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

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: My mother-in-law borrowed a cookbook that is very dear to me. She marked several recipes with a long and colorful sticky label that won’t come off without tearing the pages and releasing images and texts. She returned the book without mentioning it or apologizing. I’m not sure if she didn’t notice that the labels can’t come off without damaging the book, or if she was embarrassed to mention it.

I considered telling her I wish she hadn’t used the labels. That way I could have the satisfaction of an apology. But I’m afraid this will embarrass her and the satisfaction of an apology won’t be worth it, because it won’t change anything. My mother-in-law is also very nice and I have a good relationship with her. What would you do if you were in this situation?

Stuck: Me? Nothing. But that reflects my priorities, which is to focus on the “really nice and I have a good relationship with her” part and disconnect as much as possible from things that are very dear to me. If your cookbook is a priority, you’re ready to go, call your mother-in-law to warn her that she uses labels that won’t come off without damaging the paper – something she probably doesn’t know or she wouldn’t do for you. book or something else. To inform, sincerely, not to scold.

I don’t understand why the “satisfaction of an apology” is even in question since you see her as “very nice”. In my opinion, “very nice” comes with a built-in assumption that the first of your two possibilities is the right one, that “she didn’t notice the labels won’t come off.” That is, she made an innocent mistake. And innocent mistakes don’t need to be litigated, in my opinion, except to take steps to prevent them from being repeated – an outcome any nice innocent offender would want even more than you.

Re: Cookbook: Take the damaged cookbook to the central library and ask to speak to the person who is restoring it. They have all kinds of special solvents to remove things that stick to books. If your mother-in-law tells you the brand, maybe you can just call and ask. An amazing array of solvents are sold in hardware stores. I’ve 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’t love this anymore.

· So many of us have had to learn the hard way to lend precious books to others. I now only lend with direct, recognized communication about the care and the return I expect. I would never deign to tell anyone else how to take care of their books or belongings, but I have no problem explaining how mine should be treated.

· My daughter has been taking lots of notes in my beloved cookbooks and I cherish the notes! I don’t think of cookbooks as static things – in my mind they’re meant to be noted, spilled, dog-eared. Maybe the OP can try to see the label as a reminder of the time when her mother-in-law loved to cook so much she wanted to borrow it?

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