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.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 19-year-old woman who recently got over a bout of compulsive hair-pulling that left the top of my head bald. The hair hasn't completely grown back yet, so I refuse to go anywhere without a hat.
When I'm out in public, people often tell me it's rude to wear a hat indoors. While I understand this, my hair is a sensitive subject that reduces me to tears. What can I say to people when they continue to badger me? -- COVERED UP IN GEORGIA
DEAR COVERED UP: Point out that it is even more rude to criticize someone's attire when the person may have a legitimate reason for dressing that way. You should also talk with a hairstylist about buying an inexpensive hairpiece to wear until your hair grows back. That may curtail some of the unsolicited comments you're receiving.
DEAR ABBY: My mother refuses to get a cellphone. I know she isn't afraid of technology (she has a tablet and an e-reader). Her explanation for how to handle an emergency is: "We will handle it like we did before there were cellphones." I had to remind her of the limited availability of pay phones or courtesy phones nowadays.
Abby, it bothers me that she chooses not to have one. I find it hurtful that an easy way to handle family emergencies is being ignored. It's a simple solution. A prepaid cellphone with a big-numbered keyboard would be a good way for us to be on the same page. Any advice? -- OUT OF TOUCH IN GLENS FALLS, N.Y.
DEAR OUT OF TOUCH: Yes. Stop nagging your mother because it's not working. Experience is the most effective teacher. Your mother will not appreciate what a blessing a cellphone can be until she learns the hard way what it's like to need one and not have one. This may seem negative, but it's the truth.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)