≡ Menu

Push Me , Pull You

I’ve been reading your site for several days now, browsing through the archives, and I LOVE your site. One thing I seem to be picking up on in gift giving is that most of your readers don’t like to give gift cards for presents, reasons being that they’re too impersonal.

But with my birthday coming up soon, I just have to ask. Is it ok to ask for gift cards, if that’s what I really want? DH and I live in a tiny apartment with very little room for “extras”, and neither one of us can stand too much clutter. I love to read and listen to music, so a couple years ago hubby bought me an iPod, and then last year I received a nook. This has been really great for us, because I was able to download my music collection to my computer and I’m trying to build up my collection of e-books, so I can get rid of more of my physical books. Since them ,whenever someone asks what to buy me for an occasion, I ask for gift cards to either iTunes or Barnes and Noble.

My family is perfectly ok with giving me gift cards, as they understand my reasons for wanting them, and they know my crazy passion for books and music. My MIL is being difficult, though, as she has always thought gift cards were tacky gifts and showed a lack of thought for the recipient. DH and I have tried to explain to her why I’m asking for them, and she’s seen firsthand how small our apartment is.

My dilemma comes from the fact that MIL always wants us to tell her what to buy for us for birthdays or Christmas. I’m not into clothes or jewelry, and my only hobbies are reading or listening to music, so I can’t really thing of anything else to ask for. She keeps asking me to tell her what to get me for my birthday next month besides a gift card, but I’d feel really guilty asking for something that I know I wouldn’t use.

Should I continue to tell her that a gift card is something that I really want and would use, or should I try to come up with something else to tell her? Please help! Thanks! 0226-12


Information about what one prefers to receive as a gift should be “pull” information, not “push”.   By that I mean that under no circumstances should any take the initiative to tell others what it is they want to be given as gifts.   However, if the giver takes the initiative to ask, i.e. “pulling the information” from you, it is perfectly fine to suggest a suitable gift.  As long as your friends and family are asking you for your gift preferences, replying to them that you’d prefer gift cards to buy ebooks won’t land you in Etiquette Hell.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • starstruck February 28, 2012, 9:30 am

    i agree and iam big believer in gift cards to. especially for teenagers lol. i have a kindle and would love it someone gave me gift cards for books!! tell your mother in law if it helps she can wrap the card in a gift box so she feels like she is giving you a present. that worked for my husband who also hates giving gift cards. 🙂

  • Just Laura February 28, 2012, 9:34 am

    I am usually not a fan of the gift card as a gift for the reasons stated. That said, when my parents made it clear that they had enough “stuff,” I started sending “date night” clusters of gift cards. They really enjoy driving to City and spending an evening with each other. I bought them a $20 card for the book store they like in City, a gift card for 2 movie tickets, and a $30 card for modestly-priced restaurant they enjoy. Sometimes I forgo movie tickets and give them a gift card good for admission to a museum, or a wine festival.

    This way they’ve received an experience from me, rather than more stuff. Perhaps explain it in this light to the MIL, and she won’t feel she’s just giving you cash.

  • Chocobo February 28, 2012, 9:43 am

    I read once that the most suitable answer is always: “Oh, I’m sure anything you choose will be wonderful.” Failing that, intangibles are charming, like “I only want you for Christmas, dear,” or “For the Sox to win on Saturday.”

    Why is it that everyone gets stuck with materials goods, as though a physical object or a gift card are the only options? Whatever happened to dinner, flowers, or a box of cookies?

    The letter writer has already stated her preference for gift cards, but clearly the mother-in-law is not comfortable with this. She doesn’t have to be. The solution for the letter writer at this point is to say “oh, anything you give will be wonderful, you are such a nice gift-giver,” gratefully receive whatever is given, and then feel lucky to have a mother-in-law who cares so much.

