Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Of bracelets

About ten years ago, my father bought me a bracelet from the Body Shop. It's the Until There's a Cure bracelet, which costs $25 now but was $20 at the time, and the proceeds went to AIDS research. He bought it for me in honour of my uncle Michael, who died of AIDS in 1994, when I was ten. I wore it every day, painting the back in clear nail polish so it wouldn't give me a rash, until it broke in two pieces a few years later. I still have the two pieces, on my dresser.


I was pretty upset when it broke, but pragmatism won out, and I went back to the Body Shop and purchased another bracelet. I wore the second bracelet every single day from the day I got it until a day five or so years later when I was living in Senegal at age 21.

That was when I was dating a Senegalese guy with whom I was in love, Souley. I don't know if I've talked about him on here before--but if so, it was probably brief. Things ended between us only because I returned to the US, but I can see now, and in a way I knew then, that if we hadn't been separated geographically, things would have ended anyway.

Still, I loved him, and in a way I try to protect him by not talking about him on this blog, although I didn't do it in any conscious way until I started writing this post. I guess I feel that since he doesn't have fair access to the internet, and since we haven't talked in over two years, and since he doesn't know that this blog exists, and since he doesn't speak this language, and since he never did anything bad to me, it's unfair to go into the details of our relationship in this public space.

I will say, though, that I really did love him, and that both of us were flawed, as was our relationship, but that we were, for the most part, stable together. That relationship had a huge, lasting effect on me, and when I think of him, though I have no idea where he is or what he's doing, I think only positive things, and I hope that he is happy.

One thing I learned when I lived in Senegal is that all Senegalese men wear bracelets. They are given a metal bracelet when they are little, and when they outgrow it, it is melted down and made into a newer, bigger bracelet.

Souley had a bracelet too, though his was not of the type that could be melted down and recreated. He had gotten it while living in Tunisia, several years before, and he wore it every day. You can see it on his arm in this photo:


Though it wasn't his baby bracelet, it was significant to him, as my bracelet was to me. And I don't remember how we decided this, but at some point toward the end of my stay in Senegal, we agreed to exchange our bracelets.

It was hard for me to take off my bracelet and give it to him. I hesitated; I thought about my uncle and what my bracelet meant and whether I was somehow betraying my uncle by giving away his bracelet. I decided that I was not, that giving my bracelet to someone I loved wasn't equivalent to simply throwing it away. That the bracelet I received in return would be meaningful not only as a reminder of Souley, but also as a reminder of the bracelet that it replaced.

I don't know if Souley still wears my bracelet. I don't wear his. But I did, for a long time. And I still have it, in my jewelry case. I don't remember when I decided to stop wearing it. Right now, I don't wear any bracelet.

I thought about it, though. I could ask for a bracelet as a birthday gift. Or I could go back to the Body Shop and get my third Until There's a Cure bracelet. I've considered both options. Sometimes my right wrist feels bare. But I still don't know with what, or if, I want to adorn it.

51 comments:

lspoon said...

That's kind of awesome! it's a nice reminder and you may want to go get your third just to have, not even to wear.

Nilsa S. said...

Clearly all those bracelets, whether worn or not, have a lasting effect on you. It seems regardless of whether you wear one or not, you remember the important place your uncle and Souley hold. That's really special. Thanks for sharing.

3carnations said...

I would ask for it for a gift. Then it will be doubly special, because of it's original meaning, and because of the person who gives it to you this time. :)

3carnations said...

Oops...and strike the apostrophe in "its" please...Oh, the horrors...That's my pet peeve!

AlieMalie said...

Touching. I know the guilt about not wearing somehung meaningful. I had 3 friends die of cancer in a 9 month period and wearing a LiveStrong bracelet was one of the ways I could remember them daily. I went through plenty of them though just a few weeks ago, I stopped.my wrist feels naked and I'm trying to find something more permanent and personal to put in their stead.

Stephanie said...

I like this post. :)

I think you'll know when you find the right bracelet to wear on your wrist.

Jummy said...

Such a good writer you are, Jess.

To echo Nilsa, it seems like your memories remain, whether or not you wear the bracelet, but it's nice to be able to look at each bracelet and be able to reminisce.

When you were wearing a bracelet, did you keep it on your arm 24 hours a day, or did you remove it when you went to bed, before showering, etc? I'm so bad at remembering to put on jewelry once I remove it so I need hardy stuff that stays on and isn't uncomfortable to wear overnight.

sid said...

Okay why did you go to Senegal? Why did you stop wearing the bracelet? My favourite present ever is the cheap bracelet my brother gave me. It is so unusual and something that I would never have bought for myself.

Rebecca said...

Given the importance of these bracelets in the past, I bet one will come to you somehow and will hold a lot of significance.

Oh, and Souley is cute.

Alice said...

i agree with 3carnations.. with such a lovely tradition of meaningful bracelets in your life, wouldn't it be kind of cool to get one from torsten too?

A Margarita said...

Tough call. I might ask the boy for a bracelet and then that bracelet might have a new meaning, sort of like a new chapter?

Holly Golighty said...

I would also ask for it as a gift. Totally awesome.

JMC said...

This is a great story. You are certainly well-traveled. I think I'd get another bracelet in your uncle's memory.

Stacey said...

what a beautiful post. Souley has a nice smile, he looks kind.

Stacey said...

what a beautiful post. Souley has a nice smile, he looks kind.

amber said...

