Tomatoes & Onions

A little piece of work I wrote senior year of high school for English Lang & Comp. AP.


 I am a tomato, and my problem is everyone else is an onion. I discovered this from observing the grown-ups when I was young. Whenever we went out to a restaurant or to the movies, I would notice things about their behavior around others. Grown-ups are so different, but oddly enough, they all seem to act the same way. Adults are onions, protected by a layer of skin so that no one could see who they really were. And I was an infant tomato, as fragile and new to the world as could be. The slightest touch left an imprint on my mind, whether it was an insinuation or an insult. So I started thinking about this situation.

            We are all born tomatoes. By age eleven, the change to onion-hood is already underway. That vibrant red skin starts to fade and thicken and lose its sweetness, turning into a sour, hard coating. The whole process is very subtle, and it is seldom thought about.  It begins with authority figures, any of the major influences in a child’s life: parents, friends, school, and television. In order to feel accepted by these figures, children have to adapt to certain rules. Girls try to be thin. Guys try to impress girls. Everyone tries to get the right answer at school. And if they fail to meet any of these criteria, they get embarrassed. This is the new  “red onion” phase, halfway between tomato-hood and onion-hood.

            However, soon enough, “kids” begin inventing ways to escape criticism. The girls can choose not to eat or they can pretend that they do not care.  The “guys” can choose to imitate someone famous or they can pretend that they hate girls. The students who usually get the right answers at school find ways to seem like they always get the right answers, and the “kids” who rarely get the right answers find ways to show that they do not care. This is the skin of the onion developing. And by the beginning of high school, the mature onion has formed. With time, its skin grows thicker. As that skin grows thicker the people lose themselves along the way. They lose their sense of authenticity and become what the world molds them to be, no longer “Made in USA”. Of course, there are some people that even realize that they are onions, but are hesitant to peel their skin for fear of losing their sense of security.

            Occasionally, I will catch myself onionizing, especially if something really bothers me. Beginning of my high school freshman year, I was scared that I would not make any friends so I convinced myself I was the loner type. Since I was going to a high school where none of my friends were going, I knew there was no way I would find others to somehow replace my old friends. For months, I refused to meet anybody because I had already decided that I would not get along with any new friend.  I felt awful, until I realized I had abandoned being a tomato. I could not avoid confronting it any longer. I knew that my fear was going to leave a bruise, but that was fine because it was better than covering up my problem. Once I opened up, I had an easier time meeting people than I would have ever imagined. That is the wonder of tomatoes.  “Tomatoes” never try to hide who we are or how we think and never take the easy way out.

            College a mix of tomatoes and onions, where one learns to question the status quo, seems like it would be the perfect place for a tomato living in an onion’s world. Yet I recognize that the challenging time will be to continue being a tomato– continue to discover. I will be confronting new ideas, new situations, along with new fears, and will have to assimilate these experiences without changing the fabric of my mind. I will have to keep my vision of the world fresh and open, and not succumb to the hardening of established ideas, or onionizing, which I see happening around me all the time.

            In the end, it is possible that tomatoes and onions do have something in common: a comfort in the usual way of doing things, a resistance towards change. The change in these next four years will be a novelty for me, as I explore new intellectual realms as my mind continues to mature — although I will never stop being a tomato, I hope that college will at least help me to ripen a bit.


Unfortunately it did not make the cut for my college essay in my applications.

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