Tiny Love Stories: ‘I Hated Myself Because of the Way I Looked’

“How will I know?” I asked my father before he died. “Talk to me like we are now and listen,” he said. Months passed. I was scared to talk to him. What if I didn’t hear him? On Father’s Day, running barefoot on the beach, I called out, “Dad?” The sharp edge of a shell sliced my foot. My father’s father was a podiatrist. My father was a poet who wrote endlessly about feet. He believed, “The soul is rooted in the foot.” Seven stitches, a beautiful scar. I feel hollow with loss, but my father is still with me. — Hannah Sward

I started losing my hair when I was just a teenager. I had thin hair. I knew I would be practically bald by age 25. Throughout high school and college in India, people routinely asked me, “Bhavik, where is your hair?” I didn’t have an answer. I hated myself because of the way I looked. Then, I met a woman. She said, “I love your bald look. Love yourself, Bhavik.” I am 31 now. I love my bold, nearly bald look, answering everyone’s question, “Where is your hair?” with the answer: “It’s with my wife and daughter.” — Bhavik Sarkhedi

“Your mother and I want grandchildren,” my father told me when I was 14. I had been watching a queer TV show, and he felt the need to express that being straight was my only option. I cried the rest of the night. But years passed and slowly, miraculously, change came. My father began complimenting my unconventional clothing and hugged me tight when I finally, tearfully, told him my truth. I see the change now as he jokingly argues with my girlfriend about the best “Star Wars” movie. I’m not a fan, but somehow I’ve never appreciated “Star Wars” more. — Cadence Cooper

On sabbatical in New York, I entered a small bagel shop and ordered a toasted sesame with plain cream cheese. “Nope,” the woman behind the counter said, writing my order on her pad, ripping it off and handing it down the line. “You’ll have the scallion cream cheese.” Stunned, I waited in silence until my altered bagel arrived. Each chewy, delicious, scallion-filled bite brought tears to my eyes. The woman’s honest care reminded me of my mother who died more than two decades ago. At 48, I still savor the feeling of her tough and tender love whenever it reappears. — Natalie Serianni

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