Creating a new norm: break up parties

Photo by Matthew Kwong.

I love love. I love weddings and celebrating the love of people that I love. I love love so much that I love using the world love as many times in one love-infused paragraph as I can.

I also know, as we all do, that love doesn't always last forever. Sometimes people don't stay together, and that can be just as momentous of a life event as choosing to get married.

That's why I also love the fact that I recently was invited to a break up party. A break up party where the no-longer-a-couple in question not only had the gall to call us all together to celebrate/commemorate the relationship that was no more, but unabashedly asked for gifts to send them on their way.

It seems weird, right? Perhaps presumptuous? Before I left the house, I was a uncertain. I had no social construct for this! Was I supposed to congratulate them? Offer my condolences? Would people give toasts to the strength of saying goodbye? What level of gift was appropriate? Ugggggggh!

It was so wonderful and the best idea.

When your break up is truly amenable, then what better way to let all your pals know that things are cool? It's a call on your crew to be by your side in this difficult transition, and a gathering of your beloveds to say, "we are still a community, we still care about each other, you don't have to pick sides, we are all friends here."

Plus, practical bonus: now you don't have to have twenty painful one-on-one conversations about your relationship ending.

And the gifts! Yes!

Usually we only reward relationships with gifts when they solidify through marriage and babies, but those gifts are technically supposed to be about practicality. Newlyweds used to be moving out of their parents' homes. They needed to set up a whole new household! That's a lot of stuff!

These days that is rarely the case. Most couples already have all the things from years of living independently. There is no practical reason to give most newlyweds gifts, evidenced by the fact that registries tend to consist of a whole lot of specialty kitchen utensils that they may never use (bagel cutter and herb mill, anyone?)

Breaking up, on the other hand, for couples that have been living together, is EXPENSIVE. Not only does rent effectively double for both parties, but they have to separate one household's worth of stuff into two. They suddenly need a whole new set of things.

The practical need has returned!

So sure, it's socially a bit odd to have a break up party and ask for gifts, but maybe at one point it was socially weird to invite your parents' coworkers to your wedding and expect them to give you presents. Norms change, and I hope this becomes one of them.

I mean, let's be honest, it's kind of surprising that the machine of capitalism hasn't already turned this into a new and lucrative industry, right?




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