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 throughwww.healthcaresurvivalguide.
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 www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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