Dear Margo: For the past two and a half years, we have allowed my 24-year-old stepdaughter and her 25-year-old boyfriend to live with us. During this time, we have charged them very minimal rent ($50 a paycheck from each when they were working). He had two part-time jobs, and she had a couple of short-term jobs that always ended in disaster. Any extra money they got was spent on dinners, expensive clothes and DVDs, rather than saving.
Recently, my wife found employment, and we were going to have my stepdaughter watch our 5-year-old. That was a debacle that would have ended badly, so my wife quit to watch her. At this point, I’d had enough and told them we would be raising the rent. They were required to pay $400 a month for both of them. I gave them six weeks to get things in order and for my stepdaughter to look for a job. Instead, after a couple of weeks, they snuck out in the middle of the night and left town to go live in a cramped apartment with his family. Now I am being portrayed as the bad guy. Was there something I could have done differently? –Bad-Guy Dad
Dear Bad: I think you did things just right. These kids sound like hot messes, and irresponsible in the bargain. Sneaking out in the middle of the night was a nice touch — especially considering you are family. I’m sure you wish them luck in the boyfriend’s parents’ apartment. One can only hope somewhere along the line they grow up. Do allow yourselves to feel relieved that their maturing process is taking place somewhere else. (As the wonderful jazz drummer Bobby Rosengarden used to say: “You got a fluckey.” You may have to say this out loud to get it.) –Margo, thankfully
“This Is Certainly Less Traditional.” I’ll Say
Dear Margo: My husband and I are in the phase of our lives where friends’ children are starting to get married. More and more, we are seeing gift registries where they don’t request toasters, blenders, china, etc, but are asking for “contributions” to their honeymoon, a down payment on a house, etc. In other words: money! Am I an old crank who is just out of it? I always thought “envelopes” were for mafia weddings. What do you think of this? –Fuddy Duddy
Dear Fud: First, let me say that there are many cultures that favor “envelopes” as the gifts of choice — which does make a certain amount of sense. You are not alone in your reluctance, however, to make a gift of cash. One woman told a reporter writing about this trend, “It sounds cheesy to me,” and said she’d rather give something they can have forever to remember her by. A young woman who was using this new kind of registry (to pay for a European honeymoon) responded, “The only difference is that friends are helping us buy experiences, rather than things.”
Because couples are marrying later and living together first, one can assume they most likely already have household things. It is heresy, I know, but I have no objection to this. We are not living in the days of Emily Post … although her grandson, Peter Post, also thinks this relatively new practice is OK. Console yourself with the idea that it’s easy on the gift-giver (no shopping) and it’s what they want. If you can’t get with this program, by all means send whatever you would like. No one will call you names, but neither will they toast you in Paris! –Margo, liberally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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