Not Exactly “Dear Abby”

I’ve been writing articles for a local magazine since January 2016. My monthly column is called “Snapshot,” and I write about someone who lives in or has ties to our large subdivision.  I often write a feature on a local business, and this year I’ve also written about a local chef each month.

From April of 2016 through November 2018, I wrote an advice column for the magazine which featured problems that neighbors encounter. I wrote the column, called “Neighborly Advice by Nadine,” anonymously, and it was a lot of fun. Three times during the run of the column, people actually wrote to the magazine with their problems.  The rest of the time, I made up the questions and the answers.  Here’s one of my favorites:

“Mooching Neighbors”

Dear Nadine,

Our next-door neighbors are moochers!  They borrow, borrow, borrow.  We have lent them our hedge trimmer numerous times.  Our leaf blower thinks their garage is home.  One time my husband had to go “borrow” it back!  The wife, one of my good friends, thinks nothing of coming over to “borrow” eggs, flour, sugar, cereal, milk, ground beef.  You name the foodstuff, she’s borrowed it.  There is never any mention of replacing consumable items.

Last year she started borrowing my clothes—a blouse, a jacket, a scarf.  The clothing she actually returned, but I’m pretty sure nothing was washed or dry cleaned when it came home.

NOW she has asked to borrow some of my jewelry for a “big do” they are attending in a month or so.  My jewelry is not costume jewelry.  My husband has showered me with diamonds and pearls, and I can’t imagine anyone other than my daughter or daughters-in-law wearing it.

Once I stood up to her and refused to let her use my stand mixer, as I would be needing it for the holidays.  She didn’t talk to me for a month.  What should I do?

Super Sucker

Dear SS or BTAO (Being Taken Advantage Of),

She didn’t talk to you for a month?  I’d be singing Handel’s “Hallelujah! Chorus.”  Why?  Because during that time, I bet she didn’t borrow anything.

You say she is “one of your good friends,” but “good friends” don’t give their good friends the cold shoulder for a month because of a mixer!  It sounds to me like she is a “good friend,” as long as you are lending.  The rest of the time she’s a punk neighbor.

I think you know what you must do, and I’m happy to affirm your decision.  Make a new year’s resolution.  If the neighbors have any of your possessions, ask that they be returned.  Say you want to have the lawn equipment cleaned or reconditioned during the offseason.  If there’s anything else, just say you want your things back.

Don’t say anything about the jewelry.  Make her ask again.  Maybe she won’t, but I doubt it.  When she does ask again, you have to say, “No.”  You can be nice, if you want, and say something like, “I’m sorry, but I won’t lend my jewelry.”  You got that?  “I won’t lend my jewelry.”  If you’re reticent about being that assertive, practice saying it over and over to yourself in a mirror.  Do not, under any circumstances, hand her a diamond baguette or a seed pearl!

You may, indeed, be losing one of your good friends—ONE of them.  Get ready for that possibility, and don’t feel bad about it.  These neighbors have been taking advantage of you and your husband, and they are not good neighbors.  You said it in your first line, they’re moochers!

Dear Nadine,

What is the matter with people?  My wife and I have a 30’ camper that we use for tailgating in the fall and a few trips in the summer.  Last night while I was cleaning the camper out in the driveway before storing it for the winter, one of our neighbors stopped by to chat while walking his dog.

During the conversation, the guy said, “Hmmm, I’ve been thinking.  Since you only use this baby a few times during the summer, could my wife and I borrow it for a trip when you’re not using it?”

I was flabbergasted.  This is a neighbor, a casual acquaintance, and he wants to borrow my expensive camper!  I said, “Do you have a trailer hitch and enough horsepower to pull a camper?”

“Well,” he said, “I’d probably have to borrow your truck, too.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have to think about it.”  And on that note, the guy left.

I thought about it for two seconds, and I decided—NO WAY!

Now what do I do?


Dear Steamed,

Sit down and cool off.  You don’t need to do a thing—AND you shouldn’t.  I don’t think he’ll ask again, but if he does, say, “No.”  If he asks, “Why?” Say, “Are you nuts?  I hardly know you.”  Or you can say something nice like, “I’ve thought about it, but under no circumstances would I loan out my camper.”  Then turn around and walk away.  He is nuts!



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