lacto-ovovegtarianism you mentioned. Something I can’t remember. And veganism, though I’m not entirely sure the text called it veganism…

            Most vegetarians I know would just call themselves vegetarian if they eat eggs or dairy (and specify those were okay) or vegan if they don’t eat any animal products. Most of the restaurants around here that have vegetarian items design when with lacto-ovovegetarianism in mind.

            Of course, human nature being what it is, new variants are always cropping up.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Icthyovegetarianism? Lacto-Ovo-vegetarianism? Look, if you don’t want to eat anything that came from an animal of ANY kind, just tell me you’re a vegetarian, and I will happily fix you a meal that contains absolutely nothing that was ever part of anything that could even loosely be defined as being part of the Animal Kingdom. This will include such things as oysters, sea urchins, shrimp, etc., eggs, cheese, milk, and so on. I treat vegetarianism as a single philosophy…and if multiple individuals claiming to adhere to this want to come to my house for dinner, but separate themselves by denominational, no-animal-product dogma, they’re going to have to provide their own food, because I’m not putting just fish in one meal, and eggs and milk in another…and hiding my leather couches in order not to cause trauma, and purchasing all new kitchen utensils because some animal product MIGHT have touched the existing stuff and would cause projectile vomiting for another.

            I also know people who declare as vegan who wear wool of all sorts (alpaca, vicuna, angora [goat]), so….

            I love animals. I truly do. I work hard for actual animal rights. And I have a question: Why do so many so-called vegetarians (no meat, including fish, eggs or dairy) wear leather goods? I’ve asked the question dozens of times, and the only answer I get is rank indignation, yet…didn’t that leather come from an ANIMAL?

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            I also wonder about cockroaches (I mean allowing them to contaminate your food and potentially sicken or even kill you and your kids), scabies, bedbugs, amoebas who cause dysentery and devour neurological tissue and cause agonizing death, and bacteria. They are animals. Do the truly faithful among vegans kill them?

          • avatar impska says:

            This year has been awful for ants. A local lady wrote a column for the newspaper about her struggles with being vegan and managing pest control.

            She did not do any pest control whatsoever. Her kitchen was infested with ants. Ultimately, it sounded like she killed more ants every day when she did the dishes than if she’d just eliminated their initial trails.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            O, no, that’s just so gross. I do NOT like ants. We live in Houston, bug central. We use environmentally safe pesticide, which means we still get…spiders. I am unilaterally seriously allergic to all varieties of spider venom. And outside we have fire ants, which I am also allergic to, and intensely dislike.

            What would that woman do if she got German roaches (no slur intended, it’s what they’re actually called)? They carry dozens of diseases, including salmonella, ptomaine, e coli, and anything picked up in feces or garbage or decaying matter, and the dust from their droppings can cause severe asthma, bronchitis and skin conditions. They can infest a house in the 100’s of thousands, and make the inhabitants desperately ill, and the plant based toxins do NOT work on them. Would she just let them contaminate her food and every surface and her air ducts?

            I just can’t go with that, and we catch and release a lot of insects, frogs, geckos and lizards. We’re decent, we don’t kill snakes (if they’re small I just relocate them to the bayous, even copperheads. They eat rats). But roaches are nothing to leave to multiply.

          • avatar etiennewestwind says:

            Well, some people adopt a vegetarian diet because they believe it will be healthier. I wouldn’t expect them to have issues with wearing dead animals.

            I once knew vegetarians who had no problem chopping up raw meat–as long as it was for carnivorous animals, in this case injured raptors rehabilitating at a bird sanctuary.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Therein lies the problem, as homo sapiens is an omnivorous species (abundantly substantiated by our dentition and anthropological evidence) that is well equipped to eat meat. I am not a vegetarian, though we consume very little mammalian meat or poultry (see objections to chicken) by choice for health reasons. However, I have never met a vegetarian who declared as such because of health reasons, and have, in fact, known a large number of self-described vegetarians who were obese (pasta, potatoes, white rice and most bread is full of carbohydrates, and excessive consumption of fruit can ruin a person because of the high sugar content, as can certain nuts), suffered from high cholesterol (cheese and eggs), or were hypertensive (too much salt). Almost every self-proclaimed, nothing-with-parents-or-a-face vegetarian I have known has worn leather, at least as a wallet or shoes. I think that’s very ironic.

