Ask Yourself: Why do we hold onto relics from past relationships?

Photographed by Carla Richmond Coffing from the collection "Lovers' Shirts"
Photographed by Carla Richmond Coffing from the collection “Lovers’ Shirts”

I made the joke to my brother—

“It’s like the Museum of Broken Relationships,” I said, gesturing to my dresser. On top of it, among framed pictures, sat a ceramic cup and a candle.

The ceramic cup was from Ex Numero Uno. He’d gone to some sort of art fair and painted the cup in various shades of green, blue, and orange that all sort of…melted together. He wasn’t much of an artist—he could barely manage a stick-figure—but I thought it was endearing. At the time. Now, it sat there as a reminder of the boy who broke my heart twice over the period of two years.

The candle was from Ex Numero Dos—a Christmas gift, never lit. It had a forest pine smell. Little did he know that I don’t not like candles. I don’t like fire, really, and I have no desire to allow an open flame to flicker around in the middle of my living room. So there it sat on my dresser, a reminder of the boy who never listened.

These are two of many pieces of my ex-boyfriends that I have kept. Letters. Mix CDs. Movie tickets. All of these things that I cannot seem to throw away…that I can’t seem to let go of.

Recently, I read an article on the Huffington Post called, “’Lovers Shirts’ Photo Series Explores the Sad Beauty of Breakups.” The article discussed the collaboration between photographer Carla Richmond Coffing and writer Hanne Steen titled “Lovers’ Shirts’”–a project that explores how many people wear their ex’s shirts after they’ve left.

 The project asks fundamental questions about loss and longing, says Steen: “How do we attach meaning and feeling to a piece of clothing? What sense of security, ownership, identity, and intimacy do our lovers’ shirts inspire in us? How could something so basic be imbued with so much energy? What is the relationship between letting go of an inanimate object such as a t-shirt, and letting go of the intangible ties to a lover?”

And these are the questions I’d like you, readers, to consider.

Often, I feel the urge to extinguish all remnants of my past relationships in some sort of grand spectacle—a bonfire fueled by old love letters, for instance. But I could never bring myself to do that…because all of these bits and pieces are a part of our stories and those stories, despite the sad endings, are incredibly valuable. And as much pain and anger as they may summon within me, I do not want to forget them. While that person, that love, that relationship is lost, gone, the memories will always be mine.

Post submitted by JoAnna



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