Dear Margo: How to Deal with a Needle Artist

How can I avoid constant disparagement about my job? Margo Howard’s advice

How To Deal With a Needle Artist

Dear Margo: Like many people (politicians, police, journalists, attorneys, car salespeople), I work at a job that a good many people love to hate. Most people I meet, however, are gracious. The exception is a close relative’s new wife. I’d never met her before the wedding and only see her at family gatherings. I’ve always been cordial, and she is friendly. However, her smile and greeting are quickly accompanied by a critical remark about my profession or my employer. Last time, she told me what a jerk my boss is.

Part of me believes she thinks this is clever conversation; another part says the fact that she has a master’s degree in counseling means she can’t be that clueless. Do I keep doing what I have been doing, which is to smile, say something bland and disengage quickly? Or should I point out that she’s being remarkably rude? I don’t want to start a family fight, but I’m tired of being her dartboard. –Losing Patience

Dear Lose: Kinda too bad that this woman feels she needs to give you her unsolicited and impolite opinion every time you meet. Your passive avoidance responses just ensure that she will continue with the needles. I would, the next time this happens, return the volley. You might respond, when next you hear the same song, umpteenth verse, that she certainly seems too young to be memory impaired, but she tells you of her disdain for your work every time she sees you. You might throw in, “It almost seems as though you don’t want us to be friends.” When she picks herself up off the floor, I predict you will have heard the last of her digs. –Margo, responsively

Pets and Vets

Dear Margo: In November 2010, I almost lost my 16-year-old Baby-Girl Sassie (Shepherd/Chow mix) to cancer. I opted for surgery and treatment, and she’s doing great. It cost close to $2,000, but I didn’t care; she’s my girl. All of my friends and a few family members called me crazy for saving her life and spending the money to treat her. When I asked for prayers, they thought I had gone off the deep end. Last week, my beagle, Mac, had a tumor appear on his left hind leg (he’s 14), and I opted for surgery once again (another $1,000), and tonight the doc told me Mac will be around for a long time. Again, I was called nuts.

Last week, I had surgery for breast cancer. The people who saw me through the operation thought nothing of praying for me, but they fail to realize that my pets are with me 24/7. When I come home from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, they are the ones who greet me at the door, crawl up in my bed and comfort me when I’m crying from fear. Is it wrong to want others to pray for your pets when their lives are in danger? Or to spend money on their health as you would for a human? –Mom to Pets

Dear Mom: People who aren’t pet people are never going to get it, so stop trying to get them to understand. It should not matter to you what others think of your priorities. I don’t think it’s wrong, exactly, to ask friends to pray for pets, but I can see how some people would think it a little strange or even sacrilegious. I suspect there are people who make a distinction between animals and people, and once you understand that, you won’t be angry with the people who decline to pray for Mac.  –Margo, understandingly

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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.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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61 comments so far.

  1. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: :L#1: O, it isn’t just politicians, lawyers, law officers etc. who are vilified by society. I spent 9 years working as the manager, supervisor, and part-owner of a small chain of comics, RPG, and table-top war games stores. It was much more than just a job, it was being part of a very special, very closely knit community, and acting as a sounding board for highly intelligent, but often socially outcast teens (not the sort who spend their time getting drunk, or high, but the kind who read, think, and want very different things out of life), meeting an astoundingly wide variety of people, including my husband of 17 years, and being self-employed, responsible, and in love with what I was doing.

    But my family never saw it as a “real” job…even though I was sole provider for my first son and second (now ex) husband for two years, paid all of the bills, and was extraordinarily happy with my work and the people I knew and loved. They thought I was quite amusing and droll. Of course, my middle sister worked as a glorified receptionist and data-entry clerk…and my younger sister worked for the vast empire of Barnes & Noble, in Customer Relations.