  • Margaret February 28, 2012, 9:46 am

    I don’t even know if you can do this, but could you mother in law actually buy you specific books or music for you to download? So instead of a gift card to Barnes & Noble, you could suggest that you’d really like a digital copy of some specific book title. Maybe she would feel like that is a more suitable present. If that isn’t possible, or if the real difficulty is that she wants to hand over something tangible, then perhaps you could ask for extremely practical gifts. E.g. if you need new tea towels, ask for those. Then replace your old ones with new ones. Toaster, dishes, lamp, bed sheets — anything that could stand an upgrade. This is assuming that you are confident that your MIL will pick something you would like. Failing that, it is time to start asking for consumable gifts — bottle of preferred adult beverage, perhaps some kind of gourmet food that you would like but wouldn’t normally buy for yourself, some kind of concert tickets, fancy bath stuff (if you use it), quality chocolates. If you get along well, you could even request that in lieu of gifts, you do something together (lunch, coffee, spa — whatever).

  • CaffeineKatie February 28, 2012, 9:49 am

    I’m the same way–I love when people give me gift cards for books, a luxury I can’t really afford on my own right now. Maybe you could get your MIL to buy you a consumable gift–fruit of the month or some such thing? That way, she got you a “thing” and you won’t have clutter?!?

  • abbey February 28, 2012, 9:50 am

    OP, I’ve run into a similar problem!
    My mother puts me in charge of getting gifts for her sister’s grand kids (ages 4- 21). The older ones want gift cards for the i-store or on line games they play. My mother is old school and feels cards are impersonal. I have come up with two solutions.
    One year I found out what kind of gadget each kid has (thankfully most of them had the same thing). I bought cases for each that were in patterns I hope suited each child and a few other accessories. Perhaps if you are asked again you could mention a case/cover you saw for one of your machines. The other solution I found (and this is really more suited for people giving cards) are little puzzles you put the gift cards into that must be solved to get the gift card out. My mother loved this as it restored the “unwrapping” excitement.
    And if MiL asks again, why not ask her for hand written copies of receipes your DH likes and an afternoon of her time to prepare one with you? (I’m assuming you like your MiL, and even if your relationship is only tolerable, something like this could be a nice gesture to both your DH and his mom, plus she might share some things about him you haven’t learned yet.)
    If she’s not much of a kitchen person, you could also tell her you have picked out crappy broom after crappy broom. Express an interest in what cleaning supplies/brands she’s always favored and hint that you’d love someone to give you cleaning stuff. I know that seems weird for a gift, but it is something you would use and already has real estate inside your home (I completely understand about a small space home.) It also might help her see you have a practical approach to things. This might help her understand that while you are grateful she would spend her time and money picking you out something like jewelry, you feel bad if you are given something you know you will not use.

  • Lilac February 28, 2012, 9:52 am

    One thing the OP might do when asked for gift ideas is to give her MIL a list of specific albums or books that her MIL could purchase for her digitally. Her MIL could purchase also music CDs and then the OP could add them to her digital music library. This may help her MIL feel that she is giving more a more thoughtful gift.

  • Elizabeth February 28, 2012, 9:57 am

    To answer your actual question, “Should I continue to tell her that a gift card is something that I really want and would use, or should I try to come up with something else to tell her,” tell her what YOU want and not what she wants to hear. If she truly wishes to give you a gift you will enjoy, she’ll respect your answer. And if she asks again, repeat your wishes. She doesn’t need to like the gift you’ve requested and it is a bit rude of MIL to bully you into requesting what she deems to be a suitable gift.

  • Saucygirl February 28, 2012, 10:04 am

    If your mils complaint is that no thought goes into a gift card, can you point out nicely that the amount of thought and the gift buying procedure are exactly the same wether she gets you a gift card or a gift? Either way she asks you for a gift idea, gets the idea, gets in her car and drives to a store, buys the card/gift that she put no thought into cause you told her exactly what to get, drives homes, wraps it, gives it to you. Her level of effort and thought did not increase with an item over a card.

  • Green123 February 28, 2012, 10:10 am

    If MIL is insistent she won’t buy you a gift card, could you ask for a specific book, or a magazine subscription?

  • Cobbs February 28, 2012, 10:14 am

    Tell her whatever it is that you would have bought with a gift card if she had given you one. Then return the “hard copy,” so to speak, to the store and convert it to a form you can use in your device. It’s your present to do with as you wish. If she finds out simply smile. You are under no obligation to explain.

  • Cobbs February 28, 2012, 10:17 am

    In addition to my previous post, if she writes in the book, making it impossible to return, just read it and donate it to a library or give it to someone else and tell them to pass it on after they read it.

