Friendships & Bracelets

I’m sitting at my computer with a horrible little pit burrowing into my stomach. The pit is named “failure” and the feeling is small enough that I can keep working, but mean enough that my arms feel shaky and my eyes feel like they’re burning holes into my laptop. I’m really, really sad, and I’ve already had four cups of coffee, and my energy is still so non-existent that I feel like I’ll never accomplish anything, ever, not in my entire life, never mind this one dark morning.

So, yes, I am feeling a bit melodramatic today. And I’m looking for a quick fix. What can I do right now, I wonder, scanning my “office” (read: living room), that will pull me out of this deep hole of exhaustion and self-pity?

“Oh,” I say out loud, even though I’m alone, as I look over at my side table, where I tend to dump all of my personal belongings at the end of the day. I can put on my bracelets.

My bracelets are a weird little collection I’ve amassed over the years: on one hand, I have the broken watch from a dollar store near my mother’s house, another broken watch from a vintage seller at the St. Lawrence Market, and a beaded bracelet Laura brought me from a trip to Ghana. On the other hand, I have a silver spiked cuff from one of my favorite stores in Toronto, a Braced-Let that I bought during a trip to New York last summer, and a teeny tiny gold chain with a teeny tiny gold box from a teeny tiny jewelry store in Williamsburg that I bought on the same trip.

It’s a placebo effect, for sure, but I can already feel my heart rate returning to normal as I wind the beads and bangles around my wrists. Looking down and seeing all this cheap, fake gold, feeling its weight as I type emails—I’m not entirely better, but I feel a little more calm and rational.

My bracelets aren’t just bracelets. Each one reminds me of something or someone special. Both broken watches were bought while spending time with my boyfriend. When I bought the watch at the dollar store, we had been together for four years; I bought the watch from St. Lawrence Market on one of our first Saturdays together after we moved into our first apartment after six years; last week we celebrated our nine year anniversary. The beads from Laura were also given to a few other girls in our circle of friends. When I look down at them, I remember how she handed them out to each of us and explained how she had carefully chosen colours based on our personalities, and we all marveled at how she had somehow managed to nail each one of us with a simple string of beads. The spiked cuff, I always joke, is my “self-defense” bracelet: it looks both cool AND scary. The Braced-Let and the bracelet with the gold box were bought on the best trip I ever had to New York—I celebrated my 25th birthday, watched the 4th of July fireworks from a rooftop in Williamsburg, spilled tequila on a $300 silk t-shirt, got a tattoo, saw the McQueen exhibit, spent an entire day in Central Park, and yeah, I bought two bracelets. I remember all of that when I look at all of them. Somehow, they remind me to calm the fuck down and get back to work.

The meanings that I attach to these bracelets make me worried for the future. Why do I need to hear the jangle of the bracelets, or feel their weight, to calm down? What happens when these cheap pieces of metal, plastic, and rope that have proven so valuable to me inevitably break? Or slip off? Or fall between some crack in the floor, never to be recovered? What will I turn to then? I don’t know. I just keeping adding more and more bracelets as I add more and more memories, in hopes that eventually I’ll be able to carry the memories alone without needing the physical reminders. Soon, maybe, I’ll be the type of person that doesn’t need an arm party to soothe their anxieties over work and life and stuff. Soon I’ll learn to internalize some sort of stress-relieving device. In the meantime, I might also look into rings.

photos by Brittany Lucas
text by Haley Mlotek

4 thoughts on “Friendships & Bracelets

  1. I love this Haley. It’s odd timing, because for the past week I have been thinking about bracelets more than anything else in the realm of fashion.

    The only time I can remember wearing bracelets in my life was for about two weeks, those colourful rubber bracelets in middle school, that were shortly banned after I began wearing them because they earned the nickname “sex bracelets, but I really can’t remember why. I also bought some cheap gold toned bangles from H&M once or twice to wear out in high school, but whether sitting at a desk at school writing or typing in bar codes at my job, they sounded like a herd of elephants. They were just never my thing.

    A few weeks I went through a breakup. I hated myself and did not want to be around myself, but the best thing I could do was not look like myself. I began wearing old clothes from my closet I’d never worn with him, large bohemian earrings and putting my hair in high buns and tight braids everyday (I never wear my hair up regularly). I also started to wear my glasses everyday because my face did not look like the face I recognize, though originally worn to hide my puffy, red, watery eyes from the customers at my retails job. It’s really hard to not cry when The Smiths are playing and you’re just standing there alone with your thoughts until the next tourist asks what we use maple syrup for in Canada.

    When you find out someone does not want you, it is hard to not completely question yourself. What is wrong with me? What can I do? After my first long term boyfriend and I broke up a few years ago repeatedly doing so, and him repeatedly cheating me, I found myself at just over 100 pounds within less than a couple months. I’m glad this time I just wanted to hide behind different clothes.

    After a couple weeks, I started to want to look like myself again. Left my long stringy hair down, returned to my almost decade old uniform of leopard print and stripes, abandoned the Edie Sedgwick earrings and wore the same jewellery that I wear every single day – a double faced watch, a small gold necklace and a gold ring my grandmother gave me decorated with diamonds and my birthday stone (a pearl). The clothes I bought a couple weeks ago I may never wear again, I mean a fluorescent toned floral dress? Camel and navy are as colourful and bright as I like to get.

    The only item from those few weeks I continue to wear is a bracelet I bought at Fitzroy Boutique. It is black braided fabric around a gold fishbone band (I am terrible at descriptions, this is it: The fabric material it is made out of it so soft, but the fishbone hardware surrounding protects it. I wish I could wrap myself in fishbone hardware and feel protected from everything, the car that doored me on my bicycle a few weeks ago or the ex-boyfriend who thinks he can do better without me.

    For now though I’m just going to wear the bracelet because it feels like me, and it makes me feel safe. The clothing we wear can be as therapeutic as sentimental, but with jewelery we can wear it every day. Thanks so much for sharing this Haley. I really hope like you by the time I’m 25 I will have an arm filled with bracelets that mean something. Just as long as the next few aren’t the result of a broken heart.

  2. I’ve never thought about it before but it’s totally true, there’s some strange magical strength that I feel when I wear bracelets and rings. Thanks for a lovely piece!

  3. I used to wear all these rings–huge, heavy ones and, sometimes, multiples–on almost every finger. I always said they were armour.

    I was wearing them when I was attacked by my ex’s sister’s demented cat. I sustained only two very small scratches on my left hand; those rings totally saved me. So, you know, armour ceased to be a metaphor.

    I tried wearing them again this summer, but found I couldn’t. They make my hands look old, somehow. But I did always keep the one thumb ring. So what I’m saying is, don’t worry for your future.

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