When I was a prepubescent teen, my cousin told me that when women wanted to get pregnant, they went to a doctor who put them on a special diet and the food they ate made the baby grow in their tummy. I believed her. For a while.
Before I left primary school, the head nun warned us girls about going into the long grass with the boys – because that’s where babies came from. I believed her. For a while.
Older still, an engineering student once told me that the traffic lights in Dublin were synchronised with the traffic lights in New York. I believed him. For a while.
When I lived in Los Angeles, a mate of mine who worked in advertising would run all her ads by me in the firm belief that if they didn’t work on me, they wouldn’t work on anyone.
I also believed in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and leprechauns and still believe in serendipity, fate, and happy endings. Yes, I’m gullible.
I see no reason for people to lie to me and therefore I’m guilty of believing almost everything I’m told. I have gotten a little more discerning over the years. I can now lay claim to a modicum of intelligence. I consider myself reasonably well read and yet I still hear my mother’s caution that paper will take any print. The first thing I do when I get an email warning me of a virus or telling me a sad story and asking me not to break the chain by refusing to forward it is to check to see if it’s an urban legend. And 100% of the time, it is. But still I check. Just in case it’s true.
I know there are scammers out there. I am well aware of my gullibility. I make every effort to fully investigate before I commit to believing something. But still I try to take people at face value and, until they give me reason not to, I believe what they say and that their intentions are good.
Too good to be true
But not even I, at my most gullible, can understand how so many tourists are caught out by the konzum lany (consumption girls) who hang out on Váci street in Budapest. C’mon lads! When was the last time in your home country that two gorgeous girls walked up to you on the street and invited you to join them for a drink? Get real here. Yes, when going on holiday, we should leave our reality at home – we want to do new things, enjoy new experiences, create new memories. But leaving reality at home doesn’t mean that we should leave our brain there as well.
I simply can’t fathom it. Not a week goes by without my reading that some hapless male (or worse still, a pair of them) has been suckered by these girls. From what I understand, they generally approach foreign males who look lost, or perhaps are standing still, checking their bearings, looking from the map to the street signs trying to decipher where they are. Sometimes they’re the ones that appear lost and are looking for help. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of asking for a light or the time and then getting into a conversation that leads them to suggest going for a drink to a little place they know that happens to be nearby. And these hapless males follow! And have a few drinks. And have a bite to eat only to be presented with a bill for hundreds of euro. What price vanity?
Now, I’m not for a minute advocating that all men visiting Budapest adopt an air of cynicism – there are enough cynics here already. Neither am I suggesting that every gorgeous woman in Budapest has a scam up her sleeve. I am just trying, in vain, to understand why despite good media coverage, despite numerous warnings on a multitude of websites, despite the sheer odds against such approaches being genuine, why do men fall for it? And why do men keep falling for it?
I’ve never once read or heard about a woman being taken in the same way – but perhaps that says more about our society where the man is perceived to hold the purse strings and be in charge of the money that it does about perceived gullibility. Perhaps it says more about the male/female security imbalance whereby men feel safe in trotting off with women, whereas any sane woman would think twice about wandering off with a strange man. Perhaps it comes down to vanity.
French Romantic writer, George Sand (1804-1876), once wrote that vanity is the quicksand of reason. Perhaps she, too, visited Budapest on occasion and found herself standing on Váci utca pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
First published in the Budapest Times 13 July 2012