On Canteloupe, Dating, and More Grandmotherly Wisdom

“We knew this was going to happen.”

My grandmother (Can we call her S? Should we call her S? Let’s call her S. Glad we had this talk.) was standing above my desk and handing over a plate of canteloupe–freshly sliced.

She was shaking her head.

“Ever since you were little,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Everyone’s been treating you like a princess.”

I grinned and nodded and, feeling rather smug about being so chirpily self-aware, resumed writing.

“Yep,” I said. “I know.

This all, as things often do, began with melon. (By often I of course mean one time–in the form of a five-page rant in a Philip Roth memoir from which I quoted extensively in the preface to my MFA dissertation.)

It was sitting there for days.

“Aren’t you going to eat the melon?” S had asked, nodding her head in it’s neglected direction.

I tried to submit that the thing was hidden: set, as it was, on a kitchen side table atop a camouflaging pink tablecloth and beside a malfunctioning clock radio that blinks constantly.

But then I fessed up.

“Actually,” I said, “I have a hard time with melon.”

S shot me a trademark look that conveys a particular brand of bafflement: one she is known to deploy when I tell her I’d like to dye a streak of hair red or paint one nail green or drink yet another bottle of flavored seltzer.

“What,” she pleaded, “does that mean?”

“Well, I’m kind of lazy about slicing it,” I attempted. “It’s just such a pain…and I never know how to tell when it’s ripe…and, I don’t know…I just tend not to eat it.”

I tried hedging my admission with the fact that I don’t much like melon to begin with; I even tried telling her that I sometimes deign to actually peel a mango.

But it was too late.

“What if I were to cut it for you?”

I gulped. “I mean–that’d be great!”

Which is how I wound up, the following day, cheerfully snacking on her pre-cut canteloupe and discussing the fact that I have spent my entire life dependent on others.

“One day I’ll get married and it’ll be fine,” I joked–a comment that shamed me so abruptly that I soon switched course.

“I mean, one of my few skillsĀ  is making friends. I always have friends around to help me with things.” Memories surfaced: my dear pal P sitting on the vomit-green carpet of a college bedroom, dutifully assembling my IKEA shelf; L, a grad school buddy, who singlehandedly folded and packed my entire wardrobe pre-move. I’m not joking.

By now, S had begun to fold the pair of yellow tights whose sight, balled up on my bed, had grown too much for her to bear.

“So listen,” she said. “If you have such good friends, how come none of them can help you with the husband part?”

If I knew the answer, of course, I would not have spent the past 450 words on a preamble. Alas.

As I told her, I can guess: set-ups are tough. Attraction is fickle. For all the millions of single men who supposedly populate Manhattan, most interesting people claim to know none.

S has no time for such excuses. She’s spent the larger part of 2012 in pursuit of someone’s phantom multiracial grandson, a doctor who lives in Philadelphia. (“What matters is that he’s nice!”)

Of course, most people love the idea of setting friends up. My parents met on a blind date–the couple who arranged them will forever occupy legend status in my family’s orbit. Recently, at what may have been the gayest party in New York City, I managed to consume a lot of aged whiskey and smooch the only straight man in attendance in dangerously close proximity to what must have been the priciest coat pile east of Battery Park–when the host walked in, he was only thrilled. “Fabulous!” he cried. “I love it when people meet at my parties!”

All to say that consensus seems widespread: there’s no better way to meet someone than through friends. And yet, in a lifetime of turning to mine for nearly every form of available assistance and support, from slicing my fruit to folding my clothes, seldom have they overtly tried to help me get a guy.

But then, as I suspect Roth would agree, men have a little in common with melon: difficult to pick out, hard to predict, a potential headache, basically, all around.

Perhaps I should give that doctor a call.


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