Story of Cantaloupes, Part 3 of 3: You Can’t Juice A Cantaloupe

If men are like fruit I’ve dated a nice assorted basket.

I’ve only dated one real lemon and attempted to squeeze and turn him into lemonade. I ended up getting him in the eye and blinding myself for a time. In hindsight, he was probably more like a breadfruit mistaken for a lemon and no wonder I couldn’t juice the damn thing.

Since then, it has been my practice not to read into what men say or do, that is, hear only what is said and judge them only on what they do. This means not second guessing their thoughts and actions to suit my interpretive wish. And men, I find, are amenable to this approach because they almost always say what they mean and do what they want.

In taking this approach, I’ve met a handful of nice people, each different and lovely in their own way. By never wishing he were a peach when he was, say, a banana, I was never unpleasantly surprised or taken by surprise. And by dating different fruit, I found out what I really wanted and what I really wanted wasn’t a fruit at all but SC. So my first advice to my friend, and this post is an advice post, is not to take the fruit and men metaphor too far. They are actually human beings, men that is.

I recently reconnected with an old friend from college through Facebook while I was convalescing from my run-in with a cantaloupe. Like me, she double majored in chemistry. I remember she had a wonderful sense of humor, a great smile, a straight forward, honest way of talking that I adored, and she wore a hijab by choice, something I found completely baffling and admirable at the same time.

She married when we were both only twenty-three years old and she divorced a year ago. Since then she has been trying to enter the dating world. After several tentative gestures towards a man she is currently dating, she began to talk about him openly.

After hearing what she had to say about him–full of confusing and contradictory messages that are jerking her chain and keeping her in the half dark–I had a few thoughts that might help her figure out this enigmatic man of pseudo mystery and faked complexity.

The key point is this: the jerking of chain and casting shadows of mystery are actually her doing. Not his.

For instance, he says he doesn’t want a commitment, calls you his friend with benefits, his pal. He means he doesn’t want to commit to you and does not want things to get serious and has no intention of changing his mind.

It does not mean that he might want a commitment later, that he’s been heartbroken in the past and is scared to get hurt again and just needs you to convince him that you’re the woman he’s been waiting for, the fountainhead of his enduring happiness.

Say he rarely comes to pick you up even though he has a car, books appointments for his job around your “dates” with him when he makes those rare drives to your neck of the woods. He means that you alone aren’t worth the cost of gas and time. And he doesn’t want to commit to you.

It does not mean he wants to see you so much that he’s willing to drive and why not kill two birds with one stone because he’s a responsible and practical man.

Say he only takes you out to eat to the greasy diners, Dunkin’ Donuts, and sometimes Olive Garden, rarely takes you back to his apartment, and expects you to be all right with fooling around in his car or his office like a couple of teenagers. He means you’re not worth being wooed and romanced like a grown woman because, after all, you’re just a pal and he doesn’t want to commit to you. Like my mother always said to me, “A man who’s stingy with his wallet is likely to be stingy with his affections, his kindnesses, his commitment.”

It does not mean that he takes you DD because you really like it (even if you do like DD’s coffee) and he’s being thoughtful, that he’s living out his teenaged fantasies in middle age because he was an awkward teenager and didn’t get to do the usual teenager stuff.

His friends and family (yes you’ve met his friends and family and this is part of his stupidity and clumsy attempt to make you feel important like a friend) tell you that he really likes you and talks about you all the time and calls you his girlfriend, never mind that he has never called you that. Until he says all those wonderful things to you, what his family and friends say, sadly, has little value. And if he hasn’t said it, he means he likes you, but not enough to commit to you.

It does not mean that he’s only telling his deepest feelings and hopes to his family and friends in the hopes that you’ll know his heart’s wishes without his having to say so himself because he’s insecure and shy. It does not mean you’re getting closer to a commitment and that it’s just a matter of time before he realizes what a great woman you are and commit to you.

He’s a cantaloupe. A perfectly respectable fruit. The problem here with my friend is she wishes he were a lemon that she can turn into lemonade. And so she’s trying to juice this cantaloupe. Have you tried juicing a cantaloupe? It’s not pretty. This is because cantaloupes are not a versatile fruit. They’re resistant to culinary (and romantic) manipulations. You essentially enjoy it by slitting it open and eating it raw. You can spoon out the flesh or slice up it into quarter moons and enjoy them like watermelon. You can melon ball them or remove the skin and cube it, add it to a fruit salad. Wrap it with prosciutto with a little salt and pepper for a refreshing appetizer.

But essentially a cantaloupe is one of those fruits that you have to take or leave as they are. Unlike, say, lemons which can be used in savory and sweet dishes, made into pies, zested, highlighted for their own loveliness or used to enhance the flavor of other foods and beverages, even oven-dried and hung on the Christmas tree for a fragrant ornament.

When a man tells you he’s a cantaloupe, believe him. Don’t wish he were a lemon and attempt to juice him. It’s an exhausting and fruitless endeavor.

So my two pieces of advice to her are these:

One, enjoy the bounty that the earth has to offer. You’ve never dated before, marrying the first man you became intimate with. Dating is an important way to figure out what you want and thus who you are. Never tried kumquats? Try a kumquat. You might like it.

Two, enjoy this cantaloupe, but know that it’s a cantaloupe. It’ll make the experience of dating a cantaloupe that much more pleasurable because you can actually enjoy a cantaloupe as a cantaloupe. And then if you decide that cantaloupes aren’t really your thing then return to the first advice and try a kumquat.

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