Why Do You Think I Want Your Hand-Me-Downs?

March 17, 2011 | By | Comments (1)


This is a question one of my friends is dying to ask her next-door neighbor. But she’s not sure how to pose it—or even whether it’s appropriate to ask—without sounding as rude as the neighbor who foisted the stuff on her in the first place. Here’s what happened:

Bag-of-clothes_300 The other day, the next-door neighbor bumped into my friend’s husband in the hallway outside their two apartments. “Oh, I’m glad I saw you because I have something for you,” the neighbor said, disappearing into her foyer and returning with a bag of stuff. “My boys grew out of these jeans, and these two helmets, and I thought your son might want them.”

A few seconds later, this conversation occurred inside my friend’s apartment.

My Friend: What is this stuff you dumped on the couch?

Husband: Hand me downs. From next door. Didn’t she tell you she was giving it to us?
My Friend: No, and what are we supposed to do with jeans since our son doesn’t like to wear jeans?
Husband: Dunno.
My Friend: And why would we need helmets?
Husband: [shrugs]
But wait. There’s more to this story. A few days later, the next-door neighbor sends her husband over to tell my friend that she wants one of the helmets back! It turns out that one of her friends’ children wants “the good one.”

How rude is that? Not only does she force unwanted hand-me-downs on my friend without asking first if she has a use for them, but then she takes back one item to give it to someone she likes better.

So now my friend is the recipient of (1) a bag of old jeans that her boy wouldn’t want to wear even if they did fit him; and (2) the worse of two old helmets.

“What should I do?” she asked me. “Should I take it to Goodwill?”

“Well, you could,” I said, “but then you’re just doing the lazy neighbor’s work for her.” Clearly, the neighbor pawned the stuff off on my friend to avoid lugging the bag over there herself.

“Why don’t you put it out on the landing, in her bag, next to your garbage bin?” I suggested, figuring that then the building’s super can take the clothes if he wants them, for a boy in his family, or else pass them along to someone else who could use them.

“But then my neighbor will see I put it out next to the garbage!” she said.

“That’s the idea,” I said.

“But then she’ll never speak to me again,” my friend said.


That was the sound of me thinking, “Well, if it was my neighbor, I wouldn’t want her to speak to me again.”

But maybe I’m just feeling cranky and cantankerous because it’s the end of a long winter in New York City (my first here in many years). Maybe someone else has a better, more gracious solution to this problem? 

If so, please suggest it! What should my neighbor do to resolve the Case of the Unwanted Hand-Me-Downs?

(image courtesy of Realsimple.com)