Dear Miss Manners: Years ago, in my prior marriage, my then-husband and I invited my newly married stepdaughter's in-laws to dinner. They declined, stating that they "didn't need any more friends."

Friends? And here I thought in-laws were family. Later, the groom's mother threw a baby shower for her daughter-in-law (my stepdaughter), and she was miffed when I was uncomfortable being on the invitation as a co-hostess -- since, in my opinion, friends throw showers, not family. Admittedly I still responded as if she were FAMILY. At least to my stepdaughter.

Was this mother-in-law an anomaly? I'm getting remarried, and this will come up. I've never had a living mother-in-law, but goodness, I thought they were family, with similar obligations and etiquette.

Various in-laws are about to cross my path, hopefully in a lovely way, but I'll have an old-fashioned attack of the vapors if I can't get some consistency on this.

Funny how this person does not require friends except when they can help her pay for stuff.

Miss Manners supposes that at least her stance was consistent. Since she did not regard you as family, then you would indeed be a contender to host the shower -- just not alongside her. Regardless, rudeness is rudeness, and if she did not wish to know you before, she should not have asked for your help later.

As for the larger question, in-laws should indeed be considered family ... in law. Out of law (as with divorce), they may be considered friends if both parties are amenable. But they should never be considered benefactors.

Dear Miss Manners: As a lighthearted gift to a close male friend, my husband and I gave him a pedicure voucher -- and also bought one for my husband, so they could go together to the salon. (We had been joking about the sad state of both husbands' feet.)

His wife decided to use it, and I'm not sure why I feel so miffed. The husband wasn't aware she had used it, as I learned when I told him that he could have returned it and I would have given him something else. He seemed annoyed and said that he did want to use it.

Now my husband won't go on his own. I know it is petty, but would you please advise me on the etiquette around gift vouchers?

The etiquette surrounding any present is that once given, it belongs to the recipient to do with what they wish -- but with an obligation not to get caught.

Your friend got caught, and that is why you are miffed. Miss Manners noticed, however, that you also violated decorum by dictating the terms of the present, no matter your lighthearted intention. She suggests that you do not repeat the mistake with your own husband -- who now finds himself with an unwanted voucher -- by similarly taking it off his hands. Instead, heed your own advice and get him something else.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2020, by Judith Martin