Polonius had it right, mostly– or at least I think so. Having grown up without much stuff, I’ve always been more than a little possessive about my stuff. I didn’t want to lend it out, for fear I’d never get it back, as happened on a few occasions. So mostly, I just didn’t lend. And I never asked to borrow– not just because I was trying to be consistent with the not lending thing, but because I didn’t want to be in someone’s debt, and because I didn’t want to highlight my own lack of stuff by audibly envying someone else’s tapes, or sweaters, or toys, or whatever.
I’ve never really strayed away from my “no borrowing” policy. And I’ve enforced it strictly, in some cases. I had a roommate in law school who would borrow my suits and other professional clothes, as well as my “going out” clothes. Problem was, she was a slob, and neither hung them up nor cleaned them right after wearing them. I got sick of finding stuff missing six weeks later, and finding it in a wad on her closet floor when I needed it that day. So I gave her one warning, that I expected stuff back, clean, within a week. She didn’t honor it, and I put a combination lock on my closet. She wasn’t happy, but it solved the problem. (She also stopped drinking all my milk and eating all my mac & cheese when I started deducting the cost from the monthly rent check.)
I did and do make a few exceptions– books pass around the family, and with my best friend, A. She would often borrow a certain J. Crew wool sweater I had during college– she loved it so much that she wore it for her yearbook picture. And she always returned it. I was happy to lend it– I knew wearing it made her happy, and I knew she’d take care of it. We’re also close enough in shoe sizes that when I decided a few years ago that I didn’t wear my Docs enough to justify keeping them, I knew she might want them. Later, when she was cleaning a few years ago, she asked me if I wanted a particular wooly nordic-style L.L. Bean sweater that she’d worn all through college. Yes! It’s got holes and pills and is permanently stretched to fit her– which is why I love wearing it so much. It reminds me of her when she’s far away, and we see each other too little.
Last fall, when she broke up with her girlfriend and was moving her stuff out, I brought my bear that I’ve had forever, to keep her company for the near future. A. knows Mr. Bear very well– he was always on my bed throughout college and law school, and when she’s stayed with us she’s sometimes borrowed him. So I knew Mr. Bear would be welcome and well-loved. And I know A. will return him from his extended sabbeartical having used him well. In the meantime, there’ve been a few times recently when I could have used Mr. Bear’s solace– but I just put on our sweater instead, and it does the trick, every time.