Dear Crabby,

With high school graduation season upon us, I’ve been getting announcements from relatives’ kids I haven’t seen in years or barely even know.

I’m sure some are expecting cash or gifts for graduation. What’s the best way to tell a kid to get bent and I’m not sending a gift?


Ain’t Spending Dough on a Kid I Don’t Know

Dear Ain’t Spending,

The thing about people you don’t care about is that you, uh, don’t have to care about them.

You not only don’t owe them a gift, you don’t even have to tell them to get bent. You just do nothing at all. You put that graduation announcement on the fridge (or in the trash) and go about your day unburdened by guilt. It’s great.

There’s nothing I relish more than ignoring people I don’t care about. I’m not talking about being discourteous in public or impolite or boorish. Being decent to strangers is important. You have to hold doors for people with their hands full, punctuate transactions with “please” and “thank you,” uphold the social contract, that kind of thing. But you’re not obligated to maintain relationships with people if you don’t want to.

You don’t have to accept every Facebook friend request or go to every party or send a gift to every graduate. If you’re not actually real-life friends with the people “friending” you or hosting the party or graduating, you can just ignore them. It’s liberating.

And, yeah, maybe little Jimmy’s mom, your great-aunt Susan or whatever, might be offended you didn’t send her precious boy a crisp fifty. But whatever. These are people you haven’t seen in years. What are they gonna do? Show up at your door to give you a piece of their mind? Maybe they’ll take you off the Christmas card list or tattle on you to your mom, but I get the impression that’s not going to bother you.

Also, not for nothing, if you haven’t seen them in years or barely know them, I bet these graduates aren’t really expecting cash or gifts in the first place. Think back to when you were 18. Did you have a list of your distant relatives in your head, with little check marks next to the ones who ponied up some dough at graduation? I’m guessing not. You were probably more concerned with figuring out which of your friends could convince his older brother to buy you guys beer.

Anyway, that’s my take on it. And just in case I’m way out in left field in this thinking — as you’ll be shocked to learn is sometimes the case — I went ahead and checked with Emily Post. (“Emily Post” in this case refers not to the actual Mrs. Post, who died in 1960, but to the Emily Post Institute, which runs According to ol’ Emily: “It is an etiquette myth that if you receive a graduation announcement you must send a gift. Announcements do not equal invitations to a graduation. You are not obligated to give a gift, although you may choose to do so. Whether or not you send a present, a card or note of congratulations is always appreciated.”

What she’s saying there (or what the etiquette cabal that bears her name is saying) is essentially a nicer version of what I said. If you’re not close, you don’t owe a gift. Also, as I learned from the website, wearing white after Labor Day is OK now.

Hope that helps.



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