The Brandeis Questionnaire
Margo Howard '62
In 1959, a woman in Chicago learned a St. Louis newspaper was about to print something she had penned about love. She wrote her daughter, a Brandeis freshman, to tell her the good news.
The woman was Eppie Lederer, and the paper in question was merely the latest in the growing list of dailies to publish her “Ann Landers” advice column, which she started writing in 1955.
Here, in part, is what Lederer said about the L word in that inaugural column for St. Louis readers: “If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.”
Through nature or nurture, or both, Lederer’s daughter, Margo Howard, became something of an expert on love herself. After working as a newspaper and magazine writer for 30 years, at age 58 she followed in the advice-giving footsteps of her mother (and her mother’s twin, Pauline “Dear Abby” Phillips) by writing the nationally syndicated columns “Dear Prudence” for Slate, then “Dear Margo” for Yahoo! News and www.wowowow.com.
In her youth, Howard heeded the call of amour by dropping out of Brandeis shortly before graduation to wed her first husband, with whom she had three children, Abra, Adam and Andrea. But it wasn’t until marriage No. 4, to Boston cardiac surgeon Ron Weintraub, that she finally found her eternal flame.
Today, the famously impeccably coiffed and dressed Howard lives with Weintraub in Cambridge, Mass. She writes funny and trenchant tweets with rat-a-tat frequency (@Margoandhow). She’s also preparing for the late-September release of her third book, “Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife.”
Talking about the book, and her life, she says, “There is young love, impulsive love, love reconsidered and, happily for me, love among the ruins. It seems clear that anyone who marries four times is, without a doubt, a believer in love.”
What was your idea of perfect happiness when you were at Brandeis?
Long pseudo-intellectual conversations over coffee at the Castle.
When or where were you most miserable at Brandeis?
I remember no miseries — clearly a benefit accruing to people in the Class of ’62.
Who was your favorite Brandeis professor?
I did adore John Van Doren. But it is a kick to say I studied with Herbert Marcuse, Abe Maslow, Stanley Kunitz and Max Lerner.
Where did you usually spend Saturday night?
In Cambridge, usually with someone enrolled in Harvard College, Harvard Business School or Harvard Law School.
What is the most important value you learned at Brandeis?
The joy of reading.
What was the most important shortcut you learned in college?
How to get to Frieda’s Classique, my beauty salon in Newton Centre, encountering the fewest red lights.
What do you wish you had studied harder?
To be truthful, everything.
What three words of advice would you give to current Brandeis students?
Work. Play. Think.
What would your friends say is your greatest strength?
I am generous with time and attention.
What would your friends say is your greatest weakness?
I am gullible when it comes to gossip, and then I repeat it.
What is your blind spot?
Sometimes my words have more power than I imagine.
What book do you read again and again?
Alas, I am not a rereader of books. I have always found that once is enough.
Which possession do you most like to look at?
I can think of no single thing, but I do get pleasure from several things I live with in the categories of art, jewelry and furniture.
Whom would you like to sing a duet with?
Assuming I sang, Rosemary Clooney.
Which deadly sin is your middle name?
Wrath, I guess, as it relates to being occasionally unforgiving.
Which bad break was your biggest blessing?
If you could climb into a time machine, whom would you like to hang out with?
On your deathbed, what will you be most grateful for?
The wealth of experiences I’ve been afforded, and the love and friendship of people I treasure.