Rather a long post, as tends to be my wont – sorry !
I reckon this not an etiquette issue as such, since in my understanding a person cannot be faulted as regards etiquette, for doing what they want to do with their own property -- if there is no actual breaking of promises which have been made. I am thus posting it in “Time For a Coffee Break” – would be interested in people’s reactions to the situation / deeds and / or thoughts of those involved.
[Background]: I have two brothers, whom I will call Miles and Ivan. Of us three, I’m the eldest, Miles second, Ivan third. Ivan is in the process of moving from one to another part of the country; during the recent months over which this move has been taking place, he has been staying with me at my house; we also envisage him spending intermittent shortish spells of time in the future, here with me. Miles and his family live in the same city as me, a short distance from my place. Miles and his wife Ekaterin have one offspring: their son Alex, aged 17. Miles and Ekaterin seem essentially devoted to each other; but she is very definitely “the one who wears the trousers” in that household. Ivan and Ekaterin are outwardly cordial toward each other, but basically don’t hit it off and don’t like each other all that much. [/Background]
I have virtually no interest in watching television, and do not have a television set. Ivan is a fairly keen telly-watcher. His own television set has gone off to his new place, nearly 200 miles away, to await his full moving-in there. Since its taking that journey, Ivan had been using in my house, a small portable television which he had borrowed from Miles and family, who had long had little or no use for it for themselves. Ivan had more or less taken it for granted that – with Miles’s approval and in-principle agreement, or so he had thought (I don’t think Miles had made any firm, explicit promise) – he would be able to keep the small portable, stationed at my house: and that he’d be able to watch it on future stays of his at my place (and that I could use it on any rare occasion when there might be something that I’d like to watch). Miles and family had, as stated, no use for the set for themselves; and in Ivan’s perception, Miles had seemed happy enough to let Ivan effectively “inherit” it.
Last weekend, Miles rather abruptly asked Ivan immediately to return the portable television to him and his family. (Miles is basically good-hearted, but not the most socially smooth of people – “abrupt” is his standard procedure – and he tends to be somewhat ungenerous.) It turned out that the reason was as follows: young Alex has (they met a few months ago) an as-it-were “non-girlfriend”, Elli. She is several years older than him, and at university – Alex is not yet at that stage in life. I gather that he would wish to have a rel*tionship with her, but recognises that that is unlikely to happen, and settles for their enjoying each other’s company and doing much hanging out together. (Elli already has a steady boyfriend, her own age or older, who is however in the military, and thus often not on the scene.) Elli shares a house with several fellow-students, and it had emerged that they had a lack of, and a wish to have, a portable television of the kind which Miles and family own, and Ivan has been using. Miles’s taking back of the appliance, was in order to give it to Elli and housemates. Ivan was rather taken aback, and his response to Miles was along the lines of, “Dude, what the heck?”. Miles’s rejoinder was, approximately, a rueful “orders from the wife”. (Ekaterin does utterly dote on Alex, and is usually super-eager to give him anything that he does, or might, want.)
The television was duly handed back to Miles and family – there being really no alternative. All quite peaceable, and far short of angry scenes or threatened wrecking of fraternal relations. Ivan, though – while seeing intellectually, that Miles & Co. have the right to do whatever they want, with an item that belongs to them – admits to feeling a bit sore at Miles’s having seemingly, under wifely coercion, prioritised over his own brother: some random girl (plus her housemates, whom Miles has not even met) on whom his son happens to have a hopeless younger-guy crush. Ivan has been wondering: is it wrong and special-snowflaky of him to feel this way about the situation (other than in the privacy of his own skull, giving no sign of his annoyance to anyone else); or are his sentiments understandable, and many people in his position would be likely to feel as he does?