I told my grandmother about the orange peel theory and here's how it went

She has some lessons for Gen-Z.

04 March, 2024
I told my grandmother about the orange peel theory and here's how it went

“The internet is a bizarre place. You have to set boundaries or it consumes you,” my grandmother said to me in her crackling voice every time she caught me with my feet up, hair scattered, and eyes glued to the phone screen, probably exploring yet another food page or a vague recipe. 

She’s right, though. After a picture of an egg became the most-liked post on Instagram, people putting on a hundred layers of foundation in the name of a ‘challenge’, and influencers using a shot glass to achieve plumped lips like Kylie Jenner, you have to admit that the internet is indeed a confusing place. 

Adding to the parade of absurdity, we now have the ‘orange peel trend,’ which is supposed to prove a partner’s love for you. According to the theory, if you ask your partner to peel an orange for you and they do it without hesitating, chances are they truly love you. Some argue that this is the bare minimum, and I couldn’t agree more. Meanwhile, the internet is flooding with screenshots and videos of people popping ‘the’ question of the hour to their partner: “Could you peel an orange for me?”


Now here’s the thing, more often than not, I have an almost irresistible urge to vocalise every thought that crosses my mind, which causes every passing thought to become a topic of discussion with everyone around me. “Did nana ever peel an orange for you?” I asked my 68-year-old grandmother. “What?” she said in a muddled tone. I began to give her context about the trend. And by the end of it, this was her response, “He didn’t peel an orange for me, but he gave me ten acres of his land.” Her unhinged sense of humour had me cracking up, but it also gave me something to think about. 

Your desi parents taught you this way before 

“But I’ve been doing that for you forever,” my grandma told me. 

In an Indian household, there are many different (rather obscure) ways of saying ‘I love you’, many of which go unaddressed. For instance, putting your ugliest picture as their WhatsApp display, boasting about your new job to your relatives, forcing you to gulp down an extra puri even if you’re full, sending you motivational ‘good morning’ forwards, and the most popular one—popping into your room with a bowl of fresh cut fruits. This is how most of us learned about ‘acts of service’ as a love language.

After the surfacing of the trend, now when I stop to think about it, I realise that the bowl of fruits left by my parents or grandmother has been my biggest companion through hardships, whether facing a daunting physics examination, putting in overtime at work, or facing an altercation at home. It was probably their way of saying that they're here for me, without actually saying it. But it's all that I needed at that moment.

Now whether peeling an orange is truly a sign of your partner’s love for you, is debatable, although it does tell you that love is not solely about grand gestures; sometimes, it’s as simple as a bowl of fruits or a peeled orange.

Love often manifests in the unspoken sacrifices you make

I asked my grandmother for her stance on the matter, which side of the internet she agreed with—the one that says peeling an orange is the ultimate test of love or the one that argues it’s the bare minimum. She replied telling me about the time she gave her favourite saree to my mother. Like most Indian women, my grandmother’s most prized possession is her collection of sarees, which occupies at least two big cupboards in the house. Naturally, she also had a favourite pick—it was a purple one with golden zari that she’d worn on her wedding day.

On a Sunday afternoon, when my mother was browsing through her sarees, she told her how much she loved the purple one. “Keep it,” my grandma instinctively replied. “I knew she secretly wanted it, but she hesitated,” my grandmother told me. She continues, “Even though that specific saree meant a lot to me, I knew I’d trade it to my daughter-in-law on her wish in a heartbeat; it’s what love makes you do.”

This further proves that you can find love in everything around you—from oranges to sarees; it's the unspoken sacrifices you willingly make for the people you love. So the point of the debate should be: Are you willing to make sacrifices? 

Will they also remove the white threads of the orange? 

As I went on to explain the theory to her, she stopped me to ask, “Peeling means even the white threads and skin that you don’t like?”. “Probably,” I said.

I’m not sure if it’s something I demanded, but I remember cribbing about the threads inside the orange. “It sucks the joy out of the fruit,” I’d say. And now that she mentions it, I realise that the oranges in my fruit bowls always came without them—peeled as if they were for a three-year-old—exactly the way I preferred it. 

It’s probably what the orange peel theory is about—going the extra mile for someone you love without them asking for it. Maybe, the ‘orange peel theory’ is a reminder that love finds you in mysterious ways—sometimes in things and sometimes even in places. What you need to do when you find it, though, is hold on to it until it slips away. 

Also read: Everything I learned about love is from being an older sister

Also read: How to deal with imposter syndrome in your 20s