The little black dress was sleeveless, with a sequined neckline, and perfect.
She was going to a family wedding with her boyfriend, feeling like they were taking the next step in their relationship, and she wanted to look just right.
“I bought it for my boyfriend-at-the-time sister’s wedding, and it was where I was getting to meet his parents for the first time,” she says. “Little did I know, I was also getting to meet his future wife.”
That’s right. The 27-year-old woman, who didn’t want to use her name for this story, that night met the fiancee of her now ex-boyfriend. In fact, the woman recently moved to Kansas City, hoping to shed her painful past.
That perfect little black dress? She wore it just that once. After a bout of spring cleaning, the dress is now in a box in the backseat of her car, ready to be taken to Goodwill. She feels giving it away will be “liberating.”
“I just knew it had to go because I’ve let everything else go,” she says, “that this was kind of the last piece.”
Americans will spend $18 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day this year. That’s a lot of jewelry, candy and teddy bears -- mementos that don’t seem so valuable when the relationship fizzles.
Breaking up may be hard to do, but getting rid of all that stuff doesn’t have to be. The Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas is holding its second annual “Dump Your Ex’s Stuff” donation event hoping to help the lovelorn get rid of their leftovers and turn them into local jobs and workforce training programs.
“People get attached to different things,” says Klassie Alcine, Goodwill’s director of community engagement. “(Donating is) just a great way that you can give back and at the same time you’re able to really release and have some space for the next relationship coming in. Or maybe you just want space in your house.”
Alcine points to Mariah Carey’s video for her new song, “I Don’t,” in which she burns her custom-made $250,000 wedding dress that the singer had planned to wear before her last relationship broke up.
“You don’t have to burn it up!” Alcine says.
We may not all have expensive wedding gowns to throw on the bonfire but what about a trinket that might be of some value? At Alpha Pawn, just north of downtown Kansas City, manager Brian McAuliffe says he gets quite a few wedding and engagement rings.
“I guess they come in out of spite wanting to get rid of it,” he says. “I ask if they want a loan on it or sell it. They obviously want to sell it. They never want to see it again.”
McAuliffe says he’s had a couple rings that turned out to be worthless, which made an angry ex-girlfriend even angrier. But remains a romantic – or at least, a good salesman – when looking at a display case chuck full of Cupid cast-offs: diamond rings, watches and heart-shaped pendants.
“I like to look at it as second chances,” he says. “Everyone has a second chance at a new story.”
So if you’re not in it for the profit – or worry that your keepsake might be worthless – you may just want to go the way of the Goodwill. Alcine says they have 14 stores in Kansas City with folks standing by not with candy, but with something equally sweet.
“That is probably the sweetest revenge of all of this: you can give it to Goodwill, get a tax write-off and everyone’s happy,” she says.
Or as Goodwill's social media campaign says, "Don't hate. Donate."
For more information, go to mokangoodwill.org.
Peggy Lowe is KCUR’s investigations editor. She’s on Twitter @peggyllowe.