DEAR ABBY: I have been best friends with "Jean" ever since grade school. We get along great, except for one thing -- she's a cheapskate! Jean is single and still lives with her parents; I am a single mother living on my own. We earn about the same amount of money.
Whenever Jean is invited out for drinks, she brings only enough cash for one drink, and then comments loudly that she doesn't have enough money on her for another one and waits until someone offers to pay for it. When going out to eat, she eats at home first, and then asks to "sample" everyone else's food. If she wants to see a movie, she makes sure to bring a date to pay for her ticket.
I think her stingy behavior is keeping her from having serious relationships because she expects to pay for nothing. It has reached the point where I don't want to do anything with her because of her penny-pinching ways. Mutual friends have asked me to speak to her. What can I say to keep my friendship intact? -- SEPARATE CHECKS, PLEASE, IN OHIO
DEAR SEPARATE CHECKS: Because you have reached the point that your relationship with Jean is in jeopardy, talk with her about how her behavior has affected you. But do not allow yourself to be the appointed spokeswoman for anyone else. And unless you know for a fact that her stingy behavior is keeping her from having serious relationships with men, keep it to yourself.
In the future, if you go out with Jean and she says she didn't bring enough money for a second drink, allow her to suffer the consequences. And when she asks to "sample" what you're eating, tell her calmly you'd rather she didn't. I agree that when behavior like hers becomes a pattern -- and the person is able to pay but is mooching -- that it's obnoxious. But it won't be corrected by enabling her, and that is what everyone has been doing.