LEVEL columnist Aliya S. King got hitched last year, and she came away with some advice for anyone thinking about popping the question: no Jumbotrons, first of all. Also, consider asking what type of heavy metal your partner wants to wear on their hand for the foreseeable future. Most importantly — especially in the middle of a global health crisis — be ready to commit.

In response, reader Don Burrows shared his own engagement story:

26 years ago I popped the question to Karin just before she boarded the plane to go back home. My exact words were, “SO. You wanna get married, or what?” Classy? Likely not. Memorable? Definitely. After she boarded the plane, I ran to the nearest store, got a pack of Life Savers (rings), talked my way onto the plane and gave her [the] rings. She designed her ring — sapphire with two diamonds on each side, and I gave her “Month-A-Versary” flowers every month for 26 years. …

29 reads to catch up on while we take a break

We’ve finally reached the end of 2020, and we sort of can’t believe it. Yes, “years” are just constructs, but at this point we’ll take a symbolic refresh wherever we can find one. Here’s hoping 2021 lets us see our friends and family up close, and maybe even go in for a hug.

If you’ve been with us from way back in the Before (or if you caught up with us in the After), thank you for being being here — whether as a writer, a reader, or all of the above. Below, you’ll find a handful of our favorite stories from across the Medium universe, including everything from short fiction to original reporting to personal essays. For now, we’re taking a break to rest and recharge after a wild year. …

11 perspectives on food, family, and American history

Before we log off to join our respective Zoom Thanksgivings, we wanted to share a few memorable perspectives on this holiday — how it started, the stories we tell ourselves about it, and what it means to give thanks (especially this year). You’ll find humor, revisionist history, and some advice on coping with homesickness (if that’s what you’re feeling this highly unconventional holiday season). Also, a few of our favorite family-themed personal essays.

Until next week,
The Human Parts Team

1. “What Poverty Taught Me About Being ‘Too Generous’” by Kristine Levine

I was five years old when my mom took off with me to the coast. She said she needed a do-over. We were starting fresh, with no belongings, no toys, no furniture. …

“Black jeans are like fishnets, though — the right ones seem to come with lessons on how to wear them and what to do while wearing them that arrive when you put them on,” writes Alexander Chee in a post about the jeans that are getting him through quarantine. “I’m pretty sure they taught me how to move away from home, flirt with strangers in a bar, protest the government and strike a match one-handed.”

Chee’s retro jeans are a reminder that what we wear shapes who we are — or who we believe ourselves to be. A pair of black jeans can teleport us back to the ’80s, back to the Before Times, or even back to last week. As Mitch Horowitz writes in an essay about the spirituality of personal style, we’re always engaged in “acts of self-selection and self-creation.” …

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Photo: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

If 2020 hasn’t taught us this lesson already, we’re about to learn it: Humans have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. It evokes fear. Anxiety. An obsession with hitting “refresh” on [insert your rabbithole of choice] until the world makes even less sense than it did before.

But uncertainty also presents an opportunity. When the future is unknown, we can shape it. When worries compete for attention inside our heads, we can listen to them — or politely decline to take their calls. Most importantly, when the world feels out of control, we can control the only thing we ever could: ourselves. Here are our favorite stories about staying calm, communicating with people who disagree with you, and caring for yourself. Read them if you need to. …

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Image: Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

Sending a cold email — especially to someone you admire — is a modern leap of faith. You want to strike the right tone: complimentary, brief, earnest. You delete an exclamation point and re-add it two seconds later. No one wants to sound unhinged, but you don’t want to come across as Serious, either.

The beauty of fan mail, or any letter we expect to go unanswered, is that it gives form and intention to our thoughts. It’s an exercise in being direct, even if the person you’re directing your energy toward never sees it. This is why we pen letters to our future and past selves, our corporate overlords, God. Also: people we secretly (or not so secretly) want to become. How did they get that way? …

A weeklong look at the scariest night of the year

“It wasn’t until high school when I realized that I missed out on Halloween’s biggest traditions,” writes Isaiah McCall in a story about forgoing trick-or-treating in favor of his ultra-Christian…


Human Parts

Recommended reading from the editors of Human Parts, a Medium publication about humanity.

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