            I also find it very ironic that a vegetarian would accept that a raptor is an animal that requires meat for its diet…but cannot accept that humans are also animals, and that meat, animal products, are a natural part of our diet too. It’s a bit like the PETA condundrum: if no one keeps animals as pets, or as domestic animals (ie: horses), who is going to care for these animals that are no longer capable of surviving on their own in the wild?

            I guess we’re supposed to be elevated. Right.

          • avatar sueb1997 says:

            I had a friend make a compelling argument to me that humans are NOT meant to be omnivores, but vegetarians.  He looked not at the teeth but at our intestines.  Vegetarians have long intestines for maximum nutrient extraction from our food.  Carnivores have short intestines in order to process meat before it begins to putrefy and cause problems.  There is plenty of evidence that human who eat meat have (generally speaking, with some exceptions, of course) more of these kinds of digestive and nutritional problems than non-meat eaters.

            And, I have dear friends who do raptor rehabilitation, and who are themselves vegetarians.  But they have no problem cutting up meat for their raptors who no one disputes are meat eaters.

          • avatar sueb1997 says:

            oops, hit send before I added the obvious missing statement, that humans have long intestines, not the short kind designed for meat…

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            I didn’t say that homo sapiens relied soley on meat, but that we are equipped quite nicely to use it as a valid (and necessary, read up on how many vegetarian types are seriously deficient in protein, particularly children, teens and young adults) part of a balanced diet. We are a ***hunter***-gatherer species, with teeth suitable both for tearing and rending meat (cuspids and bicuspids, and sharp incisors) and grinding vegetable and grain matter (molars). We are quite capable of digesting meat, and we lack the intestinal design of most strictly vegetarian species. We are much closer to pigs and bears (both omnivores). In fact, pigs make wonderful anatomical facsimiles of humans for dissection, and in the wild they will eat meat, roots, vegetables and fruit, and most bears have identical nutritional needs to humans (polar bears are an exception).

            You missed my point about the raptors, which was that vegetarians who are such due to an objection to humans eating other animals are forgetting that humans are animals. This would be ironic if these same righteous protectors of beating hearts can accept “lower animals” eating, well, other animals. If they truly don’t accept animals eating other animals, then feed your raptors soy “meat”. Or let them hunt on their own, which would be, ahem, “natural”. Humans hunted for millennia, literally, before people became anti-vivisectionist, and raised food animals as well. The archaeological and anthropological evidence is empirical proof of that, so it seems as ***natural*** for humans to eat meat as it does for raptors, crocodilians, lupines, canines, felines, ursines and porcines.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            Interesting. One might also say we are able to eat either, which increases our ability to survive.

            There is also a huge variability in digestion amongst humans. My spouse & kids digest & eliminate in 8-12 hours. I know plenty of folks who only eliminate every few days or once a week regardless of their diet.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Actually there is also physiological evidence that we evolved to eat meat. Last year the NYT wrote:

            “In its natural form, B12 is present in significant amounts only in animal foods, most prominently in liver (83 micrograms in a 3.5-ounce serving). Good food sources include other red meats, turkey, fish and shellfish. Lesser amounts of the vitamin are present in dairy products, eggs and chicken.

            Natural plant sources are meager at best in B12, and the vitamin is poorly absorbed from them. Many strict vegetarians and all vegans, as well as infants they breast-feed, must consume supplements or fortified breakfast cereals to get adequate amounts. ”

            Google “B12 supplements” and a lot of vegan / vegetarian advice pops up saying the same thing: plants are not a good source, so eat fortified cereal or take supplements.

            Well, when you have to eat artificial supplements to stay healthy, obviously something is missing!

          • avatar NYCGirl says:

            No leather for this vegetarian…

          • avatar jabbeycat says:

            “As serious conditions not getting taken seriously… food allergies seem to be faced with a strage mix of disbelief of how serious they can be, and people who mistakenly atribute some minor aliment to a food allergy. People then think that others are being dramatic.” – This sums up most of my adult life. Often people think I’m being dramatic when I say I can’t eat something because I am allergic to it. It’s not in my head, if I eat some things, I will go into shock and if I don’t have access to my EpiPen and prompt medical attention I will die. People take my brother’s choice to be a vegetation more seriously than my allergies (although he doesn’t, nor does my husband). The flip side of that is people like my husband who don’t take my brother’s choice not to eat meat seriously because it is a choice.

