DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister helped me clean my house in preparation for getting ready to sell it. I gave her a check for $100, just a small way to show my appreciation. She certainly deserved five times that much. I told her that I really wanted her to accept the money, that she should buy something for herself.
She put the check through the paper shredder. I feel hurt and insulted that she didn't accept my gesture of appreciation. Am I wrong for feeling this way?
GENTLE READER: Because we live in crass times, many people, like you, find it unimaginable that anyone would feel hurt and insulted by being given money.
Yes, it is your sister who had cause to feel hurt.
Miss Manners understands that it adds to the confusion that it is now common practice to give out money instead of buying presents for relatives and friends. Had you given your sister a present, she would probably have been delighted. That sort of laundering makes a difference by showing, symbolically, that you understand her enough to select something that might please her.
But instead, you paid her. This puts her in the position of any stranger you might have hired to do the job. She is hurt because she did this out of love; families help one another out without expectation of recompense.