As Kim Kardashian contemplates the fate of her 20.5 carat wedding ring from her collapsed 72-day marriage (that’s roughly a third of a carat earned for every day she spent as Mrs. Kris Humphries), millions more of us across the globe contemplate, liquidate or celebrate the decidedly less valuable spoils of a relationship soured.
For me, the most precious of all the hundreds of talismans of affection I received during a nearly six-year relationship (now defunct) is a small brass pillbox covered in swirling paisley filigrees. I used it recently on a business trip to San Francisco. It was tucked inside one of my traveling cosmetic bags, which I carry on short trips like the ones he and I took frequently to Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Austin, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. during what I felt was the smooth course of our relationship.Small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, the box opens to two white molded plastic compartments where I placed the pills I continue to take daily since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. And only weeks ago, I reached that five-year milestone that proclaims my cure. He was not there to celebrate.
Still, this pillbox reminds me of how I felt soul quenchingly loved for a long stretch of time. That is until we reached a point where neither one of us felt understood. He was generous, yes, because that was his nature. He surprised me often with shoes, jewelry, lingerie — some items so pole-dancer obvious I wondered when or where I would wear the six-inch, black suede boots or the backless, chiffon, snakeskin-print dress — not at the university where I teach or anywhere in the vicinity of my three sons or their friends.
Kim Kardashian claims she is donating the cashed out-equivalent of her wedding gifts, which are estimated to be worth between $172,000 to $200,000, to The Dream Foundation. Hundreds and hundreds of tear-soaked entries on breakupsurvivor.com jam the chat room with declarations, missives, and pleas for advice. The 2012 Statistical Abstract for the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world, at 4.95 divorces per 1,000 people. It all adds up to a lot of heartache and unwanted treasure to sort through, throw out, give away, donate, or cherish.
At first after my breakup, I did what most exes do, and hurriedly heaped most of the booty in a discard pile—giving some to close friends or nieces. Others I placed in bags and boxes and drove to the Goodwill drop-off center. I kept a few things—the black embroidered skirt I wear frequently, the perfect black sweater, the stylish fur-collared brown tweed coat, the necklaces, and his mother’s earrings that remind me of her and the talks we had at her home in Michigan before she passed away.
Immediately I kneejerk registered on exboyfriendjewelry.com, where former partners can buy and sell the tokens of love and apology in categories from rings to “gifts that should have been jewelry.” On the site registered survivors post items like a cashmere wool peacoat with the required explanation: “My ex sent this to me for a Valentine’s gift before dumping me to go back to his ex-wife.” Another accompanies an item with the posting, “He’s gone, now they’re going.” I registered, but never followed up.
It is not that I am ungrateful. Because of the way he treated me I felt adored, even if I knew probably more than subconsciously that he in turn adored only the weekend/evening part of me. We did not live together and managed distinctly separate lives at separate addresses, spending our Fridays and Saturday nights together ritually. During the week, he lived a bachelor life with his two dogs at his own house 15 miles away from mine. His teenaged daughter was away at school or living with her mother and stayed perhaps two dozen nights a year with him; now she is grown.