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Cousin dreading visit from family Grinch

DEAR AMY: How do you deal with family over the holidays? I have one out-of-state cousin who is the Grinch, and he's going to be staying with us. He thinks, "If I buy you a $50 gift, you buy me a $50 gift." I think you buy what you can afford and not expect anything in return. If someone gives you a gift, then great; if not, then great! I am only a receptionist and cannot afford lavish/expensive gifts for everyone. I get my other cousins $2 lottery tickets and that's it. Now I feel like if I do that for him, he will cry to our grandma or, worse, say something on Christmas morning! We are all adults now and I feel like we are in eighth grade! Any advice for dealing with him? This is bringing unwanted dread and anxiety when I should be excited and happy during the holidays. I think he forgot the true meaning of Christmas.

-- Ho Ho No

DEAR HO HO NO: If your cousin really is the Grinch, then won't it be fun to see his heart grow three sizes larger once he realizes the true meaning of Christmas? You could help him get there by providing a fun holiday-rich environment in your home, with fresh-baked cookies, music, etc. Do NOT alter your giving out of fear of his reaction. If he gives you a larger gift, thank him kindly. Tell yourself that your gift to him is in the family fellowship you'll share.

You can probably count on him to respond poorly to all of your efforts, but that's when you need to remind yourself of the true meaning of Christmas, which is to be generous, loving, celebratory and, ultimately, forgiving. Don't let him ruin the holiday for you, but let his Grinchiness steer you toward your own epiphany.

DEAR AMY: I like reading your answers to the troubled masses regarding being "unfriended" on Facebook. Is life that shallow? An unfriending seems to be the proverbial end of the line for some.I sometimes ponder how these folks survived before social media. What a twisted role social media has cast on humans that they have lost the most basic function of interaction: talking! (As a side note, I don't Facebook, or tweet or hashtag. The day is still only 24 hours long and there are a few more important things in life than screen time.)

-- David

DEAR DAVID: I understand your grouchiness, but don't knock it until you try it. Social media's primary utility is to connect people. Yes, this creates problems, but I believe the benefit is very much worth the challenge.

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