Leave The Man But Keep The Presents: What Do You Do With Gifts From An Ex?

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In the midst of my biannual closet purge, I came across the shirt.

It’s a turquoise tunic, with a v-neck and ruche around the chest part. It was never my favorite shirt as I don’t like things that accentuate my disproportionately sized bosom, but it was a gift from a guy I dated nearly seven years ago. He had broken my unspoken “don’t ever buy me clothes” rule and tried his hand at purchasing something I’d like. And I did like it….mostly because he bought it.  There has always been something so wonderful to me about getting a gift from a guy. Not because I can’t buy stuff for myself, but because it’s evidence that some guy was out there in society without me, yet thinking of me enough to buy me something.

When I spied the shirt hanging in my closet the other day, I could hardly believe it was still there. Since he and I broke up, I’ve worn the shirt once and I’ve moved no less than eight times. I’ve sold clothes to Plato’s Closet and donated tons more to Goodwill. Some clothes I’ve simply tossed in the trash. How did this shirt survive all of that?

For a while, I’m sure I hung on to the shirt for sentimental reasons. I believed him to be my first love and probably the only guy I ever dated who I didn’t hate post-breakup. Though we didn’t see each other much after we amicably split, I couldn’t bear to throw the shirt away. A therapist might say I was hanging onto the shirt during my single days because, even though I knew we were over, the shirt reminded me that I had love in my life once; and I didn’t want to lose that feeling. (Not that I’ve ever been to a therapist, but sometimes I imagine how one would respond to my neurosis.) As time went on thus giving more reason to get rid of the shirt, I think I just felt bad. There was nothing wrong with it and throwing it away seemed mean. Not to mention that, for me, hoarding gifts from loves gone by was typical.

There was a time when I kept everything I’d ever gotten from a boy I liked. It started in middle school when my “boyfriend” and I used to pass notes in class and in the hallways. Only God knows what we had so much to talk about in the seventh and eighth grade. Still, I kept every Origami note in a box in my closet along with all of our movie ticket stubs. As the years went on, I stopped keeping the ticket stubs (and nobody passes notes anymore), but I did continue to keep the actual gifts. Oddly, as I grew older, the gifts got better but less frequent. In fact, one boyfriend never bought me a thing, but I did keep an old de-activated phone for months after a breakup because of his text messages to me inside. Did I mention I’m extremely sentimental?

Of course some gifts didn’t fit in a box and some gifts were thrown away when my movers accidentally threw “the box” in the dumpster on Moving Day. Sometimes, Providence got rid of gifts for me. That’s the only way I can explain what happened to a pair of Jordans. They were Raptured, I swear it.  Some gifts the old beau had the nerve to ask for back (like a 14K gold rope necklace…ummm heck no).

With age, the relationships were more serious and the heartbreaks more palpable, so after a split, I have felt the need to do something to express my contempt. In those instances, I’ve destroyed pictures (or at least untagged them on Facebook), erased phone numbers (or replaced them with DNR: Do Not Resuscitate) but I’ve secretly hung onto the gifts long after I’d completely given up on the relationship.

Before I got married, I wondered if I should get rid of everything I’d ever received from a guy. Nothing wrong with keeping the loot, but isn’t it incredibly tacky to bring gifts from old boyfriends to your newlywed house? Especially if said item reminded me of a guy I used to date? Luckily for me, before my husband and I started dating, I hadn’t had a real boyfriend in forever. So besides a DVD player from a nice guy who’d taken pity on mine, a bottle of perfume from a guy I went on four dates with and the set of Ocean’s 11, 12, 13 DVDs he left at my house sometime before he disappeared on me, I didn’t have much to toss. Except that shirt.

If it was a car, I’d continue to drive it. If it were diamond earrings then I would have pawned them. If it were some notes professing his undying love, I would have burned them in the fireplace. If it were some cheeky gag gift denoting an inside joke, I would have tossed it. But it’s just a shirt and I love clothes.

Still, it’s a shirt from a man whose love for me was only dwarfed years later by the man I’m with now. And if I don’t wear it anyway and looking at it reminds me of a love gone by, then I guess the only place for it is the Goodwill bin.

What do you do with gifts from an ex? Do you still have anything from a relationship that ended years ago?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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