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by Abigail Van Buren

Housemate Draws the Line at Sharing Her Meatloaf

DEAR ABBY: I share a large house with two other women. The homeowner, "Mary," works from a home office during the day. "Sue" is her baby sister. She has two small children and doesn't work. She lives here rent-free thanks to Mary's generosity. I pay rent. We keep all our food separate and eat our meals separately. We each have our assigned shelves in the refrigerator and cupboards.

Today I mentioned to Sue that I was making meatloaf tonight, and before I could say I'll save you a slice, she invited herself to help me eat it. I was so flabbergasted I couldn't think of a response. She also told both of her kids and a girlfriend of hers who came over to visit that "we" were all having meatloaf for dinner. I didn't realize it until the last minute.

I don't mind sharing once in a while, but I live on a fixed income. I had planned for the meatloaf to last the rest of the week for my dinners and sandwiches for lunch. I finally told her, just as the meatloaf was done, that I had made it for myself and not to share with everyone.

Now I feel like a heel, but I'm realizing that whenever I make a large amount of food, Sue seems to think it's to share. Why am I feeling bad about this when it was she who put me on the spot? How can I avoid this in the future? This isn't the first time it has happened. -- PUZZLED IN THE WEST

DEAR PUZZLED: You may feel guilty because you are not used to standing up for yourself, but if you don't speak up, this person will not respect your boundaries. Sue should not assume she's entitled to any of your food regardless of the amount you prepare. To prevent this from happening again, schedule a house meeting -- without the children -- and say it loud and clear.

Read more in: Money | Etiquette & Ethics