This Nepali bracelet is one of the most expensive things I own. I probably fed the proprietor and his family for a month. The process of purchasing this bangle was a big affair. I saw it one day on some muddy street in Kathmandu. It glistened in the display window and called out to me. I stood outside that window for an abnormal amount of time, wide-eyed and dreaming about one day having it clasped around my wrist. I was the lost ship and it was the bejeweled lighthouse. I immediately got a price quote from the shop owner, and upon hearing it I gasped in terror. I finally knew what it felt like to be the poor man in french and russian literature who was in love with the most beautiful prostitute but couldn’t afford her. I told myself to forget about it. But I walked by the window everyday. It didn’t help that the city planner of Thamel, that particular neighborhood, either threw a hand full of spaghetti on a map and decided to build ‘roads’ there or he didn’t exist at all. So in this maze of a district, I just ended up right in front of the window, drawn by the bracelet’s teasing beauty, even if I purposefully opted for alternate routes. It was magical. Part of me exhaled a sigh of relief every time I saw that no one had bought it and part of me twisted and turned because now there was still the option to trade in food and other ‘necessities’ for this bracelet. I mean, look at it. It’s the prettiest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen, short of Leo DiCaprio in a black and white suit. And as a female, I have the responsibility of being irrational every once in a while and I take this responsibility very seriously. So I haggled for days with the kindly shop owner. He needed the sale and I needed the bracelet. I slowly but surely cajoled him to lower the price. We would alternate conversations about life and business. Life in America versus life in Nepal, then haggle a bit, talk about his children and my life as a student (this was a tactic), then haggle a lot. I like to think it was my dashing good looks (this is funny because I was backpacking for three months and I am notoriously bad at taking showers and generally sustaining the appearance of a girl) and charming personality, but it was probably his reasoning that he’d rather earn a little less rupees than originally planned rather than making no rupees. Also, I probably came off as pathetic and he felt sorry for this person of whom he couldn’t identify a gender. But that’s besides the point.
I generally condemn overt materialism. I can go months with nothing but a backpack and its limited contents. I don’t care about things and would rather have less than more. But once in a while, a bracelet like this one comes along. One handcrafted with turquoise, amber, coral, silver, and a design that makes me melt. A bracelet that would cost more than a month’s rent in SoHo had it been sold in the US, but was only a fraction of that in Nepal. A bracelet that would be passed on to my offspring, should I have a daughter. If I have a son, he will suffer a similar sartorial fate. A bracelet that makes me drool and makes all my friends green with envy. Not that that’s the goal, but when I feel my ego needs a kick, I’ll be honest, I wear the fucking bracelet. So this piece of jewelry temporarily bankrupted me. But that’s ok. Money will come back, but a bracelet of this caliber never will.