... is online here, and since it's a three-question column, I'm going to put a whole Q&A from it in my blog. Here you go:
Do you have difficult people in your life? Of course you do! Write to Miss Conduct today!
What do you do with people who are impossible to buy for? My mother-in-law has given us wish lists and then complained about items we chose; has piles of unused gift certificates; and interprets gifts as slights (when we got her a Snuggie, she threw a fit and ranted for months about how everyone thinks she sits around lounging all day). Sometimes she'll say not to get her anything, but of course if we didn't, she would pout and complain about how everyone forgets about her. Help!
S.M. / Chicago
As I see it, you have three options:
1) Take her at her word and give her nothing for her next birthday. You've already thought about the advantages and disadvantages of this.
2) Make a donation in her name to a charity you both agree with. Or buy her food or crafts made by local artisans whom you support. This way, at least your money will be doing some good.
3) Lean into the pain. To find insult in a Snuggie requires a virtually Nixonian lust to be loathed. Aren't you tempted to prod that sore tooth a little bit? What on earth might such a woman do if confronted with a gift that more strongly hinted at a need for self-improvement?--a Pilates ball and mat with DVDs, reinforced Spanx, a book on etiquette, or Chicken Soup for the Ingrate's Soul?
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Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.