This was the fifth annual “Shred Your Ex” at D.C.’s Bottom Line bar, where the lovelorn came to settle old scores, at least in their own minds, and put the past behind them. The event is part of a popular Anti-Valentine’s Day movement of parties, gatherings and even merchandise that’s gained steam in recent years. Some are protesting what they call the consumerist Romance Industrial Complex. Others celebrate Feb. 14 as “Singles Awareness Day.”
They want the world to know that Americans are increasingly living alone and that many are perfectly fine without love, thank you very much. And, of course, those unlucky in love are big players in the movement. They’re the ones buying the balloons that say, “I’m Not With Stupid Anymore”; the T-shirts that announce, “Love Is for Losers”; and the cards with sad, gray hearts that read, “Sigh.”
Joya Patel, 23, of Burke clutched a black-and-white photocopy of a picture of a chiseled man wearing only tight, black shorts and striking a bodybuilder’s pose. “I know, he’s hot, right?” she nodded to onlookers as she approached the shredder perched on the end of the bar. “I wanted it to work out, but it didn’t. He blew it.”
She dramatically raised the photo of the man she said she’d dated over the summer, who used to send her flirty texts and leave sweet and sexy sticky notes on her locker at the gym. She fed the picture into the maws of the shredder, and in an instant it was torn to bits, like her heart had been.
She pumped her fist in the air and let out a howl. “WHOOO!”
The crowd cheered.
Sitting directly in front of the shredder, Ivan Aguilar, 28, clapped wildly. He himself had shredded an old love a few years ago. “It felt good to shred her name to pieces. We’d been together for three years, then broke up over something really stupid. It was like a release,” he said. “Then I met my current girlfriend here.”
He smiled at Ashleigh Delaney, 24, who was sitting next to him, fiddling with the gold heart she wore on a necklace.
Is she the one?
“I really hope so,” Aguilar said.
And just as Aguilar found new love after he’d shredded the old one, this year’s shredders hold out the same hope. Despite their wounds, they said they still believe in love.
“That guy treated me like a summer fling, and I’m wife material,” Patel said after the shredding, downing her sorrows with a shot, offered on the house to every shredder. It was a bright pink concoction of raspberry vodka, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and grenadine, called the Heartbreaker. “I’m looking for a soul mate.”
“Me, too,” said her friend, Tessa Jarrett, 22, of Fairfax. Jarrett had shredded a photo of her off-and-on ex of six years. “I don’t know how I’ll meet him. It could be anywhere. Maybe here, maybe at Wal-Mart. . . .”