Some of you will now be saying things like “What idiot would do such a thing?” and “Buyer beware,” because you cannot imagine signing an unread contract. However, I am simply one of those buyers who does not effectively beware.
Recently, a friend jokingly said that I might one day find someone ringing my doorbell asking for the kidney I had promised when I had signed one of those unread agreements. If they did, I’d believe them! Fortunately, I live in a country that provides me with all sorts of protections when it comes to buying things. Earlier today I was able to cancel an agreement I accidentally made online for a report from a credit rating agency. I only wanted to see my rating number, but somehow clicked the wrong thing and wound up with the Cadillac version which entailed a monthly billing. Thankfully, it took only a couple of phone calls and I was able to cancel that.
On the other hand, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, which are always extremely complex and difficult to cancel, we have no governmental support. The longer we know a person, the more complex it all becomes and the more difficult it is to change the unspoken agreement about who we are in each other’s perceptions. Once, my mother said to my brother Phil, “Oh, sorry. I forgot that you don’t like bananas.” He looked bewildered then said, “Mum, that was when I was seven!”
We tend to trust the ideas we have about our friends and family members because the ideas are based on many years of shared experiences. It is, though, sometimes difficult for us to re-imagine them as different over time. There are the usual changes that go along with maturity, like going to fewer nightclubs and going to more community meetings, and we can easily accept those. Other changes, though, like attitudes to sex, politics, and religion, can be more difficult to accommodate.
If someone I’ve known for years as a bit of a rebel suddenly begins attending church, it might make me wonder but it won’t change much in our interactions. If one of my family members thinks of me as a left-wing hippy and I turned out to be politically conservative, I think I’d still get an invitation to a family reunion. (I would, wouldn’t I?)
It all boils down to trust, and we can trust each other because, in part, we know it’s all very complicated. We can’t possibly know all the fine print, but we can absolutely trust the agreement.