Bookmark ettiquette?
November 23, 2008 4:48 PM   Subscribe

It seemed like a trivial thing to me, leaving in another bookmark while reading someone else's book, but it's come up before. Was he rude to take it out, or am I being over-sensitive?

Yesterday, a friend asked to borrow a book. He picked a book I had been rereading a while back, that still had my bookmark (a business card of nostalgic importance) inside. Without asking, he tossed away the bookmark, and refused to put it back after repeated requests. Instead he questioned me on why I wanted it in the book, accusing me of being secretive when I didn't go into every detail.

I thought he behaved rudely, so I asked for an apology. Instead, he said that I was being "crazy OCD" and was wrong to be annoyed when he threw away the card.

What is going on??
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What am I missing here? Your friend sounds like an asshole.

From the way you phrase the question, it sounds like you were actually present when he tossed away the bookmark. One could forgive him for removing the bookmark, if he didn't know the importance of the business card, but once you asked him to put it back, it was his obligation to put it back, since you were kind enough to lend the book.

(Your question doesn't entirely make sense; how is this a question about "leaving in another bookmark while reading someone else's book"? Isn't this about "taking out a bookmark that was left there by the book's owner"?)
posted by jayder at 4:55 PM on November 23, 2008

I think it's pretty obvious that you don't throw away other people's stuff without asking. Beyond that, I don't know how we can have a clue what's going on here with just what's presented. Someone is accusing you of being secretive because you marked your page in a book? He refuses to give you back a business card? What? This guy sounds psychotic, but you're friends with him, so there must be something else going on that you're not telling us.
posted by desjardins at 4:55 PM on November 23, 2008

How very peculiar.

Put simply, you're right and he's wrong. It wasn't a dreadful faux pas of his to take out the bookmark if he didn't realise you were going to return to the book, but if you asked him to put the bookmark back, I cannot think of any earthly reason why he shouldn't have complied.

I think you should rescind his book-borrowing privileges.
posted by idiomatika at 4:57 PM on November 23, 2008

He's being a dick. It's your book, and your property. Whenever I come across someone else's bookmark, I'm just careful not to let it fall out, or I remember the page it was on, take it out so it doesn't come out accidentally, and put it back when I'm done. I can't believe that he actually refused to put it back.

You're not "crazy OCD." Buy a new copy of the book, and get a new friend.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2008

I'm very um..particular about my books. I hate people who dog ear them and I HATE people who take out my bookmarks. He is very rude. Its you're book. He wanted to read it. Instead of just saying sorry and putting the bookmark back he starts to act like a little bitch. Don't ever let him borrow a book again.
posted by guniang at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2008

posted by guniang at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2008

... It's a bookmark. Nostalgia aside, he should put it back so you don't lose your place, right?
posted by Xany at 5:02 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

what the fuck?

no, seriously, what the fucking fuck?

from what you've said, the guy's being a dick.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2008

I'd be completely with everyone else in this thread, claiming your friend is totally out of line.... but....

Are you leaving something out? Because your friend's behavior is so weird that it doesn't make sense. I mean, unless there's some huge back story you've left out, your friend sounds downright insane. It makes no sense. It doesn't add up.

So, you've either left out some very important information, or your friend is totally messed up.
posted by Ms. Saint at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

He was rude, but not for taking out your bookmark. Practically speaking, it's kind of a pain to read a book when the pages are split awkwardly due to a bookmark--so the polite thing to do, as far as I'm concerned, is to note the marked page or replace the bookmark with a post-it (or something else that won't get in my way). That said, people who borrow your stuff should humor your requests about how they handle your stuff, and they shouldn't go against your wishes and then call you names. Your friend acted like an ass.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:11 PM on November 23, 2008

Is there romantic tension in this relationship? Because I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't tell your friend you were saving a place. It does seem like you're leaving something out. I would let it go. It's not worth getting upset over. You're still friends, right? It's no big thing.
posted by Fairchild at 5:14 PM on November 23, 2008

It definitely sounds like there is something else going on here. If the question is really as simple as you left a bookmark in a book you were reading and your 'friend' took your bookmark out when he was reading your borrowed book, then yes, you are right to be annoyed that the bookmark was removed.

What I don't get it why you wanting your bookmark back is "secretive" or why your friend didn't understand why you were keeping a bookmark in your partially read book in the first place. It definitely sounds like you're leaving something bigger out of this question.
posted by nerdcore at 5:25 PM on November 23, 2008

I think there's more to the story. Yeah, it's rude, but it also sounds like maybe you might have overreacted to it a bit, since it ended up with him calling you crazy. And obviously you are still upset about the whole thing if you're posting here about it anonymously.

