Reader Request Week 2023 #4: My Memory
Granny Roberta says:
I had a really good question a while back but I forgot to write it down. (Remembering the actual question was never an option.) So how’s YOUR memory holding up?
As far as I can recall, it’s about as good as it ever was, which is to say, not particularly good or bad.
More accurately, it’s kind of like this:
1. Do you need a rough estimate of the domestic box office gross of any film released by a major Hollywood studio since 1991? I have that shit wired, both because I was a professional film critic for several years, and so I had a need for that sort of information, and because my brain has always been incredibly good at noting and retaining facts and trivia, which has come in super handy as a writer, putting together stories on the fly.
2. Do you need to know where I put my wallet fifteen minutes ago? Fuck if I know; I mean, it’s probably in the house somewhere? Because I haven’t left the house in the last fifteen minutes? But after that, yeeeeeaaaah, it’s a blank, I will have to undergo a journey of the soul, and a walkaround for the parts of the house I am likely to have been in, to find it.
3. Did we meet once, eight years ago? I will likely remember your face, and more likely if you are a woman/femme-presenting, because (best guess on my brain here), I’m straight and women’s faces interest me more than men/masculine-presenting faces do. Yes, I know, I’m not rationalizing my brain’s apparent inherent sexism, I’m just telling you what it does. But regardless of gender presentation, I am pretty good at faces — and also, really good at identifying people I already know at a distance from other less-obvious physical traits, like how they walk or gesticulate. This is why I was not particularly flummoxed by masks when we were all wearing them; faces are not the only thing I clue in on. BUT —
4. I’m shit at names and if you are in my signing line and you bring more than one book I will likely forget your name between signing the first book and the second one. That’s because when I’m doing something like signing books, everything is in the short term memory buffer and gets wiped the instant I’m done; look, you try signing for dozens or possibly even hundreds of people at one time and trying to remember them all for any longer than five minutes. I want to be clear that when I’m talking to you in my signing line I am going to try to give you a pleasant and memorable experience for you, because even if I’m seeing a whole bunch of other people, you’ve come to see me, and I want you to know that I appreciate you have. But, yeah, the second you walk away your name is already out of my brain. Sorry. It affects other people in other situations as well, and at this point I just say to people “I know we know each other but my brain is shit at names so please tell me yours again.”
5. So, Krissy had foot surgery a while back and couldn’t drive for six weeks, so for every day of those six weeks I drove her to work, and then a few hours later picked her up and drove her back home. Did it happen? Yes, absolutely. Does Krissy remember it? Of course she does. Do I have any memory of this six weeks of taxi service? Not one bit. It’s as if my brain looked at that whole time period, said, oh, you don’t need that, and then just hit the purge button. There’s a whole bunch of stuff where Krissy will say, hey you remember that? And I will say, no, not in the least, my love. Again: Absolutely certain it happened. Have no memory of it. At all.
6. But it works the other way too! Sometimes Krissy doesn’t remember a particular thing and I have an exact memory of it and can go down that rabbit hole as deeply as you please. Between the two of us, we remember most things to a reasonable approximation.
7. You slighted or insulted me even once? Oh, I’m gonna fucking remember that until I die, my friend, and while I practice a policy of genial amusement at such things, and will not do anything to make your life more difficult or unpleasant, because why become that sort of person, when you fall down some stairs, personally, professionally or literally, I can’t promise I won’t say “oh, no,” in a very small, studiously compassionate voice and then think about making a pie. I’m happy to forgive, actually. Forget? Nah.
8. Do I feel like age has had an impact on my memory? Not really, and while one can never really foretell the future, I don’t really expect it to; I come from a line of people who remained mentally tack-sharp well into their 80s and 90s. Also, it helps that I am relatively active, healthy, and I don’t do recreational drugs or have other habits that are correlative to memory impairment, and have not (to date, crosses fingers) had any number of concussions or contusions that would directly affect my brain function. All things being equal, I expect to be at a fairly standard level of memory function for a while yet.
9. Oh, jeez, I forgot what I was gonna say here.
10. That was a joke. I SWEAR.
(Have a question for Reader Request Week? Leave in the comment thread at this link.)