            LW2, talk to the bride, I’m sure the last thing she wants it for you to have a problem. I can relate to how you feel, because I have more than once decided not to attend an event simply because it’s too much hassle to deal with the food and my allergies. For times not attending isn’t an option, I have simply spoken to the host and most of the time, been accommodated. It isn’t at all difficult for the places she’s having the events to accommodate your food needs so long as they know in advance. Sometimes, if you just talk to someone, it turns out to be a really simple fix.

          • avatar Lila says:

            BB, your chicken paragraph almost made me spew my soda out of my nose. I’m sending you a truckload of rubber chickens, and an invitation to the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference. Whooo. Now I have to refill my soda.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Rubber chickens I can handle. Just not the beady eyed, foul fowl. Or chicken feets and heads in gumbo.

            I have trouble making my ve’ve’ as you can see…

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            You should drive by the Tyson plant in Kentucky. Reek-o-rama.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  I like David’s idea…theoretically.  I’m afraid that it will backfire bigtime on the cousin and the letter writer as this mother is so evil she will then accuse the LW of making things up and start a huge family drama.  All the LW can do is encourage the cousin to get therapy…and hope she can afford it on what money the mother is sending her.  This cousin needs to be self-supporting eventually and therapy is probably the only way she will be able to do it.  She could also be encouraged to go to school with a view toward becoming self-supporting…its never too late…even without therapy.  The mother is going to die someday and may or may not have an estate big enough to keep this daughter for the rest of her life.    I just cannot even fathom the depth of this mother’s depravity. 

    Letter #2:  I have no idea what you can and cannot eat on a gluten free diet but also agree with David if it can be put in simpler terms…such as vegetarian…that might be the way to go.  Often, at fancy weddings, the rsvp for the reception will have a box to check for chicken, beef, or vegetarian.    

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I also wanted to add that it’s a forgone conclusion that the mother will say the daughter is a liar. And that’s when LW replies with: “You are correct, either she is a liar, or she is not. Regardless, both scenarios require therapy—wouldn’t you agree?”

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      She may run afoul of the law by following David’s approach. It is too bad, because this is one of the few situations in which I think doing that might be appropriate.

  3. avatar january 28711 says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but “vegetarian” diets are NOT gluten-free–far from it! I’d go with honesty in this case, and just ask if there are any gluten-free choices. I’m betting any good restaurant could put together something acceptable, and it won’t be the first time they’ve heard the request.

    • avatar toni says:

      January, you are on it! Flour is not meat. Be upfront, say gluten free and I would bring the bars anyway, just in case something goes amiss w your food. You’d rather be in the bathroom eating gluten free bars than be there from eating the gluten.

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        If it comes to that, eat the bars at the table with everyone else! Good grief. If anyone asks, you have special dietary requirements. So what? You don’t have to hide.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Yes, yes—you guys are completely missing the point. She’s writing because she’s afraid that asking for something complicated during the wedding is going to be a further hassle. My suggestion is that she package the request into simpler terms for the caterer to understand and hopefully not screw up.

          Yes, sauces contain flour—I get it. And many vegetarians don’t eat fish. It’s much easier to say: “Can I have a plate of grilled fish and vegetables with no sauce” rather than “Can you prepare me a gluten-free meal?” The other option is to bring the ingredients herself and tell the caterers to prepare something from that.

          • avatar Pinky35 says:

            You would be surprised at how many establishments already know what “gluten-free” means. It’s very easy to say, “hey, can I get a gluten-free meal please?”. They can even tell you which dishes would be easy to modify. And, I’m betting that the guest already knows what dishes wouldn’t be good to eat either so if she’s got a choice between steak and chicken, she’d probably pick the steak with no sauce. Doesn’t mean she’d pick a fish dish or a vegan dish. Even those can have sauces.

          • avatar Peggy Sue says:

            David, you are the one missing the point. Someone who is gluten intolerant or celiac CANNOT let someone else handle their food choices. Most people do not understand how dangerous eating gluten is to people who are intolerant. I have the same diagnoses as the writer, and you would not believe how many people do not know what gluten is and is not in. I will be eating fresh vegetables, and someone will ask me if they are gluten free! Also, food cannot be cross contaminated by foods with gluten during prep, either. Food must be prepared in a gluten free dedicated area of the kitchen. This is no laughing matter. I could never let someone else order for me, it would be a disaster. And as the others have said, eating “vegetarian” is NOT eating gluten free.Vegetarians eat grains! The safest form of eating for a celiac/gluten intolerant person is Paleo.

