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Today's column

Posted by Robin Abrahams  January 13, 2013 08:56 AM

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... is online here, and since it's a three-question column, I'm going to put a whole Q&A from it in my blog. Here you go:

What do you do with people who are impossible to buy for? My mother-in-law has given us wish lists and then complained about items we chose; has piles of unused gift certificates; and interprets gifts as slights (when we got her a Snuggie, she threw a fit and ranted for months about how everyone thinks she sits around lounging all day). Sometimes she'll say not to get her anything, but of course if we didn't, she would pout and complain about how everyone forgets about her. Help!

S.M. / Chicago

As I see it, you have three options:

1) Take her at her word and give her nothing for her next birthday. You've already thought about the advantages and disadvantages of this.

2) Make a donation in her name to a charity you both agree with. Or buy her food or crafts made by local artisans whom you support. This way, at least your money will be doing some good.

3) Lean into the pain. To find insult in a Snuggie requires a virtually Nixonian lust to be loathed. Aren't you tempted to prod that sore tooth a little bit? What on earth might such a woman do if confronted with a gift that more strongly hinted at a need for self-improvement?--a Pilates ball and mat with DVDs, reinforced Spanx, a book on etiquette, or Chicken Soup for the Ingrate's Soul?

Do you have difficult people in your life? Of course you do! Write to Miss Conduct today!
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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Curious if you should say "bless you" to a sneezing atheist? How to host a dinner party for carbophobes, vegans, and Atkins disciples—all at the same time? The finer points of regifting? Ask it here, or email

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