Wednesday, 24 August 2011

In which heartbreak hurts too much for display

Being in London most days a week, the plethora of opportunities never fails to amaze me. Whether you want to have dinner in the dark or take a walk around sites mentioned by Samuel Pepys, you’re catered for.

It was as I was glancing over the Times over tea recently, as I do most mornings, that I came across an article on a new exhibition that’s just opened in London.

So far, so unremarkable.

But what caught my eye was the exhibition’s subject, because I can’t think of a theme that would be much more heartbreaking to showcase. In The Museum of Broken Relationships, each item on display is a symbol of a relationship that’s gone wrong.

Whether it’s a Valentine’s gift from someone who was ultimately cheating on their partner, or a now-discarded wedding dress, I think I’d find the whole thing far too depressing.

I can quite easily see how the collection came to pass. I’m a huge hoarder of sentimental nick knacks; bits and pieces that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but are – for some reason – important to me.

I don’t know why. It’s not as if the receipt from the first-date dinner I had with The Writer is any more important in the grand scheme of things than any of the other receipts from any of the other dinners: the one we had to celebrate his new job, perhaps; or the one that coincided with the first time he told me he loved me – or, actually, anything else that we’ve done since. And yet it’s there, in a little box, along with a variety of other peculiarly mundane objects that have some strange sentimental hold over me.

Whether it’s because they represent something that’s come to be phenomenally important to me, or to act as an aide memoir to my increasingly terrible powers of recall, I couldn’t tell.

Really, there’s not an awful lot of point: I have precious little storage space in my house as it is (the Le Creuset habit needs to come to an abrupt stop before I have to start storing casserole dishes in my airing cupboard), and I’m sure, at some stage, in order to remember what each individual trinket means, I’ll have to start scrawling notes on the back of them like I do expense receipts. Which rather takes the romance out of the whole thing.

But whilst I can squirrel away mementos for no one other than me to ponder over occasionally when I’m feeling particularly sentimental, I don’t think I’d ever want to see a collection amassed by someone else of other people’s keepsakes.

Love, when you’re in it and you have it and enjoy it, is incredible, soul-enriching, life-affirming. But I don’t think there’s anything in the world more painful than the gap it leaves when it’s gone. Hundreds of tokens of that lost love would be heartbreaking to behold. So as moving and beautiful and endlessly curious as it may be, I think this is one of those things that I might leave to the harder of heart.


Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Ah! I saw this advertised and wanted to go and see it. Good reminder!

I'm a bit of a hoarder. Receipts, tickets, cards, gifts, all that stuff gets put in boxes. I can't go through the stuff from the recent ex yet, but another box from the one before I can.

Most things I keep are pretty unremarkable and wouldn't make sense to anyone other than me. But I wonder what people browsing the museum would make of my wooden giraffe, where one ex had sanded down the markings and written on it in biro after an argument. I reckon it'd fit right in.

nuttycow said...

What a hideously depressing exhibition - one to miss for me, I think.

I still have a trinkets box with all sorts of odds and ends from my various crushes of the past (including, for some reason, rocks picked up from various beach walks. They all have dates and places written on them but I can't for the life of me remember who I was with at the time!) and I think keeping these kind of memories is fine. As long as, if the relationship ends, they don't open up wounds you want healed. If they do, time to get rid, I think.

Blonde said...

PDEWYMO: You're made of sterner stuff than I am. And I'm only a hoarder of stuff whilst I'm in the relationship. Once the relationship goes, so does the stuff. I think that's why I find the thought of the exhibition so tough.

Nuttycow: I think you're the only person who's shared my view so far. Clearly we're just wusses! x

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