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Who Do You Belong To?

Illustration by Ellice Weaver

Emily Lackey | Longreads | May 2019 | 17 minutes (4,462 words)

When I was a teenager, I didn’t fall in love with boys — I fell in love with their families. In seventh grade, it was Sean’s mother, who came to our classroom every day to help the teacher with whatever needed helping. I loved way she outlined the bubble letters on our art projects and cut pieces of construction paper into perfect circles. I loved how she was always there with her short hair, driving the purple minivan whose license plate I memorized. I liked Sean, too, but I can’t remember why other than the fact that he had hair that got blonder the longer he was in the sun, and that he liked a football team other than the Patriots.

Jason was next. Jason was the best because his parents were divorced, which meant there were two families to love. His father and stepmother invited me to their cocktail parties, took me to a New Year’s Eve dinner in New York City, brought me home when it was too late for Jason to drive, and paid me for painting the side of their house. Their house was where I was introduced to life’s greatest luxuries: gas stoves, hummus, bread that wasn’t white, olives that weren’t black.

“This girl is great,” I remember Jason’s father saying every time I offered to help with dinner, every time I set the table, every time I cleared my own dishes without being asked.

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