I’m a Pisces. This fact doesn’t matter to me but now everyone knows it. Why? Because I fell in love with some amazing vintage cuffs at a flea market, though you might just call them junk.
A few blocks from my old Manhattan apartment, there was a flea market that would take over the cafeteria and grounds of a school every Sunday. It was filled with exotic African beads and drums, fancy reupholstered furniture, old prints, and tons of junk. Occasionally, after I’d done some damage at the farmers’ market across the street, I’d walk through the flea market. Yet I never have much luck in finding things to wear at flea markets. I’ll pick up a few things, put them back down, and then pull out the hand sanitizer. My adventurous spirit is limited by the perceived grubbiness of such moments.
During one visit, however, a vendor, whose stall typically consisted of a heap of unappealing clothes on a table, had a little basket filled with enamel cuffs. The mound of clothing was the last thing I wanted to touch, but this tidy basket of bracelets was intriguing. I found myself surprised to be exchanging my ten-dollar bill for a red owl cuff and a Pisces one as well. I am not particularly impressed with owls, and I don’t read horoscopes often or seriously. While I tend to have quite a lot of friends born around my birth date, I don’t think the zodiac sign is responsible for these friendships. These bracelets were cheap, their origins unknown, and their future with me curious. Yet something about them stood out to me from the minefields of junk surrounding them.
Sometimes, I see something I love or find inspiring, and it just happens to be junk. In the case of these bracelets, it is not uncommon for my wrist to be slightly green when I take off one at the end of the day. I’ve also stabbed myself with the owl’s feet one too many times. But how can you control what you love? You can’t.
Something is only “junk” if it means nothing to you. If it’s special to you personally, then price and quality are irrelevant.
And more often, it is hard to discover the special things or predict what we’ll grow to love when the surrounding junk is so overwhelming and noisy, whether you are in a flea market or a shopping mall. But at these moments, I tune out the noise, sometimes by stepping away to think, and then go with my gut. My motto always has been that if you don’t absolutely love something, don’t buy it.
Once I took these bracelets home and out of the clutter, often pairing the red owl with a simple neutral outfit and some red lipstick, the “specialness” was clear. Today, I love wearing them, they frequently start conversations, and I have never seen anything like them since. I could have negotiated the $10 price down, but they’ve grown to be worth more to me than the price paid. The value in the items is personal to me, not inherent in the bracelets themselves. They might be junk, but they are my junk.
But maybe that’s just the poetic Pisces in me talking.