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Dear Abby: Neighbor keeps borrowing vacuum cleaner

Dear Abby: Am I being selfish? My next-door neighbor (who is a friend) knew we had bought an expensive vacuum cleaner last year. She asked if she could try it out on her carpet and I agreed, thinking it would be a one-time favor. I should add that she watches our house and our cat when we’re traveling, and we do likewise for her.

She recently asked if she could borrow it again, and I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to let her, so I made an excuse that I needed to buy more vacuum bags. I suspect that she “borrowed” it again without my permission two months ago while we were away because the cord wasn’t like I had left it. How can I tactfully handle this situation? She’s on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy this particular vacuum herself.

– Am I Selfish?

Dear Am I Selfish?: Rather than label you selfish, I’d prefer to call you “stuck.” You allowed your friend to use the vacuum once and have given her free run of your home in your absence. Because she has used the vacuum again without your permission, she is likely to do it again.

If you’re afraid of the “ick” factor of having “her” dust in your house, you’ll have to tell her plainly that you don’t want her to use the vacuum and probably find another house sitter. Or, knowing she’s short of money, you might let her use the vacuum but suggest that when she uses one of your bags she buy some of her own and replace the one she used with a fresh one.

Define ‘committed’

Dear Abby: What is your definition of a committed relationship?

– Trying for One in Texas

Dear Trying: A committed relationship is one in which both parties agree that it will remain mutually exclusive.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.