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by Abigail Van Buren

Distant Family Gets Closer at Gift-Giving Time

DEAR ABBY: I have a large extended family who all live a few states away. I didn't grow up with any of them, as I've never lived near them. I see or speak to them maybe once a decade. We don't exchange emails, and we aren't friends on Facebook. This isn't because I don't like them; they are pleasant strangers.

I get the impression that my limb of the family tree is perceived as the affluent one, and I sometimes receive life-event announcements from cousins and their children I haven't seen in years and don't know. In truth, I think I receive them only for the possibility of receiving something from me. Am I obligated to send a gift just because I received an invitation to events they know I will never attend -- such as graduations, baby showers, etc.? -- PURSUED RELATIVE

DEAR RELATIVE: You are not obligated to send a gift or money to people you have barely met. You are also not obligated to send gifts to people you haven't had contact with in a decade. The announcements should not, however, go unacknowledged. Send a nice card with a congratulatory note, and you may find yourself receiving fewer of these invitations as postage becomes increasingly expensive.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Money | Holidays & Celebrations