Dear Margo: Afraid of Little Girls

Margo Howard’s advice

Afraid of Little Girls

Dear Margo: Between the ages of 6 and 10, I was severely bullied, but I was given the impression by grownups that such behavior was perfectly normal for children and I shouldn’t be so sensitive. (I now realize they probably did not pay attention to what was going on.) I was threatened with knives, bashed bloody with a broomstick and on at least two occasions suffered injuries that took months to heal. I’ve been told that one of the girls involved ended up in the state hospital for the criminally insane.

Bringing things to the present, I now often feel intense anxiety when in the presence of girls that age. When my cousin’s young daughter wanted to play with me at a family gathering, I found myself feeling as though I was 7 years old again, trembling and barely able to hold back tears, even though she was not misbehaving. When I hear people saying nice things about children, I feel overwhelmed with anger, and while I do not have any specific thoughts of harming kids, I find myself wanting to go off on rants telling everyone the “truth” about the inherently evil and vicious nature of children.

After bringing this up about a month or so ago in an online support group (for Asperger’s, which I have), it was suggested that I may additionally have PTSD and should seek treatment. Apparently, the bullying I experienced was unusually severe even for people who were often bullied in school.

My question is: Would it be worthwhile to seek treatment? I am concerned that it would be difficult to find a therapist familiar with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) adults because I have heard of cases where further emotional damage is done because our motivations and reactions are different from those of “regular” people. Also, since I don’t have regular contact with children, maybe it’s unnecessary to go through therapy and instead I’d simply continue to avoid them.

However, I want to start dating after having been single for a very long time, and the reality is that most men of an appropriate age for me will be divorced or widowed (I’m 37). And … my friends are becoming parents. What do you suggest? — Scared of Little Girls

Dear Scare: Your insight into the problem is very good in that you recognize the origin of the difficulty, which would make any therapy less involved than you may imagine. What you need is support in coping and help with taming your thoughts. With the advice of a professional, I am recommending cognitive behavioral therapy. The fact that you have some form of Asperger’s is not a factor here. Good luck. — Margo, optimistically

Already Feeling Guilty

Dear Margo: I’m allergic to velvet and similar fabrics that are soft and fuzzy to the touch, and having my skin in contact with them is extremely unpleasant for me, resulting in redness, itching and hives. The problem is that I’m pregnant, and that sort of material abounds in baby clothes and soft toys, which no doubt will be given to us. The other day I was discussing this with my mother, and she said, “Well, you’ll just have to wear gloves all the time, because it’s unfair to deprive your child of proper toys and clothes just because you’re a little finicky.” Is she right, even though these things literally make me sick? And if she’s not right, how do I politely let people know velvety items are not welcome? — Expectant Mom

Dear Ex: Let’s start with your mother. “Finicky” means difficult to please. “Allergic” signifies an abnormal reaction of the body. You can tell her for me that there are many clothes and toys that are not made of velvet, and I have never heard of a “velvet-deprived child.” As for getting the word out about you and velvet, you might drop it into casual conversations with your girlfriends, but if there are any shower invitations, I would advise against putting “Please, no velvet” in writing. Should a few things arrive that are soft, fuzzy or velvet, simply return them for credit … wearing gloves, of course. — Margo, curatively

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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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72 comments so far.

  1. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    LW 2 needs to figure out what type of fabric content she is allergic to. Saying “I am allergic to velvet and soft, fuzzy things” sounds as ridiculous as it is. Saying “I am allergic to acrylic or polyester or nylon.” tells people you actually know what you are allergic to instead of sounding like you just don’t like soft, fuzzy things.
    It is also possible mom is right and LW2 IS just finicky. I have several friends who insist they “break out in hives” when exposed to some fabric they don’t like (they hate the tags in their shirts, too), but I’ve watched them and they actually scratch long red welt streaks onto their arms. When I mention that, they insist they didn’t scratch at all, that the streaks are hives. I watched them do it, but they don’t remember it. This is not to say they don’t itch, or that they might not have an allergy, but they don’t get hives. (I’ve had hives, I do know what it looks and feels like)

