The problem: I recently received an invitation to a high school graduation party from an old friend, for her twin boy and girl. The problem is, I have never met the boy, and the girl I met once for literally five minutes. My girlfriend and I have been friends for many years, but have drifted apart. When we do see each other, probably once a year, it is like old times. She has another daughter who has graduated from high school and I was not invited to her party. I live about an hour and a half from her so I don’t plan on going to the party. Do I owe the children a graduation gift?

Low road: You could view this surprising invitation as a poorly disguised money grab, and toss it. But I’m assuming that the envelope was not addressed to “That Pushover I Used to Know.”

High road: I think your old friend is feeling emotional about launching her last two kids. She might be doing a nostalgic accounting of who has meant something to her over the years. And the fact that you and she can pick up effortlessly after a full year suggests to me that your bond is deep and abiding, at least to her. I, too, invited several old friends to my daughter’s recent high school graduation party, many of whom I seldom see these days. They were there to see her grow up and I wanted them to know how much their support meant to our family. I have no idea if they brought checks, but I hope they enjoyed the Dippin’ Dots. You don’t “owe” these kids anything. But the gracious response to this one-time dilemma is to write two separate checks in whatever amount you like — $20.16 is a popular amount (get it?) but even $10 is lovely. Include heartfelt notes about how much fun you had with their mom over the years, and that you hope to get to know them each better, perhaps on your next annual old-times visit.


Send questions about life’s little quandaries to