    Years later, my mother was bemoaning the fate of my sisters, both of whom had been laid off from their respective jobs (some years apart), after the same amount of time, about eight years, and received respectable severance packages, etc.. She went on at some length. I finally asked, “Do you remember how long I worked at the comic store?” She said, “O, about two years…it wasn’t a real job…”. I said, “I worked there 9 years, sometimes seven days a week, sometimes putting in 10 hour days. The majority owner embezzled our entire tax account, burned three quarters of our merchandise because he decided it was satanic (it wasn’t), bounced checks to ALL of our vendors and distributors, didn’t pay our rents or the IRS, and stole all the deposits on the pre-ordered items our customers had asked for…then canceled all of their orders. The IRS raided our stores and locked them up, he disappeared…and I was out of a job, high and dry, with a toddler at home and a useless husband.”. Her response? “O, well, I guess you did okay”.

    My response? Nothing at all. Sometimes people don’t get it. LW1, there are rotten apples in every profession…no single group has a lock on corruption, avarice or malice…and all of the jobs listed…lawyers (we had an awesome, realistic, attorney after R.’s really bad car accident, who did not try to take the at-fault driver to the cleaners…just pay for medical bills and damages, which was all we wanted), police officers, politicians, reporters (do we really have to include them? O, all right…), even car sales people (hell, I’ve even met at least two totally decent car sales people) perform essential functions in our society. I’ve met two therapists, who, if I happened to see fall to the ground in flames, I might send my dog over to…well, never mind. Let’s just say that their ethics went well beyond questionable…and I always wondered exactly from where they received their diplomas. I think Margo’s response was on the spot. It comes across as curious rather than defensive, and idly curious at that. Allow it to be her issue.

  2. avatar TreeDweller says:

    Margo, truly wise advice to Losing Patience.  I’ve thought it, but I’ve never said it out loud. 

  3. avatar Jon T says:

    My partner and I have had to sit through the occasional snide comments about both our professions, but particularly about his being a teacher and the time off that comes with the job.  A couple of (now former) friends would always start in with something like, “Wow.  ANOTHER school holiday.  What a hard life you have!”  The first time we laughed it off, but it got old real fast.  While my first instinct was to jump to his defense, he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “If it’s that easy then go back to school, get your certification and Master’s degree and find a teaching job.  I did.”  That usually did the trick, though I like Margo’s advice as well.  

  4. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    Interesting that he doesn’t actually mention his profession. Yeah sure, our first reaction to the scenario is that she’s being a bitch. But he seemed to indicate that this is a little more specific than the woman knowing his profession. Just a for instance here – let’s say you met someone that tells you they are head of a special interest group to protect the interest (read profits) of banks. Or you meet a lawyer – and they are Bernie Madoff’s lawyer. There are tons of seriously morally dubious jobs out there. And if it really zaps our own personal nerves, would you imagine saying nothing? What if you met someone that was peripherally involved in the abuse of animals? Or someone that worked for Charlie Sheen? Lol – ok, not that last one.

  5. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    Some people just don’t get the ‘pet’ thing. That will always be a mystery to me. What is it that these people are missing in their makeup? I believe them when they say they have no particular connection to animals, in particular cats or dogs, but why? It’s such a hugely rich and rewarding experience to love a pet. My dog has probably taught me more about life than just about anyone, save my husband. He’s recently been sick, diagnosed with a terminal cancer and my mother’s response was sympathetic but she also felt it necessary to remind me that ‘he’s just a dog’ and that ‘I can get another one.’ They seem to feel personally insulted somehow that you might put your pet on the same level as a person; that you might feel deeply for them and about them. As if people actually have a choice as to what they feel towards another living creature. I just don’t get it – I never will.

    • avatar Jean B says:

      Jennifer, I think you nailed it on the head. They are not human, I get that, but they are still VERY important to me! And if these people cared at all about us they could at least respect the fact that our animals really are that important to us.

