Theme XI: Modern Love, “The Things About Love”

By Emily Bellor

People process their love for each other through things. Take the Museum of Broken Relationship. It describes itself as “[offering] a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the museum’s collection.” People donate their (or perhaps the leftovers of a former significant other) personal belongings—the “ruins” of old relationships—to the museum, and some achieve a kind of catharsis. A variety of objects fill the archives: an axe, fuzzy handcuffs, a teddy bear, a glass horse. Under each donation is listed the length and location of the relationship and a brief description of the circumstances behind it. One individual describes their “ex axe”, a “therapeutic instrument” they bought after their girlfriend left them for another woman while they were on vacation:

I finally bought this axe at Karstadt to blow off steam and to give her at least a small feeling of loss – which she obviously did not have after our break-up…every day I axed one piece of her furniture. I kept the remains there, as an expression of my inner condition. The more her room filled with chopped furniture acquiring the look of my soul, the better I felt.

It’s extraordinary, really, that the destruction of furniture allowed this person to heal. But what would appear an innocent couch to a bystander was irreversibly tethered to the ex-girlfriend, and only through its destruction and banishment could she, too, be banished from their heart. These things, for these people, cannot hope to escape their histories, by virtue of being donated in the first place they are so clearly manifestos of love past. The woman who donated the teddy bear kept it for a long-time in her closet because she claims, “it wasn’t him who hurt me, but the idiot who left him behind”. Yet she still genders and therefore humanizes the bear as “he”, like her ex-paramour—perhaps the bear is not as detached from him as she thinks.

I experienced this transference with my last relationship. After I was dumped, suddenly everything became a reminder of her—I couldn’t even enter the West 4th St subway station (a frequent meeting site of ours) without being overcome with melancholy. I wrote a poem about all the things that have become her, now that she is gone:
Koala bears
The D-train
OkCupid
My black strapless bra
Cabaret, the musical
(the ticket and the playbill, too)

The list goes on, and I’m not the only one who’s written thing-based break-up poetry. Via the hashtag #breakuppoetry, heartbroken millennials have updated classic poems to fit their broken relationship needs. BuzzFeed compiled some of the more notable poems, and a number of them center on the returning of an ex’s belongings: “woman, I bid thee, hither not forth/ I’ve assembled all your belongings upon the front porch.” Or just throwing them away, as in this clever Frost bastardization: “two roads diverged/ in a yellow wood/ that’s where I left all your stuff”. (Pugachevsky)

On the other hand, not all things have to be dismal representations of lost people, relationships, and love. In yet another BuzzFeed love poetry expedition, things have a way of weaving their significance into happy, current relationships too: “two souls,/ one Costco club card” and:
I love you not only
for what you are,
but for your
HBO GO password as well. (Epstein, La Rosa)

are a few examples. The procuring of objects with another, the sharing of things like passwords and money, represents closeness, trust and intimacy. Buying a house together, for instance, is considered to be a great milestone in a relationship, the jointly-purchased house is viewed by friends, family and even the couple themselves as a trophy. This is how we care for each other. These are the winn(th)ings of love.

“About”. Museum of Broken Relationships.
“An Ex Axe”. Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb.
Epstein, Leonora and Erin La Rosa. “11 Modern Valentine’s Poems We All Need”. BuzzFeed, tabtabFeb. 12, 2015.
“‘I love you’ Teddy bear”. Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb.
Pugachevsky, Julia. “Thirteen Breakup Poems That Say It Better Than You Ever Could”. tabtabBuzzfeed, Aug. 26, 2014.

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