Maybe this is inappropriate to say after your thoughtful and heartfelt blog, but DAMN you date good looking men. DAMN.

Deutlich said...

Isn't it amazing how we attach such strong sentiments to some things? I have a few items that I just CAN'T get rid of. Ever.

Jamie Lovely said...

I would definitely get another. It has so much meaning.

Stefanie said...

That was a great story, and a great couple of photos to accompany it. Stacey's right: Souley has a wonderful smile.

1218Blog said...

What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing. Whether you get a new bracelet or not I think you will always remember and have a place in your heart for your uncle and Souley. No inanimate object can replace that. I think in due time you'll find something to wear around your wrist that means just as much to you as the others did.

A.P. said...

What a nice story :) I think you should get a third one just to have it. It doesn't mean you have to wear it. The sentiment of it seems really important to you.

fully operational battle station said...

I love the idea of getting a third. Think of how these stories could continue! The endless stories of your Until There's A Cure bracelets! Each bracelet has it's life story. I think it's sweet.

Jamie

fully operational battle station said...

Why does 3carnation not like apostrophe's in her it's's?

Jamie

heidikins said...

I love this post, such a sweet tribute to both of these men.

I rarely wear jewelry, but Handsome V gave me a sparkly bracelet for Christmas and I've worn it pretty much non-stop ever since.

xox

Maria said...

I work at the Body Shop, and I think we still sell those bracelets... you should get one, especially if you were so attached to the first two. Those bracelets are so meaningful, and obviously hold special significance to you.

JulyBug said...

I think its probably been already said, but whether or not you wear a bracelet you are still obviously honoring your uncle's memory.

Thanks for sharing.

Sizzle said...

that's a wonderful story. thanks for sharing this with us.

bren j. said...

Hm, that could certainly be a meaningful gift...and I just heard the other day that 'wrist jewelry' is all the rage right now.
Thanks for sharing your story - I like hearing these tales of your travels in Senegal.

Banana said...

I bet he still has your bracelet too. Maybe in a drawer or a box in the closet, but I bet he still has it.

Le Petit Chic said...

What a great reminder of a past love. The stories behind jewelry are always so interesting.

SLynnRo said...

I feel compelled to comment, even though I can't think of anything to say. You are such an excellent storyteller.

Saly said...

Great story. I like the significance of the broken one still being on your dresser.

each of the two said...

I've been wearing the same ring on the same finger for over 11 years, i feel naked without it. I even shower with it.

I know how you must feel, it is a bit disarming (no pun intended) isnt it?

Princess Pointful said...

I would get another. Each one has some similarity in meaning, but you get to create a new meaning as well.

He has a beautiful smile!

Nic said...

I think you should get another bracelet, but I don't think it has to be the Body Shop one. You have one of those. I know that some designers are releasing them for World AIDS Day. (Armani, for example) so you should pick up a new one.

bridgid said...

I love when you write things like this. The story is simply written, yet so complex emotionally, and I think it tugs at your heart strings in just the right way.

desperate housewife said...

What a neat story! Thanks for sharing about these two bracelets and the men behind them. Hope you find another one that means just as much.

Tessie said...

What a cool tradition, with the bracelets.

I like bracelets but don't really wear them because of my elfin wrists. They never fit right.

L Sass said...

What a great remembrance!

Also, I agree that it is somehow difficult to blog about someone you truly loved, even when you've moved on everywhere else in your life!

Hiya, I'm Kristie. said...

It's nice that you have good memories of an ex. Sometimes that hard to come by, you are lucky. :) And I think a bracelet is a wonderful idea!

pessimisticredhead said...

I don't have anything profound to say but I really, really love your writing. Even your comments-on my blog and others-show such thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and strong writing ability.

Vanessa said...

Bracelets, like all jewelry, are special. There is a great place where you can order your custom bracelet
http://affirmation-bracelet-silver-
hammered-stamped-copper.com/jewelry/

I have one that just says 'Find Balance' I love it. I'm sure you will find whatever is meaningful and special to you. And if its a gift, that is special all on its own.

theotherbear said...

Nah, don't ask for one - wait for a new meaningful bracelet to come to you.
Great post, as always.

Damsel in DIgress said...

very cool post, jess.

i have been in a very "memory" mood today and i felt like because of that, i was able to really appreciate this story in a different, more relatable (if that makes sense?) light.

i think you should get a new bracelet and build new memories with it. i absolutely love when inanimate objects can build so much meaning. one glance at it, and a flood of memories and emotions can fill us.

daily editor said...

What a cool story.

I think you should get a third Until There's a Cure bracelet.

Leaf, probably... said...

Great post, I love reading your blog!

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

This is a fabulous post, I had that bracelet at one time also :)

I know have a bracelet I wear EVERY SINGLE day that means something to me that i love and adore, I think jewelry should have meaning :)

Michelle said...

that is so sweet. and i think that you're right about not betraying your uncle because the exchange had meaning behind it, just as the bracelet did.

A Lil' Irish Lass said...

I think the bare wrist is almost a more powerful reminder now than any replacement bracelet could ever be. In a way.

missris said...

I almost fell out of my chair when I read this post. I lived in Dakar for a year when I was 15. The night before we left our gatekeeper, Babakar, gave my dad a bracelet (twisted gold/silver/copper) that, in the ten years since we've been back, he has never taken off. Oh how this post brings back memories!

Clara Snyder said...


Nice bracelet. For me I prefer to use Silicone Bracelets bright, colorful, and comfortable.