            Gluten is in wheat, barley, and rye. It is in soy sauce, most dressings, boxed and canned foods, candy, basically all processed food. You can’t just tell someone to “leave the sauce off”. The ignorance is astounding. I eat no processed food unless certified gluten free. If I eat gluten I am sick for a week. The writer must contact the restaurants herself to ensure her needs are understood. Period.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Okay…but there are differing levels of gluten intolerance, just as allergic reactions in people can range from mild discomfort to death from anaphylaxis. I am allergic to milk products (not lactose intolerant, allergic), including those which are “lactose-free”, goat-milk, and sheep’s milk. I can deal with small amounts. I am also gluten intolerant. This is very common in people of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent. I definitely can’t tolerate significant amounts of bread, pasta, heavy sauces (flour, butter and cream…a disaster) as I will stay sick for days.

            I do not, however, get torqued completely out of shape by other peoples’ “ignorance”. It’s up to me to read ingredient labels, to ask specifically at restaurants what is in a given dish, and to ***politely*** request that any detrimental ingredients guaranteed to have grievous consequences are left out. If that’s impossible, I order something else.

            The world does not revolve around any given individual’s disability. Allergies and intolerances are disabilities, just like diabetes, or MS, or CP, or a mental illness, or anything else caused by an abnormal physiology/biology. It is not necessary or warranted for every single “ignorant” person to be educated on the minutiae of requirements for every single disability. It’s up to the afflicted individual to be informed, and to provide necessary information or make the important queries when out in the “garden variety” world. In this way, they will inform and educate others, and lead a much more comfortable and healthier life.

          • avatar toni says:

            Thank you Peggy Sue! Can’t believe some of the posts from people I know are usually wise and add value w their comments!!
            I hope LW 2 will do whatever she needs to do to ensure she’s not horrifically sick from such a happy occasion.

        • avatar Hellster says:

          Whatever you eat, eat it at the table, not in the bathroom.

  4. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – My heart breaks for this letter writer’s cousin.

    The betrayal…the utter betrayal of her by her mother AND father is so beyond words. And to now essentially at the age of 40 or so, to still essentially be held in mental suspension as a child, still reliant on mother to supposrt for her every need….as I said this breaks my heart.

    If I were this cousin, I would tell her (her affected cousin) she needs to sit down and write a  very long letter to her mother and allow all the emotions and feelings she has to spill out on the paper. Tell her in complete and total detail (again) what dad did, how it made her feel. Tell her how her response to the news made her feel and how she wishes she would have responded as well. Thank her for all of the financial support she has given her for decades. And in the letter explain to her mother that now that father is dead, so to is it time for the hold he held on both their lives to die with him.

    She should write it in a gentle way that conveys to the mother empathy and sympathy that like her, there is guilt there that is at the root of how she is living. How could there not be? The great thing about writing letters in these instances is it gives the receiver a chance to react in an authentic way. If all of this was said face to face the mother may be stuck in a defensive posture and feel judged. Where by reading it alone, she may deal with the emotions differently. She may cry, cry deeply realizing that she had indeed let her daughter and herself down by her response to the news the man she loved….the man she slept with each night was a monster. The guilt of knowing she chose a monster over her child. That is a heavy thing to admit.

    We don’t know why she made that choice. Was it for financial comfort? Was it because he was violent toward mom? Could it be mom herself was molested as a child and dealt with it in the same way she succeeded in trying to get her daughter to do, “get over it” in other words stuff her emotions away and not deal with it? None of the reasons behind why her mother responded to her daughter will ever justify her actions, but I would wager this daughter would love to know what her thought process was.

    I would close out the letter by explaining to mom that finally at the age of 40 she wants and needs to start living. Go back to school, get a job and truly do something with her life. Again, thank her for all she has done but stress it is time for her to make it on her own now and ask for her mother’s support in doing that.  Someone that has lived for 30 years or so as a child, being taken care of in everyway by a doting parent will have a difficult time stepping out in the world and taking chances. She will need the support of those around her because she clearly doesn’t have the internal strength to do it on her own.  Her mother is right in one aspect, she should get over it.    The first step in doing that is to ask for help. Sadly for this woman it will be to ask for help rom the one person that has done the most damage to her…..her mother.

    Letter #2 –  I disagree with Margo on this one. Yes, I would imagine this letter writer may not be the only guest there that has special dietary needs and THAT is the problem for the bride and groom. They can’t and shouldn’t have to bend to the needs of all their guests.   She already has a full plate (pardon the pun) to deal with, so a guest contacting her about her Gluten issue would be one more thing for her to attend to.

