Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My friend "Tracy" has been hinting that she needs to borrow money. I don't loan money to people unless it's an emergency, and frankly, I know if I lend her any, she won't pay me back.

Last week she took her family on vacation and to her uncle's funeral. When they got back, she went on and on about all the fun they had and mentioned that she had spent almost $1,000. She then followed it up with, "So, next month I may need to borrow money from you. Does your offer still stand?"

Abby, I never offered to loan her money! I quickly changed the subject because I didn't want to say anything I might regret later. How do I tell her I don't want to loan her money without losing a friendship or hurting her feelings?

— ON THE SPOT IN SEATTLE

DEAR ON THE SPOT: Tracy may be charming and fun to be around, but she's not a friend. In fact, she appears to be a bit of a hustler. Two can play that game.

When she raises the subject of the loan again — and she will — tell her: "Tracy, the last time you mentioned this, don't you remember me telling you I never lend money? In fact, I really could use some myself."

Please don't worry about losing a friendship or hurting her feelings. Tracy has the hide of a rhino, and friends don't use friends the way she's trying to use you. Shame on her.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 13-year-old girl in eighth grade. Ever since fifth grade I have had a crush on a teacher, "Mr. M."

He was my homeroom teacher in fifth grade, and I just kind of "fell in love" with him. Mr. M. is 40 and has two children.

Abby, I know it is wrong, but for some reason, I have been obsessed with him. Ever since I was 10 I have been his favorite student, and obviously he was my favorite teacher.

This school year is the first time Mr. M. isn't teaching any of my classes. I realize this is probably a good thing, but I'm having difficulty accepting it. I feel awful. How should I handle it?

— EIGHTH-GRADE ADMIRER

DEAR ADMIRER: Many young ladies have had crushes on their male teachers, myself included. I am not minimizing your feelings for Mr. M., but with time and distance they will diminish. What you are experiencing is a combination of growing pains and withdrawal. Part of what you are missing is the rush of adrenaline you felt when you saw Mr. M. every day.

You have many wonderful, exciting experiences ahead of you both intellectually and romantically. The feelings you are experiencing are part of growing up. The harder you focus on what lies ahead of you, the less time you will have to look back over your shoulder and brood.

DEAR ABBY: I belong to an organization that helps support our local food bank. One of our jobs is to check the expiration dates on the packaging. Canned goods have expiration dates, and if they are old, they must be thrown out.

Please tell your readers to check the dates before sending items on to the food drive. Then their generosity will reach the people for whom it was intended. I think they would be sad to know how much food is wasted because it was donated after the expiration date.

— KALI IN RENO, NEV.

DEAR KALI: Your letter speaks for itself. People in need don't want spoiled food any more than the donors do. Thank you for writing.

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.