Diana Krall sang about getting a grape peeled, as a testament of love.
In today’s episode of TikTok serving: True love comes down to a peeled orange.
Don’t know what I am talking about? Well, let me explain; it took me a while too. The latest viral TikTok thesis argues for the ‘orange peel’ theory, which is based on the idea that if your partner performs small and sweet acts of service, congratulations, you are part of a healthy relationship.
What is the orange peel theory?
Why the term orange peel? The TikTok logic seems simple. It’s an annoying citrusy mess when you peel an orange. If your partner peels an orange for you when you ask them, or even without having to be asked, it’s a sign that the partner does care for you. In essence, a partner who does these little things to make your life easier and brighter, is the one you should be with.
For example, US-based Tiktoker Jenna, a baker, went viral after she shared a video of her partner giving her containers of eggs with all the whites separated from the yolks. He quietly did this in his own time as she had mentioned earlier that she wasn’t able to separate the egg whites. Instantly, people cited the orange peel theory at work, saying that the idea is that your partner does something for you, even if you are perfectly capable of accomplishing the task yourself.
In another TikTok post, creator Anna Birmingham explained that your partner's response reveals more besides them just peeling an orange for you. "Let’s say that for whatever reason, I hate peeling my oranges, but I really like oranges. I ask my partner, ‘Hey, would you mind peeling this orange for me?’" She explained in a video. "They can either respond with, ‘Of course. Not a problem at all,’ or they can say, ‘No, you are perfectly capable of peeling that orange yourself.’"
Another TikToker explained, “Before I go on a trip out of town, he fills up the fuel without me asking. When I’m working, he cooks my lunch so that it’s ready before I even take it. Someone taking care of you is the safest feeling in the world.”
Failing the orange peel test
Those who aren’t on TikTok are particularly intrigued. “Essentially, does this mean an unhealthy co-dependency,” asks Chaitra Joshi, an Abu Dhabi-based homemaker. “How is this a measure for whether you’re in a healthy relationship or not?” Kira Seth, a Dubai-based American expat questions the fact that this is used as an assessment, “Isn’t it an unfair way, to put your partner or loved one to a test? It’s as if you’re saying, if you don’t do certain things, you don’t love me?”
Many feel that by this standard, their relationships won’t pass the orange peel test. “My husband will just stare at me blankly if I randomly ask him to peel an orange. I have failed the Gen Z test,” says baffled Krista Shaw, a Canadian expat in Dubai.
It’s confusing. Let’s hear what the psychologists have to say.
Small acts of thoughtfulness or a manipulative mind game?
Orange peel theory is an old belief repackaged as a TikTok trend.
According to Bushra Khan, Dubai-based wellness expert and transformational coach, it’s essentially a love language; showing love and care through small tasks. It’s not about the actions itself; it’s about what it signifies in a relationship. It is all about love, care, and commitment, which promotes a beneficial relationship. These seemingly insignificant gestures do foresee a supportive relationship.
“It doesn’t necessarily reinforce the idea that you shouldn’t do things for yourself. It’s more about recognising small acts of thoughtfulness that partners do for each other. This strengthens the emotional bonds in a relationship,” she explains. “It is not about dependency, but rather appreciative gestures of care.”
It doesn't necessarily reinforce the idea that you shouldn't do things for yourself. It’s more about recognising small acts of thoughtfulness that partners do for each other. This strengthens the emotional bonds in a relationship
These minute gestures help in generating a sense of trust and understanding. It does help in fostering a more comfortable environment for people.
This is all very sweet and touching, but it is not the barometer for deciding the strength of a relationship. While the orange peel theory has its merits, it does not predict an outcome of a relationship, explains Khan. It can serve as one of the indicators, but it should not be a deal breaker, she says.
However, is it a mind game? Is it manipulative? Yes, when you keep using it excessively as a test, explains Khan. Such gestures are not the only litmus test for a relationship, she adds. “Healthy relationships involve open communication and trust, so relying solely on such tests can be unfair and counterproductive. This orange peel theory shouldn’t be the only barometer to judge a relationship.”
‘Putting people in boxes’
If you want your orange peeled, you can simply ask for it without having to use the peel as a test.
Dubai-based counselling psychologist Reema Baniabbasi doesn’t believe this is an effective method to just a relationship. Everyone’s different, complex, and multi-faceted; the orange peel theory is far too simplified for such a complicated emotion. “People have multiple love languages. Yet, you can’t just slot them into one box,” she says. “You can’t assume that because they didn’t follow a certain standard, they don’t care about you.”
There are no clear-cut formulas for relationships, says Baniabbasi. For example, if someone doesn’t immediately help you out on some mundane tasks, but does something else for you, like protecting you or standing up for you, they’re still demonstrating love and care. Speaking about the latest trend she says, “We get so focused in putting people in boxes, and being formulaic, that we forget about getting to know them. Every relationship needs that curiosity, that desire to know more about the other, so you build intimacy with each other,” she says.
We get so focused in putting people in boxes, and being formulaic, that we forget about getting to know them. Every relationship needs that curiosity, that desire to know more about the other, so you build intimacy with each other.
People develop these “orange peel” patterns over time; it’s not something that is immediately present from the start. Moreover, what’s important in every relationship, according to Baniabbasi, is communication. You also need to let the other person know what you feel, rather than waiting for them to read your mind.
Why do such ideas catch fire as TikTok trends? “Apart from generating views, there’s now a sense of instant gratification and immediacy,” adds Baniabbasi. People want the quick fix and the easy answers, rather than taking the time out to understand nuance and something layered like relationships.
In short, it’s all right if someone doesn’t peel the orange for you.