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 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.

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.

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 for the prospective recipient to consider the spending ability of those she hopes will do her shopping.

Do you wonder why Miss Manners considers all this a perversion of generosity and gratitude?

Left out of the loop

Dear Miss Manners: I often find myself caught off-guard by family members who don't invite me to functions, but still make me feel guilty.

I was not invited to my niece's 50th birthday dinner. When I was talking to her brother, he bluntly told me that they're going to a local restaurant for dinner. I didn't know anything about it and I really didn't know how to respond. Then, after a long pause, he said, "It's her 50th birthday!!"

I felt like he was going out of his way to make me feel bad. I just said the first thing that came to mind, which was, "Aren't you afraid to go out to a restaurant amidst COVID?" He said no, then I said, "I can't do that. I'm afraid of going out." Then he dropped it.

But I was not even invited. How should I have handled it?

My husband can't be in the same room with my family because he doesn't like them, so they're used to me making excuses not to attend family gatherings. But at the same time, they fail to invite me and then say things like that to make me feel bad.

Gentle reader: Well, you could start attending family events, with or without your husband, when the conditions are safe. Or you could even host one to show that you want to be included.

Otherwise, Miss Manners does not understand your complaint: You stopped accepting invitations and your relatives stopped issuing them.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, or to