    I would tell this writer, given that she knows where the event is taking place, when and the names of the parties throwing it. AND the fact that she offered to pay extra if need be, SHE should contact the venue herself and explain the situation and ask for her special food arrangements in advance. Credit card in hand, she should be prepared to pay any additional monies.  That is the polite and responsible way of handling this. 

    The selfish way of dealing with this would be to have a mindset of “This shouldn’t be a big deal to the bride to take care of, after all I’m only asking for myself.” Well, as I said, you don’t know that you are the only one, there may be 20 others with all types of allergies and special dietary needs calling her and asking for special treatment.  A wedding reception isn’t and shouldn’t be about making the guests happy.  To an extent yes, but come on, it’s not a picnic or barbecue where everyone barks at the guy at the grill “I WANT MINE WELL DONE…..I WANT MINE A LITTLE PINK…..BURN MINE IF YOU HAVE TO, I LIKE IT CRISP!”           

    • avatar Pinky35 says:

      Belinda, I don’t think a guest is being selfish for asking for a special dish if that person has a food allergy. It’s not like she’s asking for her steak to be well done instead of rare. She has a genuine problem with gluten. And, yes there may be 20 others with the same problem but as the host, the bride should be accommodating. It’s very easy for a restaurant or caterer to make adjustments to food and many places already understand what gluten-free means. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. And the restaurant/caterer won’t even charge extra for this.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        Well Pinky35, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

        It is incredibly selfish in my opinion for guests of a wedding reception to “bother” the bride with special food requests.  How is her issue with gluten any different than the other guests that are allergic to peanuts or the other guests that is allergic to shellfish, the other guest that is lactose intolerant and the other that can only eat Kosher? 

        Once a bride opens that door to “Okay, let me make sure everyone has something to eat that won’t cause a health problem….”  she will have a headache to contend with.  It is incredibly selfish for a guest to say “I want to come to the reception but you will have to provide food in accordance with my diet” No way!  In my mind the simple and courteous thing to do as I suggested is to simply bypass the bride and deal directly with the venue to discuss her special menu needs.

        Again, if she wants to make the bride’s life easier don’t bother her with issues like this.     

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Eating kosher is a CHOICE. it is a decision based on one’s religion, whether it is important to a given individual or not. Allergies can kill, they are in no way a case of being finicky or a bother. Most respectable caterers are more than happy to make adjustments to a bride’s menu at both rehearsal dinner and reception in order to provide for those with health-related dietary issues at no extra cost to the bride and groom. That’s how venues and caterers get more customers; by being seriously oriented toward providing for such needs.

          Also, most venues or caterers will ONLY deal with the person who hired them (the bride or groom) or the wedding planner. If the LW were to contact them, they would in turn ***contact the bride for approval*** to make certain that the person was on the guest list. This would accomplish bothering the bride even more than a quiet, polite personal request by anyone with such a need. The bride can even delegate the responsibility of collating a list of all of those with such needs to a friend or family member, and that person can give the entire list to the food provider(s) with the bride’s okay.

          Or, alternatively, all of those with severe allergies, etc., can eat whatever is provided, then collapse with anaphylactic shock, seizures, explosive diarrhea or projectile vomiting. Now THAT should be far less stressful for Her Special Day, eh?


        • avatar wendykh says:

          A polite bride and groom would/should cater to those requests. The point of the reception is to RECEIVE guests. It is not a party traditionally FOR the couple but hosted by them.

      • avatar toni says:

        Pinky right Belinda wrong.

        • avatar sueb1997 says:

          I agree.  I can’t find it now but one of the commenters advised the LW to make a general, polite inquiry about whether a gluten-free meal could be easily accommodated, and if not, no biggie, they bring their own snacks or eat before/after the event. 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Re: It is not a simple thing to “get over it”, especially when the betrayal by one’s ultimate caretakers, the parents, is compounded by the father being the sexual abuser, and the mother not only refusing to acknowledge the abuse, but denying it happened, accusing the abused of lying, furthering the agony by remaining with the abuser, then engaging in emotional blackmail for thirty years.

