Saturday, 2 September 2017

Out of reach

I'm hopeless at remem-bering the details of people's friends and relatives. However hard I try, names simply go in one ear and straight out the other. My memory is so feeble I'm just about capable of remem-bering a spouse, a partner or a sibling. Everything else vanishes down a cerebral black hole, never to be retrieved.

Even children's names just flutter by like moths. I'm gaily introduced to little James, Rebecca and Sophie (well, I tend to move in middle-class circles), only to forget their names ten seconds later. Did she say James or Jeff? Rebecca or Robin? Sophie or Sally? I'm searching my memory desperately, hoping I won't need their names in the next few minutes, and wondering how to bluff my way through till I'm reminded. Ah, so it was Sally? Why didn't that lodge in my brain? Doesn't she look just like a Sally?

Or someone casually mentions Robert, and how rapidly he's recovering from his operation. Robert? Who the hell is Robert? And what operation was this? Is Robert anything to do with Teresa, the tall, red-haired woman? Is he the same Robert who's allergic to cats? How do I stealthily find out? Or hide my ignorance?

I can recall the closest names, but all the far-flung connections usually escape me. The in-laws, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces. It's too much to absorb. I marvel at those individuals who can identify every obscure member of someone's family, and recall instantly that Aunt Julia is the one who drinks like a fish, hates Indian food and always wears skirts. How do they do it? What's their secret?

I'm told that not remembering such things is simply down to poor concentration or not listening properly. Or even a lack of interest in other people. But I'm fascinated by other people and their personal quirks and lifestyles. I just have a memory like a sieve. A memory that thinks it's a waste bin.

25 comments:

Dave Martin said...

I too have a memory like a sieve for such things - admittedly this is often down to a lack of interest or concentration.
On the other hand, I can quote lines from Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Monty Python etc until the cows come home.
I wonder if we all have a selective memory according to what interests us?

John Gray said...

I remember everything after i was 11
Before that ......nothing

Nick said...

Dave: Me too. I can quote Beatles lyrics, stuff from Shakespeare, limericks from my childhood, and lines from Fawlty Towers, but people's names and family connections? Fat chance.

Nick said...

John: Wow, you must be one of those people with a photographic memory, like my father and sister. They can/could remember every little detail of every little incident going back decades.

Z said...

I used to have a terrible memory for both names and faces, but I've worked very hard on improvement and now I'm a great deal better. In fact, I have a reputation for being really good in that regard, but it's never going to come easily. My sister is naturally brilliant though, she just remembers.

tammy j said...

I once called a lady I worked with Roberta for the three years I worked there.
I quit to move to Tulsa.
years later I met her at a grocery store. we had a nice visit. before we parted she said "by the way tammy. my name has never been Roberta."
GOOD GRIEF!
why would anyone let that go on for that long? even people who weren't her! and to this day I can't remember her name. I still think of her as Roberta. LOLOL!

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm not good about remembering names either, but I do better with faces so it's better than nothing.

Bijoux said...

I'm afraid I have a lack of interest in people I don't know. My mother tends to go on and on about people I've never met and never will meet. I zone out.

Nick said...

Z: I'm impressed that you've managed to train your memory so effectively. You must have developed some technique for retaining the names.

Tammy: How embarrassing. But as you say, why on earth didn't she correct you straightaway? There's a woman in my workplace that I misnamed for some weeks before I discovered her real name. She never corrected me either!

Nick said...

Jean: I'm quite good with faces, they stick in my mind fairly well. But then I can't put a name to the face, however vivid it is.

Bijoux: Well, that's a frank admission. I guess I feel much the same. My mother used to update me endlessly on what this or that distant relative was doing (mostly mind-numbingly trivial) and I couldn't care less.

kylie said...

I pretty quickly remember the names I hear about regularly, so you know if someone keeps talking to me about someone in their life, I remember. I dont do so well when meeting new people.

Nick said...

Kylie: Me too. If the same name keeps cropping up regularly, it does stick in my memory!

Wisewebwoman said...

I make a huge effort and attach a characteristic to the name so it lodges. I hate to admit it but if after a few meetings someone keeps forgetting my name I can't be arsed to know them better. I figure that's the shabby effort they're going to put into a potential friendship. And this has borne out.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: I've seen that idea before, about attaching a characteristic to a name. I must try it sometime. And yes, I agree, if someone keeps forgetting your name, they can't really be interested in knowing you.

joared said...

I, too, am interested in people but names of new ones I meet just don't lodge in my brain the first time we meet, especially if it's brief contact and more new names follow after. Faces I never forget. Some of those techniques they recommend only serve to make matters worse coming up,with far-fetched names instead of the actual name. Some unusual fact about a person will more likely allow the name to stay with me, but often don't hear that info when first meeting briefly -- you know, things like, this is my scab-picking uncle -- cause he picked scabs off his kids since he thought it aided healing at some point. (That's real, i had an uncle that did that.)

Nick said...

Joared: I think I would remember my scab-picking uncle (or someone else's for that matter!) One of the things I remember about my granny is how she'd whip out her dentures to give them a quick rinse.

I'm much better with faces too, I think most people are. Faces are a lot more distinctive than names, which are often of the John Smith or Jill Brown variety.

Ramana Rajgopaul said...

I am your exact opposite and that ability was largely responsible for my success as a wo/man manager during my working days. Many people from those days are still in touch with me thanks to modern social networking devices.

Nick said...

Ramana: My exact opposite? Then you must be another one with a photographic memory. It's a very useful skill in the workplace. If you can greet someone you haven't seen for months (or years) by name, it makes a very positive impression.

Liz Hinds said...

I'm like you, in one ear out the other.

And I'm better with faces. I sometimes recognise a face only to realise she works in Sainsburys and the only reason I think i know her is because I'm there so much.

And I understand the not correcting someone when they get your name wrong thing. I am known as Linda by one woman and I feel it's just too late to say anything now.

Nick said...

Liz: The irony is that all the checkout workers in Sainsbury's have name badges so you know their names - but you never need to use them.

I don't recall anyone getting my name persistently wrong. Nick does seem to stick in people's memories for some reason.

Treey said...

Dear Nick, I've got a brain injury but I bet I remember more people than you do. Your name IS Nick, isn't it?

Nick said...

Treey: You probably do remember more names than I do. Except that my name isn't Nick, by the way, it's Nigel.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I laughed at Bijoux's comment - my mother does the same thing and I also just zone out!

I've learned how to remember names and details because of the work I do, but I have a hard time placing people when they are out of context.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I swear I commented on this and then it disappeared. I was saying that I have the same problem as Bijoux with a mother who talks incessantly about people I don't know and how I also tune her out.

My problem isn't so much remembering names or details, but recognizing people when I see them out of context.

Nick said...

Agent: I set all comments for moderation on posts over two weeks old. This is to avoid comments from spammers. That's why your original comment vanished!

My mum and Jenny's mum both do the same, detailed updates on people we've never heard of! Why do they think we're interested?

I also tend to be flummoxed when I see someone out of context. I recognise the face but I can't think where I've seen them before.