Dear Miss Manners: My sister, who calls herself "the best gift-giver," is notoriously difficult to shop for. Also, she chastises others for being "the worst gift-givers." She says that if people just listen, they can find the perfect gift.

For a milestone birthday, she bought herself a designer purse, a matching wallet and some brand-name apparel. My mom and I bought her diamond studs, which quite blew our budget, but we wanted to recognize her milestone birthday.

When we presented them to her, she scoffed and said that no one ever listens to her, that she has diamond studs and that we should return them. We were less hurt than perplexed at her dissatisfaction. What do we do for next year?

Whatever your sister’s talents as a gift-giver, her skills as a gift-receiver are appalling. In addition to being rude, she is shortsighted: Gift-givers who are insulted, rather than thanked, soon move on.

Miss Manners realizes this is seldom an option with someone as close as a sister, but for next year, you might ask what (within reason) she would like. If she objects to the direct inquiry, responses can range from the frank (“Dear, we haven’t had much luck choosing things for you, and we want to get something you will enjoy”) to the patronizing (“Dear, we haven’t had much luck choosing things for you, and we want to get something you will enjoy”).

Dear Miss Manners: I have a 55-year-old stepson who lived in New Orleans for about eight years while attending graduate school. He always loved his food very hot and spicy. I recently sent him a boxed gift of numerous hot sauces, ranging from spicy to extremely hot.

When his dad spoke to him the next day and asked him if he had gotten the gift, he admitted that yes, he had. He then said he could not use it because, as he has gotten older, his stomach cannot tolerate hot, spicy food.

I feel terrible for getting him something he cannot use, but I believe he could have at least been gracious enough to call me and say "thank you." I would gladly have returned the item and replaced it with something of his liking. Do I reach out to him to apologize and offer to return the gift?

Your stepson should, indeed, have thanked you, but Miss Manners is relieved that at least he showed enough maturity not to answer your intended kindness by explaining what it might have done to his digestion. As the adult — and, in the eyes of many stepchildren, the parent-come-lately — you should contact him. If you do not wish to send a replacement, a kindly inquiry about how he is feeling — and an acknowledgment that you will remember his condition for future gift-giving — will be sufficient.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it proper to invite a guest to attend a party where they have to pay for their own meal?

No, that is called a fundraiser. And if they were not so busy raising money for a good cause, professional party planners would tell you that what they do is no party.

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

2021, by Judith Martin