      I don’t care ***what*** the mother’s “reasons” for staying with the woman’s father were…they weren’t valid, good enough, or any better than excuses. Financial stability is no excuse for allowing a child to be put through hell, nor is social status, fear of family, or anything else. Add in the emotional extortion, and I rather doubt a gentle, plaintive, “Gee mom, why?” letter is going to affect this woman in any way. Her probable reaction will be to twist the knife just a bit more…and she’s had decades to perfect her technique.

      What the woman needs is support and help from other quarters, LW1 to begin with. You don’t just decide “O, I’m so ***over*** that now”. It takes time, especially since we’re talking about eight…that’s 8, EIGHT, solid years of incestuous abuse by her father while her mother stood by and accused her of lying. There are many organizations that can help, and it’s usually wise to start locally.

      The daughter has NO GUILT in this situation. There is no reason to thank her mother for the blackmail money, and it’s likely she’ll never get a straight answer as to WHY her mother denied her, accused her of lying, stayed with her father, and extorted her. Trying to find out will bury her in the morass of the past, and the thing she most desperately needs to do is become completely independent of the past, evolve away from it, and move forward. Mother wasn’t ***doting***, she used the money to keep her daughter quiet, dependent, and helpless. The daughter needs to break free, and change the way her mother treats her (she can’t change her, but she can change her behavior towards her), and the way in which she views her mother in order to allow herself freedom from any power her mother has over her.

      You cannot change other people. You cannot expect someone like the mother in L#1 to respond to “sympathy and empathy” and suddenly feel a rush of the same emotions due to unresolved guilt because of 30 years of deceit, manipulation, betrayal, selfishness and extortion. Asking “why?” can lead to more pain and despair, especially since the answers all come down to this: her mother cared far more about herself than about her helpless child (this goes for everything: abused by her husband, financial support, social or societal or familial reasons included). If the mother has guilt, let her bear it…and let her daughter find help with those who will care for HER.

      RE: L#2: food allergies can do everything from causing mild discomfort to fatalities. They are NOT the same as catering to guests’ happiness, nor are they whimsical in nature. Incidentally, a “guest” is still a “guest” even if he or she is at YOUR wedding, which means that said guest should be treated accordingly, with due consideration and respect. The whole Queen For A Day, Bridezilla aspect of weddings is enough to induce nausea. If the bride has too much to deal with, perhaps her extravaganza (which is approximately 41% likely to end in divorce in the first 5 years) has gotten out of control, and she’s invited too many guests. Fairly common in current society to invite everyone you know, and everyone THEY know in order to increase the take so that you can actually pay for the excess.

      • avatar toni says:

        Again completely on the money re LW2! Go BB!

      • avatar Lila says:

        BB, when that kind of trauma happens in childhood, especially over so many years of a childhood, I don’t think the victim EVER gets over it. They can learn to deal with it, to overcome it, build themselves a new life, etc. – but they are only controlling their problems, not really getting RID of them. That kind of trauma is really, deeply formative.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Yes. I know that it’s not a matter of “getting over it”. It’s learning to understand that it wasn’t your fault, that the betrayals were undeserved, that you can cope even if you can’t forget, that there is NO NEED to forgive anyone, that you can grow and even blossom even if your seed was planted in blighted soil, and that it’s all right to be angry, to be resentful, to hurt and to remove the sources of all of these things from your life forever.

          No need for the daughter to EVER seek explanations, help, understanding or anything from her subhuman mother. The trauma will never quite be expurgated, but with enough time, and the right help and the right people, it will be mitigated, and that woman CAN be her own person with scars, not open wounds.

          I highly recommend, once she’s made a complete break from her egg-donator, and is on her feet, that she find a way to speak openly about what happened. Secrets fester and poison the mind and heart. For many people, the first reveal works best in a survivors’ group. For a few, it is spilled in its rawest form for all to see…damn the “tender sensibilities” of family, friends and co-conspirators.

          This site gave me that opportunity…to hell with my detractors. I hope that woman finds the power to name her tormenters, and free herself as much as she’s able from them.

          I wish her a safe and speedy journey to lightness.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Guess it depends on the bride. As a bride I went out of my way to provide they meal of my guests choice-without them asking. Because I knew my guests that well. I ordered the correct meal for my Muslim & Jewish friends & for those with allergies or vegetarian if I knew. I wanted my wedding to be a great time had by all. Isn’t that what a wedding reception is about? Isn’t it the epitome of entertaining? And most importantly, shouldn’t one know these things about close friends. I am hoping most brides would feel bad in hind sight about not being considerate of their guests and asking about food issues.

