Carolyn Hax: Mother-in-law damages ‘dear to me’ cookbook. What now?

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law borrowed a cookbook, which is very dear to me. She labeled several recipes with a long and colorful sticker that does not fall off without ripping the pages and peeling pictures and texts. She returned the book without mentioning it or apologizing. I’m not sure if she did not notice that the labels did not fall off without damaging the book, or if she was too embarrassed to mention it.

I considered telling her that I wish she had not used the labels. That way I could get the satisfaction of an apology. But I am worried that this will make her embarrassed and the satisfaction of an apology will not be worth it as it will not change anything. My mother-in-law is otherwise very sweet and I have a good relationship with her. What would you do if you were in this situation?

Stuck: Me? Nothing. But it reflects my priorities, which is to focus on the “very sweet and I have a good relationship with her” part of it and to detach myself as much as possible from “very dear” things. If your cookbook is a priority you are ready to stick to, call your mother-in-law to warn her that she is using labels that do not peel off without damaging the paper – which is something she probably does not know, otherwise she would not have used them on your book or anything else. To inform, sincerely, not to scold.

I do not understand why “the satisfaction of an apology” is at stake at all, since you see her as “very sweet.” In my opinion, “very nice” comes with a built-in assumption that the first of your two options is the right one, that “she did not notice that the labels would not come off.” That is, she made an innocent mistake. And innocent mistakes, in my opinion, do not need to be prosecuted, except to take steps to prevent them from being repeated – a result that any nice innocent perpetrator would want even more than you.

Re: Cookbook: Take the damaged cookbook to the central library and ask to speak to the person doing the book repair. They have all sorts of special solvents to remove things that are stuck on books. If your mother-in-law wants to tell you the mark, you might just call with the question. A fantastic selection of solvents is sold in household stores. I have had good luck with isopropyl alcohol and pure acetone, but a professional may know the best process to use.

TreeLady: MacGyver crossed with librarians, I can not love this anymore.

· So many of us have had to learn the hard way of lending precious books to others. I only borrow now with direct, recognized communication about the care and return I expect. I would never deserve to tell someone else how to care for their books or belongings, but I have no problem making it clear how mine should be treated.

· My daughter has made many notes in my beloved cookbooks and I appreciate the notes! I do not consider cookbooks as static things – in my mind they are meant to be noted, wasted on, dog ears. Maybe OP can try to think of the label as a reminder to her when her mother-in-law liked her cooking so much that she would borrow it?

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