Dear Margo: Driven Crazy

My family wants me to learn to drive, but I feel it would endanger myself and others: Margo Howard’s advice

Driven Crazy

Dear Margo: I am currently suffering mild psychosis. I’m 23 and have no driver’s license. My family wants me to get one because they don’t like driving me around. My fiancee doesn’t have one, either, but she’s out of school now and is learning this summer. The trouble is, I have disabilities, and I’m afraid I’ll kill myself or someone else if I drive. First, I have ADHD. I can’t sit still or pay focused attention for very long. Second, I have Asperger syndrome. When I’m paying attention, I tend to miss the big picture of what’s going on around me. Third, I am bipolar. Normally, that’s fine because I take meds, but occasionally, unpredictably, they need adjusting and I develop problems causing stiff muscles. When I stretch them, I get vertigo, and there are also times when I have no depth perception and see double.

My fiancee understands, but my grandmother, my mother and her fiance all keep nagging and pressuring me to learn to drive so I will be “independent.” It’s hard for me to ignore what they say because I live with them and they’re my family, but they always seem to bring it up when I’m at my most sensitive. Is there something I can say to them or show them that will convince them I can’t drive? Also, are there any resources for people in my situation? –Afraid To Drive

Dear Af: No offense, but your family sounds a little bit sadistic, a little bit clueless, and a little bit ignorant. It is nice that they want independence for you, but driving is not what you should be doing, both for physiological and emotional reasons. You would be a danger to yourself and to others. (I am in your boat, in a way, because driving started to make me nervous, and I gave it up.)

I would ask your treating doctor to explain to your family, in detail, why it would be dangerous for you to drive. (Maybe show them this column.) I am not exactly sure why they don’t take your word for it, but that appears to be the case. As for resources, some cities have a version of “The Ride,” a free service for people with disabilities. Check in your town. There are cabs and buses, of course, and soon your fiancee will be driving. Good luck, and stick to your guns. –Margo, rationally

A Tin Cup in a Wedding Invitation

Dear Margo: The daughter of dear friends is soon to marry. The couple is in their early 30s and has lived independently for several years. This is the first marriage for both of them. The invitation included a card stating that since they already have two of everything they would appreciate a monetary contribution. A check of their website suggests contributions to their European honeymoon or down payment on their house. Call me old-fashioned, but this seems beyond tacky. Checking with a close friend revealed that they don’t want to bother with checks or cash; they only want contributions through the website! I’m inclined to send a nice handmade card! Am I missing something? –Old Lady in Texas

Dear Old: You are missing nothing, my dear, but these 30-somethings sure are: manners and judgment. Old and new etiquette dictate that you do not mandate what a gift should be, and you certainly never ask for money. The specification about “website only,” lest they be burdened with checks or cash, is cheeky impudence. I even have something of a problem with registries because, really, who wants to send, say, one place setting? In any case, send them whatever you like — a handmade card would be just fine if that suits you. When the last dog is shot, do let me know if they managed to finance either their European honeymoon or a down payment. –Margo, disrespectfully

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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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153 comments so far.

  1. avatar D C says:

    Wedding gifts.  It’s all in the wording.  I know from the time I knew people who were getting married (about 35 years ago), it was common practice to ask where a couple was registered.  If I get a wedding invitation, I’m on every site from Walmart to Waterford looking for names to see what they registered for — maybe that just means I’m nosy, but if I plan to get someone a gift, I’d much rather they be happy with it (read, something they actually want) than to have the reaction my husband and I did when we got that incredibly ugly basket-woven wall art thing that was obviously not chosen just for us.  A girl I knew as she grew up got married a year or so ago and I found that the only registry she had was through a travel agency.  She had plenty of “stuff” — why NOT get donations toward a honeymoon you couldn’t otherwise afford?  And by the way, I didn’t get an invitation to that wedding or a shower — I had been out of contact with the bride’s family for a while — I just heard about the wedding through the grapevine and decided to send a gift.  So I sent a monetary donation to the registry. 

