In 2010, Annabell Acton broke up with her longtime boyfriend five days before Christmas. Like millions of those who came before her, and millions sure to come after, Acton wanted nothing around her that reminded her of the heartbreak. Not the plane tickets to London for the trip they were supposed to take together. Not the concert tickets to a show she wouldn’t want to see without him. Not the artwork they bought together or the jewelry he gave her.
In the new year, she decided to get rid of it all. It took her almost a year. A fire may have been faster, but Acton took a slightly more savvy route. She built and launched an Etsy-like Web site where lovelorn memories could be put up for sale. Hers were some of the first to go.
NeverLikedItAnyway.com was launched in December with a mix of heartbroken sellers posting their goods for sale, alongside recaps of their sad tangos with love. The site became a cathartic coming together with a cash prize at the end.
As long as boys have been meeting girls, people have sought advice, condolences and a space to vent, but Acton’s site, as well as another recently launched Tumblr blog, turns heartache into action, imbuing it with humor.
On Acton’s site, sellers can name the real-world price and the much-discounted break-up price. They can chose cartoon characters to represent their stage of grief. They can write a short anger-fueled description or a proud I-got-over-it tale. Alongside the postings of wedding dresses worn once and engagement rings, the stories veer between sorrowful and amusing and “I just can’t look at it anymore.” “This was my dream dress . . . but was not worn with the dream man!”
Acton said she wanted people to come together in sorrow, but also be able to laugh a little over the shared experience of failed relationships. She based her site in part on the humor and honesty of Texts From Last Night, a site that collects shameful, hilarious and heartbreaking text messages — all in the name of communal experience-relishing. It’s still too early to tell if NeverLikedItAnyway will grow as a business, but Acton says she has seen a supportive, open-armed response to the lovelorn postings.
On Tumblr, a similar project was launched late last year. Daniel Handler, a writer known for his irreverence, created The Why We Broke Up Project to promote his newest young-adult novel, “Why We Broke Up.” Handler, who occasionally goes by the name Lemony Snicket, asks people to finish the sentence “We broke up because . . . ” He assumes a new-age Dear Abby persona for some of the posts, only with sardonic wit made famous in his “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books. For example:
Poster: “I didn’t wash the dishes apparently . . . oh and you slept with someone else.”
Handler: “Temptations are like dirty dishes. There are some who leave them alone, scarcely noticing how many have piled up. And there are some who must do them right away.”
Acton wanted to sell her breakup relics as part of the healing process. Similarly, Handler likely wanted to sell his new book, but the Tumblr also “enable[s] all of our heartbreak to reach critical mass, so that, unlike [his ex], it will never bother us again,” Handler writes.
Love may hurt something awful, but a little laughing among strangers online feels surprisingly good.