DEAR MISS MANNERS: I found out that when my mother-in-law asks for gifts, she asks for things that she would not buy for herself. This came up because she recently mentioned that she never orders from a specific brand because it is so overpriced.
She had asked for, and I gave her, something from that brand last Christmas. I am insulted that she feels it suitable for others to spend their money on things that she thinks are not a good value, especially since that gift has gone unused since last Christmas.
I realize Miss Manners does not like gift registries of any sort, but since they are a common reality, what is the proper etiquette for what goes on them? I personally never list anything that I would not buy for myself, whether it be the cheapest asparagus tongs or the finest silk scarf.
GENTLE READER: Isn’t it the object of presents to give someone something she would not buy for herself?
By accepting the “common reality” of allowing people to choose their own presents, thus neatly eliminating the need to be thoughtful, you have waived the objection to people stating what they really want.
It is true that what passes for thoughtfulness is now, instead, for the prospective recipient to consider the spending ability of those she hopes will do her shopping.
Do you wonder that Miss Manners considers all this a perversion of generosity and gratitude?