Calm down and take a few breaths. It's a business card from forever ago, I doubt he was willfully trying to destroy you stuff.
posted by smalls at 5:36 PM on November 23, 2008

What was on this business card of nostalgic importance? An old fling or something like that? Sounds to me like that's what's motivating the unreasonable behavior.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:37 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

your friend was rude and his behavior to you was out of line. why are you friends with him?
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2008

this is why i don't lend out a book unless i feel completely comfortable with the idea of never seeing it again. even if he hadn't thrown out your bookmark, there's too high of a likelihood of it getting left on a train or passed on to someone else or accidentally doused in a venti chai latte. hold onto your books and be happy.
posted by missjenny at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

He was very mildly rude to lose your place, rude to throw out your card, very rude to be an asshole about it afterward. You, on the other hand, sound as if you might have started at overreacting and stayed there, and only by the grace of his escalating assholishness working your way into a reasonable reaction.
posted by OmieWise at 6:12 PM on November 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

Totally bizarre. When someone does you the favor of lending you a book, you leave their bookmarks in place, you don't throw them away, and you don't go all paranoid aggro about it.
posted by desuetude at 6:37 PM on November 23, 2008

Wow, that's totally odd. OCD or not, proper manners indicate that if your friend asks you do something harmless - like, not throw away a card or put their bookmark back in their book so that it's oriented to magnetic north, or WHATEVER, even if it seems kind of odd to you, you do it. Generally speaking. Of course this doesn't extend to stuff that requires a lot of investment or effort on your part, but I'd happily replace my friends' bookmarks, align their coasters, or whatever trivial thing would make them happy. I like my friends to be happy and it's certainly not worth fighting about the small shit, which is exactly what this guy wants to do.

Really, what's it to him? Ask him that the next time something like this comes up - "Ok, man, throw away my card, whatever, but why do you care?" Even if you don't get a response, I think it's worth gently pointing out that his behavior is crossing certain lines. Not necessarily major ones, but still, it's irritating.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:49 PM on November 23, 2008

What is going on??

If you often react like this to rather mundane situations, then you're probably just fun to mess with.
posted by hermitosis at 6:59 PM on November 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think Fairchild's on it. My guess is that the friend has that hots for you and feels threatened by or jealous of whomever's business card it is you've been marking a page with.

What's a bookmark to you is a threat to him, which is why he threw it out, and why he's being a total wanker about it now that you've called him on it.

Does he know the person named on this nostalgic business card? Either way, I agree that he's being a dickhead, first for removing your bookmark, then for getting all weird about it.

As far as normal everyday bookmark etiquette goes, I'm no expert on the subject but I'd sure say that the borrower of a book has no business messing with any bookmarks he or she finds in a book that's been loaned. I also think that, if the marker is a business card, $100 bill, or anything else non-traditional that could be used as a bookmark, it would be awful damn nice for the borrower to ask you, "Hey, I found ABC roofing company's business card marking page 623 of Shantaram, do you by chance need that info?"
posted by altcountryman at 7:07 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hate to say it, but if I was your friend, I could see myself chucking a random business card tucked into the pages of a book you lent me, unless I had an explicit warning that you were in the middle of the book, and that I shouldn't lose your place. altcountryman makes a good point about non-traditional bookmark etiquette, though, and I could see myself doing that, too.

Perhaps the assholish behavior after being called out on it was defensiveness? Do you know that he still had the card in his possession when you asked for it back? Maybe he had already chucked it and knew there was nothing he could do about it. That kind of defensive behavior is not exactly decent, but at least it is understandable.

I also am willing to bet there is some sexual tension of some sort going on here, whether you know it or not.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:13 PM on November 23, 2008

Personally, I would never (ever) lend someone a book I was in the middle of reading. I also randomly leave bookmarks in a book that I have finished reading. For this reason, I do not use important things as bookmarks. If your friend has the same habits, then removing the bookmark would be automatic.

The rest of the story is, as mentioned above, weird. Both of you are being weird. And you left out so much information that nobody here can make any more informed statements.
posted by jacalata at 7:34 PM on November 23, 2008

Pretty much agreeing with everyone else -- the guy is a douche bag, for sure. I had a 'friend' like him when I was a kid, a selfish self-centered little prick, always making something normal into a big deal. Over time, I figured out why he acted this way: he was a selfish self-centered little prick. There's better ways to spend your time.

A marginally related aside -- when I was a kid, I was a big-time reader and always had books lying all over the place, open to whatever page, face down; my father would constantly close them up, leave them in the same place. When I asked him why, he said, on more than one occasion, that if I didn't know where I was in the book I wasn't paying attention. To this day I can find my way -- in short order -- to wherever it was I left off reading any book I've set down, even if it's a while later. I prefer not to lose the page, and still lay books face-down, but if/when they get turned about it's not a big deal.

But that is a totally different deal than what you've got shaking with your 'friend'. Wave him goodbye, set out on a new trail, the first stop being to buy yourself a new copy of that book. Tell him he can keep the book, that it's his, paid for by the cost of your friendship. If he starts any shucking and jiving, he can do it alone or with someone dumb enough to hang with a scrotum like him.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:38 PM on November 23, 2008

This sounds like a classic case of younger sibling rivalry. I know you're not siblings, but I would like to wager a guess that you are both younger siblings. One is overreacting to an annoying situation as younger siblings often do, by whining about something trivial. The other is trying to establish dominance because he never had anyone to pick on and sees his opportunity to punk you around. He's probably been waiting his whole life to do this to someone. Since he doesn't really know what he's doing he comes off like a jerk.