      I also recently wrote to the bride-elect of a wedding we were attending & told her to please not spend the money on filet or whatever on my children. I know the place where we had our reception provided children’s meals at a much lower cost.

      Truly, any invitation to a meal, where there is a choice, should include a line for special needs.

  5. avatar martina says:

    My daughter’s friend is celiac and is very careful about what goes in her mouth.  She will refrain from eating if she is not sure as she experiences debilitatingly excruciating pain if she eats gluten.  She does not ask for special accomodations but I always make sure that I have salad or a piece of meat that has no seasonings other than salt and pepper or I make sure that she looks at the ingredients before adding anything.  I’m not sure if those who are gluten intolerant experience this kind of immediate pain.

    As for LW2 – unless you are extremely close to the bride and groom which, if you are invited to the rehearsal dinner I would assume you are, you could ask.  Otherwise, there’s salad and ask for your meat/fish to be cooked plain. Generally, they serve fresh fruit and made to order omlettes at brunches. My daughter is lactose intolerant and a picky eater and never asks for special accomodations.  She just deals with what she has available and if she can’t find anything, either she eats before she goes somewhere or eats when she gets home.  Ask for a salad, pack the bars but please don’t eat them in the bathroom.

  6. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Can’t add to Margo’s excellent advice. I feel so sorry for your cousin. 🙁

    L #2: I’d *ask* if there’ll be some dietary accommodations (meatless, gluten-free). If the answer is “no,” then I think it’d be polite of you to provide for yourself.

  7. avatar Brooke Schubert says:

    LW#2-I understand that you don’t want to bother the bride, but I don’t think it’s wrong to mention to her that you have a health issue that requires specific foods, and ask if it would be possible to request a special meal.  Many caterers are used to such matters and can accomodate such requests fairly easily.

    If you have a bridezilla and you decide not to push the issue, you may just want to bring a bag of foods you can eat.  I’ve been type 1 diabetic since I was 7 years old and I have a strict diet that requires me to eat specific food types at specific times just to keep from getting violently ill.  I’m used to having to tote around meals and snacks in case places don’t have what I need.

  8. avatar Megan Freedman says:

    As someone who is gluten intolerant, the fastest way to get a plate full of pasta is to ask for a vegetarian meal 🙂 Honestly, eating at a wedding/event is easy for me because the menu is likely to be chicken/steak/fish and vegetables. I would just call and ask what the planned menu is and go from there.

  9. avatar anderson44 says:

    Regarding the requests for special meals at an event, as a professional meeting planner, I think I can provide a little insight.

    1. If you have dietary concerns related to health or religious issues, please do speak up in advance. Your host wants you to enjoy the event, they can convey to the caterer what your needs are or put you in touch with them. Please only make the request if you have a real, and serious need – the fact that you just dedicated yourself to the latest fad diet shouldn’t be the hosts’ concern.
    2. Don’t wait until you get there to make the request. If the event is catered, and even in a restaurant large group meals are catered, the banquet orders must be finalized in advance – sometimes weeks ahead. The kitchen at that point is not running a restaurant – it is running an assembly line and won’t stock extra ingredients they don’t know that they will need. Especially for something like kosher meals, which require a separate kitchen that might be miles away, they need to order in advance. Getting 200 dinners on the table at essentially the same time is a very difficult thing to do. Throwing a wrench in the process at the last minute pretty much guarantees you won’t get what you need.
    3. Be specific about what you need. There are a stunning number of people working in catering who have no idea what gluten is or what lactose is. I’ve had them put butter on vegetables intended for someone with a dairy allergy, and suggest seared tofu as a vegetarian entree for someone I told them was allergic to soy. Tell them “plain grilled meat and veggies, with no butter, no cheese, no milk, no breading or flour, no sauce”, whatever. The simpler your request, the better, and use every day words for ingredients you cannot consume.
    4. Be flexible and prepared. People screw up. They will try their best and fail sometimes. So don’t make a scene if they get your meal wrong. Grab that emergency nutrition bar and munch away, at the table. Your gracious behaviour is a gift to the bride.
    5. If your dietary issues are more preference than need – if it won’t make you sick or cause a crisis of the soul – then suck it up and accept the hospitality that has been offered. If you don’t want rice because you are on a low carb diet, then don’t eat the rice. If you steak isn’t exactly the way you like it don’t whine about it. It’s a free meal for Pete’s sake, and the point of going is to support your friends.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Thanks Anderson 44 for your insight. 

