Of all the moonlit, chocolate-dipped-strawberries, rose-petals-on-the-linen ways to observe Valentine’s Day, the celebration that most piques my interest are the happenings at the El Paso Zoo in Texas.
In a seasonal marketing gimmick to outshine all others, the zoo is giving the cheated on, the abandoned, the bitter, twisted and vaguely vengeful among us the opportunity for a V-Day purge. If you message the zoo with the name of your ex, they’ll name a cockroach after the bastard and feed it to a meerkat. As the meerkat destroys the insect incarnation of your erstwhile lover, a kind of crunching catharsis apparently rids you of all pain.
My failed relationships fall into two camps. The nice/average/forgettable exes who’ve happily faded into the background. And then there are the still-open wounds that sporadically get vinegared by random songs/smells/memories no matter the years that have past. Of all the emotions I’ve felt in the aftermath of any break-up though, revenge isn’t something I’ve considered. I’ve never thought about how meerkats could help ease my pain, and I’ve never considered a role for cockroaches.
While I mightn’t get the yen, I completely recognise the all-encompassing insanity that love induces. Being crazy in love or completely mad for someone aren’t mere idioms but standard ways we narrate the out-of-control lunacy felt when love is all light and limerence.
And if you’ve ever experienced that depth of emotion when things are going swimmingly, it’s wholly predictable that when it all turns to shit with tear-soaked tissues and The Smiths playing on repeat, there’ll be a different kind of deep sentiment. For me it’ll manifest in sobbing, writing and listening to a playlist of brutalising music, but it’s no stretch to imagine that for others the anguish gets directed outwards.
So dazzled was I by the spectacle of munching meerkats, I wondered whether other companies were also profiting from this cocktail of anguish, animus and access to a credit card. Surely there’s a February motza to be made from broken hearted-ness? As it turns out, there absolutely is!
If you’re thinking subtle, there’s a company peddling a spring-loaded glitter bomb to ensure your ex never gets the chance to forget you. With every speck of the shiny stuff they pluck off their upholstery your name will be on their lips. (Prefaced, quite possibly, by a swear word, but on their lips nonetheless).
One company is dispatching boxes of manure—cow, pig or horse, depending on your excrement preference—anonymously to your ex. They also sell you dead lizards and a random assortment of roadkill in case a single box of plop feels underdone.
Another e-tailer is mailing out dead flowers, melted chocolate or dead fish as totems, apparently, to signify your ex’s true treachery.
The one offering that stirs a little light bunny-boiling into the mix can be procured from a site called Crab Revenge. You’ll be sent out a baggie of pubic lice to be sprinkled on the bedding or clothing of your be-loathed so that wherever grows their hair, so too does a lesson on spite.
Aside from the pleasant distraction of scheming to shift your suffering, can any psychological good come from the meerkat/manure mode of self-help?
The research on revenge is mixed. There’s some that suggests that partaking in acts of retaliation not only fuels our anger—keeping us in an unhealthy cycle of re-litigating past events—but leaves us with a guilty aftertaste long after the glitter has been vacuumed.
Other work contends that maybe some good can emerge on the proviso that the person who wronged us acknowledges why we retaliated. I’m envisaging a scenario where, as your ex watches the meerkat greedily devouring their cockroach compatriot, they somehow reach the epiphany of, ‘ahh, I crunched up your heart, now you’re crunching up my alter-ego, I get it now.’
As a writer, I’m probably a tad too fixated on legacy. And I’d actually prefer not to be remembered as the whack-job who paid to have a dead marsupial dumped on a doorstep. In fact, had a box of manure ended up at my door, before acknowledging any personal failings, I’d be focused keenly on recognising the bullet I dodged.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
Lauren Rosewarne is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne and author of nine books about gender, media and popular culture.