Take the zen approach next time and you'll quickly deflate his attempts to fuck with you. If you do it right you can reverse the situation and he'll become the whiner, which will be very entertaining. He's just looking for a reaction. Don't give him one. Either ignore it or a response of "whatever" usually works like a charm in these situations. This will also work if the poster happens to be a younger sibling and the friend an older sibling or only child. One thing that's certain is the poster must be a younger sibling because older siblings just don't care about stuff like that, or if they do they'd NEVER show it. This is advice from an older sibling.
posted by wherever, whatever at 7:43 PM on November 23, 2008

Your friend's behaviour is totally out of line. Removing other people's bookmarks is impolite, throwing them away when asked to put them back is obnoxious, interrogating you about why you deserve to have your bookmark in your book is going into mental disorder territory.

Unless, as others have noted, there's some sort of relationship/jealousy craziness going on here (which elevates it to a special sort of crazy/obnoxious), this is somewhere between "rude and obnoxious" and "dude, you need meds".
posted by rodgerd at 8:04 PM on November 23, 2008

Sounds like your "friend" enjoys pushing your buttons. There is a phrase that I heard once that describes this behavior pattern—it is called "being an asshole."
posted by grouse at 8:42 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know, this is one of those things. There's no hard and fast rule to this; it's something friends negotiate out in the process of their friendship. In my friendship world, someone who behaved the way your friend did would get dropped immediately - I don't have time for jerks like this in my life, the way I did when I was a teenager, for example.

In some folks' world, though, your story makes you out to be the jerk. (These people probably don't read MetaFilter much.)

Are you so starved for friendship that you need to hold on to someone who behaves this way? Figure this out, and, well, there's your answer.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:56 PM on November 23, 2008

When someone does you the favor of lending you a book, you leave their bookmarks in place

If someone lent me a book, I would assume they were not in the middle of reading it, and if they had put a bookmark in the book, I'd probably take it out, if only to use the bookmark to mark my own place while reading. Did your friend know you were still reading the book? Or was the argument more about the importance of the card? And if the card was important, how could your friend know that if you left it in a book you were willing to lend out to a friend? Of course, he should have been understanding when you asked him to put the card back in the book, but I can see where he may have originally gone astray.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:18 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

What's the hidden context to all of this. What's the card about? Are you easy to pick on? Is your relationship with this person normally tense, on the rocks, etc.?
posted by philosophistry at 12:17 AM on November 24, 2008

I think you were both acting freaky.

You: Left something of value in a loaned book? Yikes. Don't do that.

They: Threw something of yours away. However it was a little slip of paper that you left in a loaned book. So why would they assume it was valuable? I would assume that you either would have told me beforehand not to touch it, or taken it out for safe keeping.

This isn't about a bookmark at all. When something this small and stupid as this can cause you to freak out and him to go Grand Inquisitor the two of you with big unresolved issues.

I don't know if the "unrequited love" fan club is exactly right, but they're on to something. You guys need to have a serious talk or stop being friends.
posted by Ookseer at 1:17 AM on November 24, 2008

If I borrowed your book and found anything, anything, in it, I would return it with the book. So of course I think he's being a dick. It's your stuff. He can't decide when to throw it away.
posted by agentwills at 6:41 AM on November 24, 2008

Your "friend" is an asshole. You've lost a card but gained important information.
posted by languagehat at 7:15 AM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Unlike many of the posters before me, this seems less like a secret sexual tension, and more like he doesn't know how to handle his own emotions (and yes, is probably messing with you a little) - you accused him, and he might've felt bad, but perhaps based on the way you brought it up, he acted macho and defensive and now won't back down.

And yeah, it was a dick move, but I don't know if it's really worthy of calling out a friend to his face (as opposed to saying casually, "Hey, next time, save my place.") Is the card so important you'd crab at your pal for ditching it?

I know it's annoying to do, but you need to take the higher road here. Both of you are clinging to the "It's a matter of principle!" attitude, and it's a lose-lose situation. In the future, just keep your valued personal items where nobody can get to them.
posted by lhall at 1:44 PM on November 24, 2008

I've come across many things in books, and never thrown them out. My old bookmarks, other people's bookmarks, receipts, pictures, postcards, flowers... so I am biased, because I happen to enjoy the random archaeology of much-read books. I personally would think long and hard about remaining friends with someone who thoughtlessly tosses something of yours aside right in front of you. No matter how trivial, it's just a weirdly antagonistic thing to do. On the other hand, moving it while reading seems totally reasonable.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:26 PM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

« Older How do I reconcile bisexuality with male...   |   Student can finally eat but can no longer afford... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.