    If you get an invitation to a shower, it SHOULD list a registry if you have one.  That just makes life a whole lot easier for people like me (of which I truly believe I’m the majority) who like to give gifts that make people happy.  The whole idea of the shower is to give gifts.  A wedding invitation should have no mention at all of gifts of any kind.  That is tacky, in my opinion. 

  2. avatar amw says:

    Since I’m planning a wedding myself, I couldn’t help but comment to LW2. In lieu of a “gift” registry you can set-up a registry to pay for your honeymoon which isn’t necessarily a bad idea when the couple has all the essentials that are typically given as gifts. My issue is the way they advertised their wants and expectations. Contrary to their popular belief, while a nice gesture, nothing requires an attending guest to give you a gift. Not to mention, it is considered a wedding faux pas to make such a request, let alone print it on your invitation! My fiance’s cousin and his wife did something similar…their invitation requested cash donations. I have played a little bit with an online registry but don’t really ever intend on using it. I will not say a word about it unless asked and typically I tell my guests their presence is present enough. Because that’s the truth. We are inviting people we hold dear to us and would like them to join us as we make our love “official.” It isn’t about inviting as many people as we can stuff in the venue so we can get that ridiculously expensive china set we will never use. I don’t understand where this sense of entitlement and greed has come from. If I were the LW, I would send a nice card with a note that “regretfully” they are unable to attend but wanted to wish the bride and groom the best. 

  3. avatar Lila says:

    For LW1, THANK YOU for your responsible decision not to drive.

    Disabilities aside, driving isn’t for everyone. A teacher I knew got her license mainly to have a government-issued ID, but did not own a car and never drove: she was too nervous and afraid about it, and recognized that in that state, she was more likely to cause an accident.

    I really wish we would develop better public transit here in the US.

  4. avatar Lila says:

    Re: the tin cup: I am not so offended as the LW is. A friend just had her third wedding last year (third time’s the charm, I hope!). The couple booked a honeymoon and, like the LW’s friends, set up a website where people could buy them specific honeymoon-related items. For instance, you could buy a bottle of champagne for their arrival; one of their nights at the hotel; a horseback rental on the beach; a spa treatment; etc. etc. They were prepared to pay for anything their well-wishers didn’t pony up. All of it, if necessary.

    How is this so different from a standard bridal registry, where we are asked to buy specific china, silverware, etc? These older couples already HAVE that stuff. So instead of $50 for a tureen, why not $50 for champagne? What’s the difference?

    BTW, my friends sent very nice, specific thank-you notes for the gifts. They DO have better manners than some.

    • avatar amw says:

      My guess is the LW was more offended that it was requested than that was what they wanted.

      As you said, some have manners, others don’t.

      I think the honeymoon registries are an excellent idea. How fun to get the opportunity of an excursion that you may otherwise not have been able to afford.

  5. avatar Koka Miri says:

    Lw2: I think this must be a generational thing. I’ve heard of quite a few people asking for monetary gifts instead of physical ones, and I find this perfectly logical – especially if a couple has made house together for a year or so before the wedding, which is definitely more common these days. I’m not sure what the logic is if you say it’s tacky to say “in lieu of a registry, the couple would appreciate any monetary help you’d like to give toward their honeymoon” but towels etc. are ok. The last wedding I was at the bride registered for a metal fruit stand. People don’t exactly register for things they *need*, so if a registry is ok, I think a registry for money should be fine too, as long as it’s not asking for specific amounts. 

    I do agree it’s tacky to say what form the money should come in though, that’s just controlling.

    • avatar Jon T says:

      I think the distinction that gets overlooked is it’s one thing if a guest asks the couple. At that point it’s OK to say, “To be honest there’s nothing we really need as far as things go. Some people have offered us money if you’d like to go that route.” But telling guests in the invitation that the hosts are expecting cash is rude. Giving a gift to newlyweds is of course customary, but detailing what you want up front gives an air of entitlement.
      For what it’s worth,not everyone who attended my wedding reception brought a gift, and we wouldn’t dream of suggesting that they owed us one, let alone dictate how they should spend their money on us. We invited them for their presence, not for what we could get out of them.