  6. avatar Jean B says:

    Dear Mom of Pets,
    I’ve been in your shoes and know how you feel. Thankfully, our closest friends understand and did pray for ‘our’ puppies. Last year my daughter and son-in-law got 2 Chihuahua puppies, one a tea cup. 2 months after they got the puppies they got married, 5 days after that my daughter was walking them when her neighbor’s dogs rushed out an open gate and snatched them up. The tea cup died instantly, the other, a male, had extensive internal injuries. $1850 later he is healthy as can be, thank the Good Lord. I paid the vet bills, they sure couldn’t do it. Granted, this was from an attack and I am getting my money back from the person who owns the other dogs, but that is still a lot of money “for a dog”. There are some who think we are nuts, we ignore them. If it were our own (many) animals we would do the same. When our 2 elderly cats both passed in 2005 our (close) friends and family gave us their condolences. One cousin sent us a sympathy card! That actually made me laugh. There are people out there who do understand, those are the people you need to surround yourself with. Not all of our friends have animals of their own, but they all have hearts and understand that our animals are family, too.
    God bless and watch over you and your loving ‘children’.

  7. avatar Peyton Marlow says:

    LW#2. I am with the majority of other pet owners here. I adopted a crippled goat I named Gertie several years ago. I spent $100 per month to get her hooves trimmed and when she was attacked I spent thousands to help her survive. After that incident she lived in the house and I spent additional $$ on adult diapers for her. She slept at the foot of my bed every night and to this day I think of her curled up there every time I go to sleep. I also hold the record at my vets for spending the most in one year on my dogs. Do I care what my friends think of my spending, especially on a goat? Not at all. I know in my heart what they give me and that’s enough. 
    Wishing you a speedy recovery and many happy years with your beloved pets.  

  8. avatar DonnaH says:

    LW#2 May your beloved furbabies recover, & you as well. I am praying for your entire family.
    This week, I took my 23 yr. old cat to the vet, fully expecting to say “goodbye”. The vet said he was healthy (remarkably so for such an old cat), except for a condition that can be treated. I have decided to spend money on treatment & keep the closest thing I’ve ever had to a husband a bit longer. (Bubba is particular, demanding, & set in his ways but cuddly, just like a man).

  9. avatar dekwkg says:

    LW#2–never apologize for spending money on your pet. Our dachshund had back issues. Three trips (via airline) to a first class vet school at a major university for 3 back surgeries cost a lot of money–followed by physical therapy, etc. etc. Actually never did even add up the money spent. But there was always a “light” in his eyes showing his love for us. He is still our special friend and can even walk–although not very steadily. It was worth every cent. As I write this he is looking at me, reminding me that it is “treat time.”

  10. avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

    To the LW with the dogs.  To avoid disappointment, find an online pet message board.  Get to meet some “friends” there.  Then, if you need prayers for your furbabies, ask for them there.  Those people will understand, not criticize and will offer up sincere prayers.  You won’t be disappointed and your non-dog-loving friends will not feel bothered.

    Sign me:  Mom to 1 very wonderful human boy and a home that includes 9 cats, 3 birds, 2 guinea pigs, a dog, 40 chickens, 2 goats, 2 pigs and fish.

  11. avatar Krusticle says:

    LW#2: Similarly, we got the same criticism when we discovered our 12 y/o cat had diabetes.  After spending over $1,000 for diagnosis and tests to determine his insulin needs (two shots a day for the rest of his life), friends and family called us crazy for not putting him down.  I told them, if it were YOUR cat, I would say the same.  That usually put things in perspective for them.  (And who knew how easy it is to give a cat insulin shots?  He never minds, as long as he has a dish of wet cat food in front of him.  He’s happy and healthy and we have no regrets at spending the time and money to save him.)

  12. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW2: Frankly, I find anyone asking another person to pray for them or family a bit presumptuous. Perhaps they don’t pray at all. Perhaps you think they are religious folks but it is only a facade. Perhaps asking everyone to keep you in their thoughts as you struggle with your pet’s illness would be better.  If they want to pray, they will. This approach will save you grief & conversation. 
    My approach would just be to share my situation & let them proceed however they feel comfortable-whether it be by praying, doing kind things, simply checking in with me or whatever.