Three Lessons in Book Lending, From a Master


I've gotten into the unfortunate habit of lending out books to men I'm involved with. Now, under normal circumstances--with say, close friends, family members, or homeless people--I wouldn't mind the inevitable result, which is, of course, not having said book returned. Listen, I'm going to be honest here, half the books in my apartment (see: Wallflower at the Orgy; I Feel Bad About My Neck; anything Sloane Crosley has written; The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao; the old testament) currently have names written in them that aren't mine. So I'm going to call karma, and understand any book I lend out to people I care about might not be seen again. And so it goes. However, book "lending," like having sex, is not an act to be taken lightly. You can't give it out to just anybody. But, I admit, as the following scenarios prove, I've gotten a bit lax:

1) The Great First Date: I met D. at a Russian bath house. As per usual, there were a lot of red flags I chose to ignore (A few: "I was in a band." "I fancy myself a writer." "I had sex with a lot of groupies." "I love women, so I cover my body in tattoos of pin-up girls" "I am still getting over having my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with" "I'm from Staten Island"). We spent six hours talking and sweating and beating each other with birch branches. I thought we're doing things I'd usually save for the third date. He said witty things like, "with most women I'm concerned with them seeing me naked. But I'm worried about you seeing me clothed." And most significantly, he cared about books. He asked me for a few of my favorites and I gave him a list. He wrote it on his receipt for Baltika and pirogi. Before we left, he asked me out to dinner, and then added-- red flag alert-- "I really feel like something serious can happen here." Three days later, dinner at a fabulous restaurant, followed three days after that by a movie night at his place. And this is where I made my fatal error. "I brought you a book to borrow," I told him, and handed over my underlined copy of Shot in the Heart. (About an ex-Mormon serial killer, and not my relationship history, thank you very much.) He lent me a book in return, we watched Rocky, snuggled on the couch, yada yada yada, I went to visit a friend in Seattle, I didn't hear from him for a week, and when I got back he told me he was seeing someone else and asked if we could be friends. No thank you, I told him. I already had plenty of friends. But could I have my book back, please.

Now, in this scenario, here is where the mutual friend comes in handy. Roman Palitsky, I've got to hand it to him--when not exploiting his life lessons on a tee-shirt and other merchandise (, I'm stating a string of expletives about his friend, and then asking him to go down to Sunset Park and engage in a book exchange. If "whatever you're feeling right now" is actually what you're supposed to be feeling, then Roman must feel like he's friends with an asshole.

So, moral(s) of the story: Don't lend a book out after an awesome first date. Also, be friends with Roman Palitsky.

2) The Serious Boyfriend: I met J. in my MFA program (pooping where you eat, though potentially very dangerous to ones health, is also very convenient). It doesn't matter how many times I tell myself to stop dating writers, I still do it. They're like crack. J. and I actually got along well, but there were some fairly large differences in our value systems. He is from a traditional Catholic Mexican family from Texas and I am a stereotypical Jewish girl from Queens, but that wasn't where the real issues were (though they came up). The main issue was that J. believed women shouldn't ever discuss their past relationship history, and I...well. I co-edit this blog.

J. and I lasted eight months, give or take, and then we had one of those break ups that seemed too good to be true, and then was too good to be true. After a late night call where J. said "I love you" followed by "I hate you," followed by a sea of expletives that made my rant about D. sound like orphan children caroling at a charity event, J. and I realized we couldn't be friends.

A few weeks later I received an email from J. He told me that I should be receiving a package in the mail containing a book I lent him: Portrait of an Addict As a Young Man. (Note to self: addicts, serial killers...I'm seeing a trend here). Later that afternoon I discovered the small brown envelope. I don't know what I was expecting--a note, a body part--but I wasn't expecting, tucked into page 62, the card I gave J. for his 32nd birthday. Ah, the last FU. Why throw away a card when you can just mail it back?! This would teach me to lend a book out before receiving a proposal.

Moral? Unlike your virginity, you can get a book back. But you might get some unwanted baggage along with it.

3) The Second Go 'Round: I met P. at a bat-mitzvah (true story). We were the only people over the age of 14 willing to get down and do the electric slide. We had immediate chemistry, but it came out that P. had a girlfriend. Two months later, he didn't. We dated for four months and it was fun until it wasn't. I wanted a serious relationship, and P. wanted me to be the world's longest rebound. What began as an exhausting amount of contact trickled down to every two or three weeks. And then P. stopped calling.

Three years later, P. contacted me on OKCupid. This was right after D., and I was seeking a distraction. Not listening to the advice of my friends and co-editor of BDGS, I agreed to meet him for brunch. Chemistry was still there. Incessant texting began. Following week, bike ride in NYC. Following week, bike ride in Brooklyn. And then--here is the kicker--he lent me a book. "One of my favorites," he said.

"He's a changed man," I told all my friends. "A book--especially a big book--clearly means he sees a future with me."

And this, BDGS readers, is where I'm proved a fool. P. proudly attended the most recent BDGS performance, where he met my friends and family. This+book lending= it was an appropriate time to start buying an unlimited metrocard for my unlimited trips to visit him in Red Hook. P. came home with me after the event, and then he stopped calling.

"History repeated itself," I told him in a message. "Don't contact me again." A week later, he called and left a message. I didn't call him back.

And the book? A world war two narrative I had very little intention of reading in the first place? Well, first I asked my father if he wanted it. No, he said, but he did volunteer to break some knees. Then I remembered that the bookstore near my apartment bought used books. I traded it in for 75 cents.

Moral? You broke up for the first time for a reason. Don't make the same mistake twice. Also, make sure you live near a second hand book store. Take that 75 cents and buy yourself an ice-cream cone. You deserve it.