When I was younger I was gullible. I’m not talking about when I was a little kid because if someone has had a fairly normal upbringing, at that age it’s easy to believe anything. When I was a very young woman, I would walk around thinking that, generally, everyone told the truth and everyone that said they were my friend must be. I knew people lied, of course, but I didn’t understand with what what ease or to what extent. ‘Agendas’ and ‘motives’ were still fairly new to me. Boy, was I oblivious.
When I was in college I shared a large, old house with four other girls. One night, my roommates and I threw a party. It had been a long semester and we invited a good share of people over to blow off some steam. As expected, there were many students that stayed over because they were a little too inebriated. They slept on the couches, the floor, even the bath tub. It was going to be a struggle to get them out of the house and since we had more energy in those days hung-over than we do now after a solid night’s sleep, we made breakfast for everyone.
It was unhealthy but true hangover food … a carb-filled morning of pastries, pancakes, toast, strong black coffee (made from all the coffee makers we pulled from our rooms) and a ‘double shot of pills’ for the headache. Some ate on the couches but we pulled three tables together in the living room and got most people around the make-shift long table.
It was quite the morning. I had to hop over all the bodies of beached whales just to be immediately put to work in the kitchen. I’d never been so happy to sit and eat pancakes from a cheap store-bought mix and fake syrup. Heaven.
Back in the day, brown sugar was not nearly as common to have on a table for coffee or tea. One of my roommates, however, always had the brown sugar in a jar on the kitchen counter. I went in for something and brought out the brown sugar.
My closest roommate and I were at one end of the long table. When I sat down, I put the brown sugar into my coffee. My roommate looked up at me and said, “What are you doing? That’s brown rice.” Having realized my mistake, I let out a laugh and put on a pseudo-straight face, “I know that. It helps bring down the coffee sediment.” We were smiling at each other. We were tight and so I didn’t have to tell her I was just joking and was full of shit because she knew.
Someone must have heard the conversation and took it for fact because in the midst of taking another bite of my cardboard pancake, I see her eyes bug out at the others around the table. When I follow where she’s looking, I can see that every single person was pouring brown rice into their cup. Every single one! Even our roommates – which had seen me drink coffee a billion times before without brown rice – were pouring away! From person to person, we watched this act. My eyes must have bugged out too and when I looked back at her, and I couldn’t help breaking into a grin from ear to ear like the Cheshire cat. She shot coffee out of her nose and excused herself, but we never did tell any of our guests the truth.
That moment crosses my mind from time to time. I feel mildly guilty thinking that there may be a few people out there spreading the news that uncooked brown rice in your cup of java “brings the sediment to the bottom”! I wonder how many times I may have fallen for something ridiculous. It was a pivotal moment in my thinking, though. As strange as it may seem, that little incident made me realize I didn’t want to be that easily swayed. I remember thinking it was so odd how my misinformation was so easily believed and that everyone followed along because that’s what the person before them did. I shouldn’t have been so surprised and, in some ways, things really haven’t changed much in the world.
As we become adults, some of us are less gullible. This is a good thing – even a necessary thing – as long as it doesn’t mean we’re also bitter. There is no advantage to trading extreme naivety for unreasonable suspicion.
At that time, though, we thought we could change the world with our ideals. We were all so impressionable back then. We used to trust people meant what they said.
It’s hard to learn ideals are not going to change the world … that it takes action. The best of us know that even action may not be enough but they do it anyway – because even if they’re no longer idealists, they’re still principled.
Sometimes I wonder how everyone turned out. It’s not often that I envy who we were, but when I feel a little run down and doubtful, I miss that innocence when all was right with the world and the biggest concerns we had were making posters for some cause or demonstration, our final marks for Motten’s class and the next place to throw a party.
Of course, some weren’t so lucky, grew up a lot faster and carried a look in their eyes of ‘knowing’ something but not wanting to shatter our worlds. Others were born into this world with plenty to bear. However it happens, most of us grow up at some point and that pill is a lot harder to swallow than a hangover remedy.
Written by: Leni Sosa; Permanence of Wings