I have a terrible memory. Especially for people. My memory for names is non-existent unless I’ve met that person many times. My face memory is a little better, but I struggle to place faces. If I see someone I’ve met several times at Young Adult Lit events in a totally different context I often cannot figure out who they are. But usuallly I don’t even recognise the face of the person beaming at me and saying, “Hi, Justine.”
Once the person I’m not remembering starts to recount how we met and describes the conversation I start to figure out who they are. But sometimes even that doesn’t help.
I know I am not alone in this. Almost every writer I know complains about it because we’re often in situations where we’re meeting someone who remembers us because we met at an event, which is a rarity for them, but common for us.
It’s not just a writer problem. Any profession where you’re likely to meet lots of people: retail, teaching, performing etc etc is going to run up against this problem.
I was horrible at remembering my students when I was an academic. To be honest I’ve always been bad at remembering stuff. I sucked at Memory games as a child. Still do.
How do politicians cope? I know Bill Clinton is famous for remembering every single person he’s ever met. But not all politicians are like that. How do they deal with so many different faces?
It could be worse. I know someone who has a condition which means they cannot remember faces. All faces look the same to them. Without name tags or someone prompting them they are lost. They are constantly giving offence.
So, I’m not that bad. And I’m better at faces than Scott is. Though sadly he’s about the same as me on names.
I have gotten better at simply asking the person to tell me how I know them. But often I’m too embarrassed. It feels rude.
Having a bad memory feels rude.
I really hate not remembering people. I know that I’m a wee bit miffed when people don’t remember me (which happens often) and yet here I am constantly doing it to everyone else. So much of the time I act like I know the person and keep the conversation going in the hopes that I can figure it out. Fortunately I usually can. Though there are the horrible moments when I decide they’re someone they’re not. Erk.
Seems to me that there’s only so much space in most (non-Bill Clinton) people’s heads for remembering. So the average person can at most remember, say, a thousand people. Once you meet more than that your brain starts deleting, or pushing them to a less easily accessed part of the hard drive. And creating trouble for you. Stupid brain.
I’m sure there are all these tricks for getting around the limited hard drive space. Hell, I know there are. Friends have taught them to me. But I keep forgetting to try them out.
How do you lot cope?