  6. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I just got married, and my groom and I didn’t need any things either. We continued to say “your present is your presence” (and meant it sincerely) despite well-meaning relatives and friends who wanted to get us stuff. We ended up raking in a good amount of cash, because my mother-in-law discreetly told people that if they insisted on getting us a gift, cash was what we could use more than anything else.

    So. You can still get cash, if that’s what you want, if you’re not greedy and nasty about it. And I’ll add that the cash was nice, but the lovely cards that we got meant a lot more to us.

  7. avatar Miss Lee says:

    A suggestion to the couple getting married.  You want some cash, you have two of everything…hold a garage sale. 

  8. avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

    LW1 seemed to have very good insight into his capabilities and conditions in light of the numerous mental health issues that he has.  Although Margo response was fairly harsh on the family, it is quite plausible that the family actually has better insight in this person’s condition than he does.  Perhaps, he is just afraid to make this major step and is perfectly comfortable with allowing his family to care for him.  It sounds like he is making excuses for his fear rather than trying to see if he is capable of driving.  If a doctor had an issue with him driving, it probably would have been brought up in the letter that a doctor believed him to be incapable of driving.  That would be the strongest argument that he could make to the family.  In most states, if a doctor believes a patient to be incapable of driving, they are usually the ones who start the process to have a license yanked.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      With that being said, it is plausible that LW1 knows and understands his limitations better than anyone.  His treating physician is who he needs to talk to and that will give him a better understanding of whether he should be driving or not.

  9. avatar S Brown says:

    Sky, I was widowed young, so this DIL is married to my second husband’s son. I did not rear him and he doesn’t know my sister either since they live out-of-state. Referring to the baby as “hers” was not a slip; it’s how SHE refers to him, always. My husband and I solved the issue of not needing more “stuff” by enclosing a small, handwritten note in our invitations saying that the guest attending was our gift, but if they wanted to do more to commenorate our happiness, they could give donations to the animal shelter or to the zoo. My DIL posted on FaceBook that she’d already started using her wedding shower gifts two months before the wedding.

  10. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr #2.  I’d just send a card, or a token gift (just out of spite – okay, spite’s not good manners, either).  That’s really, really, really, tacky.  Here’s the diff between dictating gifts and traditions:  dictating is setting the ground rules & expectations to someone of what it is you want for whatever occasion it may be.   Traditional gift giving is getting gifts because it’s sort of a societal practice that’s evolved over time.  It’s not something specifically asked for or that should ever be expected.  A gift should always be just that – A GIFT.  Not a shake-down.  I also agree with Margo about registering. But see, people are now expecting gifts as part of the package and, like the LW, guests complain about it.  But rather than putting our feet down, we go with the flow to avoid conflict when all this does is reinforce this as perfectly acceptable behavior. 

  11. avatar Tiffany says:

    LW#2 hits home, because I just attended a wedding last weekend where the invitation not only gave you the list of places where they were registered, but also included the disclaimer that they’d prefer “contributions to the honeymoon.” I’m 29 and not much of an etiquette hound (at all) but this still struck me as inappropriate and crass. If your wedding is just a money grab, have the courtesy to at the very least not broadcast that fact to your guests. Someone else said something to this effect and I think it’s very true: a gift is just that – something given of your own free will as a gesture of love/appreciation/congratulations/whatever. If it’s demanded and prescribed, the entire spirit of the thing is destroyed. In the end, we did give them a monetary gift, but when I received a bachelorette invite for the same wedding with a note that “if we didn’t know what to get, she had a wish list at Victoria’s Secret”, I drew the line. Every event leading up to your wedding is not designed for others in your life to pay you tribute. People need to get over themselves and be thankful for that which is freely given.

  12. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Here’s a funny one:  Recently, I noticed on a friend’s Facebook page a friend of hers (not someone I know) who had become engaged.  The couple had set up an RSVP post to ask for those wanting to attend the wedding to respond so they’d know who to send invitations to.

