By Moira Lavelle
Valentine’s Day is over, but some relationships were over before it even came around. That’s why a bar and restaurant in Ridgewood, Queens held a decidedly nonromantic event. It was called “Shred Your Ex.”
At the Seneca, the owners provided a free drink to any patron who brought in a photo of an ex-partner and fed it through their paper shredder. And the customers seemed to like it. “I said, ‘you know what? This is perfect. Let’s just shred our exes and cleanse ourselves and start anew,’” said Queens resident Ivis Gonzalez. She had a photo that she had pulled from deep in her closet; the year 1999 is stamped on the lower right-hand corner.
“This is me and my boyfriend at the time. We’re passionately in love at this moment but not anymore,” Gonzalez said. “If I see him I say hello because we’re nice. But I could care less anymore.”
She and a friend sat and drank, talking about things unrelated to their exes. But when the time came, she fed the photo through the shredder with relish. People at the bar cheered.
The Seneca has high ceilings, green walls with wood paneling, and green leather booths with more wood paneling. On Valentine’s Day the lighting was dim and a jazz band played up front, their songs punctuated infrequently with the sounds of the paper shredder, which was sitting on the bar, and the cheers of those doing the shredding.
Lizzie Lin attended the event with her friend Alex Chang, both single. She printed Chang’s photo for him because he forgot.
Lin’s picture, she says, was of “a guy from a couple years ago that really broke my heart. And it stuck with me for three or four years.” Her own photo was a solo shot of a young guy with a wry grin, a white puppy peeping over his shoulders. “Don’t let the puppy fool you!” Chang said.
For his part, Chang brought a photo of an ex from college, and said he actually felt bad about shredding the photo because he has no ill feelings towards her. But he really wanted the free drink.
Corey Yee is the General Manager of Seneca, and said he was happy to see that people were enjoying the event. “You know it’s just one of those tongue-in-cheek things that we can do that’s part of the neighborhood. And if anyone can relate to heartbreak, it’s the industry.”
The Seneca opened about eight months ago, so this event was the first of its kind. Yee explained the event was meant to be simple and uncomplicated. The restaurant offered a menu with shrimp cocktail, spaghetti and meatballs, and an ice cream sundae.
Yee himself brought a photo and shred it—to cheers from the staff earlier in the night: “I printed it out, said a prayer, put it in the shredder.”
Cynthia Vilanueva and Stephanie Alman came together to celebrate a girls’ night. “I thought it was something fun to do because we’re single and oddly actually over our exes,” said Vilanueva. Both women said they are blocked by their exes on Facebook, so they had to print out photos for each other. “So I was like, ‘just pick out the best photo you can,’” said Alman. “So she picked that one out and I was like, ‘this is perfect, because I hate him right now in this photo.’” The photo featured her ex at a medieval history event, wearing a crown that she had bought for him.
Alman was grateful for the opportunity to shred her ex. She said it offered a kind of catharsis. “Not to get all sentimental. But I was like, ‘let me just shred all my feelings completely in this photo.’ I don’t think I would have done this in the past, without this being a thing,” she said. “But it felt great.”