  • Cat2 February 28, 2012, 10:27 am

    Okay, granted – but MIL doesn’t want to give the gift card, so that means butting heads with MIL and pushing her outside her comfort zone, or trying to find an alternative. Which is what she’s asked for.

    “Okay, my number 1 thing would be a gift card to B & N (a store that gets happy when I just walk by ftr), but tickets to X play would be nice also.”

    Find something you want to *do*, that doesn’t have to fit into your apartment. A massage session, a year’s membership to someplace you like to go (museum, pool, etc.), a cooking class, an art class, something consumable like a bottle of wine or liquor that you normally wouldn’t treat yourself to, etc.

    If you stop roadblocking your brain on the thing you want *most*, you can probably find something that’s not a nicknack and not a gift card, that can fit into your life and make both of you happy as giver and recipient.

  • Molly February 28, 2012, 10:31 am

    I’m not sure how it works with Nooks, but you can gift specific books using Kindles and maybe it is the same. Instead of asking for a gift card, ask for specific ebooks maybe. Your other option is to ask for a replacement for something that has broken or past its useful life. A pot or pan or a new toaster or something that will be used and you need a newer or better one.

    I am one who normally doesn’t like giving gift cards, but in specific instances like yours where more stuff would be a burden rather than a gift, it is definitely appropriate.

  • DGS February 28, 2012, 10:39 am

    It sounds like, if MIL asks, it would be perfectly appropriate to say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me; I would love a giftcard for ITunes or Barnes and Noble” and then to add, “As you know, I really enjoy listening to music and reading”. Then, if she follows through on the giftcard, following up with a thank-you note that expands upon how much you enjoyed spending the giftcard on a great book or a fantastic set of mp3’s would further reiterate your preference. However, if MIL simply gifts OP with more “stuff”, the only appropriate response is to write a thank-you note and then, feel free to return/exchange/regift said “stuff”, whether “stuff” is kitchen utensils, clothes or jewelry, or donate said “stuff” to charity, as someone else would enjoy the “stuff”, while OP can enjoy being thought of by MIL who wanted to give her a present. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

  • LMH February 28, 2012, 10:49 am

    Is it possible to register for specific books or music online? I have a Kindle, and I have created a wishlist through Amazon.com of books that I would like to have. If family/friends so desire, they can view my wishlist online (like a registry list), then purchase a book for me. I think this would be a good compromise for someone who wants to specifically choose your gift, while allowing you to have some say in what you get as well.

  • Justin February 28, 2012, 11:00 am

    For many years my Father and I gave each other books as gifts, and since we have similiar tastes after we had finished we would trade off the books so the other could read them. In the past year we each got a Kindle and have taken to giving each other gift cards. While this may seem impersonal it means that when we see a book we want we can immediately buy it and enjoy it. The personal part comes when we discuss what we bought and suggest books to each other.

    I may not have the popular opinion, but if having a gift card let’s someone do something that they enjoy then it is a great gift. We also traditionally exchange wish lists for gift giving occasions in my family, it makes it easier to shop knowing what the other person is hoping to get.

  • J's Mama February 28, 2012, 11:13 am

    I’m not sure why she’s so opposed to giving you a gift card. There’s nothing wrong with giving you a small giftcard, and then complimenting it with a small candle or something. As long as you outline what the giftcard would be used for, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I myself, received a Kindle Fire for Christmas this year, and I would love to be able to buy more ebooks for it.

  • Ripple February 28, 2012, 11:15 am

    I haven’t gotten into e-books yet, so am not sure of what the process is to download a book. Can you gift an e-book to someone else? If so, maybe let your MIL know of a particular book you’d like, emphasizing that it be an e-book and not hard copy.

  • Gracie C. February 28, 2012, 11:31 am

    I’m one of those people that in most circumstances doesn’t ask a person what they specifically want. In almost all cases, if I know the person well enough to be buying them a gift, I usually know them well enough to select a gift. If I were friends with you, I assume I would know (and understand) your preference for gift cards. For some people they are the perfect gift. For others I wouldn’t dream of buying one. Admin is right that you are absolutely ok with wanting them, and responding to that effect when asked. The thing that annoys me here, is that MIL is asking the OP what she wants and then dismissing the information as invalid, which I think is rude. If the MIL wants to go rogue and get the OP a physical gift, she runs the risk of the gift not being right for any number of reasons, which is fine, as long as she knows that gift giving can be a risk – a calculated risk for most of us – but a risk all the same. What she can’t do, in my opinion, is ask and then because she doesn’t like the response, badger the OP into giving a different response.