  13. avatar tgnorton says:

    LW 1 – they aren’t saying they want you to get your drivers license just for your independence.  They are tired of being responsible for driving you around.  If you are unable to drive, you need to find alternatives to asking your family to do so as a favor.  As mentioned above by Margo – find busses who will work with disabled folks, etc.  Additionally, you could use public transportation, pay someone – perhaps your family member – to be your driver (by the hour, or trip, etc).  Do you offer to cover their expenses?  Do you offer to reimburse their time?  Its alot to expect someone else to be responsible for you, even if its not your fault that you can’t drive.  If you lived in a city where you knew no one – how would you solve the problem?

  14. avatar tgnorton says:

    LW 2 – send them a book on wedding ettiquette

  15. avatar M W says:

    Margo, I have read your columns for years and always enjoy your advice.

    But please, could you not ever use the expression “when the last dog is shot” again?

    -Another Margo

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      MW, I agree. I don’t know the background of that expression, but the image it conjurs is just terrible.

  16. avatar zenaide says:

    LW 2 reminds me of a discussion I once had with friends… In our country, asking for money is accepted, the last wedding I went to that had a registry was about 15 years ago. A couple that we all knew very well, and spent a lot of our weekends with, had invited us to their wedding. A discussion came up that it would be nice to pool the money of our group and do something fun with it ( again, fairly accepted where I live). However, the amount they settled on was of about USD 25 each. Knowing that everyone in our group had a decent job and sufficient funds to buy themselves nice cars, I was slightly offended at the amount, and wanted to give double. The remark I got from another couple in the group, was that if they spent more, they would not be gaining from it, as their food plus drinks would not cost more than that, and that they would be expecting at least the same amount from me for their marriage. They then proceeded to get earthshatteringly drunk at the wedding to ensure they got their money’s worth. I gave my money separately, and got a very nice thank-you card in return ( which is actually NOT a custom in our country, even though I like it).

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Who are you to dictate what people spend? Although the attitude of the others was equally appalling. Nice group.

  17. avatar Jon T says:

    I know it’s a new day, new millennium, etc. but to this day l can’t abide actually asking guests for cash in the wedding invitation. The couple may as well sell tickets to a group of strangers and let them attend the wedding and reception. They’re clearly more concerned with cashing in than with sharing a milestone with loved ones. I also find the idea of honeymoon registries to be the height of tacky, and I don’t care how commonplace it’s become (common being the operative word here). You want to go Hawaii? Pay for it yourself without shaking down your guests.

  18. avatar elaine s says:

    Here’s a suggestion for LW2:

    Send them a card saying that you are sending them a “spiritual bouquet”.  When someone I know was about to graduate fron Holy Cross College, he and his classmates got a big speech from the Dean, that since they were all going to be big successes in life, they needed to go ahead right then and sign up as alumni, and include the pledge amount they promised to give to the college each year.

    My acquaintance had heard enough of their BS for 4 years, so he filled out his pledge card, promising to send them (you guessed it)…a spiritual bouquet!  For you non-Catholic readers, a spiritual bouquet consistes of sevral different prayers to different saints.

  19. avatar momis says:

    Oh my bad, I thought it was directed to me. Thanks for clarifying!

    • avatar Jon T says:

      Not at all, momis. The posts have a way of landing in weird spots. I should make a point of including a name when I reply to be safe. :-)

  20. avatar tj goldstein says:

    Letter 2 – they already stated that they had 2 of everything. Why give them crap they don’t want? Suck it up like an adult and give them what they would like? Maybe the financial crisis hit them harder than anyone knows, thus, they would like some help with the honeymoon or deposit on the house? Maybe the honeymoon will be the last one for many years to come and they would like to make it a nice one?

    Don’t be selfish.. the wedding isn’t about YOU… it’s about 2 people getting married. What’s the big deal with giving through a site? Most travel agencies have sites where you can pay directly into the couples holiday fund.. not going via a third party like Paypal. Not sure about the house deposit though?

    Time to move into the real days, not get suck in the past where the bride and groom had to grin and bear it when they received 3 of the same toasters and 6 fry pans and could only give them away at other peoples birthdays or weddings or engagements.

    If you are that offended.. don’t go and let the happy couple give your seat to someone who will appreciate the invitation?

