The naivete spilled over into sports. Around ages 10 and 11 was when baseball tryouts were held to determine whether you would be in the A, AA, AAA, or Major (Little) League. There was a general tryout to determine what league you would likely be in, and a later tryout if it was determined you could hang with the big boys in the Major League. The general tryout was short and simple. You are hit two popups. You have to catch them and throw them to a cutoff man. When trying out, I didn’t realize we were not just being evaluated by whether we caught the ball, but also on how hard and accurately we threw it to the cutoff man. The first year I did this, I lobbed the ball to the cutoff man. I was placed in the AA league. I was a bit disappointed about not making the AAA league, but not heartbroken about it. When I figured out we were being evaluated on how hard and accurately we threw, as well as whether we caught both popups, I came back the next year and made the Major League. While it wasn’t specifically—as Sheldon Cooper would say—a social convention I learned, it was a convention.
At one of my earliest jobs there was a tradition that first summer employees had to cross a certain spot in the marina water by climbing hand by hand over a rope that was tied to both sides high enough to avoid the water. It was made to sound like it was mandatory, which was not in the job description, so I planned on refusing. What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t a requirement. It was just a little tradition you did if you were one of the guys. After coming to that realization, I agreed to do it. When I was climbing using the rope to cross the water, the other guys untied the rope from one side causing me to fall into the water. But, this time I knew right away that it was just part of the harmless fun and not the result of some personal animus toward me. From then on I was more careful to think first instead of automatically refusing to partake in some seemingly foolish, yet harmless activity. It was a learning experience, but it wasn’t the first nor the last time I failed to understand how to read between the lines initially.
In high school I had a friend who invited me over to his house to hang out one night. What he neglected to mention was that he had a couple of attractive girls over and they had all been having a few drinks. The reason I was invited over was to “occupy/entertain” one of them. I had no objection. He and his girl left us alone while we were watching a movie. That’s when the other girl made a move and we made out. The next day, or maybe later in the week, I got in touch with the girl and gave her a ride home after school. I was under the impression she genuinely liked me and wanted to see more of me. That wasn’t the case. When I dropped her off she told me that she had had fun the other night, but wasn’t interested in me. I had no idea about the concept of a hookup. I assumed that people who did something that intimate actually liked each other and intended to see each other again. I didn’t know some people could have physical intimacy with someone without also having emotional intimacy to some degree. I gained valuable insight into the complexity of romantic interaction, even if it wasn’t the greatest. This preserved me from making more mistakes like it in the future.