Miss Manners: “Give Me My Stuff Back!!”

favorite-sweater[I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the epitome of prim and proper- heck, who really is nowadays? But looking around at the misguided youths of today *ahem drinking buddies*, I’m starting to think that Miss Manners might have been onto something.

While you may never need to know how to greet a duke or how to tell which fork is REALLY the oyster fork, knowing how to deal with people whom owe you money, how much to tip, and how to address the ever annoying licorice-in-teeth conundrum without being rude might actually come in handy in the real world. I’m not trying to be your mother – oh goodness, no – I’m just here to help you out of those little etiquette dilemmas. So here goes: a quick lesson in etiquette. The sh*t you might actually need to know.]

So your friend borrowed your favorite sweater in Physics, promising she’d return it after class. But when the class let out, you were too busy copying notes to remind her to give it back. It’s been two months now, and all your subtle hints about how you really hate people who borrow stuff *ahem ahem* is getting you blank stares. You figure either she forgot about it… or she’s a bitch who’s playing dumb so she can keep your cute-and-perfect-for-all-seasons sweater.

What to do when the borrower just won’t give the damn thing back?

Miss Manners says:
First figure out how much the object is worth. Is a sweater/$5/a calculator/etc. worth potentially ruining your friendship over? If you can already tell that getting it back will be a struggle – perhaps one big enough to turn into a catfight – think of how much the object really means to you. If you figure it’s worth it, read on. If not, ask her one last time (outright. i.e. “Hey, remember that sweater I loaned to you forever ago? Do you think I could get it back?”) and if she refuses to budge, drop it, chalk it up as a birthday present and never let her borrow anything again.

Step 1: To be honest, the more time that passes, the more awkward it gets bringing up something that happened sooo long ago. Approach her (this usually works better if there are other people around – witnesses, you know) and ask “I know this was awhile ago, but would you happen to still have my sweater? Can you bring it to class next week?” Be direct but polite.

Step 2: If being direct is getting you nowhere, try lying. Yeah, I know lying is bad, but in terms of etiquette, small white lies are usually justifiable. Tell her you need the sweater/money for a party this weekend. Tell her you promised to lend it to your mother. Whatever it is, be sure to imply that you wouldn’t mind letting her hold on to it and of course it never crossed your mind that she wouldn’t give it back, but because of whatever urgent event coming up, you need it back.

Step 3: The [fake] party date passed and she still hasn’t returned it? At this point, she either lost it or she’s being downright rude. If she keeps making excuses, just outright ask her what the deal is. Don’t dance around the subject and don’t be afraid to be pushy; after all, she’s the one being rude, not you. Besides, what kind of friend is she if she refuses to return the stuff you lent her? Why would you want to surround yourself with people like that? You don’t have to be a bitch, but let her know that you want your stuff back and let her know that you mean it.

And if that still produces no results (which is a very rare case), walk away from it smarter. And one sweater short.
Lesson learned: Be careful about what you lend out.

You ever have a sitch like this? Give us the deets!



  1. Colleen says:

    I have a 'friend' who just takes things that we leave in her apartment. seriously you'll ask her if she's seen it and she'll life to your face. Shockingly, she now has like 3 actaul friends and couldn't find anyone to room with for next year. No one felt bad.

  2. beverly says:

    This seriously is happening to me!

    I've done all the polite things…And decided to walk away smarter…Except I'm minus the thing I lent her *and* my (former) best friend, who is apparently ridiculously rude and immature.

  3. Mary says:

    Another thing, if you really want something of yours back, make sure you don't still have anything of hers. Maybe she'll follow from example.

  4. Kim says:

    I lent my sweatshirt to a friend of a friend at my party. I asked for it back at the end of the night and she forgot. A month later, I see a picture of her wearing it as her profile picture.

  5. Lisa says:

    I'm one of the people who's SO bad at giving things back that are lent to me…i honestly just totally forget…and then i'll see it and be like OH i have to do that…and then forget again. So people, totally please just be like 'hey remember that? could i maybe get that back?' it's definitely not offensive and often appreciated. Us forgetful people aren't aaalways trying to be rude!

  6. D. says:

    What do you do if that person claims you never lent them anything at all?

  7. molly says:

    What about my sort of friend/co-worker who took my sweater after I left it at work, then when I show up unexpectedly at her house to talk to her boyfriend (my good friend) she is wearing it, and when I say "hey, is that my sweater??" she tells me she bought it online? Not to mention she then told her boyfriend that she actually is borrowing it from a different friend? LIES! agh.

  8. Vivian - Undecided says:

    Okay so I am SO late to answer on this but here goes:

    Mary- That was actually really great advice. I'm sort of bummed I didn't think of that myself. Props to you.

    Lisa- LOL you bring up a good point. Sigh, I wish all the people I've lent things to were simply "forgetful."

    D.- I hate that. I know it's frustrating but unless you can prove that you lent her something, or vividly desribe it in a way that would "jog her memory", I think you have to count it as a loss. Also, if you happen to see it laying around on her dorm room floor, feel free to point it out/sneak it in your bag and pretend it never happened. Yeah, stealing is bad but technically it's not stealing if the item's yours. Etiquette is all about technicalities.

    Colleen, Bev, Kim, and Molly- Friends like that suck, but it's okay, I have them too. This one girl borrowed my sweater "for the day" and wore it through tennis matches and the like. When I finally got her to give it back, the buttons had all fallen off. I feel your pain.

  9. Emily says:

    I have a friend that when people lend her clothes, she doesn’t return them for months. She once had this girl’s $150 dollar prom dress for FOUR MONTHS! This just pisses me off. Right now she has my tank top that I left at her house and when I ask her about it she says, ” how do you know I don’t have a tank top from hollister?” I’m like okay??? These kind of people are so annoying! The point is: I’m never loaning my clothes out to her again, no matter what. Every girl in the sschool that has given her their clothes tell me about how they don’t get it back for months at a time. Ugh!!!! But its okay, ill just borrow her clothes and not give them back:)

  10. Erika says:

    I let my boyfriends friends girlfriend borrow 5 of my sweaters and now she dont wanna give them back. I keep txtn her saying can I come get my stuff and she says she is not in town but I know she is. Its really pissing me off and I really wanna punch her in the face next time I see her. She says I’m not gonna give yu yur stuff if yur demanding it, like bitch its my fucking clothes I didnt have to let yu borrow my stuff and now yu wanna keep them. Such a bitch move.

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