  2. avatar tj goldstein says:

    Letter 1 – so, let me see… at 37, you find yourself still terrified of little girls and actually have to ask if therapy is appropriate? WoW! I honestly don’t understand where the lack of commonsense comes from.. is it bred into people such as yourself? And don’t bother with the Aspbergers excuse! At 37… if you think it’s important enough to write into a ‘help’ column, then you should have put your big girl shoes on, pulled up your big girl socks and get off your backside and got yourself some help before now! Stop being a self pitying drama queen… you’ve had since you turned 18 to get yourself help, you know, since you became a legal adult? People like you annoy me.. it’s all ‘wah wah wah! I’m so traumatised! I can’t cope with normal life.. but I am too stupid to have enough sense to get myself help so just ignore me while I keep going.. wah.. wah.. wah!’

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Asperger’s isn’t an “excuse”. Asperger’s people think, and process thoughts, sensory input, and social situations (to name just a few things), very differently from “garden variety” people, and then have very different responses as well. I detected no self-pity in L#1…just apprehension,  and a determination to find help. It takes some people years to find the courage to embrace psychiatric or psychological help…and it isn’t because they’re stupid, dramatic, cowardly or self-pitying. These things are terrifying. No, I am not Asperger’s. I do know what it’s like to live with the threat of psychiatric intervention. Maybe you should keep your opinions completely to yourself when you’re speaking from a well of ignorance.
      You might be one of those individuals who doesn’t think that it (sorry…name is gender neutral) doesn’t have any malfunctions whatsoever, and therefore feels free to behave like an absolute boor towards those who are just faking their condition because they’re whiny crybabies looking for attention. Mm-hm.
      I think you are a self-aggrandizing bully who needs a swift kick in the toochis…and then you should maybe take off those cheap vinyl SS boots and get a life. I think you need help, seriously, what could a little empathy hurt? I have empathy for you…I do for most broken people. Have an interesting life.

      • avatar tj goldstein says:

        Oh Dear Brianna,
        Haven’t you got your panties in a knot? You’ve never obviously worked in customer service and had parent after parent after parent excuse their children’s bad behaviour with Óh, the Aspbergers makes him/her/them do it!’ Sure, the condition is real and it’s out there.. but not every naughty child has it and for many parents, its just an excuse for their bad parenting.
        As for the letter writer… they may well have aspbergers but that doesn’t excuse them from not being able to think for themselves and take control of their own life.. they were more than capable of making the decision to write into the ‘help’ column.. then they were also more than capable of making the decision to get some  help for themselves… as I said in my original response… you can’t blame all poor choices on Aspbergers.. and not getting help before now is certainly a poor choice.
        As for me being a bully… how am I a bully when I am simply speaking about commonsense and the fact I get irritated by people not getting off their backside to help themselves? I had a problem with panic attacks at work.. you know what I did… I didn’t whinge about it.. I went and saw a professional.. many months later, problem is under control. It’s really that simple.
        Also, this is a column that actively seeks out people’s opinions so no, I won’t be keeping mine to myself… thanks for you most ignorant response and displaying that you are most definitely a bully at heart 😀

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        You are clearly a completely clueless ignoramus. Having a few anxiety attacks at work is very different than a life spent trying to cope with not thinking, processing, responding, or reacting to everyday stimuli, sensory input, social situations like “normal people”. People like yourself, for instance. A person who thinks that everyone should do things exactly like she does. People who think that a few sessions in therapy will fix every problem. After all, it worked for YOU, Goldstein, why wouldn’t it work for everyone else? They’re just clones of you, correct? It’s simple, right?

