Fifty-eight years old and I just found out I’ve been doing something wrong my entire life.
Turns out I didn’t know how to properly peel a banana.
I read about it on the Weird Wide Web, where everything is true, and found out that by peeling bananas the customary way — that is, grabbing the stem and pulling it downward to zip the skin away from the fruit — results in a less-than-optimal banana experience. Which pointed me to something else I didn’t know — namely, that a banana could be an experience and that it could be optimized.
Anyway, here’s the deal: By using the old stem-grab-and-pull method you run the risk of mashing the top of the banana. True enough. I always figured that the occasional mashed banana top was part of the deal (or, as we now call it, experience) and that if it was really that much of a problem, you could always cut a little notch in the banana skin to help you get the thing started.
But wait, said the Weird Wide Web. There’s a better way.
All we have to do is follow the example of our fellow higher primates, the great apes, to see how a banana should be peeled: from the bottom.
It works like this: Hold the banana upside down. Go to the blossom end and separate the sections of peel. It should open quite easily if the banana is ripe. Pull off the peel and, presto, there’s your banana, 100 percent intact, no mushy end to mar its wholesome banananess.
Don’t tell me I can’t learn new tricks at my age. I may be an old dog, but I know an improvement when I see one.
Which is really the point. Study after study has shown that human brains respond well to teaching in the so-called middle and old ages. I say so-called because you can’t know what your middle age was until you get to the end of your life and because old age is a state of mind. I know people half my age whose closed minds are making them old (and cranky) before their time.
I’ve seen this as a university professor. My mature students routinely outperform their younger classmates. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think it has to do with objectives.
Many of the students coming right out of high school and into college do so as if they are knocking down a task, checking something off a to-do list. That seems to be the primary motivation: This is something I have to get done if I want to be a success — and that’s fine, because it’s true, as far as it goes.
Most of my older students, though, have something different in mind. They are there to learn something and have no problem telling you to get with it if you’re not meeting their expectations. They are far more receptive to ideas than conventional wisdom — which is usually nothing of the sort — would have us believe.
Which gets us back to the proper way to open a banana. I think the real fun isn’t so much to be found in a perfectly peeled banana; it’s in learning a new and better way to do something so prosaic. Which is good, because truth is, I’m not going to eat them. I’m really not all that fond of bananas.
Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.