  • livvy17 February 28, 2012, 11:41 am

    Perhaps it might make it seem more palatable to the MIL if the OP suggested she give e-books? (you can buy nook books and give as a gift). that way the MIL could personalize, by choosing books that she enjoyed, and thinks that the OP would enjoy…instead of a less personal gift card. Otherwise, perhaps she could say that she perfers “experiences” to “stuff” – things like tickets to events, or a nice dinner out, anything that she doesn’t have to store.

  • Jenn50 February 28, 2012, 11:51 am

    The real tackiness is forcing something on someone that they don’t want or can’t use because you don’t want to “cop out” by giving a gift card. The truth is, certain gift cards are extremely thoughtful. Money is tight in our household, but I love to shop, so the gift of disposable income that HAS to be spent on myself is treasured. iTunes cards are awesome, and we LOVE to get a gift card for restaurants or movies. I always make a point to let the person know what I bought with the card, so I can say “This is the sweater (book, music) you bought me! I love it!” or “We had a great date night with the theater gift certificate you gave us!”

    If, however, this is causing a rift with your mother-in-law, perhaps suggesting something like concert tickets or something consumable, like nice wines, food, or grooming products would appease her need to give something specific, without cluttering up your home.

  • Princess Buttercup February 28, 2012, 11:58 am

    If MIL keeps pestering for a “regular” gift to give you then rack your brain for anything you could use. Say; Well a gift card to X or X would make me most happy but my current purse is starting to show it’s age, or my pans are needing replaced, etc. Then give your old item to goodwill and sport a nice new item. It’s something you use anyway and not excess mess because you get rid of the old one.
    All else fails tell her you’d love CD’s from some of your favorite bands, then copy the cds onto your computer and give the disk away to a friend, resale store or check out one of the media trade sites online.

  • lkb February 28, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I agree with the Admin’s advice. Perhaps another idea would be to suggest something for a date night for the OP and her husband (something like a food basket, tickets to a show or sporting event that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see) or a donation to a charity that they support.

  • badkitty February 28, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I may be misreading the situation, but it seems that MIL is asking for gift ideas (pulling) rather than OP looking for a way to tell her what she wants (pushing); the problem is that MIL doesn’t like the answer that she is getting and thinks that by continuing to ask she will eventually get all the fun of shopping for a gift that she wants to buy without having to admit that her “more personal” gift in no way reflects the wants or needs of the recipient. My advice would be to try telling her what you’re going to use the gift cards for (ebooks and music downloads) so that she understands that these are not items she can easily buy for you. Some websites will allow you to set up a wishlist (amazon.com, for example) including downloadable items and the buyer can purchase these items to be delivered immediately to the recipient. You could always just ask for some dust-gathering useless item and let her have her shopping fun, but then you’re misleading her and setting up a situation where you will need to either pretend to use and love this item or hurt her feelings when she realizes that you lied to her by claiming to want/need it.

  • Ashley February 28, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I agree with Admin on this one.

    Your reasons for wanting gift cards are perfectly valid.

  • LovleAnjel February 28, 2012, 12:33 pm

    To the OP’s question – if MIL really wants to get you something other than a gift card, suggest accessories for your iPod or nook. A nooklight? Bluetooth headset? Armbands for running? Really, really good headphones? There are all sorts of trinkets out there you will find useful for reading or listening to music.

  • Lola February 28, 2012, 12:33 pm

    If you really don’t want any clutter and that is the only reason you prefer gift cards, then give your MIL the option of giving you a non-cluttery gift that is ALSO not a gift card — a bottle of wine, a box of nice chocolates, a perfume, or a donation to your favorite charity even, if you’re so inclined. Don’t make it a power struggle it doesn’t have to be. You have a good MIL in that she even asks you what you want and wants to give you something you will enjoy instead of passively-aggressively buying the biggest, clunkiest, boxiest item she can find.

