Did a Friend Borrow Something and Never Give It Back? Here's What To Do

It’s an awkward talk when you have to ask for your stuff. 

Erin, 38, from New York, was without her beloved guitar for six years as it sat in a good friend’s apartment gathering dust.

“[A friend] asked if he could borrow my trusty six-string. My wooden, bold bodied guitar had sat, unused for quite some time—always too much work to be done,” she says, adding the guitar was a special gift from her father. 

 “[One year] he did something for me for my birthday and I'll never forget it. I really wanted to play another instrument in school that year, I had previously played the violin and drums. Not well. I didn't play well but I love music, all music and it was an escape from the madness of our upbringing. He knew I really wanted to play guitar…A couple nights later he came home with this beautiful Fender six-string for me. I fell in love. Played that thing as much as I could despite my work as a dishwasher consistently ruining my fingertip callouses.”

Flash forward, Erin says, her good friend wants to borrow the guitar one day, in order to learn how to play.

“Sure friend, take the guitar,” she says. “Eventually time passes. Years have passed. He's been married and divorced. I got married and bought a house. We've been to each other's weddings and to friend’s funerals together. Watched numerous Super Bowls together. One such Super Bowl I remember seeing my guitar in the corner of his house and thinking, ‘I’m going to bring that home tonight.’ Then my wife and I and everyone at the party started drinking ‘Omar Epps Shots’ because the Steelers’ coach looked like Omar Epps. Every time he was on the screen we drank. Then my wife started getting sick. After I was done cleaning her up and pouring her into a cab, there wasn't a brain cell left to wonder why I was leaving without my beautiful guitar.”

More years passed, she says. 

“One afternoon, I'm doing work on my house and my favorite friend [with the guitar] decides to come over for a few beers, to ‘help,’” she says. “Before he leaves his house to help, which I later find out is defined as losing several tools and screws to the inner sanctum of the space between the drywall and brick, I remember to ask for my guitar. After about eight years, I finally have my curvaceous, wooden lady back. Though, sans guitar and practice time, my rendition of Wish You were Here is pathetic. I still love it though.” 

Dave, 28, from New York, says “15 years ago a friend borrowed a video game, NCAA Football 2001, that I bought in the bargain bin at Blockbuster Video, and never returned it.” 

“We were seniors in high school and I still have not forgotten,” he says. Elizabeth, 32, from Brooklyn, asks, “please get Bethenny Frankel to chime in on the dress Ramona never returned. Please.”

Lisa, 47, from New York, says she’s disgusted a friend borrowed a ring in college—which since it was never returned, now constitutes stealing. 

“I loved it, and at the time it was a full on splurge I shouldn't have made. I can still visualize it on my hand,” she says. 

Amanda, 42, says, “Yeah an ex-friend borrowed a black gorgeous Pulp Fiction bob wig I had for a bachelorette party, lost it, never apologized, and I had to bring it up to find out I was never getting it back. She also kissed my ex-husband in a jokey sexual way right in front of me, so…”

has my high school yearbook lol

How do you handle a person borrowing something for too long?

Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman says you “have to assume they have genuinely forgotten, but it’s still awkward to have the talk.”

“Preface it by saying, ‘I know this has slipped your mind but I’d like to wear my purse to an event this Friday I’m going to.’ Let them know you want to use it for something. If they don’t offer on own to give it back, best case scenario is they forgot.” To make it even easier, she says, tell them you’ll pick it up yourself, so they don’t have to do any of the work returning it. 

“Make it easy for them and don’t be accusatory,” she says. “If they have an excuse or are using avoidance, it’s just like a loan—anytime you give something, whether it’s money or an article of clothing, you give it in good faith, and unfortunately you must assume you may never get it back.”

Diane adds that unless you trust someone implicitly, don’t lend them sentimental stuff.

“It could get dirty, or break, accidents happen,” she says, and then you’re just left with anger.

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