In high school, my friend Karen, who now goes to Yale (which may or may not be relevant), once told me as we approached the subway station that they had raised the price of a token from $2 to $2.50 “I’ll buy your token,” she said, as I spluttered with the indignant outrage appropriate to an occasion when the price of standard transportation has been raised by fifty cents in a single day with no warning. I gave her the money, she bought my token, and as we stood waiting for the train, she gave me my fifty cents back in disgust. She said she couldn’t keep the money because it reminded her that she was friends with someone like me.
My prank-prone friends quickly learn that they have no need to concoct elaborate schemes in order to fool me into believing ridiculous lies. Why go to the trouble of enlisting others to help persuade me that you have an identical twin when you can fool me just as easily by pointing to a photo of yourself and saying, “And that’s Lisa”?
It seems my extreme gullibility dates back to not-so-early childhood, when I believed in the Tooth Fairy, possibly the least interesting and most blatantly phoned-in of all childhood myths. Even my parents’ obvious lack of enthusiasm in discussing the Tooth Fairy’s sordid and slightly creepy pursuits failed to dampen my spirits. Possibly, on a certain level, they were disappointed in me for believing their story, and I can’t blame them. I, however, gleefully counted the rest of my baby teeth, pondering the profits they would bring in one day and considering my mouth to be a sort of trust fund. I decided that a fairy who gave money for teeth would be a valuable ally to have on my side, and went about befriending her in the only way I could think of. My next lost tooth went under my pillow with a note that said: “Tooth Fairy, do you want to be my friend? Check one box for yes or no.” At the bottom were the two corresponding boxes. The chance that this note still exists curtails the possibility of my ever going into public office. To add insult to idiocy, the tooth fairy did not check either box. Perhaps this is a large part of why, even now, I suffer from a crippling fear of rejection.
I would like to think that being gullible is not something to be ashamed of. It suggests a kind of innocence that not everyone is proud to admit to. A willingness to take others at their word, to trust them when they tell you that ‘lite’ beer is called so because it has less alcohol, or that there’s a salad bar in the basement of the public library. I’m hoping it has raw spinach.