Behind the Candelabra


Dear Dharma, 

A semi close friend of mine gave me a nice gift for my birthday several years ago. Not something I used every day, but something I kept through 2 moves, so I definitely valued it.  She brought it up a few days ago, and the way she was talking about it really made me think she considered it a loan and not a gift, and she was making preparations to ask for it back.

I don’t have the card she sent (it was 4 birthdays ago after all) but I am pretty darn sure it was for my birthday and it was a gift.  I mean who says to someone, “Happy Birthday sweetie!  I didn’t get you a present but you can borrow this candelabra for 4 years!”

How can I say nicely to her that well, if she wants to borrow it from me, that is okay, but really, you gave it to me, and it is mine.

What’s Mine is (not) Hers

Dear What’s Mine,

I like trying to get into people’s heads and trying to understand what makes them do what they do, and often I’m not too bad at it – but in this case, the only thing I can come up with is that she has genuinely forgotten that she gave you this item as a gift.

You’re thinking that seems unlikely, right?  I mean who gives someone a gift, but then forgets it was a gift and not a loan?

Trust me, it happens, people forget and go blank all the time.  Just today I sent my other half a link to a hotel at a vacation destination we frequent often, saying, “Hey check this out, maybe somewhere new to stay!” – and he comes back with “Really?  I sent you this link last year. You totally weren’t interested.”  Honestly – no recollection whatsoever.  Totally thought I had stumbled on this great new find.

I’m just saying that probably a lot has happened in 4 years and some of life’s smaller details have blurred for your friend.  You don’t mention anything else negative about her, so it seems like this is truly one off behavior and the best thing you can do is give her the benefit of the doubt.

You say you feel she was “making preparations” to ask for it back – so at this point, no request has been made.  Maybe what you could do is strike preemptively by saying, “The other day you mentioned that great candelabra you gave me for my birthday a few years back – were you wanting to borrow it?  It’s so beautiful, I just love it!  I have no problem lending it to you, but I’ll need it back in a few weeks for a dinner party I’m having.”

If she has indeed forgotten it was a gift, you’ve just gracefully reminded her and hopefully saved her some embarrassment.  And opened the door to ask for it back.

However, if she responds with anything other than, “Thank you, I appreciate that!” and tries to remind you that it was in fact a loan, I would just smile and look bewildered and say, “No Sally, you wrapped it up and gave it to me when you dropped by my house on my birthday… what, 4 years ago now?  I remember it clearly because it was such a lovely gift!”

If she’s insistent, you’ll need to decide where the line in the sand is and if a miscommunicated, misinterpreted candelabra is worth a rift in the friendship.



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