For some time now, I’ve worn bracelets. I’m often asked where I got them from.
In Costa Rica, a friend spotted the cuffs on my arm and asked where they were from. I think he was disappointed when I informed him I had gotten these specific wristlets from a fast fashion store in Boston. At least I traveled to get them?
“Oh, I thought they might be from other countries,” he said.
Yes! Yes, that’s what I’m going for, I thought.
“This one is from Germany,” I attempted to clarify. “An H&M in Munich.”
Another time, in a doctor’s office, a nurse asked where I had gotten a blue beaded bracelet. “These are beads from my homeland,” she explained. “My grandmother used to make them. It’s meant to lower your blood pressure.”
Is it now? I thought and eyed the blood pressure cuff she was holding.
“And how is my blood pressure?” I joked.
“A bit low.”
Three of my most favorite bracelets are from a street kiosk on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus. An old man sets up shop daily and sells tribal clothing, sunglasses, jewelry, and—yes—bracelets. When I picked up these particular bracelets, he told me that they were indeed African beads. His family sends them over, and he threads them himself. “There’s none in the world like them,” he assured me.
Despite knowing that is what every salesman says, I had to have them. He told me each was $15. I countered, “Three for thirty?” And he accepted. The bartering makes them feel even more authentic.
This week I obtained a new metal bracelet. I wore it out and two friends noticed, which means this was a solid purchase (right?). “Where is this from?” one friend asked.
“Well, this one I got in Costa Rica,” I tried to sidestep. “But this one”—the one you’re touching—“is from American Eagle.”
My bracelets represent much more to me than their source. I started wearing bracelets before I began to travel. I’ve always been drawn to trinkets that reflect adventure and my personal ambitions. My bedroom is decorated with a zebra rug, a six-foot tall wooden giraffe, and other motifs of an African savannah. My bracelets attempt to elicit similar themes. There is a world out there, one I may or may not have seen, but will see, and this is the reminder for both myself and others.
I bought my first bracelets at a mall Aldo’s—a pack of several wristlets composed of yarn and beads, perhaps overpriced, but perfect in every thread (for the time being). Over the next couple of years, I assembled a collection so that I no longer had a go-to bracelet, but options.
One of my favorites is a leather cuff I ordered off Amazon. I once disappointed a girl when she said her girlfriend had bought her the same one and asked where I got it. Sorry, it’s not from some Midwestern boutique. It’s from Amazon Prime. But that shouldn’t deface what it means to her and to me. It is rugged, it is real, it does *seem authentic* – because it is authentic. Maybe it was stitched in a Chinese factory, but I have worn that bracelet while living life. Yes, that includes me giving talks at conferences and while sitting in Richmond coffee shops, but I also wore it to Copenhagen and Costa Rica and I plan to wear it when I make it to Africa.
Those beads that are meant to lower blood pressure? I bought those in Miami. Maybe I wasn’t out of the country, but it was my first solo trip.
The African beads from a cart? My friend told me they’re evil eyes and they protect me. That’s not why I bought them, but now I wonder if perhaps they’ve been protecting me while Mercury is in retrograde. Or, more likely, they’re just protecting my sanity by reminding me of the world outside the Mid-Atlantic.
And that leather cuff from Amazon? I searched for months for it, because I wanted that exact type, and one day I will switch it out with one I’ll find in Utah.
Bracelets are about what they mean, not where they came from, and where they’ve gone, not where you bought them. Unless you bought them in-country. Then mention it.
The next time someone asks about my leather cuff, I plan to tell them it’s from the Amazon.
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