I believe the earth is flat. I believe in Piltdown Man and crop circles and UFOs. I believe that rural Filipino faith healers really can pull bad mojo out of the bodies of possessed people and restore them to perfect health. I believe that when David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear, that it really did disappear. I believe that Bounty towels are the Quicker Picker Upper and that Rembrandt toothpaste really will make my teeth whiter and more dazzling.
I believed my Russian grandmother from the shtetl when she told me that if you sew a button on someone’s shirt without them first removing the garment that you will sew up their brains. I also believed her when she told me that if you step over someone on the floor, they will quit growing and develop a hunchback. I even believed her when, as a 5 year old, she told me that if I didn’t have a bowel movement every day that I would explode like a hand grenade.
I believed that if I stepped on a crack, I would really break my mother’s back and that if I didn’t touch something black that I would get something odious and distasteful back. I believed the neighborhood kids when they warned me that Judy Ann ice cream had cooties which could be transferred to anyone eating their dairy products. I believed that if you made an ugly face, it could freeze like that for eternity. And even though I was Jewish and my name was not Virginia, I still believed in Santa Claus. You might think that I was just in the powerful grip of childhood myth, something to be outgrown, but I believed on a visceral level. And I still do.
I guess what I believe in could be called the power of gullibility.
A number of years ago, my 25 year marriage came to an end. My husband, whom I had trusted without hesitation, had shamelessly lied and betrayed me. This was a man who could have told me that he went to the moon and ate green cheese, and I would have asked him, “Did you get any take-out?” So, when this marriage ended, I was confused and hurt. I sought the advice of a therapist who told me that I had to take off my rose-colored glasses and see the world as it really is and not as I would like it to be. As I drove home that night, I thought about her advice and wondered whether I could do that. My whole life, I have been so gullible, believing everything that the people I loved told me. As a kid, when my brother, mimicking the Stooges, told me to pick two fingers, I fell for the gag every time. I also fell for the gag about pulling his finger, which released a stream of noisy flatulence. Could I really change a lifetime of gullibility? And more importantly, was that desirable?
I decided that I didn’t want to take off my rose-colored glasses. I didn’t want to become brittle and suspicious and to examine people for their possible hidden motives and secret agendas. I wanted to see the best in people, even if they sometimes ended up betraying my trust. Why? Because in order to truly love someone, you have to suspend disbelief, you have to extend total trust and you have to believe as an article of faith. Falling in love is a lot like believing in God. You have to accept the truth of certain propositions even in the absence of dispositive proof. In short, you have to be gullible. I would rather accept at face value the words of my beloved than to always be looking around corners and underneath beds for signs of betrayal. In the end, I would rather have my trust betrayed than to live my life in a state of vigilant pessimism and misanthropy, sorting laundry looking for lipstick stains and slivers of paper with alien phone numbers. I want to give unconditional love rather than to be gripped by suspicion, standing guard, ever-vigilant, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And so, I put my rose-colored glasses firmly back on. I now saunter through life, having consciously made a decision to embrace my gullibility. I am now in a happy relationship with an optimistic man who is as gullible as I am. And you know what? I believe that it’s going to work.
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