The Museum of Broken Relationships

Museum of Broken Relationships

I heard about Zagreb's Museum of Broken Relationships located in Croatia, on the drive in this morning. It's on my 100 List of things to see before I exit.

I don't have anything tangible, mementos or otherwise, from my first marriage, save for a few black and white fashion photographs, which I gave to my daughter. I buried the ring in the field behind my house, gave the few shared possessions that were left behind to the goodwill. I burned my wedding dress and certificate. Yes, very dramatic.

A few months after my divorce was finally final, I was invited to a Native American fire ceremony. I had no idea what to expect other than I was instructed to bring something for the fire. I brought my wedding dress, hat, and marriage certificate.

My wedding dress and hat were a modern interpretation of a Coco Chanel 1930's dress, designed by a local fashion designer. The dress was tea-length and was made from cream silk jersey. The hat looked like a combo of beret and pill box. I wore three strands of waist length pearls. My hair was cropped to a chin length bob. I carried a single calla lily,and we stood between two Doric columns while the Mormon bishop pronounced us married. He was a sweet man who had a speech impediment that reminded me of a flustered Elmer Fudd. Anytime I see clips of the marriage scene from the Princess Bride, it takes me back to my own.

Fast forward ten years, post divorce, to the fire ceremony. When I arrived, the bonfire was at its height. I knew a couple there so I stood by them. The participants were asked to gather in a circle around the fire and make a statement about the piece we had brought, and were now giving to the fire as a break with whatever it represented to us. Everyone threw their articles into the fire and we watched as they burned. Some cried. Some screamed. Really screamed. I remember I wasn't emotional at all, which is unusual for me.

I don't remember exactly what I said when I threw my dress and hat into the fire, but a man standing next to me tried to negotiate the hat. He wanted it. I loved that hat, too, but in the fire it went. Afterwards, he said he could have gone in after it.

I think if I were to donate something to the Museum of Broken Relationships from that marriage, it would have to be the ring I buried, but it's still somewhere in the rich soil behind my house. When my daughter was very young, I found her out digging in the dirt with her beach shovel and pail, looking for it.

Perhaps someday, it will unearth itself. I hardly care.

What would you donate to the museum?

Here's a brief description from the website:
The Museum of Broken Relationships grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins. Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum's collection.

Whatever the motivation for donating personal belongings – be it sheer exhibitionism, therapeutic relief, or simple curiosity – people embraced the idea of exhibiting their love legacy as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony. Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect. In the words of Roland Barthes in A Lover's Discourse: "Every passion, ultimately, has its spectator... (there is) no amorous oblation without a final theater."

Conceptualized in Croatia by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, the Museum has since toured internationally, amassing an amazing collection. Although often colored by personal experience, local culture and history, the exhibits presented here form universal patterns offering us to discover them and feel the comfort they can bring. Hopefully they can also inspire our personal search for deeper insights and strengthen our belief in something more meaningful than random suffering.

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