By Now, I'm a Expert at Memory Loss
by: David Leonhardt
I sat down to write my weekly humor column, but I just could not remember what I wanted to write about. This seems to be an increasingly more common affliction, ever since I turned 40. For instance, like most people over 40, I often can't remember my age.
In fact, I am quite certain I am not yet 40. How do I know? Well, I can't remember turning 40, for starters.
But memory loss is nothing new for me. It began when I was born. Try as I might, I just cannot remember being born. This strikes me as strange. Birth is arguably the most momentous and triumphant event in a person's life. It is the reason I am alive. It is my coming out party. Birth is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth and a fairly important prerequisite for developing proper social etiquette.
People even celebrate the anniversary of my birth every year by converging on my house or throwing heart-attack-inducing Surprise!! parties. But strangely, none of the birthday celebrations have helped me remember my birth. Even stranger is that people who could have no memory of my birth, such as my wife and younger brothers, keep celebrating it.
Perhaps memory loss is the result of trauma. We block out from our memory traumatic events. Like birth, for instance. Imagine being squeezed through a steel toilet paper tube with mucus and blood and other assorted ooey gooey stuff, with something resembling an alien tentacle protruding from where your bellybutton is supposed to be.
Sure, birth was my highest moment of triumph, but I am in no hurry to repeat it. I prefer to retire while I am still at the top of your game.
Little Sister had a more traumatic birth than many, and we posted her child birth story with pictures at: http://www.thehappyguy.com/birth-story.html . Fortunately, she did not retire at the top of her game, as she continues to improve.
I have never been able to remember names either. Perhaps that is because meeting people is also traumatic. I say that in jest, because that is what I am supposed to do in a humor column, but many people find it very traumatic to meet new people, which is one of the reasons I recommend them to The Fine Art of Small Talk:
I, on the other hand, find it traumatic to meet old people. One reason I work from home, sitting in front of a computer screen, might be to avoid too many stand-up receptions trying to remember the names of strangers I'm supposed to know. I just can't remember their names.
It's not totally true. I can often remember names, I just can't seem to attach them to faces, which I hear is a common problem. Like many people, my brain-glue was recalled for factory defects. I should have opened that recall notice when it arrived.
One game you can play to help attach names to faces is pin-the-name-on-the-donkey. This works great for people with defective brain-glue, because it uses ins instead of glue. I suggest you do this in your mind, not in the actual reception room. Many people object to having things pinned to their faces, and a few might even object to being called donkeys. Most importantly, you could be in violation of local safety ordinances, especially if you use a stapler.
Another common strategy many people use to remember names is to repeat the person's name several times. However, I think that sounds a bit silly.
"And who are you?"
"Hi Trina, how are you?"
"Just great. How are the kids?"
"Trina, the kids are doing very well. How are yours?"
"I don't have kids."
"I see, Trina."
"After meeting every month at this function for the past decade, I thought you would remember that I have no kids. By the way, why do you keep repeating my name?"
Perhaps meeting people is less traumatic than being born. At least I do remember meeting people, and not always waking up in a cold sweat. And I do remember their names. And I do remember their faces. And I even remember a few of their birthdays. But try as I might, I don't remember any of them being born.
Now, what was I going to write about this week? I just can't remember.
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