Dear Margo: What Do You Do With Bigoted Friends?

My friend is a racist — should I end our relationship? Margo Howard’s advice

What Do You Do with Bigoted and Blinkered Friends?

Dear Margo: My good friend “Linda” is a racist. Her granddaughter confided in her mother that she had feelings for an African-American boy. The mother found out that her daughter had two girlfriends who were dating African-American boys. Here’s what was said that put the “racist” stamp on my friend: “I ordered my daughter to instruct my granddaughter to sever the relationship with the two girls who are dating black boys.”

My jaw dropped. I didn’t know what to say. They are making “rules” for her selection of boys, which include: He must be white, he must be a Christian, and he must not be more than one or two years older. I’m pretty sure the young woman is going to rebel. My bigger problem, though, is that I don’t want to lose her friendship, but by the same token, I’m not a racist. I’m actually very liberal. After all, I am gay. –Fan in South Carolina

Dear Fan: Some people would find it difficult to maintain a friendship with someone whose basic values are so different from their own. Only you would know if you are one of those people. On the other hand, I have a few close friends who I regard as right-wing nuts, but … politics is an entirely different issue than racism.

Because this discovery is new to you (not sure how it never came up before, especially living in the South), give it some time and observe your response to Linda, knowing what you now know. The importance of principle might figure into this equation. Do you profoundly care about the issue, or is it just something you disagree with? In any case, it would be useful to tell your friend what is wrong with her position — though I doubt you will change her mind. Such prejudices are often deeply ingrained. Do remind her that it strikes you as narrow and un-Christian, in the extreme, to ban an entire group of people from your life based on the color of their skin. –Margo, constructively

What To Do When People Are Never On Time

Dear Margo: I have a question about people who are regularly late. If someone is late (and I wait between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on the situation), I simply go without them, take my kids wherever they need to go or whatever. I never mention it to the late person, except to call and say I am leaving (as in the case of a carpool).

For some reason, these late people get upset and tell me their “feelings were hurt” because I went ahead and did whatever it was. I’m tired of it. How about my feelings? I have to take time out of my day that I wasn’t planning on. What I usually say is, “You were late. I managed on my own.” But when I do say that, they get all defensive and tell me I have hurt their feelings. The only thing that comes to mind is “get over yourself.” Is there anything that can be said that isn’t “be on time and we won’t have this problem”? I’m at a loss. –Late-Averse

Dear Late: My mother had a saying I use to this day: “He who is prompt is lonesome.”

Punctuality is, alas, not highly valued by many people. However, I have never heard of the tardy person having hurt feelings when told someone just could not wait for them. I would suggest you take note of the people who are habitually late and not make plans with them because you can’t count on them. I see nothing wrong with, “You were late. I managed on my own.” If you’re feeling frisky, you could hum Randy Newman’s “Short People,” substituting the word “late” for “short.” –Margo, punctually

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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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140 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I’ve always said that people are entitled to their own opinions as long as they stick with them and don’t try to backpedal. That said, Linda is responsible for her own opinion—but so are you for yours. And chances are, if Linda doesn’t like blacks or non-Christians—she doesn’t like you either, no matter how much she says: “but OH, you’re DIFFERENT than the OTHERS!” Newsflash—you don’t have a friendship. You have someone who tolerates you because it’s convenient for her to do so. For now, anyway.
    LW2: The absolute best thing you can do to someone like this when their “feelings are hurt” is to channel your inner Anne Bancroft and give them the most sincerely insincere apology you can muster, and then be unavailable for the rest of your life.

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      David – I like your style.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      People who are habitually late believe that their time is more valuable than yours. They are saying, without actually saying, that they are more important. So, of course, you should wait. This is not a friend. This is a rude person with whom you are acquainted. You owe them nothing. I dated a girl who felt that if we had a date for 8PM, she should start getting dressed at 8PM. I would arrive at 8PM and have to sit for an hour with her parents. Finally, I told her I would pick her up at 8 and didn’t show up until 9. She was livid. We broke up after that.

      • avatar Nancy Pea says:

        Jay, i absolutely love that. i have done that with my BFF because she is always late. but in her situation it always works. either she never caught on or she just figures i bitch less so it works better. because i’m quite loud about ppl making me wait.

