If I were shipwrecked on a desert island, with a dozen other people, and cannibalism was the only option left, I’d probably be eaten first.
And that’s because I don’t like to share.
You read that correctly. Yes, I am a horrible person. You’ll probably want to shield your impressionable children at this point, so I’ll give you a second to do that.
I really don’t like to share. Actually, I think I should probably say ‘lend’ rather than ‘share’. And I don’t mean money. Strangely, I’m fine with lending money. It’s the little stuff, like the pens and the books and the coconuts (in the case of the desert island) that I have trouble with.
On the desert island, I’d probably hide all the coconuts I collect in a little cove on the far side of the island, where nobody would ever find it. And then, when somebody asked me to lend them one of my coconuts, I’d say, “I don’t have any with me right now.” Technically, it wouldn’t be a lie. And anyway, the island would be filled with coconut trees, right? They can go get some for themselves.
I don’t know which is stranger: that I’ve got all my desert island excuses sorted out or that I’ll wouldn’t be able to find it in me to be charitable even when stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t know why I have such a big problem with lending out my belongings to other people. And when I say ‘other people’, I mean anyone – even friends. The problem is that when I decide that something belongs to me, I become fiercely protective of it. I suspect this problem began when I was in kindergarten. I would hoard all the red building blocks in one corner of the classroom and then guard it with my life. In fact I vaguely remember some sort of situation in which I had taken the red building blocks hostage because my teacher had insisted that I share them with the others. Of course, it ended in tears (the teacher’s, not mine).
Earlier it was building blocks, and now it’s pens and books. I find my own feelings of protectiveness towards my pens bizarre. If the person to whom I lend my pen loses it, that’s okay – I can get another. They aren’t irreplaceable. But my mind refuses to accept this. It’s not that I don’t lend my pens to others who ask for it. I would seem too petty if I didn’t. But as I hand it over, my first thought is ‘Why don’t you just get your own? This isn’t the first time you’re asking for my pen.’ This is followed by a chain of equally nasty thoughts, as I closely observe them handling my pen:
‘Well done, Mr/Ms Butterfingers. You’ve just dropped it.’
‘Don’t look at me furtively. I saw you drop my pen.’
‘Stop. Chewing. The. Pen. Cap.’
‘There’s enough of your saliva on that for me to clone you.’
‘Pens are meant to write with. Don’t just stare at it. It’s not going to tell you the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.’
‘You’ve dropped it again, genius. Opposable thumbs are wasted on you.’
At this point I storm over and ask them to give my pen back making some excuse like, ‘I just remembered, I need to write something and I don’t have another pen.’ Then I have to go home and sterilize my pen before I can chew on it myself (which I do a lot). All that trouble just because somebody’s got the memory of a goldfish and the salivary activity of a dog. Why me, God? Why me?
I’m very melodramatic when it comes to stationery.
Lending out books is even worse. I can keep an eye on people using my pen. But when I lend someone a book, they take it home, so there’s no telling what they might be doing with it. Maybe they’re reading it. On the other hand, maybe they’re bending the spine, dog-earing the pages, underlining sentences with a permanent marker, lining their cat’s basket with it or worshipping it as part of a black magic ritual. It might appear to be as good as new when they return it, but how can I be sure that Charles Dickens’ spirit isn’t lurking somewhere between the pages. How do I know that Oliver Twist won’t follow me around all day, asking me for more gruel? These thoughts torment me every minute until the book is returned in its original condition. And even then, I’m scared to open it.
I’ll end by admitting that there’s nothing I can do about people borrowing my things. This is going to continue as long as there are…well, things to borrow. I bet the caveman who discovered fire had a thousand other cavemen waiting at his cave step with sticks of wood. And I bet that the doomsday preppers will have a thousand unprepared people waiting at their doorsteps when the day finally comes. But there’s nothing any of us can do about it. So if you have a pathological fear of lending like me, just relax, and go eat some M&M’s.
But don’t ask me for the blue ones, because I don’t have any with me right now.