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Miss Conduct

Advice: I was given a DNA test as a gift. Is it OK to reject it?

Plus, keeping family photos off Facebook.

Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

My sister-in-law gave me a DNA testing kit from Ancestry for my birthday. She wasn’t there when I opened the gift. I have no desire to send in my DNA for testing. Do I tell her I’m not going to use it so she can possibly get her money back? Do I wait for her to ask me about it and then explain that I’m not going to use it?

C.A. / Boston

See if she can get her money back — I looked up Ancestry.com’s return policy, and it may be past the deadline. If she can’t, can you sell the kit to someone else and buy yourself something less Pandora’s box-like?


This is what I would do, because my friends and relatives are practical about stuff like that. If we spend a lot of money on a gift that doesn’t land, well, that’s why we kept the receipt! But that’s also why we’d ask before we went off and got something like a DNA kit, which isn’t exactly Sea-Monkeys as far as science-experiment gifts go. It’s a question of tactics more than etiquette. Is your sister-in-law generally free of the compulsion to control others? Does she get ego-defensive about her decisions? If she’s a reasonable person, tell her. If she’s not, handle it however’s easiest for you — your spouse or sibling might have more specifics on this.

I have a family member who insists on whipping out her phone at every family event and snapping pictures, then posting them on Facebook. I never post pictures of myself or my kids and it bothers me when I see this happening just after a family event has ended. I think in the beginning some were put off by it but then let it go. But as it has continued on some have avoided being in any group picture. With the holidays coming up, what is the best way to handle this?


M.C. / Belmont

Has anyone ever actually asked Cousin Itt-stagram (sorry!) to stop with the public posting? You don’t say. So ask: “Hey, not all of us like being on social media. Can you please not post pictures of family events?” If she refuses or argues — or agrees and then posts anyway — then you need to escalate. Whoever’s hosting the event collects phones at the door. Or you all wear funny-nose-and-glasses. Or continue avoiding the group shots. Cousin It, at that point, is being a jerk.

If no one has said anything, then Cousin It isn’t in the wrong and you all are being pointlessly passive-aggressive. There’s no universal rule about posting group photos, it’s something that families and friends should decide among themselves. Which does mean that if only a small minority of you dislike it, it will probably be on you to opt out.

And is there some kind of compromise that would satisfy everyone? Surely even you want to see and have access to this archive of family celebrations. Could they be posted in a closed Facebook or Google group? After all, if not every family member can attend every holiday, because of distance or work or illness, it might mean the world for them to get to see what everyone else is doing and wearing and saying.


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.