Neither a borrower, nor a lender be

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.


13 thoughts on “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be

  1. MamaBird

    Wow, such a good friendship you two have. Sabbeartical, like it. Yes, stuff is interesting. I think people would consume less if they valued the things they have a little more, like you loving your Docs and then making sure they were used by someone else who’d love them. That said, I am a huge lender and borrower of things. I have kids and the hand me down chain is a lifesaver. But even before that I was a big lender. I like to share ideas *and* stuff that’s meaningful to me. I think it adds to the excitement of life for me. When an item doesn’t return, I try to mitigate the annoyance by thinking the “it’s only stuff and people are more important” mantra. Works most of the time, but not always. Your limits sound helpful….

  2. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I don’t what I would do if my neighbor wasn’t a great clothes lender–she always has the perfect cardigan or blazer when I need it. I do make sure to return things clean and promptly, and occasionally sew a loose button or two.

    I loan books–I figure getting them back is a bonus, and if not hopefully they’re passed on to someone else.

  3. Angelina

    That sweater sounds perfect.

    I have never minded lending stuff out if someone has asked to borrow something and not just taken it, but I don’t like to borrow things. I can never return them in decent time or in good shape.

    I did, however, freak out if my stuff was gone through without my permission as a room mate of mine used to do. I would really freak out on her. She did it periodically.

  4. Michelle

    You have greatly captured what I feel. With very few exceptions do I borrow or lend. Books are expecially hard for me to lend to anyone except my dad and friend Janet. I have “lost” so many over the years that never lend to anyone else. Borrowing is pretty much limited to stuff my mom and I swap back and forth – she has more style than I do LOL.

    Great post and I am sure Mr. Bear is appreciated very much!

  5. Mrs. G.

    This is so sweet it makes me want to find something I really love and send it to you. I like the idea of pieces of love and history making the rounds. Send me your address would you?

  6. Camellia

    Ohhh…I don’t borrow things because I’m the Pigpen. Smudges jump at me, and books, they warp like they’ve been dropped in the tub even if they are nowhere near water. I do have one sweater I admired on a cousin, and she stripped it off and gave it to me immediately. We weren’t especially close, but that act of generosity always warms me as much as the sweater. And I have a few items associated with the person who gave it to me, and I have given some away in the same vein. But it’s the bond that is so affirming. Loved the post.

  7. mike golch

    well we all have to do what we gotta do to maintain our space and stuff. i have something I want to say but the thought will not come out onto the keys,Oh well.I really hate when I cannot voice the thoughts I have.

  8. Emily

    My Mr. Bear is named Cody, and I don’t lend him out. With most of my things, though, I lend anything that I’m willing to give up. I have very little attachment to most things, though. I’m not into objects so much unless they are art.


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