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Etiquette lesson needed

Dear Abby: I recently was invited to a relative's home because my nephew was introducing his fiancee, "Macy," to the family. I asked my nephew what gift Macy might like, and he suggested a sweater and told me her size. I bought her a lovely one -- at least, I thought it was lovely.

After Macy tried it on, I was shocked when she handed it back to me and said she didn't like it. I couldn't exchange or return it because it had been purchased from a store where I live, and this store doesn't have a branch in their state. I took the gift home with me and got a refund. Now I don't know what to do.

Because Macy gave it back to me, does she forfeit the gift? Should I send her the amount of the store refund? Do I owe her anything as a substitute for the gift she refused? She will be a part of our family, and I need to know what to do if this happens again. I'd appreciate your thoughts.

-- Gift-Challenged in Iowa

Dear Gift-Challenged: If ever I heard about someone who needs an etiquette book, it's your nephew's fiancee. Make it a thick one, because she appears to be clueless in that department. As to what to do if this happens again -- you can prevent it from happening by not selecting any more gifts for her. A donation in her name to a favorite charity might work if you feel obligated to give her something.

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It's going to take sacrifice

Dear Abby: The love of my life, "Adam," is leaving for school in August. He's going to Portland, Ore., to pursue his studies in renewable energy engineering. My passion is nursing. I'm currently finishing up my college requirements and waiting to get into the program. My college credits won't transfer, so if I went with Adam, I'd either have to start over or wait until I got back home to resume.

I'm wary of long-distance relationships, but I don't want to be separated from Adam for two years. We have discussed taking turns flying out to see each other and staying in touch via phone and the Internet. But I still get sad thinking about the time we'll be apart. We are both determined individuals, and in the chaos of life we have managed to find a fairy tale. Everyone has given us their advice about our situation and it hasn't helped. Do you have any words of reassurance for us?

-- Lovelorn in Phoenix

Dear Lovelorn: You and Adam appear to be intelligent, focused and mature young people. Although you have built a "fairy tale" together, building a solid future will take some sacrifice on both your parts. Being apart will allow each of you to concentrate fully on your studies. If you love each other, and it appears you do, you will get through the challenge and emerge stronger than ever.

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