Off the Board, Opinion

In defense of gullibility

I have always been a little too gullible for my own good. From an early age, I internalized the idea that other than injuring someone or hurting their feelings, one of the worst things you could do was lie. Assuming that everyone around me was on the same page, I would nod in wide-eyed wonder as my elementary school classmates regaled me with tales of daring spring break adventures or claims of celebrity bloodlines. I was certain that they must be telling the truth, however fantastical the stories were. Even into junior high, I was quick to believe even the most improbable stories. One classmate managed to convince me that they were family friends with Martha Stewart because of their frequent trips to Martha’s Vineyard. While I eventually put it together that they were lying about the familial connection, it took me a frankly embarrassingly long time (midway through my second year at McGill) to realize that the charming coastal vacation spot was not, in fact, owned by Snoop Dogg’s bestie.   

I was also a very easily distracted kid, getting swept away in daydreams the moment some flower or passing stranger caught my eye. To my parents’ chagrin, this meant that I had a bad habit of wandering off whenever the impulse overtook me, meandering down side streets or off hiking paths wherever we went, with them always anxiously chasing after me. My flightiness has been an equally great source of entertainment for my family as it has a source of stress. The story of the time my six-year-old self strolled into a cruise ship casino and sat under a poker table while on a family reunion has been repeated enough times to make my cheeks burn at the sight of a slot machine. 

My over-trusting nature and penchant for distractibility combine into a formidable pair that has made me the perfect target for pranks, of the April Fools’ variety and otherwise. Whether it’s an elaborate deceit, a corny prank call, or a good old-fashioned whoopee cushion, you can bet that I’ve fallen for it. I once ate the better half of a Stink Bug–flavoured Jelly Bean pack, swallowing my disgust and powering on because a friend had given them to me as a “gift” with a seemingly earnest smile. Even tricks that seem too clichéd for a D-rate buddy comedy have managed to leave me bamboozled. Once, while I was attending a sleepaway camp in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, a camp counselor pointed off into the woods with an exaggerated, “Hey, is that a wolf?” While my bunkmates snickered and rolled their eyes at my obliviousness, I spent a solid two minutes scanning the treeline for the creature before realizing that the counselor had run in the opposite direction, cackling atop a hill while she triumphantly waved my stolen toothpaste above her head.  

For most of my life, my gullibility left me feeling embarrassed and a little stupid. Yet in the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate the faith I have in other people, even when it’s to a fault. I don’t think I fall for these sorts of pranks and deceits because I’m stupid (at least, not entirely), but because I’d rather believe the people in my life and potentially fall for another prank than let myself become jaded and mistrusting. While I think a healthy amount of scepticism is required to navigate a world replete with misinformation—or avoid getting sucked into a cult—I would rather be overly trusting than overly suspicious of others. So if there’s even a slim possibility that they’re telling the truth, you can bet I’ll still turn and look when a friend takes the time to point out a wolf.

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