    • avatar Hellster says:

      I really do agree with you, Anderson 44, especially on point # 5. I do get a bit sick of the way people will claim to be “allergic” to things they just don’t like, although I am sure the LW in this case is genuine. But some people have a tendency to exaggerate, claiming they “can’t” when they really just “don’t want to.”

      As for the horrible mother, I don’t, unfortunately, find her “unimaginable.” Hurt people hurt people: it’s not unimaginable that the mother was raised by similarly destructive and morally defective parents herself. The cousin seems to have lucked out in the parent lottery.

  10. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Let’s hope mom croaks soon, so this molestation victim is free at last … to seek counseling, live wherever she pleases, blab it to whoever she wants (if, indeed, that would help), and to build a life for herself. Am so sorry to hear about this.

    LW2) Pack a few bars to munch on somewhere other than the john, just in case, and thankfully we are talking a summer event. But do inquire, early on, like NOW. I’ve seen this handled beautifully for vegetarians, and likely accommodation could be made for you, as well, if a professional caterer is involved. This might not work, however, if we’re talking about a church basement shindig.        

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I’ve been at events where the vegetarian meal was the envy of many of the other guests because it was so well done. 🙂

  11. avatar Carmen McNeil says:

    As someone with multiple food allergies, the idea of simplifying a food request is good in theory, but can be a fine line to walk. I am allergic to dairy. If I say no dairy, a lot of the time my food comes out with odd things missing like guacamole or mayo. Then I chuckle and patiently ask for those items to please be brought back out so I’m not eating a dry mouth inducing sandwich. There have been a number of times where I’ve tried to make it simple and say, “no cheese.” In one order I received two tacos, one with and one without cheese. I’ve received a burger with the cheese scraped off. I’ve received flatbread with just a little bit of parmesan sprinkled on it. Every time when I explained that it is not a preference, that I am send me to the hospital allergic they say “Oh, please next time tell us that.” Restaurants don’t want you to beat around the bush about what makes you sick. Be specific but leave off the lengthy medical explanations.

    A lot of restaurants have menus online where they detail nutrition/allergy information. If they don’t call the restaurant and ask them if they have gluten free options. If they do, say that gluten makes you very ill and what you would like to order. If they don’t know what gluten is, then you’ll have to take matters into your own hands. Either bring food or peruse that menu for the most natural thing you can find. Also, I would do it yourself. If only for the reason that you know what’s best for you and can best explain your situation.

  12. avatar aud-ball says:

    you don’t get over it.  you never get over it.  it is a part of you.  you learn from it.  and if you are lucky  you can use that knowledge to “see” humans as they truly are if they mean you harm or if there is something “wrong” with them.   it’s a terrible loss of innocence in more ways then one.   but perhaps this cousin, once she gets help and recovers,  can use it to help others.

    and that “mother” needs to just bloody die a miserable death.   

  13. avatar Lym BO says:

    People live in all sorts of denial so they can carry on their perfect charade of life & security.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      People live in all sorts of denial so they can maintain their facade of humanity. It’s never perfect. There is always rot at the core, and it seeps through the cracks in the cheap and tawdry plaster.

      I have knowledge of a rapist of teenage girls who died horribly of cancer and Alzheimers. I know he, and those who hid his crimes suffered badly during his protracted dying. Sometimes these things have a sickly sweetness.

  14. avatar J. Smith says:

    LW1: This mother’s behavior may seem shocking, but it is very typical. Years ago I did a stint as a Child Welfare worker. During this time, I dealt with over 200 cases of incest. I can remember only one case where the mother sided with the child. All the other mothers either said the child was a slut who initiated the incest, or they said the child was lying. I remember one case where the father confessed to the mother that he had molested the child. The mother still refused to believe it, and insisted the father was lying!

    My advice: Your cousin needs to stop living in the past. She should drop the fantasy of ever getting the mother to feel remorse. Your cousin needs to learn to stop using past events as an excuse for not taking control of her life. Cognitive therapy should help with this. It would also be helpful for her to participate in a self-help group for incest victims.

    On a more practical level, your cousin should start limiting contact with her mother. (There is nothing forcing your cousin to accept 5 phone calls a day.) And when they do talk, your cousin should stop mentioning the incest. I say this both for financial reasons, and also for emotional reasons. Continuing to confront her mother about the incest accomplishes nothing except to bring the past into the present, thereby making it impossible for your cousin to move on.