Dear Margo: Conquering a Phobia

Margo Howard’s advice

Conquering a Phobia

Dear Margo: I am a bicycle rider, or at least I used to be. A couple of months ago, I almost got run over in an intersection. It was a four-way stop, and I had stopped and was waiting for the oncoming car to stop before I proceeded. I didn’t realize the driver had not seen me, and just as I was crossing in front of her car, she started forward. For a second I thought, “They want to kill me.” I screamed like I was being attacked, and the driver stopped in time to just tap my bicycle. She did not knock me over. I was pretty shook up and had to get a ride home.

I recognized that I was a little fearful of getting back on my bike, but I did, thinking that my fear would decrease over time. It has not. My resistance to riding has become so great that I can no longer ride alone. If I’m riding with someone, I am fine, but I no longer ride to work or to do errands. I hate this. I just want to be like I was. I hate going to a therapist for what seems like such a small thing. Do you have any advice? — Terminally Spooked?

Dear Term: I do not consider your fear a small thing. It is interfering with your life and your routine, and it’s entirely understandable to me as someone who is afraid to even get on a bike.

I would suggest you see a cognitive therapist (often they are psychologists) to deal with your one issue. Look at it this way: The fright you are experiencing is clear-cut and fixable, so consider yourself lucky that this straightforward difficulty (let us call it “vehicular phobia relating to four wheels versus two”) is not a stew of dysfunctional relationships, abuse or depression requiring extensive therapy, medication, past lives regression or what have you. “Getting back on the horse” has many applications having nothing to do with actual horses. — Margo, therapeutically

Are There “Rights” With Gifts?

Dear Margo: Most of my family members, with the exception of myself, are well to do and have successful careers and lovely homes. They are in the habit of giving donations to charities rather than actual presents on gift-giving occasions, because if any of them needs anything, they can afford to go out and buy it.

The charitable contributions are a lovely and generous practice. However, recently a family member gave money, in my name, to a charity whose conservative (pro-life, anti-LGBT) values I do not agree with. I came unglued, the stuff of real family legend. I was told I cannot dictate what “gifts” I get. But I think that if my name is to be associated with it, I should at least get to request a favorite organization. Do I, or should I, have any right to request that donations in my name not go to such organizations? — Katy

Dear Kat: What an interesting question. I feel your pain and understand your pique. Having such different values from the conservative organization that received “your” contribution would make Jesus want to drink gin from a cat dish, to swipe a phrase from Anne Lamott.

When it’s an occasion — birthday, anniversary, etc. — you can’t really request where the donation will go. The only time such direction is proper is in an obituary. What you can do, however, when you hear from this organization (and you will, because now you are on their list) is to respond with a note asking that you be removed from their mailings because you are not in agreement with their goals. That, or send the postage-paid return envelope back empty. It will make you feel better. — Margo, decorously

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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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80 comments so far.

  1. avatar Dani Smith says:

    Do people not realize how they sound when they talk about being “anti pro-life” ?? “I came unglued because that organization is for the idea of life!” May as well say you’re a Satanist.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      Do “pro-lifers” not think about the fact that there is something beyond the birth?  Most of these same people are the ones who are against child care, health care, education, stopping wars, all the way to care for the elderly.  You worry about getting into a woman’s body when it is none of your business but do not worry enough about carry for the people already here in this world.  That sounds more like Satan to me.

  2. avatar Hellster says:

    LW #2, why don’t you just say, “Hey, this stinks! I want a real gift, none of this ‘a donation has been made in your name’ crap! It’s all right for you guys, but I’m not as rich as you, and I could really USE a Snuggie, or a Little Gem Donut Maker, or an “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,” even. If you can’t even give me something like that, don’t bother donating in my name to the ‘Right-Wing Foetus-Worshippers!'” I guarantee you’ll never be bothered with gifts, wanted or unwanted, again.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Or try this: “Hey everyone, I donated YOUR TIME to spend with me at the AIDS clinic this year on Fifth Street. We’re going to spend four hours passing out safe-sex literature and free condoms and dental dams. It will be fun—I can’t wait to see all of you there, and Merry Christmas!”

    • avatar Brigid says:

      Hellster where on earth did you get that idea? The writer is only saying that s/he didn’t want a gift to go to a charity that was offensive, personally. The letter writer never says it would be better if a toaster had ben received, or makes it clear that s/he is angling for material goods.

      • avatar Hellster says:

        Not sure what idea you’re referring to, Brigid . . .? I didn’t suggest that the writer is angling for material goods, I suggested a tactic that should ensure she never has to get another present from these people again. Period.

  3. avatar Kordell70 says:

    LW2: I too was in this situation. A friend of mine donated $1,000 in my name to an organization for which I wanted no affiliation with, and he refused my request to remove my name from the donation. A solution might be to call the organization directly. While I did not agree with the beliefs of the organization, I did find that the people were very nice (they just had slightly different belief systems. They not only removed my name from the donation, but they called my friend and said that because I did not wish to be associated with their organization that they would be happy to accept the donation in another name or refund his money. My friend made a big stink about it, but the organization stood firm. My friend threatened to take back the donation. However, the secretary asked him what was more important (1) the fact that his donation may help further a cause he believe in, or (2) making a friend uncomfortable because you want to dictate that his name be associated with a cause you believe in but he does not. In the end my friend took back the money, and the secretary told him next time you donate to a cause make sure it is a cause you fully support enough that you will want the donation to be used even if a name needs to be pulled from its source and not just a way to make it appear as others share your beliefs.

    • avatar nancy7106 says:

      Wow. I’m so sorry you had to endure that. I’m not sure I could maintain a friendship with someone after an incident like that, where the offense was deliberate. A charitable donation like this puts you on the organization’s mailing list, usually for a long time. It’s like getting a magazine subscription to a periodical you hate. I can understand a clueless relative or friend doing this sort of thing accidentally, but I have no idea why someone would do that on purpose to a person they claim as a “friend.”

      I wonder how often this sort of thing happens? It sounds as if the organization handled it well. I’m glad they were friendly and helpful in this situation. While I’m sorry you went through this, I’m glad you shared your story. It’s good to know that some charities would cooperate with someone who has this type of problem.

  4. avatar Rain Song says:

    Last year for Christmas my parents requested that since they had three of everything they want and need we should send a donation to a local food bank instead of a gift. I can not support the particular food bank they suggested so I countered with the local humane societies spay/neuter fund. It was an acceptable suggestion to them.
    What Im trying to say is this sort of thing should be discussed ahead of time not sprung on someone. Offer the relatives a charity you CAN support. I would not want my name associated with any anti abortion groups or those supporting the gay agenda. My parents are the exact opposite. So we found a common ground.
    In MY case the donation is indeed a gift a requested gift. In her case I suspect a tax donation. As one person said she had zero right to come unglued and toss a tanty over it.

  5. avatar Dee Gee says:

    LW2, What your family is doing is more than passive-aggressive, it is overtly hostile. I agree with those who say to ask that person to not give gifts in your name and to not give gifts for them, either. If they continue to do so, then you might stoop to their level and give to a cause repugnant to them.

    Even as I write that, I think that fighting fire with fire is not as affective as fighting fire with water and fighting hate with love. I can think of some very hostile ways to respond to them, but I hope I’d never have to debase myself so.

  6. avatar Dee Gee says:

    The gift is supposed to be for the recipient, not the giver.

    I’m of the same mind on people who insist on saying Merry Christmas to everyone, even if they know it’s not something that person celebrates. The greeting is supposed to be for the one you greet – and not a political or religious advertisement from the Greeter.