It’s been a year. Our family has run out of things to say, and there is a pretty juicy solution …
Once upon a time, my family went out into the world every day, collecting stories and observations and coming back to our dinner table to share them. Candles burned low in the glasses; empty powder bowls and later empty ice cream bowls were pushed aside; and we sat together talking about physics experiments and music rehearsals, about friendship and work, and political campaigns and volunteer concerts. We kept repeating and gossiping, getting upset and arguing and laughing until someone inevitably looked at the time and said, “Shit.”
Now no one goes out into the world and there is – and this is a decent way to say it – less to talk about. My husband, a massage therapist, has not worked for more than a year. Our 18-year-old, whom we would normally expect to barely see, is always at home – and the only question that dies from “How was school?” it turns out “How was school?” when school is the same place as House. And as for my own day, let’s see: I worked alone. I was at a Zoom meeting where someone couldn’t get involved, despite all the usual pantomime sound insertion tips. I collected all the dirty cups and glasses. I delivered the meal to the hospice, but I was not allowed inside. I collected all the dirty cups and glasses again (WTAF?). I was jogging with a friend, but for some reason that felt connected to the way my glasses fogged over the mask, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I was at a Zoom meeting where someone’s cat crawled onto her desk and bit off a leaf of something that looked like a jade plant. This last thing is actually good enough to share, and I do. Then we talk about the fantastic television we watched – Lupine, Killing Eve, Ted Lasso – although We watch these shows together. “Wasn’t that scene great?” we remember, even though it was just last night, and we were all there.
Just to be clear: I realize that boring conversation is an inherent luxury. We are adopted and healthy and are often not afraid. And we also talk about the news, about the world, about the relentless permanence of racism and inequality. But our thoughts and opinions became a bit stale. We are a bit annoying to ourselves and each other.
Yes, there are lights at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel, and you can only say so much about the light.
Are you ready for news you can use? Here it is: Whenever someone buys or orders groceries online, I say, “Oh, and get some social fruit.” That means something classy and divisible – pomegranate, pomelo, plain grapefruit or even one of those huge four-dollar tangerines advertised on the back New Yorker (which could make you feel like you’re a parody of yourself starring in a bunch of Candid Camera and Portland). Whatever fruit we peel and distribute, it’s delicious, but it also – in a good way – includes and includes. We dress Alicia Keys or Stevie Wonder or John Coltrane, and we extract glittering pomegranate gems from spongy white bark; peel the sticky membranes from the citrus parts and let the small sachets of juice burst on our tongue; we eat in mutual silence, talk idly about this fruit or fruit in general, sing to music or deeply share our hopes and dreams. (If your teenager ever confided in you freely while you were harvesting corn, you will recognize this last phenomenon.)
Social fruit is usually more expensive than regular fruit, but understand that as an investment, because what you get is a complete experience. And that experience is a shared juiciness. It’s a refreshing fellowship. It’s a stunning rush of something other than your self – and hope for a few more.
The author is Catherine Newman How to become a person. She also wrote 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenagers.
PS Family dinners of five ingredients i our favorite TV shows.
(Written by Guille Faingold / Stocky.)