Innocent Until Proven Gullible

There really should be a law. I mean, you can't drink until 21, can't vote until 18, can't drive until 16 (legally, of course). But being deemed "gullible"? It can happen at any time. To some the age of accountability isn't reached until age 8, and I propose that the same distinction be made with the age of gullibility. Not only should young children be exempt from the "gullible" label, they should also be treated exactly as they treat adults - with honesty. My daughter, who is two going on I-can-do-everything-myself, has a very difficult time with the whole "I got your nose" joke. You know - the one where you grab the kid's nose and then put your thumb through your fingers and call it their nose? She becomes livid and shrieks at a frequency only known to dogs "NO! THAT'S MY NOSE!" And then the offending person laughs, gives her back her nose and says to me "She's so cute. What a gullible kid." And yet, she's pretty much just innocent. She doesn't know the difference between being duped and really having her nose stolen. That's why I'm going to head to Capitol Hill and lobby for the "Innocent Until Proven Gullible" law. It sure would have helped me as a kid.

Christmas was a magical time during my childhood. Of course, we did the typical decorations, cookies, lights, caroling, good-doing, shopping and present-wrapping as the next family, but it seemed magical to me. My father, who is worse than tone deaf, suddenly was full of song. My older sister and brother sort of actually paid attention to me, and I, second to youngest at the time, waited anxiously for Santa Claus. I was probably 4, maybe 5, and Santa was the best thing since sliced bread. I had no doubt he would bring me what I asked for and I tried to ignore my many "naughty" incidences and hoped I wouldn't find a lump of coal on Christmas morning. My brother, almost four years older, enjoyed teasing me about the whole thing. Any time I got sent to my room he would smirk at me and remind me that coal tastes nothing like candy. On one particular Saturday, he and I found ourselves sitting at the top of the stairs. I can't remember why, but we were probably avoiding doing our chores. Our house was a decent size and the basement had once been used as a separate apartment, so we had two kitchens, two living/family rooms, etc. For some reason I was pondering this fact as my brother and I hid out there at the top of the stairs.

"Jared?" I asked suddenly. "Why do we have two kitchens?"

I should have noticed the grin come over his face and the light bulb of an idea hanging over his head. "Well..." he said slowly, "this house used to be two houses."

"Why?" came the quintessential young child reply.

He leaned closer to me, in comraderie. "If you must know...there were two houses with two different families until -" he paused for effect. "- Santa Claus brought the stairs."

I should have known better. But I was four (or maybe five) and I sucked this right up. Under the "Innocent Until Proven Gullible" law, my brother would have been arrested on the spot, but as it was, he had a captive audience. "How did they get to the other floor?" I asked.

"Oh," he said knowingly. "It was just empty space here. The people on the top could just jump to the bottom, but the people on the bottom floor had to go outside and come around to get upstairs. It was a pain. Finally, someone wished for stairs and Santa Claus brought them for Christmas!"

The explanation was good enough for me. He had his fun and I had my answer. No one was harmed in the making of this joke - EXCEPT I believed it for TWO or THREE more years! I often thought about my friends and how Santa Claus must have brought their stairs too. Those two or three years later, I mentioned it to a friend of mine and her older brother started having a problem breathing, he was laughing so hard.

"What?" I asked.

"Santa Claus doesn't bring anyone stairs!!! Are you stupid? Who told you that? You are sooo gullible!" At the time, I didn't understand gullible, but I sure as heck knew what stupid meant. I was crushed. Santa Claus was not such a huge hero and my brother, the Evil One, had probably been laughing at me the entire time!

And now I pose it to you: Was that fair? Little children should always be considered innocent until proven gullible - at an appropriate age! And, if anyone out there knows of an instance where Santa Claus really did bring the stairs, I'd be happy to hear about it! It's never to late to stick it to my brother! :)


How long have I known you and I never knew this! How funny! Why didn't you come to me for confirmation? What a brother we share!