        • avatar Jay Gentile says:

          Thanks. And to tie both letters together, I was work friend with an African American woman who insisted that black people were genetically incapable of being on time. She said that “time” was a white man’s construct and that an hour was comprised of 60 minutes. So if she was expected somewhere at noon and got there 45 minutes late, she was still on time because it was within the hour. I never heard such racist nonsense in my life. When she got fired — for habitual tardiness — I never saw her again.

          • avatar Judy K. says:

            You know what I have heard of black peoples time.  It seems to be a common feeling.  When I was younger I had a hard time getting started and never was a morning person.  Now that I am retired I seem to do better but always schedule appointments in the afternoon because I need a long time to wake up and get started.  Ha.

          • avatar Cashionista says:

            No, it’s a cultural joke (some call it “C.P.T. or Colored Folks’ Time), but it’s not to be taken seriously. It’s really one of those expressions that came from dealing with racist stereotypes. African Americans have been called lazy, simple minded, etc. So, to combat being called certain derogatory names, some African Americans have taken to owning those terms and embracing the humor (and untruth) of the stereotypes. I don’t doubt Jay’s co-worker thought she was being funny but, no, we don’t all use our race to excuse our shortcomings. And we don’t all see the humor in the joke. smh…

  2. avatar uniq says:

    For LW2: If she still wants to spend time with the habitually late friends, she could always tell them to meet her early.  Say, if she’s planning on leaving at 3:30, ask them to arrive at 3:00 (or however late they tend to be).  Then she can still leave on time and no one’s feelings get hurt.  What’s more important: Being right, or being happy? :)

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      I totally do this.

      I’m late a lot myself though so I always wind back the appointment time in my head when I need to get somewhere too!

    • avatar John Lee says:

      In my experience, this only works for a few instances, then somehow the habitually late person gets the idea and adds the additional 15-25 minutes to the time he/she expects the event to TRULY start.  Basically, it makes it worse because it confuses (and angers) people who are punctual to a gathering.

      My friend Rich does this, because our friend Ben is anywhere from 15 mins to 45 mins late.  So rest of us punctual people have to deal with asking, well, when is the REAL time it starts vs. the Ben time.

      • avatar C Guynes says:

        My experience agrees with John’s on this one. So the solution may be different depending on the situation. I have learned not to put critical commitments at risk, such as depending on a perpetually late friend for a trip to the airport (for departure on a trip). And on another air trip, I made sure an always late girlfriend and I were to “meet at the gate”. Sure enough, she missed our flight. And had no room to argue over paying her half of the hotel for the night I stayed there and she was absent.

        Years ago when I was married, we had half the family repeatedly show up late for hoiday meals (pick any one). This was not just inconvenient for us; these were meals with 12 or more guests for which we planned prep time and cooking time sometimes days in advance (we both worked so we prepped in shifts) to make sure everything was ready to serve at said meal time. After 2 years holding overcooked or then cold food, filling up on appetizers and waiting who know how long for the in-laws and cousins to show, we clarified in our future invitations that everyone could arrive as early as X time, and we were eating at Y time – sharp. Then we started the meals – on time. When the relatives arrived, one of us got up to open the door, and then returned to the table to eat and socialize with the rest of us, and the relatives were invited to get their plates in the kitchen and join us at their convenience. After about 3 rounds of this, this half of the family starting showing up in advance of sit down time. And my husband and I were MUCH less stressed about all of it!

        • avatar Annie H says:

          C Guynes;
          I have family members that are the same way.  I have given up on waiting on late relatives.  One of the last meals I cooked a family member was an hour and a half late.  We didn’t wait for them.  They looked shocked that we had eaten.  I have also told another family member an earlier time (everyone else is told the real time) so they will be there on time.  It is very rude and it is why I do not cook that many family meals.  It drives me nuts and is not fair to the prompt people at the family dinner.

  3. avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

    I have a friend I love dearly who is habitually late.  So are my closest family members.  In order to combat this I tell them to be here earlier than what I really want them. 

    For instance, if I have to be somewhere at 1 and have a half hour drive, I’ll tell my friend to be there at 11:45 since she is habitually a half hour late. 

