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Essay

What started out as the odd food order here and the rate at-home service there soon spooled out into a semi-regular habit, and that’s how I ended up largely housebound – except for a brief trip to the gym and back

My in-laws sent us 10,000 yuan (US$1,403) and told me to buy a nice suit with it. This seems like a kind gesture but was not really – they are just trying to ensure I don’t humiliate them. Even though I live in the countryside and work as banjo player, it is important that I look like a banker

I remember once seeing a little girl dressed like a princess kick and scream at her mother and grandmother on the sidewalk over five years ago. I don’t know what she was shrieking about, but I remember her rage

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If you put in even the tiniest bit of effort – I mean learning how to count isn’t very hard – the occurences of humiliation become rarer over the years and you might begin to feel less like a stark outsider and more just like a regular weirdo

Groups of men, always men, and typically at lunchtime, would lean back from the table and roll up their shirts to the nipples. Sometimes there’d just be the lone belly out, but generally once one navel is gazing out across the debris of a hotpot, others tend to appear

I settled on an austere black Mao jacket. Xin wore a modest blue traditional top. She put her hair in pigtails. A friend later asked if we had gone to North Korea to get married