Twice in the last few weeks, people have done that thing to me. Maybe this has happened to you?
They tell me something absolutely astonishing, so I’m like, "Really?" Then they laugh, because I’ve fallen for it.
And I cringe, because I've forgotten again.
I've forgotten the tendency of reliable, fairly nice people to turn around and lie.
Why do I always forget?
Probably because the idea is so foreign and, hey, I'll say it, kind of repulsive.
To me, it says more negative things about the person who's doing it, the suckee, than about you, the sucker. As repulsive as a fart in polite company, this person has breached every conversational and societal norm for the sake of a not-very-good joke.
A relative once brought his young kids to our seder and told them the spicy red horseradish on the table was strawberry jam. I'm sure they never took jam from him again in their lives. But is that really the point? What's the message? "Be careful about jam?"
Nah, the message truly is nothing more complex like, "Watch this person carefully. They'll turn on you so you can never trust them."
I even hate the WORD "gullible." It sounds like something a drowning, helpless, floppy goldfish might say.
I am that goldfish.
At least I have the self-confidence at this point in my life to realize it’s NOT because I’m not smart. I thought that was it for a long time. But really, how much brain power does it take to just… lie? Almost less than telling the truth, if you think about it.
So why does our culture hate gullible people so much? Why is this abundance of trust seen as a negative characteristic? Why does everybody "in the know" stand around laughing at the sucker, when they ought to spank the suckee soundly and maybe ostracize them?
All the little jokes...
"Did you know they took out the word 'gullible' from the dictionary?"
"Did you know that if you looked up the word 'gullible' you'd see your picture?"
Okay, maybe only two little jokes, which are variations on the same theme.
What's going on here? I think it's simple.
We love to feel smart, even if we have to knock other people down to feel that way.
We like winners. We hate losers.
And we want to be on the side of the winner, if at all possible. That's why, if we know a person's pulling someone's leg, we'll stand by, laugh and laugh as if this is not the most ugly violation of everyone's trust and faith.
At least, I assume that's what's happening. I'm rarely one of the ones in the know. It's that invisible word, "gullible" tattooed on my forehead, I'm sure.
The pain never goes away. Or the resentment that I've been bested.
That someone I thought I trusted - conversationally, at least - has decided to mock me for whatever reason. I feel like a stupid little kid again.
These days, if someone does something like that to me, I just say it right out. "I guess I'm just a very trusting person."
Unfortunately, people don't usually respond with the appropriate shame, but if I keep playing with it, get the intonation right, maybe add, "I thought you were telling the truth" to the end, then maybe eventually they'll get it.
In my world, your little joke isn't funny; it's just an ugly lie, mirroring your ugly, dark, sadistic soul.
Ha! Just kidding!!
Oh, wait; actually, no, I'm not.