    If I invite my family over (who only live 5 minutes away!) for dinner and I want to serve and 1 and want them there at 12:30, I tell them to be there at noon.  They never know I really need them at the later time, they arrive when I want them and all is well.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      So, do you tell everyone you invite over the later time?  Or a different time for everyone based on how late they are, or punctual?  Or are you lucky enough that everyone is late the same amount of time.

      My unfortunately situation is that I’m one of the punctual ones, so I end up getting somewhere “on time” which meant I sit around for an hour while the host is just starting on the setup.

      • avatar Nancy Pea says:

        Since your always punctual you can easily ask the host or hostess that invited you if this is the correct time or a time for late comers. usually if they do this JUST for the person that is habitually late, then why would they do it for you (unless they cannot remember who arrived on time or they need more time because they habitually run late getting set up or getting things cooked) who is never late.
        i would just have a talk with those that do it and ask if you can have the correct time and that you will not tell other guests what time you were told to be there so nobody will get messed up and end up late. i can understand how you can find yourself unhappy with the setup. but if they are good friends you can always offer to help with the last minute prep and get time to talk with them personally before the crowd comes. a little one on one before party yakking. never hurts to have an extra pair of hands around to help.

        • avatar John Lee says:

          Good point.  I have done that once or twice, but I thought it was kinda rude to ask everytime.  But you’re right, I should just ask so I won’t be there 30 mins early (as I was two weeks ago).

          • avatar Koka Miri says:

            Yeah, I would never do that to a group of people, only if I was meeting a person or a couple on their own and I knew they’d be later than the set time. Good for you for being punctual!

  4. avatar jnaki says:

    I think that poeple are really intitld to their own opinions and pregideces as long as this doesn’t amount to obstrcution of the law or harm anyone while happening.  I also think that having some kind of preferences doesn’t amount to faults.  I would prefer for instance to have my son or daughter marry a Christian because I believe in Christian values and their supremacy.  I also might have proclivity to encouraging them not to marry someone who’s much older than them.  These are not outragious sins as most of the writers put them.  I know for sure that many African black American whom I am friends with who prefer their offsprings getting married to same race; i.e Blacks.  Is this outragious?  I say no.  Preferences are healthy as long as they are not used to obstruct the law.  For instance:  I am against homosexuality!  Is this worng?  for some it might, but for me is a preference.  I don’t hate them, not do I pitty them.  I simply don’t agree with them.  


    • avatar Jamie Allison says:

      Having a preference is perfectly fine, but the letter writer said that this family has set up “rules” as to who will be accepted.  Saying that the child can not even associate with people of a certain race is the definition of racism.

    • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

      I find I pity people who use outrageously bad spelling and wallow in ignorance, and I prefer not to associate with them. Is this wrong?

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      jnaki – Did you really write “I am against homosexuality?” That is like saying you are against blue-eyed people. That’s the way they were born. There is nothing “to agree with.” Your homophobia is in no way like hoping a child marries wtithin his or her race. I think YOU have a problem.

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      Yes, it is wrong. The reason? It’s not something to “agree” or “disagree” with. People who love people of the same gender exist, you likely know or are related to some, and your judgment has no place in their lives.

      You can live your life by your own preferences and opinions, of course, but recognize that you do hold attitudes based on hate for others. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it seems like you haven’t really taken the time to analyze your own opinions. Just be aware of how you sound to other people.

      The law has changed over the years, so be careful when you say “Preferences are healthy as long as they are not used to obstruct the law.” Some laws are unjust. Since we’re talking about race in this column, take a moment to remember why MLK Jr. died, and the attitudes of his time.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        @janki: I agree that homosexuality is wrong—but all these straight people keep having gay babies, so what are you gonna do?
        It’s people like you who lead gay kids to the edge of the cliff and tell them it’s better to jump—and it’s people like me who say how convenient it is to have a partner with the same shirt size. Tell me who’s wrong again?
        And as far as the supremacy of your “Christian values”—give me a break. Not a damn one of you can agree on the slightest thing unless it’s to point out how tacky another churchgoer looks, and you certainly can’t come to a conclusion about the nature of God.

        • avatar Ella Regan says:

          David Bolton, I couldn’t agree more and I could not have written it better.  Cheers!

        • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

          Oh David!!!  That is the best comment I have ever seen!  May I please use it forever??  I am so tired of people who “think homosexuality is wrong”.  Seriously,  do these people even find a heart beating inside their chests?  I am a mom and grandmother who believes with all her heart that people love who they love; it is as simple as that.  I hope you will allow me to print and keep your entire comment to share with everyone I know, it is one of the best and most heartfelt statements I have read in a long time.  If it matters, I am a Catholic and I think God loves us all without reservation.

        • avatar John Lee says:

          I usually don’t like to post just to agree when many others have already, but excellent post, Mr. David Bolton.

          LOL, either these darn straight people keep having gay babies or (gasp) they are raising their kids to become gay!  Either way, straight parent really gots to get their act together.

        • avatar R Scott says:

          Bravo, David. Bravo!

        • avatar msjrm3 says:

          The Bible states “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” it doesn’t read whosoever except________(fill in the blank). It also states “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, I guess some of us have some serious self-hatred going on. I am Christian, African-American, Bi-Sexual, etc, etc, etc, & really enjoy the issues presented & the comments as well. It simply shows you never know what will be served out of the social melting pot of America. Soups on!

    • avatar BKcagg says:

      Why does it not surprise me that the most bigoted response so far is riddled with grammar and spelling errors? Education tends to lend itself to more open-minded dialogue. Ignorance breeds contempt and prejudice.

  5. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Keep doing what you’re doing. How dare the chronically late try and make you feel guilty? They are inconveniencing YOU…not the other way around. And then they whine? And this is habitual with them? Since no longer making plans with them seems unlikely (you wish to remain sociable with them), keep doing what you’re doing. Tell them YOUR feelings are hurt; and also that they are being REPEATEDLY INCONSIDERATE. These sniveling jerks with a sense of entitlement need to grow up!

  6. avatar Jamie Allison says:

    I have very strong feeling about people who are habitually late.  I grew up in a household that was fond of saying “To be early is to be on time, to be exactly on time is to be late, and to be late is out of the question.”  If someone is going to be a couple of minutes late and they call and say so I have no problem with that you never know what may come up.  To be consistently late is an issue.  
    I think that people that are late like that are inherently selfish.  They think their time is more important than anyone else’s and that everyone should wait in them.  
    If you are late, you’re left.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Jamie, we must be distantly related, because my family’s rules were the same as yours.  If I am even 5 minutes late for an appointment, I apologize profusely.  If for some reason (this happens once every three or four years) I am going to be more than 10 minutes late, I call if at all possible.  The only exception for me are large social gatherings where I know there is a prolonged cocktail hour and lots of people mingling about before dinner or the program.  Then, I might be 15-20 minutes *late* but no one is inconvenienced.  Dinner parties can be tricky because no hostess wants someone to arrive early while she is doing last minute preparations…so I usually arrive 10-15 minutes after the appointed time IF I know there will be cocktails and mingling before dinner is served.  (I have been known to drive around the block 4 or 5 times to avoid arriving too early).  If I think that I am one of just a few guests, however, I arrive on time.   

      I agree with you that the habitually late are selfish. 


    • avatar Lisa S. says:

      I like that analysis!

      I have an aunt who is so habitually horribly late that a 2pm start time is relayed to her as a noon start so she’s there by 2:30p. And she’s never allowed to bring anything critical to the event – she’s usually bringing a dessert or chips. As for her being late all the time, I don’t think she has the organizational skills to plan accordingly to be on time or being late is her way of rebelling against her mother (she’s 50 and her mother is now senile). She’s got issues, we know it, and have special handling protocols for her.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I grew up the same way & it annoys me to no end when people are late. We have tried to instill this into our children as well. That being said, we are now often late because I have four children between the ages 3-8. Inevitably, some last minute issue always causes us to be tardy regardless of how well we planned. And our departure from the house almost always ends in my spouse & I screaming at our kids or each other because we have been so deeply ingrained with the rudeness of being late. So I ask, is it better to be 5-10 minutes late (and reap the repercussions) with everyone happy or is it better to be on time and have everyone angry at each other or in tears?

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “I agree with you that the habitually late are selfish.” Ding.
        Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given was:
        – two emails or phone calls, and then it’s up to them