  • Samantha February 28, 2012, 12:38 pm

    Just a thought for the OP: are there any small but tangible accessories for your iPod/Nook that you could suggest to your MiL as an alternative/addition to gift cards? New headphones, protective covers or USB reading lights don’t take up a lot of space, but they might help your MiL feel like she’s not just giving you money, which is usually the problem people have with gift cards.

  • Calli Arcale February 28, 2012, 12:57 pm

    I’d go ahead and remind her that you really would like gift cards to X, Y, and Z. If that doesn’t satisfy her need to personalize the gift, and you feel like throwing her a bone (remember, you are not obliged to do so; gift cards are a perfectly legitimate request), you could suggest she give something consumable. I’ve taken to doing this occasionally for friends and family who have everything they need and no space for additional stuff. Gift cards to restaurants, theater tickets . . . since you like music, a nice, unique, thoughtful gift might be a ticket to a live music show in your preferred genre. My grandmother has started doing this as well; she sends non-perishable food items from a local Italian grocer in her neighborhood. It’s been fun, and has given me ideas for some of my friends and family. 😉

  • Ann February 28, 2012, 1:01 pm

    As to how to deal with MIL’s not liking your answer to her question… simply don’t reply to any more of her gift-related inquiries. Smile and change the subject. Unwanted gifts can be returned or donated.

  • anonever13 February 28, 2012, 1:02 pm

    OP, if your MIL is dead set against getting you a gift card, maybe you can give her ideas of CDs or books you’ve been meaning to get, but haven’t gotten yet. A CD doesnt take up much space, and you can always sell a book to a used book store after you’ve read it.

  • Redneck Gravy February 28, 2012, 1:05 pm

    It’s been my experience that when you are dealing with someone that thinks gift cards are tacky – they aren’t going to get you one, no matter what your preference.

    I understand your space issues, is there something else perishable that you might be able to use – say a fruit of the month, box of candy, steaks by mail? Tennis balls, golf balls, something you can geniunely use but also use up?

    I had an Aunt that thought along the same lines, she did not give money and she certainly wasn’t going to give you money in the form of a gift card that told you where to spend it. If you didn’t give her a hint she got you something totally useless.

    I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that is how some gift givers want to do things.

  • June February 28, 2012, 1:09 pm

    Maybe instead of asking for a gift card from MIL you could say, “I always love going out to eat. Why don’t we go as a family next time we’re together?” or something along those lines. That way, it’s personal, you all enjoy the experience (hopefully) and you won’t have clutter in your apartment.

  • Anonymous February 28, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Jeanne is right. In my family, we actively ask each other what we want for Christmas/birthdays/graduations/whatever gift-giving occasions come up. Everyone asks in advance, everyone knows that everyone else will ask, and therefore, nobody provides unsolicited wish lists. It took a while for us to get this down, but I’m glad we have. 🙂

  • Jojo February 28, 2012, 1:13 pm

    It’s possible to gift specific items through itunes and I’m sure there are ebook vendors out there who will do somethings similar. How about suggesting a gift of something OP is collecting? The collected works of George Orwell on ebook for instance? Personally, I’d be inclined to ask MIL for an ‘experience’ that everyone can share, which means she can go as far as her imagination and budget allow. The family could all go out for a picnic somewhere you’ve never been or get tickets to the zoo or do something book/music themed. The only clutter will be a stack of photos ( digital of course) of the family having a great time together and happy memories – the sort of clutter we would all like to have too much of! Win for all concerned.

  • acr February 28, 2012, 1:15 pm

    I agree with the Dame’s point. But I have to say, your MiL has made it clear she doesn’t like buying giftcards, so I think it’s rude of you to keep pushing the point. Come up with a list of non-giftcard things. You say you love music – you could tell her your favorite singer/band. Food is great – tell her you’d love some of those mail-order steaks.

  • Bethy February 28, 2012, 1:40 pm

    I think Admin missed the mark on this one. OP wasn’t asking whether it’s permissible to give suggestions when asked, but whether she should stand her ground by replying with what she really wants or whether she should scrounge up some other request for a gifter who asks for requests but doesn’t want to give gift cards.

    Sadly, nook doesn’t have the option of gifting books electronically yet, but I’ve given a gift card before saying that it is for X book / X album. That way the recipient still has “specific book” as the gift from me, rather than “cash”.

