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Six Unseen Items From L.A.’s Museum of Broken Relationships

The museum’s curators pull a few favorite objects from their archives

Burning the mixtape your ex-boyfriend gave you is so passé — now there’s a new option for all those items imbued with heartbreak.

The Museum of Broken Relationships first opened in Zagreb, Croatia in 2006 as a place where the heartbroken could donate items that meant the most to their former relationships. Since then, a traveling exhibit has become a true museum. And just this past month, the museum opened a location in Hollywood — in the old Frederick’s of Hollywood spot on Hollywood Boulevard, nonetheless — for Angelenos alike to donate items and tell the stories that go along with them.

In honor of L.A.’s Museum of Broken Relationships, we asked Director Alexis Hyde and the museum’s curators to chose a few never-before-seen items from the collection and share them with MEL, along with notes from their owners.

Photos by Erika Paget

Love Letter Piñata

Relationship length: September 1998 – January 2001
Location: Los Angeles, California and New York, New York

I dated an actor/musician long-distance for two and a half years. He would never hold my hand in public. It’s still the best sex I ever had, even though he has a small penis. A few years after we broke up, I made a piñata from all his love letters. I know it’s a cliche, but it made sense at the time. It’s hung in my kids room since 2007 and my husband rolls his eyes whenever he has to dust it.

Orange Frisbee

Relationship length: June 2006 — August 2006
Location: Hillsboro, Oregon

It was the beginning of the summer.
She was younger.
He was older.
She had never had a boyfriend.
He had a girlfriend back home.

They discovered a mutual love for books and Ultimate Frisbee.
Soon, they became inseparable.
They played Ultimate Frisbee constantly: in casual pick-up games; with scrappy local leagues; even at a tournament a country over.
To every game, he brought his orange Frisbee.

Frisbees, and sparks, flew.

Nothing happened, until one night, something did.
It was complicated.
It always is.
The morning after, they awoke to the sound of the radio.
“If ever you’re in my arms again, this time I’ll hold you forever…”
Neither was certain what the night had meant or what it would mean.

The week flew by.
It was the end of the summer.
It was the end of her internship.
He took a permanent marker and scribbled a note on his beloved Frisbee.
A parting gift.

Next time, will it be forever?

Flip-Flops

Relationship length: 2007 – 2015
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

We dated for eight years. He told my sister he was going to propose in December and by February he realized he did not love me any more. I was broken for almost a year and walking with his flip-flops so I would not feel abandoned. Now I know it’s over and I am ready to move on and start walking on my own.

Chewed-On Keychain

Relationship length: Late 1990s – early 2000s
Location: United States and England

I’ve been wracking my brains to think of an object. I was at a loss. I was locking the door of my office when I looked down at my keychain…it was given to me by a girlfriend nearly 15 years ago. Our relationship ended very badly. I accused her of feigning serious illness to get attention, of emotional manipulation, of lying about a lot of things in life. She accused me of traveling too much, leading her on, being an unemotional meathead.

So it ended badly. She moved out of the apartment. We cut all contact. I deleted any photos I had of her. But for some reason, I didn’t get rid of the keychain. Maybe I just liked it. Maybe I am an unemotional, unsentimental meathead. The keychain gradually lost any significance to me; just became a keychain. Giving it up has made me wonder what she’s doing now. But not to question. I’m very happy we split. And I feel nothing giving this away.

Drawings of the End of the Job

Relationship length: 1981–1999
Location: Verona, Pennsylvania

I first volunteered and then was hired to work at a shelter for domestic violence victims. I worked with the children. I eventually ran a project that provided mental health counseling to them. I recruited professionals to work pro bono — psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers — to come to our facility to help the kids. I did Play Therapy with very young children myself. The head of the Children’s Program was an abuser herself — a tyrant — to the staff.

When she took medical leave for surgery, I was put in charge of the department. The staff thanked me for making life bearable for those 8 weeks. We decided as a group that when she returned and if she began her abusive treatment of us during staff meetings, as a group, we would walk out of the meeting. One of the staff told her of this plan but lied and said we would walk out of the PLAYROOM leaving the kids unattended. I was fired because I was believed to be the ringleader.

This breakup was more devastating than my divorce because it involved so many and so much of the behavior the shelter professed to be trying to overcome in society. Another of the staff was fired at this time and she filed a lawsuit against them. Our boss would yell at that woman in our staff meetings till she’d get her to regress to her stuttering behavior of her childhood. The boss would laugh and announce, “Watch me get her to stutter!”

The agency settled her lawsuit. During the depositions for this suit, I was called to testify. After stating my version of what had transpired, the boss was told to resign. Therefore, she left with none of the stigma that I took away. The staff was warned not to associate with me or risk being fired themselves. So not only did I lose my job and economic security, I lost my reputation and social circle. It has taken me years to gain back all that I lost from those women who alleged to stop abuse and violence in our society. (At the time I drew pictures of what had happened. They are crude drawings in marker, but reflect the job I was doing with young kids and the story.)

Commissioned Cat Painting

Relationship length: Six months
Location: Hollywood, California

We met on Valentine’s Day. I was immediately smitten by her… she was smart and funny and beautiful. Unfortunately for me, I was just an experiment for her. She wasn’t really into girls. We lasted about six months before she dumped me, the day I was going out of town for work for several weeks (so that she wouldn’t have to see me right after the breakup). I had just ordered for her birthday a custom portrait of her cat…It arrived in my mailbox about a month later. I liked the painting, even though it was of her cat, so I scratched off the cat’s name and hung it in my hallway. It still hangs there, 10 years later.

I really loved that cat.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is now open in Hollywood, California.