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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Who Slimmed Down Is Pumping Up Her Social Life

DEAR ABBY: It's apparent that the art of saying "thank you" has gone by the wayside. I'm a widow with limited funds who likes to surprise relatives with nice gifts on special occasions. I sent a food gift to one of them as a housewarming present. Her mother wrote and thanked me, but added that it gave her a stomachache and she was sick for three days!

I shopped carefully for a niece who was starting kindergarten. I selected a sweet "girly" backpack in her favorite color with butterflies and a smattering of sparkles. Her mom responded that I should have bought a bigger one with a metal frame so she could also use it for family outings, the beach, the zoo, etc. -- as if I knew which ones she liked THIS week.

I sent a classic silk blouse to a young woman who was starting her first office job. Her mother told me she would have preferred something more "youthful."

What is wrong with just saying "thank you"? -- IRRITATED AUNT IN MIAMI

DEAR IRRITATED AUNT: Nothing is wrong with it; in fact, "thank you" is the appropriate and gracious response. But what these mothers are really telling you is that they never taught their daughters one of the important social graces -- how to send a prompt and courteous acknowledgment for any gift they receive. They're also telling you that in the future, you should save your money.