09
Mar
11

getting stuff back

Reader N. M. writes:

I had a huge fight with a friend a few months ago and we haven’t been speaking since. However, she still has some of my stuff. Most notably a really nice dress I’d like to start wearing again (now that it’s springtime) and a set of DVDs I’d like to lend to another friend. What can I do to get those back?

Dear N.M.:

Unless you are willing to apologize for everything and take all the blame and make up with your friend, you are just going to have to write those items off as casualties of the ruined friendship.

Probably.

DVDs

She probably knows that DVDs make great coasters. Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If this were a romantic break up, I’d say you have a better chance of finding those items on eBay and buying them back from your ex than you have of getting them back in a civilized manner. That’s what vindictive ex-gfs do, you see. We either burn everything you ever gave us, including the stuff you left behind, or we throw it away, or we sell it on eBay, depending on how dramatic we’re feeling and how much of the rest of the world we want involved in the break up drama.

Friends, on the other hand, don’t quite respond the same way, even in the most dramatic of break ups. Or at least they generally don’t. At the worst, she may have thrown them away in her anger, or donated them to a thrift store. She probably hasn’t burned them.

If she were particularly classy, she’d have already delivered them to you somehow on her own, without your nudging. She could have given them to a mutual friend, or simply dropped them on your doorstep when you weren’t home. She could also have mailed them to you. Or (wo)manned up and arranged a time to give them back to you in person.

As she has done none of those things, you can probably kiss those items goodbye. Just go buy new ones. They’re just things, remember. There will be other pretty spring dresses and I’m guessing those DVDs aren’t out of print.

I do, of course, have to be completely honest about this advice. I am personally not beneath begging for things back from people even after we’ve, say, totally broken up and I never want to see him again. I have, in fact, texted specific instructions to targets of my former ire concerning when and where they must leave my things where I will not have to interact with the person at all (“leave them under my doormat tomorrow while I’m at work”).

However, I have never waited more than three days to implement this sort of beg/instruct tactic. After a few months, I don’t think I would have the stomach for it, even if I had forgiven the person or gotten over whatever happened between us.

The thing about contacting someone you haven’t spoken to in months simply because they have some of your stuff is that it can be taken any number of ways. It can be a taken as a Trojan horse.  She may wonder if you’re contacting her because you want to apologize or be friends again. And if you are, the ball will be in her court. If you’re not, and it’s really just about stuff, that’s kind of twisting the knife a bit, isn’t it? “Hey, all that matters to me about our former relationship is the stuff of mine that you have. Your feelings are worth less than stuff, fyi.” The ball will also be in her court in this case, but it’s a different kind of ball. Part of the fun of demanding stuff back from an ex is this sort of “you mean nothing to me now, give me my money back, you bitch” feeling. Which may or may not be what you’re intending to say to this friend. And if she takes it this way, she may decide not to give you your stuff back at all. (Which is what a vindictive ex-gf would do, of course.)

Who knows how she’ll respond to you after all this time. She may have forgiven you. She may not. She may have gotten over the fight altogether. Or she may still be festering over it. In fact, she may have forgotten she had your stuff at all, and will now, due to your reminder, put it on eBay or burn it. It’s completely within your rights to ask for your stuff back. You just have to be prepared for the reaction. It’s a good possibility that she just won’t respond to you at all.

In which case, we head right back to my original advice: relinquish those items to the void. They’re as dead to you as the friendship is.

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