    For music, Amazon does allow gifting mp3s — you could request specific albums or for her to gift you an album she would recommend. That way she gets the “specific gift from her” and you still don’t have clutter filling up your tiny apartment.

  • Charlotte Vera February 28, 2012, 1:45 pm

    This isn’t really in reference to your etiquette question, but would it not be possible for you to create a wishlist of e-books you want and then let your MIL choose what to buy for you? I’m not sure how Barnes and Noble works (I’m not in the States), but my parents are able to purchase e-books for my DH off his Amazon wishlist.

    Another suggestion might be food. When asked for gift suggestions, my brother often asks for non-perishable food items. It can be quite fun going out and selecting gourmet chocolates, pickles, dips, spreads, jams, chips (you name it!) to give him. It takes up space, but only temporarily because one eats it oneself or uses it when hosting a get-together, attending a potluck, etc.

  • MoniCAN February 28, 2012, 1:54 pm

    I don’t think you’re wrong/impolite to stick to your guns, OP. You’d only be wrong if you gave in to the pressure…. which is the start of a lot of the stories on here (doing something you didn’t want to in the first place).

    Your mother in law isn’t exactly *wrong* either (unless she’s being extremely pushy about it), especially if she comes from a generation where there was no such thing as a gift card and still can’t wrap her head around the joys of them.

    A compromise:
    My brother always asks for certain books for his reader.

    There is that “buy as a gift” option the B & N ebook website.

    You MIL can email you the exact books you want, rather than just the cash to get them.

    It’s still not the same as a tangible space-taking-up gift that your MIL may prefer to give, but it’s a little more personal than a gift card.
    She’ll have to search out the book online, which can be more fun that just picking up a gift card.

    Then, she can tell people “Oh, I bought that book for my Daughter in Law and she loved it!”
    I think part of the reason people don’t like to give gift cards is that they can’t take “credit” for the gift unless you give them a list of exactly what you bought with their specific gift card.

  • Maddie February 28, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I’m also a fan of getting gift cards so I understand how you feel. If someone outright asks, you can definitely mention the gift cards, but you can’t force them to buy them for you. If MIL is really against giving gift cards, you may want to find SOMETHING that you want or need, even if it’s something unglamorous like a new iron.

    Maybe also try telling her that you would love the new book by So-and-So author, but since you have converted to an e-reader, she needs to get you a gift card so you can download it (unless there is there a way to “gift” specific e-books to someone?). And really use it to buy that book. Maybe this would be a good compromise. Although it’s a gift card, it’s intended for a specific item.

  • essie February 28, 2012, 2:17 pm

    Just a coupe of ideas:
    If you look at the Nook books, individually on the B&N website, there’s a button where you can “Buy As Gift”. I’m not sure how it works, but why couldn’t you ask for a specific subscription or title (or titles!) on your wish list? Or Nook accessories: a new cover, more memory, another charger (For example, I not only have cell phone chargers at home, at work, and in the car, I keep one in my suitcase, so I don’t have to remember to pack one when I travel)…

    Or, check out Comestible-Of-The-Month clubs online, then ask for one.

  • Cat February 28, 2012, 2:42 pm

    You cannot dictate what a person gives you, but your MIL is asking you and is dead set on gift cards. So hie you down to local Barnes and Noble, decide what you would like to have (select several so she will have a choice), write all the information on a piece of paper, and give it to MIL.

    At least she is willing to get you what you want. My Mother, not MIL, but my own Mother, would ask me what I wanted and what I did not want. She would then go out and buy me what I did not want. When I was seven, Mother asked me what I wanted and what the girl next door wanted. My neighbor wanted a cultured pearl ring. I told Mother I might want jewelry when I was older, but at seven I would rather have a toy as I would soon outgrow any jewelry appropriate for a seven year old girl. I was a very pragmatic child.

    Mother got me a cultured pearl necklace. When I asked her why she would buy me the one thing I said I did not want, she said she just figured I was lying. That makes sense, any intelligent child asks for what she does not want and hopes to get it, but in what universe?

    When I was sixteen, I had my heart set on a gold-colored , chunky ID bracelet with my first name engraved on it. She got me a child’s ankle bracelet and was offended that I didn’t like it. I couldn’t even pyhsically wear it-I was sixteen, not seven. After that I gave up and just said I didn’t want anything. Passive-aggressive people just wear me out.

