Dear Margo

Dear Margo column

Q. I need some insight on the debate between selfishness and being focused. I am a recent empty nester who dedicated the past 25 years to family: an ex-husband, three children, an ailing parent, and now my fiance. This physically and economically drained me, as I also was working as a full-time professional, just not in an area that allowed for huge savings or moving into higher pay ranges.

My fiance is a multimillionaire and prides himself on having been “focused” on his business, which came at the expense of his former wives and children. Recently, I asked him for some assistance in the amount of $145 — the second time in five years I have asked for anything. The first time was $1,400 for an air conditioner last summer, the hottest summer in history. I had to sign an IOU and give him a lien against my house, and he followed up with a lecture about how I should have been more focused on myself and not my family. He also said that I should stop paying into my 401(k), because I need the money now.

My family has never lived extravagantly. My children’s cars are as old as the children. Why is it that there’s a perception that men are focused when they step on others for profit and women are selfish when they ask for assistance in times of need?



A. First, I must tell you that I have serious doubts that your fiance is even solvent, let alone a multimillionaire. If he really is rich, he is the stingiest, skinflintiest SOB I have ever heard of. And this is your intended, no less, demanding an IOU and a lien? Gotta tell you, this all sounds odd. Also, your mention of a lien makes me wonder if this letter is not concocted (or you are using the wrong word), because a lien can only be gotten through a court order to attach someone’s assets when they are in default on a payment owed.

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Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will assume your letter is legit for the purpose of answering your question. If you are not lying to me, I’m pretty sure he is lying to you. I think your question about focus pales next to this terrible man, whom I hope you ditch pronto (assuming this is a real situation). Taking all of this at face value, however, I will quote my colleague, “Miss Conduct,” who would say you are like Scarlett O’Hara, desperately making dresses out of the curtains while this dreadful man is ragging on you and demanding an IOU. We can philosophize about focus some other time.

Q. I am a working professional who often stops at local restaurants on the way home from work to get a carryout dinner. I consider myself a generous tipper when I dine in a restaurant or when I have food delivered to my house, but I have never tipped for a carryout order. Recently, a friend told me she always tips at least 10 percent when getting carryout food. Is this considered customary? And if so, what is the correct percentage to tip? Have I been wrong all these years?


A. I wouldn’t say you’ve been wrong, because many people don’t tip when they pick up something to go. The waitstaff at this kind of place unfortunately often gets the short end of the stick because there is only one interaction between them and the customer. My own rule is that if all the person does is ring up something already prepared and grabbed from a case, no tip is required. If, however, they make something for you to take, a tip would be in order — and 10 percent sounds right for this.

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