I Smashed a Bunch of Stuff to Get over my Ex (published in VICE.com)
Turns out breaking things really can help you get over a breakup.
I got dumped last summer. My boyfriend ended our relationship of six-plus years with the words, "I don't want to work on it anymore."
Since then, I've pretty much wanted to smash shit. Sure, part of me wants to take the higher ground, wish him well, and move on. But most of me wants to break stuff. So when I found out about a place called the Wreck Room, where people can pay to blow off steam by hacking away at breakable objects with axes and crowbars, it felt like fate.
The Wreck Room is about an hour from Los Angeles in an outlet mall next to a Bath & Body Works. It works like this: You go in and buy a package. Packages range from $20 up to $150, depending on how long you want to spend in the Wreck Room and how much stuff you want to break. You can even bring in stuff to smash, like things your ex stupidly left at your place. They take reservations for large parties; otherwise, it's first-come, first-served smash-time. Once you're in, you suit up, grab a weapon or two, and start smashing stuff. You make a mess, and then you get to walk away. Just like my ex.
The place is the brainchild of Zack Teperman and Kyle Haman, who are surprisingly sweet for a pair of guys who invoke adult temper tantrums for a living. They said they created the Wreck Room because they saw a lot of anger in the world and wanted to offer a way to vent. What if there was a place where people could smash stuff to feel better? they wondered. Kyle, an ex-Marine, had direct experience using tools to destroy large objects; Zack had the PR background to get the idea off the ground.
Before you can start smashing things, you have to sign a waiver. I didn't read mine carefully, but it had something to do with waiving my rights to sue in case I injured myself. For a few minutes, Kyle and Zack kept using the phrase "if you die." Nothing about hitting plates with a bat made me think I could die, so I probed. They explained that they looked into this from all angles, "We don't know you. We don't know anyone's physiology or preexisting conditions. So we don't know how someone is going to respond in there."
Next was the "suit up" room. Zack and Kyle put me in a white zip-up jump suit, which made me look like I was ready to cook up some meth. Then came the chest pad, groin pad, knee pads, gloves, and helmet.
The gear felt transformational. I was now protected, anonymous, and ready to rage. I selected an ax from a pile of weapons that included three bats, crowbars, and a hammer. Then I picked stuff to wreck. For the lowest-priced package of $19.99, you get five small items to obliterate and five minutes of destructo-time. If you upgrade to $39.99, you can add a large item, another small item, and your time goes up to ten minutes. They offer five packages of mixed items and room time. They also have a deal called the "Bring it in Package," where for $24.99, you can bring in your own stuff to wreck—up to eight items, pending their approval.
I chose one of the mid-level packages and selected a mug, some plates, a bottle, and a Donald Trump bobblehead. For a large item, I also got an old computer monitor, which felt so indulgent. I mean, you're never supposed to bash in a computer with weapons. But I was about to. I was getting giddy.
For $6 more, I had also sent in a few pictures of my ex, so Zack and Kyle could print out stickers of his face to put on stuff before I smashed it. I stuck the stickers to a computer monitor and a bottle, both of which I later pulverized.
"You make a mess, and then you get to walk away. Just like my ex."
I swung my ax at a computer monitor. It was surprisingly hard to destroy, so I kept changing weapons. I smashed the claw-side of my crowbar at the picture of my ex that was stuck to the side. After a few hard hits, I realized it was still solid, and no one was stopping me. So I let loose with a hammer. I kept hitting and hitting. Glass on top shattered, there was paper underneath that peeled back, and the back popped open. I hit it with a bat, and it fell to the floor, and I kept hitting until I saw it bust open.
Next I tore into the plates. The first one I smashed, I instinctively closed my eyes. Then I thought, No, take it in. I let my arms reign down on a plate and watched it break into tiny pieces, dust and a few larger shards in all directions. Just like heart did only months before.
I smashed a "Mr. Right" mug to dust with a bat. I smashed plates with a hammer. I annihilated a Trump bobblehead with a bat, crowbar, and hammer.
Was it tiring? Fuck yes. But, oh, so cathartic.
I was sweating profusely after what felt like about an hour of smashing things when the guys told me I'd been in there for five minutes.
I was already spent, but Zack talked me into one last act of rage: smashing something mid-air.
I tossed a plate into the air, then swung the bat. It connected, then smashed, then exploded into dust. Just like my ex and I connected, smashed, and exploded into dust.
I called it quits after about 15 minutes. I was exhausted and emotional. Dealing with my emotions head-on, rather than pushing them aside and pretending everything was OK, was definitely healing. I returned my ax, looked around at the mess, and walked away. (Actually I thanked them and said I had a great time, but you get it.) In case there was ever a question, let me be clear: It feels good to destroy stuff, even if you pay for the privilege.
Afterward, I paid a visit to the last part of the Wreck Room: the Cry Room. Technically, it's the bathroom, but they called it the Cry Room and encourage people to go in, turn on the fan, and let it all out. No judgment.
On the surface, smashing things seems fun and silly. But directing it toward an ex brought up deep feelings—loss, grief, abandonment, betrayal. For me, I felt relief when I was done. Some lost part of me that I had no other way of tapping into, got to express all the hurt I felt when my ex left me. I cried later, on the way home, but it didn't feel like sadness. It felt cleansing.