  • NbyNW February 28, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I see nothing wrong with stressing to your MIL that what you would really enjoy is to be given gift cards so you can add to your music and e-book collection but if she is still adamant that she does not want to do so you might go the consumables route. We did this for my FIL who had everything he wanted and really didn’t care if you got him something for birthdays, Christmas, etc. or not. Are there fancy wines, beers, expensive cheeses, chocolates, or other edible treats you don’t normally indulge in? Perhaps she would not find a gift certificate for a facial or a mani-pedi or a date night for you and your husband (dinner and a movie) to be quite as impersonal. She might even join you (well, not for the date night!) which might be fun for both of you. For my Christmas gift this year my daughter took me to the ballet and it was wonderful. Maybe there’s a class you’ve always been interested in taking. What I’m saying is there might be something “non-material” that would satisfy her need to give you something personal that you would also enjoy if she really digs in her heels.

  • Kitty Lizard February 28, 2012, 2:58 pm

    Quite honestly, if you’re asked what you want, what’s wrong with telling someone? We lived on a fairly
    large motoryacht for 22 years, and I would have loved it if anyone would ever have asked us what we would have liked. It tended to go in cycles. (We would have loved anything edible or drinkable. But did anyone ever think in those terms. NOoooooo.) For a while it was clocks. Then it was lamps. Then it was decorative pillows. You get the picture. Oh, those too. All nautical themes, of course. Oh, once a tiny aquarium. Those go well on boats. That water sloshing about while you’re underway does the fish a lot of good; I think the poor little thing got seasick. It wasn’t like I didn’t appreciate the thoughtfulness, I did.
    But space was limited. How many clocks, lamps, pillows, pictures, and aquariums can you fit on a boat?
    I appreciate when I ask and someone tells me what they’d like. I ask, discreetly, of course. And I appreciate when someone keeps their answer within my financial reach. Everyone is happy. And no one ends up with 15 identical porthole clocks, all chiming merrily away.

    Thankfully, Kitty

  • Hemi Halliwell February 28, 2012, 3:03 pm

    It seems as though the MIL is indeed “pulling” the information from you. If you have told her several times what you want and why, I don’t understand why she will not just do as suggested. It is difficult people like her that made gift cards so popular (IMHO).
    If continues to refuse to purchase gift cards, maybe you could suggest a yummy cake or dessert, to be shared with her of course!

  • Spuck February 28, 2012, 3:45 pm

    I don’t understand why some people consider gift cards a cop out. It signifies that you understand what the person likes without the mistake of getting exactly the wrong thing. A sweater for the holidays is nice, but even if you get the right one there is always the risk of it being to small, large, or made from a material that the recipient is allergic to.

  • AMC February 28, 2012, 4:04 pm

    I’m with you, OP, about preferring giftcards. I know others don’t like giving them, but when I receive one, it means the item(s) I purchase with it will always be something I want and need. I sometimes refer to giftcards as “gift of shopping.” My birthday is coming up soon, and my friends have started asking me what I want; I’ve told them I would very much appreciate giftcards to the local big chain store so that I can purchase items for our new baby (i.e. diapers and formula). I know, not fun at all, but I’m on a tight budget and anything that can help offset it makes a difference.

  • MellowedOne February 28, 2012, 5:40 pm

    The MIL keeps asking the OP what she wants because 1. she doesn’t like to give gift cards, and 2. wants to give something the OP will like.

    Rather than browbeat the MIL into selecting a present she doesn’t want to give, why not give her some choices that will leave them both happy? Surely there are items worth giving that the OP can find of use or enjoyment. A high quality chef’s knife, luxury towels or sheets…perhaps something the OP would normally not buy but could certainly appreciate having, for example.

  • Angela February 28, 2012, 7:58 pm

    I’m in favor of consumables. For years I had a box of Florida oranges sent to my grandparents at Christmas. I was short on ideas the first time, ordered them, and when my grandmother expressed great joy at getting something she loved and “didn’t have to dust”, I told them I’d give them every year until they told me to stop.
    Sadly, they passed away a few years ago. I wish I could sent them oranges again.