DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that I can't say anything about gift cards (except "thank you"), but perhaps Miss Manners can.
I do not enjoy shopping. But every year I start months in advance, doing my best to find a thoughtful, appropriate gift for each person. Then Christmas comes, and I get an assortment of gift cards -- and my shopping chore starts all over again.
Some are for stores not found in my area. And I have to make the gift fit the size of the card, so to speak -- I often end up having to add money. Very rarely, those who know me well give me a card for a store that I frequent regularly, or for a shop, previously unknown to me, that becomes a favorite. But not usually.
I realize I risk sounding like an ungrateful cad -- after all, a stack of gift cards indicates at least that many friends. But the actual result is that I have to do all the shopping twice, I have to run all over town, and I'm limited to just so much at a particular store.
I never thought I'd say such a thing, but if you're looking for a one-size-fits-all gift, just go with cash. Does Miss Manners care to comment?
GENTLE READER: How about this: Cash isn't a present; it is a penalty paid by people who have not taken enough interest in the recipient to know what to choose.
Or this: Miss Manners agrees that laundering money with a gift card makes it harder to spend, and therefore worse.
Or this: If there were such a thing as a one-size-fits-all present, everyone would already have one.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has taken me many years to come to terms with the abuse I suffered from my mother while growing up, and I prefer not to have anything to do with her because she is in denial that it ever even happened and will not get help for her mental illness.
I make a point not to mention my mother to anyone and never criticize her to others, as I do have sympathy for her, since it is obvious that she endured her own trauma at some point. It's as though she doesn't exist, and I like it that way.
I now have a 5-month-old son, and people often ask about his "grandmother." What can I say that won't make them feel uncomfortable? She isn't dead, but she will never be a part of my son's life.
GENTLE READER: Say, "It's a sad story; I'd rather not talk about it."
Miss Manners is aware that many people consider this an invitation to ask, "Why not? What happened?" so repeat the second half of the sentence until they give up.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been dating my boyfriend for eight years. We have lived together for the last six or seven years. How much longer should I wait for a proposal?
GENTLE READER: Go right ahead and propose. You have Miss Manners' blessing, and you will have his answer.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)