DEAR ABBY: My sister "Maddy" is in 12th grade and will graduate soon. Over the last two years, we have grown really close -- from eating Chinese together every other day, to going shopping together. We have the closest relationship in the family, and I consider her to be my best friend. Although I have many close friends, her being my sister makes her the closest to me.

Lately I've been mad at her. I thought for a while it was because she got a boyfriend, but her boyfriend is like a brother to me and we get along great. After hearing her say, "Only a couple of more months 'til I'm done with school forever," I have realized I'm mad because she's graduating soon.

I have two younger sisters, but we aren't nearly as close as Maddy and I are. For the past month, I've been saying no when Maddy and her boyfriend ask me to hang out with them. I'm afraid that because of this I'm going to lose the bond I have with my sister.

I don't want her to graduate because it means she'll be moving away, and I won't get to see my best friend every day. I don't know whether to be happy about her graduating, or angry. Please help me. -- MIXED UP IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR MIXED UP: Try to be happy for your sister. Explain to Maddy why you have been behaving the way you have so she will understand.

From your description of your emotions, it appears you may be suffering from a version of empty-nest syndrome. It's a malady that often strikes parents when their child is about to "launch." An effective way to counteract it is to find activities you enjoy and keep yourself busy so you will have less time to brood.

Another thought: This is now your chance to be the supportive oldest sister in the house, and to forge a closer relationship with your younger siblings. It's an opportunity that may reap big dividends in the future, so please don't waste it.


DEAR ABBY: The daughter of a friend of more than 20 years is getting married next year. They live 1,400 miles away. She told me yesterday that I am invited to the wedding, but my live-in boyfriend is not. Her explanation is she has to control the costs. She told me a mutual friend's husband isn't invited, either.

Including the price of a gift, it would cost me around $900 to attend the wedding. She had implied that wedding gifts should be in the range of $200 to cover the expense of the food and drink.

I have decided to decline the invitation because my boyfriend can't come. What would an appropriate gift be? -- STAYING PUT IN WISCONSIN

DEAR STAYING PUT: According to the rules of etiquette, because you don't plan to attend the wedding, no gift is required. However, in light of your more than 20-year friendship, consider sending a token gift to the daughter -- the price range is up to you.

Readers, there is a common misconception that the price of wedding gifts must be in line with what the hosts spend on the food and beverages at the reception. According to Emily Post, that is a "modern myth," and "the amount you spend is strictly a matter of your budget."

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