Danielle Hummel can recall quite a few pieces of jewelry from relationships past. But the items the Center City fund-raiser remembers most clearly are a pair of earrings - silver hoops, one proclaiming her name, the other the name of her at-the-time flame: Doug.
"They were a joke, but I wore them endearingly while we were together," Hummel, 29, said. "When we broke up, I deliberated over what to do with the earrings. One said my name, which was still so relevant, and one said his, which wasn't."
Hummel's example is emblematic of a long-simmering, worldwide problem: When a relationship goes south, what do you do with the emotionally loaded souvenirs? Keep them stored away? Return to sender? Hock them at a pawnshop?
Or, tell everyone about it. At exboyfriendjewelry.com, you can sell and trade your valuables online. There's no posting fee, and sellers set the price - with one stipulation: Users have to spill their guts about the story behind the jewelry.
"We wanted a place where people could not only sell their jewelry but also get their stories off their chest," said Megahn Perry, a Los Angeles-based actress who created the site with her stepmother, Marie. "A place where you could sell the jewelry, tell its story, and then get both out of your life and move on."
Perry, 31, came up with the idea for the site while trying to ditch some jewelry of her own. Upon discovering that pawnshops were a "creepy experience," and consignment stores took a huge percentage of the profits, she reached out to the Net to find something that "felt right."
Now, this eBay-meets-you-go-girl support group has found footing in cyberspace with nearly 9,000 registered users and 100,000 to 250,000 daily page views. More tellingly, it's earning great word of mouth from its patrons, who prefer the personal element of the site to more popular alternatives like eBay and craigslist.
"I like that it gives us ladies the chance to get rid of things that bring back the bad memories and to vent," said Lisa Colby, who lives just east of London. "It does bring some solace to read about other people's relationships. You so often feel alone in a breakup, but this site shows . . . you'll come out the other side."
For her part, Hummel doesn't believe in selling off the remnants of meaningful relationships. Such pieces are "part of who you are," she said, indicating she'd much rather do without the meaningless stuff. Still, Hummel says she understands the cathartic appeal of exboyfriendjewelry.com.
"If it allows a woman to get one step closer to getting over the jerk she was with, good for her," she said. "It's a cute Web site and it's kind of irreverent."
Therapy aside, the site's stipulation regarding the behind-the-scenes story does seem to offer the latest evidence that we live in a tell-all society saturated with soul-sharing gossip.
"It certainly ties into this phenomenon that's been going on for 30 years or so," said Robert Thompson, a pop-culture expert at Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. "It's best represented by how a diary used to come with a lock or key on it, which showed you'd sooner die than have your friend know your secrets. Now, people go to school each day bragging how many people register hits on their blogs, which can get extremely personal."
Yet, Thompson doesn't think this is an idea that springs from a world of Oprah, tabloids and reality TV. Freud gets some credit.
"It used to be that you dealt with life and didn't complain," he said. "But when we reached psychoanalysis, you had a theory that promoted articulating all the things you've been holding inside. The idea that repression was making us sick gave a real justification for this sort of thing, and so here we are."
Most relationship/advice columnists have given the site a thumbs-up for this very reason, specifically in light of the morale-boosting community it fosters.
"Every time you put [the jewelry] on, you're going to be reminded of that person and the pain that came with the end of that relationship," said Lesley Rotchford, deputy editor of Cosmopolitan. "Getting rid of jewelry can help you close the book on the relationship . . . and there's a comfort zone on a Web site like this where the community is women, who will be biased in your favor."
However, like Hummel, some site users think the cathartic aspect is overstated. Chana Goldtrap, 38, of Hillsboro, Ore., indicated the process isn't so much a relief as it is entertaining.
"Fun is how I would label it," she said. "As I pulled each item from its home, I would remember a bit about the man who gave it to me and why."
There's one other perk, says Rotchford: Posting items may send the right signal to a current beau.
"Guys certainly do feel uncomfortable when their girlfriend is wearing jewelry given to them by an ex," she said. "One might get the impression you're not over the relationship."
Michael Somerville, a comedian who serves as Glamour magazine's "Ask Jake" columnist and who created the popular viral dating series "Love, Somerville," agrees.
"I dated one girl who had a whole bunch of jewelry from past relationships - this was from that guy and that was from this guy sort of thing," he said. "I felt weird, because it's kind of like you're dating a Christmas tree of past relationships."
Although exboyfriendjewelry.com. was launched with women primarily in mind, a category "for the boys" recently was added. Perry indicated that guys have been more likely to buy than sell, and Somerville has his theory why.
"Certainly there's a difference between men and women when it comes to that stuff," he said. "I knew a woman who when she broke up with her boyfriend, she bought a new bed. But guys don't even change the sheets. Guys attach less meaning to items."