    • avatar Jon T says:

      tj, does that mean the bride and groom don’t have to “suck it up like adults” and appreciate the guests’ presence regardless of what kind of gifts they provide? Or is sharing the occasion with loved ones not the point of inviting a person to one’s wedding? I guess newlyweds are exempt from good manners and consideration for others. Personally I’m more than willing to go with a gift that the couple can actually use, including cash. But if they’re going to preemptively reject any gift that isn’t cash no matter how much thought was put into choosing it, then the “happy couple” is merely self-centered and rude. If the day isn’t about the guests at all, then why are they inviting them in the first place?

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      “Maybe the financial crisis hit them harder than anyone knows, thus, they would like some help with the honeymoon or deposit on the house? Maybe the honeymoon will be the last one for many years to come and they would like to make it a nice one?

      Don’t be selfish.. the wedding isn’t about YOU… it’s about 2 people getting married.”

      1) If I got “hit hard” by the financial crisis, the last thing I would do is to plan a European getaway. I might still be crass and ask for cash as a wedding present, but it would be to pay rent or buy things I need. Your logic is pretty flawed there, dude.

      2) I thought the purpose of a wedding was to celebrate the occasion WITH your friends and WITH your family. Not FOR them. Not AROUND them. Why should I go to a wedding if the day is about the couple and the couple only? A wedding is supposed to foster feelings of community and the joining of families into a family. I’m not going to ANY wedding where I’ve been asked to essentially be part of an audience of cardboard cutouts, and I sure as hell won’t respond to an invoice—I mean, request for a gift.

  21. avatar nikkylee says:

    Honestly, I don’t even know how to put into words how disgusted I am with some of the people my age when it comes to weddings. I’m 23, and maybe this is a byproduct of being the oldest of 6 in a poverty level home, but I cannot even imagine acting so entitled.

    I’ve been with my fiancé for seven years, we’ve been “kinda sorta” engaged for five. We’ve been saving on and off (things seem to keep popping up that we need to take the saved money for) for a few years for a wedding. I can’t even imagine asking our parents to pay for any of it (granted, neither of our parents are well off, and I’m 10+ years older than my youngest siblings so my mom still has 4 kids at home)… not to say there’s anything wrong with parents who can and WANT TO help out doing so.

    My ideal wedding is a bbq in my mom’s back yard, with my closest friends and family sitting around or dancing and just having fun. I don’t care about gifts, I am more than able to work for what I want. I certainly would NEVER expect them, my fiancé’s mother offered to throw a shower, and as much as I appreciated the offer, I just wouldn’t be comfortable asking people to give up an afternoon to play a few cheesy games and watch me open gifts. I don’t mean that I think bridal showers are equivalent with cash-grabbing or that I dislike them, but in my case it would consist of a fairly poor family and a lot of friends currently working their way through college. I couldn’t ask that of them. The best thing they could give me is to be near me and to spend time with me to celebrate the relationship that I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have.

    I steadfastly refuse to spend a fortune just because media and big corporations tell me that’s what needs to be done. I’d rather use the thousands of dollars to take my siblings on a vacation somewhere, because they’ve never had one. Weddings are one day, special only because they’re about committing something so much MORE important. If people spent half the time working on cultivating their relationship and their marriage that they do on choosing their wedding colors, maybe the divorce rate wouldn’t be so high.

    I know this probably all sounds incredibly arrogant, and I don’t mean it to be, I know lots of people who’ve had perfectly lovely weddings that were really about the couple and their marriage. It just seems like all you hear about are entitled, spoiled, bratty brides and their dunderheaded grooms, and I hate that THIS is the image of a wedding for my generation.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Nikkylee, I applaud your sentiments. On a side note, however, your prospective MIL needs to be advised that it’s inappropriate for close family members to throw showers — bridal, baby, or whatever kind. Those are to be hosted by friends. Have her check it out with any etiquette authority.   

