Tiny Love Stories: ‘Mommy, Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?’

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My first semester of college, I only called my mother twice. At my house, I felt generally misunderstood and judged for my weight; at school, I was finally free. But the pandemic forced me home. I spent the first months in my room. Then, my mother and I started watching Chinese competition shows together, bonding over the contestants. Now I make sure she’s eating even when she avoids meals to stay thin. We converse in simple Mandarin, a language I hadn’t bothered to learn before. I buy her flowers and cry when I think of leaving her. — Annabelle Wang

I take a lot of photos. My house is filled with images of places I have visited and people I love. I rotate the photos, taking new ones, making more prints, slipping new pictures over old ones in frames. But I have realized, six months after my partner’s sudden death, that the photos I have of John are all I will ever have. So I conjure up memories of him — hiking in the Sierras, enjoying a party, reading at the kitchen table. Love endures without fresh photos, but oh how I miss stealthily snapping him. — Ellen Greenblatt


Our pace slowed as Monica’s feet started to hurt in her blue velvet heels. I was wearing sneakers and offered to switch. I stumbled along, leaning most of my weight on her shoulders. We only made it one city block before switching back. This wasn’t the first or last time she would prop me up as I floundered uncomfortable in femininity. Later she would help me change my legal name and gender marker. She still loves — and can rock — high heels. But next time the night gets long, I will probably offer a piggyback ride. — Nat Mulkey


From the back seat, my 5-year-old son, Jack, said: “Mommy, why don’t you have a boyfriend?” Freshly divorced and unsure how to answer, I asked why he asked. Jack replied, “Because you’re really nice. You should be with someone nice.” I realized the troubles of my previous marriage had not gone unnoticed. Jack said I should look for someone kind, respectful and of medium height — like Grandma. Eight years later, Jack calls my husband, Greg, “Dad.” I tease Greg that it’s a good thing that he’s on the shorter side, just like my mother. — Clara Koschnitzke Hoffmann

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