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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Cash Gift Comes With Instructions on Its Use

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister-in-law sent my husband $1,200 and told him to spend it on clothes and stuff for himself.

It takes me one month to earn that kind of money working 40 hours a week. For the past three months, I have been working 80 hours a week to support us. I am stressed and tired to the max, but I do it so we can be comfortable. My husband does not work, which is an arrangement we agreed on.

We just got married and moved into a house that needs furnishings. I feel that he should not accept the gift if it is tied to how she wants it spent. I think that the money should be used to buy necessities. There are a lot of things we need and want. Clothes are not one of them -- especially $1,200 worth of clothes.

I feel disrespected by his family. I work very hard to support us, and to have them dictate how to spend a gift of cash is creating a huge rift between us. Am I overthinking this?

GENTLE READER: You are underthinking it.

Every time Miss Manners believes she has completed her list of reasons for disliking cash as presents, a Gentle Reader is kind enough to provide another.

Etiquette awards the choice of gift to the giver, but frowns on attaching conditions. (The difference between a suggestion and a condition is left to the reader to determine.)

Etiquette also recognizes the recipient as the beneficiary. Had your husband received a box of chocolates, it would have been considerate of him to offer you some -- precisely because there was no requirement that he do so.

As both you and your sister-in-law are at fault, Miss Manners will address herself to your husband, and suggest that it will be easier on him if, in the future, when his sister wants to spoil him, she precedes it with a private phone call so she can provide an actual present.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother died seven years ago. Her sister, who is in her 90s, is the only family member of her generation still alive. She and my mother were not close and I have not had good relations with my aunt.

When my aunt dies, am I, as the oldest member of the next generation, obligated to send flowers or make a donation to her designated charity? If so, can I send it on behalf of her sister, my mother, even though she is deceased? Or can I simply send a short note to my cousin, with whom I am not close, offering her my sympathy?

My mother was a paragon of good manners and I feel obligated to make sure she would be represented well.

GENTLE READER: You are right to represent your mother’s feelings, rather than your own, on the death of your aunt. But the name at the bottom must be your own: Anything made to look like it comes from your deceased mother will be alarming, and might also be seen as disrespectful.

Write a letter to your cousin expressing your own condolences. Although such letters are not typically long, there will be plenty of room to include the kind words you believe your mother would have said to mark the occasion.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)