  22. avatar Cherubim says:

    From (not the best source of knowledge, but nevertheless…):

    A bridal registry is a service provided by a website or retail store to assist engaged couples in the communication of gift preferences to wedding guests. Selecting items from store stock, the couple lists desired items and files this list with the chosen merchant. The list is then made available to wedding guests, either by the couple’s family or the merchant. Upon the purchase of a listed item, this gift registry is updated accordingly. In addition to providing valuable information for the buyer, the system helps prevent the receipt of duplicate or unwanted gifts, potentially saving time for both giver and recipient.
    The practice of a bridal registry was first instituted by Chicago-founded department store Marshall Field’s in 1924 at its Marshall Field and Company Building as a means for the engaged couple to indicate chosen china, silver and crystal patterns to family and friends. US-based Target stores were the first to introduce an electronic self-service gift registry in 1993, using a service provided by The Gift Certificate Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.[1] The technology was invented and subsequently patented by William J. Veeneman et al., the founder and CEO of The Gift Certificate Center.[2]
    In the past few years[when?] the traditional concept of the bridal registry has evolved. There are now more specialized versions such as honeymoon registry and charity registry.

    • avatar Cherubim says:

      And as a side note, I recently bought a dinner for 2 for dear friends of mine on their honeymoon in Paris, and they sent me photos of them enjoying the meal – I loved the thought that I had brought them a moment of true happiness, memories and enjoyment instead of some material object that they didn’t even want.

    • avatar Cherubim says:

      Final argument, I promise….
      As noted by The Wall Street Journal in a May, 2008 review of popular honeymoon registry services:

      “A honeymoon is a perfectly appropriate gift to request,” says Peter Post, president of the Emily Post Institute, a Burlington, Vt., etiquette think tank. “There’s no objection to it from an etiquette point of view.” 

      • avatar Jon T says:

        I’ll defer to the Posts on the etiquette front. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable having a honeymoon registry myself, but if the Post institute says it’s acceptable I’ll buy that. There is one other thing worth nothing on this front, also from the Post Institute:

        It’s best to let people know the ‘old fashioned way:’ by word of mouth. Tell your family and attendants where you’re registered. Guests will ask, and they’ll help get the word out. It’s fine to have links to your registry on your wedding website, but don’t make them the most important or prominent feature of your page. Remember, a registry is a “wish list.” Guests aren’t required to choose from your registry. It’s never okay to include registry information on or with any invitation to the wedding or reception, or with any announcement. Why? Because the emphasis shifts from “we want you to be with us on our special day” to “you need to buy us a gift and here’s what we want.”

  23. avatar Jean B says:


    After reading the letter from Old Lady in Texas, I just have to ask this question. What if the couple asked people who are so inclined to give a gift to donate to a chosen charity instead? I don’t know if we will ever marry (probably not) but we have both been married before, have lived together for several years, and God knows we have everything we need and then some. If we did marry (which we have talked about) all we would really want from our families and friends is their good wishes and attendance at our wedding if they are able to make it. Gifts to “make up for” the cost would not be needed, it would be our party and we would be more than happy to cover the costs.


  24. avatar Maggie Richardson says:

    I live in Australia and here LW1 would be able to obtain a card entitling him to half-price taxi fares. If he needs to go somewhere that public transport does not service, this might make it much more affordable.

  25. avatar Annie Chan says:

    L1: Your family has issues if they’re unwilling to drive you around and try to make you learn despite the challenges you would face and how illegal it’d be with your conditions. I’m not sure what planet they’re from but even a normal driver can get distracted at times… imagine what it’d be like for someone with ADHD. Anyhow, why not take public transportation? That’s what I’m planning to do when I finally move out of my parents’ place considering how much of a chicken I am to want to learn how to drive. Only problem with this is I have no photo ID aside from my passport ;o

    L2: The couple in the second letter reminds me of this woman who went on twitter and asked the public for funding for her ceremony because, apparently, she overshot her budget by a mile ($5000 was her budget limit, if I remember correctly. There’s a lot of people who’d be happy just to have that $5000 budget.). She’s not even considering maybe… you know… making it fit her budget instead of trying to get help from strangers? Not sure what the people are thinking who are helping her out… because she’s being selfish and not trying to lower the costs and they’re just helping fund her greed.