The Pickled Wedding Dress

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My wedding gown has been folded up in a cardboard box since 1991. Even though I designed it and had it custom made just for me, I didn’t bother having it preserved. Of course I’ve thought about throwing it away, yet as the most beautiful dress I have ever worn, I can’t quite bring myself to take it out to the curb.

My daughter doesn’t want it either and I don’t blame her a bit. I suppose I could donate it, but there is that superstitious part of me that worries residual bad luck might rub off on the starry-eyed bride that wears it next. So it remains in storage, still dusted with odd bits of confetti that well-wishers showered upon me 25 years ago.

So I’ve had zero ideas on what to do with my gown. Until I saw the Pickled Wedding Dress.

Now on exhibit at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles is a silk floral wedding dress crammed in a pickle jar. It is owned by a San Francisco woman whose husband told her that he felt “stuck” in their seven-year marriage and “probably” didn’t love her anymore.

“He’s been gone a year and I haven’t really known what to do with the dress,” writes the anonymous owner. “Every option has felt wrong. I hate throwing perfectly functional items in landfills and would hate to see someone walking around in my once beautiful but now sadness-infused dress.”

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She goes on to say that she didn’t like looking at it either, so she stuffed it down inside a jar “mostly for space reasons but any sort of appropriate pickle metaphors can also be invoked.” Truly inspired.

The Museum of Broken Relationships, which opened earlier this month, has 115 heartbreaking artifacts from jilted lovers – a case filled with mixtapes, a ripped-out payphone, a dried-out prom corsage, excised silicone breast implants, even an ax that one woman used to destroy her cheating husband’s furniture – along with the story behind each of them.

And in case you’re wondering, the museum is open to receiving future donations, too: “Have you ever had a broken heart? If you’ve wished to unburden the emotional load by erasing everything that reminds you of that painful experience by throwing it all away – don’t. Give it to us,” the curators plead. “Donate your object to the museum and take part in the creation of collective emotional history.”

According to the museum’s director, their graveyard of grief receives 10 to 20 new items every day.

Why do we bother holding on to relationship rubble – those love letters, stuffed animals, ticket stubs and other trivial keepsakes left behind in the wake of a break up? It’s probably for the same reason we retain souvenirs of the places we’ve visited: to prove we were once really there.

Although I still have my old wedding dress, it’s not for a sentimental reason but rather, a practical one (how the heck do I dispose of it?). After all, I had no problem clean-sweeping the house of any traces of my ex in what has become known as The Great Purge of 2011. We threw out so much stuff that my shell-shocked son still refuses to call “decluttering” anything but “the d-word.”

Honestly, the only things that remain of my 20-year marriage aside from the dress are photo albums, and a cute hand-painted vase I bought on a beach in Puerto Vallarta 22 years ago. I keep it not to remind me of my ex, but of the only time I’ve been on a winter vacation. In the aftermath of my marriage, I found very little worth saving.

IMG_3068What I think is most interesting about the Museum of Broken Relationships is that it puts the raw emotion of being dumped under glass – or inside glass, in the case of the Pickled Wedding Dress. These are just ordinary objects that mean absolutely nothing to anyone except the person who donated it for the world to see. And yet, it’s painfully obviously that these items are so much bigger and more significant than what first meets the eye, just as a pickle jar can barely contain the totality of that woman’s heartache.

Each strangely intimate, cringe-inducing museum exhibit is an opportunity for its donor to receive a sense of catharsis or closure – and for visitors to get a sense that even after love ends, life goes on.

“Hopefully, you can look back and know that even if it didn’t work out, it contributed to who you are today,” says the museum’s director. “We’re all failing together and we’re all trying to get back up together. And that, I think, is very beautiful.”

What relationship rubble do you continue to hold on to? Why did you choose to preserve it? And what the heck do you think I should I do with my old wedding dress?

 

4 thoughts on “The Pickled Wedding Dress

  1. Fab post. My mum made my wedding dress for me. And when my daughter was born, my mum used my dress to make her christening rob. So even though my wedding dress no longer exists, its sentimental associations are now attached to my daughters dress. It was going to become a family heirloom (especially as my mum had made it). But now I’m torn. I want to treasure it, but keeping it will always remind me of my wedding day. A tough one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get that. I do like the idea of taking scissors to the dress and repurposing it, but I also wonder if those negative associations will carry over. Thank you for posting!

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  2. I donated my dress last year. But look in your area for a group that makes dresses for still born babies and babies who do not live long after birth. They take wedding dresses and make gowns and outfits for the babies and donate to the families for their baby. I wish I had known about it when before I donated mine.

    I don’t have anything really that I can think of from when me and my ex husband was together. There maybe a few things here and there but I got rid of furniture and everything after that. I cleared the house out and started over. I do have one thing from my daughters dad that is still hanging around that is a a cross in my truck that hangs from the mirror. There are two hanging from it, one has been in every care I have had. The other my Little Bitty’s dad gave me when we first got together out of his because my other was in my other car we were talking about it and he put it in there. I’m down to one truck so they both hang in it now. It has nothing to do with him giving it to me but more to do with what do you do with it? It isn’t something someone else would want, it would probably end up in the trash. But it just seems wrong to me to throw away a cross. So it just hangs there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the suggestion! I have heard about those angel groups locally. Shortly after I posted the blog, I received a very kind offer to take the dress taken off my hands so a talented seamstress can recycle (upcycle?) it into new items of use for families.

      Liked by 1 person

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