        I read the same letter you did. I did not hear the LW blaming a single thing on Asperger’s She stated she has a phobic reaction to little girls, based on severe, unresolved childhood trauma. She asked for advice on how to resolve this. The only mention of Asperger is that she is concerned that some therapists are not trained in dealing with the different processes of Asperger’s individuals’ thinking and responses. She made no excuses for herself, she didn’t whine, and she was entirely reasonable and accountable. Is English as a written language something you’re actually competent with, are you incapable of reading for comprehension, are you simply illiterate, or are you fantasizing? 
        Calling people stupid and cowardly when they are frightened, frustrated and in the first stages of seeking help…but not on your timetable, according to your schedule, according to your needs is bullying at it’s finest. Calling someone out on being a bully is not, in return, bullying, nor is calling them out on their obvious ignorance. You’re not expressing an “opinion” you’re just being malicious, malignant, and willfully ignorant. As I said, one bout with anxiety attacks (if these were based on noxious children, better get a different job. I worked in Customer Service related jobs for years. I’ve heard everything. Somehow, in your case, sympathy doesn’t abound). The LW isn’t a child excusing her actions. Not everyone with Asperger’s, a mental illness, or a physical illness uses it as an excuse. Nor does everyone with such a child condone, excuse or allow unacceptable behavior because of these things.
        Your ugly prejudices are showing. You’re no better than a racist. There, I’ve enlightened you. I expect to hear other people’s opinions. I don’t have any obligation to be nice to those who are idiots.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        I think you are a simply a subhuman who believes that everyone must be a clone of her, and if not, there is no reason they ought not do just as she does. Is your name an affectation? You would have done well at Buchenwald, or Bergen-Belsen, or Auschwitzt. Your lack of comprehension that everyone does not behave exactly as you do is staggering. You obviously have no comprehension of uncertainty, fear of the unknown, fear of things being much worse, of being ridiculed, or of being forced into a mold that you can’t possibly fit into. You’re perfect, I understand. No whining and crying for you. You’re quite nearly a celestial being, even deific in your omnipotence and strength. In your own mind, at least. And that’s good enough for you.
        You are also, as I thought, illiterate. I am aware that others have different opinions. I have no issue with most. Yours are based in a substantial degree of ignorance, willful at that, regarding those with Asperger’s, autism and any other kind of mental or neurological difference. Willful ignorance is what is sending this country hurtling back into the 1800’s, and you really belong with some of those charming North Carolina preachers who want to surround all gay and lesbian people with an electric fence and watch them die out. Why, you could have your own compound for the Asperger’s, Austistic, mentally different, MR population and fence them in too. That way they wouldn’t disturb you at your job. Or anywhere else. Hitler had the same idea, dear. 
        I think you’re entertaining. “Rage-Beast tendencies”? tj, I am not raging at you. I am simply calling you a misery monger, and a person who’s knowledge of what they speak is based on the very limited experience of Yuppie and Boomer parents making excuses for their spawn, and one bout with anxiety…possibly brought on by having a Customer Service job, which seems the penultimate antithesis of the “Perfect Job” for someone like you with your love of humanity, empathic nature, and compassion and understanding toward…yourself. My point is that you are ignorant. Willfully, completely ignorant, narcissistic (disclaimer: not in the diagnostic sense, but in the vernacular usage), incapable of even vaguely understanding that others might not be like you, and a wretch. 
        I find it fascinating that you and others think that I have anger issues. I think that anyone who is less than a cream-puff gets accused of this. Be soft and fuzzy, warm and cuddly, and agreeable. Be sweet and pleasant. Be a lady. Feh. 
        How wonderful to call someone seeking help “stupid”. Do you kick puppies too? Ceiling cat is watching.

  3. avatar Nancy Egan says:

    Dear Scared of Little Girls,  Therapy is a good idea, but finding the right therapist for you is essential.  Ask for referrals from people you trust, and try to find someone with ASD training.  While that’s no guarantee the therapist will be good, the ideal therapist will be someone who has at least some ASD knowledge.  I can’t help thinking that a therapist with no ASD knowledge would be the one who could actually give you bad advice because of his/her ignorance of ASD.  Also don’t’ be afraid to leave a therapist and try another if you find no benefit or get a negative feeling.  I have done that with success and am very glad I did.   I wonder if, down the road after some therapy, you might be an excellent contributor and find some benefit and closure by working with programs that educate people or kids about bullying?  Good luck to you.