A week ago, my husband and I went to check out opening night of a new restaurant. The place was packed, and I found myself standing face-to-face with someone I know. As she looked up from digging in her purse, I burst out with a very enthusiastic, “Hi!” and she did the same. We didn’t hug or anything. She is an acquaintance, not someone I know well.
I asked her how she was. She said “Fine” and that she and the good looking, well-dressed man she was with didn’t think they were staying, because the wait was too long. And we parted ways.
Now here’s the problem:
I have no idea on earth who this woman is. I can’t think of her name or how I know her. And here’s what makes this situation worse:
My husband told me we ran into this couple a few months ago. And the last time we ran into them, I KNEW WHO SHE WAS!
Oh. My. GOD.
I read Still Alice. I saw The Notebook. What’s happening to me?
I have racked my brain for a week trying to place this woman, but I can’t. This is the first time I’ve had a mental lapse that didn’t resolve itself within a few hours. I am literally losing sleep over this.
My husband wants to know why I didn’t just ask this woman how I knew her. But how can you tell someone you’re supposed to know that you have no idea who they are? Isn’t that the equivalent of telling them they’re forgettable? I can’t hurt somebody’s feelings like that. I’m the person who walks down the streets of New York City and looks people in the eye, because I need to humanize them.
Plus, since I can’t for the life of me remember this woman, I don’t know if she has a sense of humor … or if she’s got self-esteem issues … or if she’d even believe me that it’s not her, it’s me! What’s going on here? Is it just that my middle-aged brain has been working overtime this past year – working full-time, while moonlighting for extra money, being active in choir and Toastmasters, taking voice lessons … and actively trying to learn two years worth of college-level material in two subject areas, so I can pursue a career change? Could my mind have reached it’s full capacity? Sometimes I can’t even remember my own name.
The other day I went to go get something off my printer and walked confidently right past my office into the kitchen. I stood there bewildered, wondering why in the world I was there. This is why I have weight issues! While I figured it out, I thought I might as well have some cheese and crackers.
Recently, I was multi-tasking, frantically searching for my phone, while I took an important call. I searched for 10 minutes before realizing I couldn’t find my phone because I WAS ON IT!
I have rented movies from Redbox that I am sure I haven’t seen. After two hours, nothing about them is even remotely familiar. And my husband insists we saw it in a theater.
To make myself feel better, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me if they are ever forgetful, so I can know I’m not alone out here. I’m actually a bit comforted now. They’re responses ranged from: “Threw my underwear in the toilet, thinking it was the laundry” to “Paid for my McDonald’s order and continued on without stopping at the pickup window.” On friend even told me her daughter asked her, “Why is the cheese in the junk drawer?” Here are a few more favorites:
- I was halfway to work, before I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes.
- I found my hairbrush in the freezer!
- After my son’s Bris, the celebration continued back at my house. After I went in and started mingling, people asked me where he was. It was at that point I realized I left him in the car.
- How about looking for my phone – that I was talking on … and my keys – that were in my hand … or my glasses that were on my face? You’re absolutely not alone!
So what’s the story? Are we all being poisoned by chemically enhanced, genetically modified food … and dryer sheets? Are we all going mad?
Maybe this information superhighway we’re on is just overwhelming. We’re bombarded by a ridiculous amount of daily social media updates, texts, phone calls, the news, work obligations, to-do lists. There is no down time anymore. We take our cell phones to the beach. We play Words With Friends while watching TV. Maybe our brains just need a rest, so against our wishes, they turn themselves off.
I looked up symptoms of memory loss on WebMD and discovered that it can be caused by all kinds of things: antidepressants, antihistamines and anti-anxiety medications, to name a few. Check, check, check.
It can be caused by sleep deprivation (check), stress (check), B-12 deficiency (check: I just started shots for that one).
Memory lapses can also be caused by poor nutrition, head injury, stroke, chemotherapy, an over-active thyroid, HIV, tuberculosis, even syphilis. (No to all of those).
It’s also a common menopause symptom (so far, nary a hot flash). And then, of course, there’s dementia – and therein lies my fear!
But I’ve spent months learning Hebrew. I’m teaching myself to transpose music. I’ve started writing and performing stand-up comedy. I read 37 books last year. I’m one speech away from my Competent Communicator designation in Toastmasters. And I’m a stained glass artist. Would a demented person be able to do these things? Sure, my husband and kid have to hear the same stories over and over again. But that’s not because I think I’m telling them for the first time. A girl only has so much material!
In the past week, I have looked at the pictures of 1,049 Facebook connections, trying to identify Mystery Woman. I have let my mind wander through every corridor of my last six jobs, stopping to look at the faces of every person at every desk. I have mentally gone through every doctor’s office reception area, in case this woman is just out of context. Maybe I usually see her in some kind of uniform, like scrubs … or Hooters hot pants … or a Kentucky Fried Chicken hat.
I’ve taken mental stock of every restaurant I frequent, salespeople at every store where I regularly and occasionally shop – Publix, Nordstrom Rack, CVS … I’ve gone through the people I’ve met at my neighbor’s Superbowl parties and my dog breeder’s yearly Goldendoodle reunions. I have mentally travelled to every hair and nail salon, massage studio, museum, art fair and house of worship I’ve ever been to.
This I know: She definitely doesn’t go to my synagogue. I don’t think she’s Jewish and I don’t believe she has kids. And she’s not in the service industry. She dresses well. She looks like she could be a banker, a mortgage professional, even a dental hygienist. She has blonde hair and bangs and looks like a Wendy or a Peggy, but that’s not her name.
This torment: it’s all my husband’s fault! It’s there in the fine print of the marriage contract. If you run into someone and your spouse doesn’t introduce you, always, ALWAYS assume that they cannot remember a name. Immediately thrust your hand forward and say, “How do you do. I’m Parri’s husband, Jim.” Then the other person introduces themselves and you silently sigh, relieved and mentally thanking God for bringing into your life this wonderful other half who always has your back. But Jim didn’t do that. Bad, BAD Jim.
You know, maybe this isn’t my problem at all. Maybe it’s this other lady’s problem. Maybe she and I don’t even know each other. Maybe she thinks she knows me, but she doesn’t. Maybe I just look like someone she knows, and because she looks at me with with an expression of familiarity, I think I should know her, but I don’t. She’s the one with dementia.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. It’s the other lady’s problem.
Now where the heck are my glasses?