I once read something in an anthropology textbook about United States culture and our expectations for breakfast food. These expectations were variable, especially among different age groups, but one option in common was the banana, which most people seemed to agree was pretty good.
Bananas are the “Sure, alright” food. They are never the first option that someone looks forward to all day. They are not the pizza offered at casual parties or the home cooked dinner. They are not the indulgent dessert or the sizzling garlic. They aren’t even the confident, healthy grapefruit.
We do not enter the kitchen and go directly for the bananas, but only decide on one after realizing that what we’re really craving is not present, or when we’re not quite sure what we want, but nothing seems right. It is in these moments that the banana is most desirable.
Then, we spend the next minute or so convincing ourselves we wanted the banana all along. We allow that maybe it’s not exactly what we wanted, but surely it’s close enough. Bananas are always close enough.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying a banana. They’re inoffensive. They’re good for you. They have a pleasant softness and chew and even a subtle sweetness. They are filling, but not too filling. They release us from hunger without ever really satisfying us.
I realized at some point that the way I think of bananas is the way many people view their partners. That might sound depressing, but people get together or stay with people all the time due to the doubt of finding anyone better. When we can’t find who we’re really looking for, we settle for a banana romance.
“Would you like to go out?”
And there’s nothing particularly bad about it if the relationship is healthy enough, though I do find myself feeling sorry for all the banana romances. It’s not quite the same as being the second choice, because there’s no real first choice to begin with. Banana romances are the best ones you can find at the moment. For some people, that’s enough. For others, they’d rather just stay alone (or hungry).
I picture one day finding a break up note, explaining to me:
“I realized I only loved you like a banana. Not passionately like a mango or a peach. Not even comfortably and contentedly like an apple. Just… a banana. I’m sorry.”
And I’ll be half way through eating a banana by the time I process the note. I’ll pause, looking at the fruit in my hand for a long moment, understanding the truth of it all, and then I’ll finish eating.
Because it’s pretty good, just not great.
Friends will try to console me after the fact, “Aw, I’m sorry to hear you broke up.”
“It’s alright,” I’ll tell them. “It was a banana romance on both sides, really.”
I propose the term “banana romance” to describe these sorts of situations.
Creating words helps us to recognize patterns when they arise and allows us to better articulate the commonality between our experiences. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have taken part in a banana romance.
Though right now I’m looking more for a nice clementine.