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David Eddie's Damage Control

My friend hasn't paid back the grand I loaned her Add to ...

The question

Last year, I lent a friend $1,000. She is a single mother of three, and needed the money to pay some bills. But it is now more than a year later and she has not attempted to pay me back one cent. Her job is strained with the economy and she's struggling to pay bills. Meanwhile, she is with a man who is basically taking advantage of her, living in her home but not paying any bills and barely working. I feel sorry for her, but at the same time insulted that she has not even attempted to pay me $20 here and there.

I brought it up a few months ago and she got angry, stating that if $1,000 was straining our friendship then we must not be very good friends. She made me feel horrible for asking about the money. We have not talked since. I have e-mailed her and she is not replying. I am angry at myself, I feel used and I am not sure what to do about this. It's a lot of money and I just want it returned.

The answer

Ouch! I feel your pain, almost as if it were happening to me.

On the whole, I'd say you've been a paragon of patience with your friend, especially when one considers the lout-on-couch detail of your case, which would send me right around the twist.

I hate lending money, and it tortures me to the edge of madness when people don't pay it back on time.

I toss and turn, become obsessed, mutter to myself, Gollum-like: "When am I going to get back my precioussss ?" Then, if I encounter the person who owes me the dough, I want to grab him/her by the lapels and say: "Look, just give me the money !"

It's the way I was raised. Growing up, all I heard was how much everything cost. Dad was always boasting about bargains he'd scored: "Check out this weed whipper! Only $7.99 at X-Mart! Half-price!"

"Oh, what a bargain!" my mother would say. Meanwhile, she kept discovering obscure cuts of meat no one had ever heard of at the supermarket: "Check it out, kids, we're having 'rim round' for dinner tonight! Only $1.99 a pound at the A&P!"

Thus it was that I grew into a man acutely conscious of even the tiniest outlay, and whether I am getting good value for my dollar or not.

And I have to say, lending money to someone who doesn't pay it back is about the worst investment you can make with your dough. Because all you're getting in return is a sackful of bad feelings.

Still, I'm not totally opposed to lending money. I've been at the other end of the transaction, too: When I was a young wannabe writer, a friend dropped a pretty hefty chunk of change on me, thus staving off my impending homelessness. And he never squawked about how long it took for me to pay him back. For this I am eternally grateful.

I applaud you for your noble gesture, madam.

But more and more, I think lending money is like lending books: You probably shouldn't do it unless you're willing to kiss that which you are "lending" goodbye forever. A statement that certainly appears to hold true in your case.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but it sounds to me like that $1,000 is one stack of bills you're never going to see again.

So my advice to you, sister, is: Inhale, exhale, and let it go.

Not that I think you shouldn't say something to your so-called friend. Au contraire . Let her have it right between the eyes: "I lent you that money out of the goodness of my heart, now you treat me like a punk, like a putz, like a schnorrer? If our friendship is strained it's because you're being a selfish, ungrateful little brat!"

Or words to that effect. Get it all off your chest, then maybe turn your back on her for a while. Put her in the penalty box. Stop trying to contact her. The ball, along with all your cash, is in her court. It's time for her to prove to you that she cares enough about the friendship to at least make some gesture toward repayment.

In the meantime, about the only other thing you can do is learn, baby, learn. Have you ever heard the saying "people never forgive you for the bad things they do to you"? This is a prime example of that; also a lesson learned about money and friendship.

Look at it that way: a learning experience. Also, it's an insurance policy against ever having to lend that chronically, eternally broke friend money again. (It's easy to turn people down who already owe you - it's a no-brainer, right?)

All for the low, low price of $1,000. It's a bargain, really, when you think about it.

David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

I've made a huge mistake

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