Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Whatever is in a name, I can't remember it

I went to the hairdresser today. I generally look fairly unkempt in a reasonably tidy sort of way, so it might be hard to believe that I have my hair cut every five weeks, but so it is. At least I look okay for one day in thirty-five.

The person before me had been held up and was late for her appointment, so I had time to sit and contemplate Life in general, and the conversations going on in particular. What I like about my hairdressers is that the chat tends to be general, you might exchange a few words with your own coiffeuse, but if the subject is a good one it gets spread throughout the room and can be very entertaining.

As one person left, she called out "Goodbye Ginnie!" And one of the hairdressers turned and waved. This puzzled me as I had always thought her name was Nicki. But sure enough, not long afterwards, someone called her Virginia.*

I pondered my inability to remember names. Many people find it hard to put names to faces. Others find it hard to put faces to names. I cannot, without great difficulty, remember either.

Not long ago, there was an article in the paper about *the latest syndrome*, which demonstrated that some people, however hard they try, simply haven't got the mental equipment to recognise people easily. There is, apparently, a test you can take. At one point, they bring on a series of pictures of people whose pictures have been doctored to eliminate the hair. The journalist taking the test - and her mother and her daughter - reacted with laughter. Impossibly to tell them apart. This reaction, it appears, is in itself a vitual diagnosis that you can't recognise people by their features alone.

I don't think I'm that bad, but I am not very good. Unfortunately, I'm awful with names too. I do try, very hard, and I have vastly improved over the years. When I moved to this house, twenty years ago, I had to make a whole new circle of friends and I really didn't want anyone to think I didn't care enough to know their name. I joined the WI and I used to spend meetings looking round the circle (we don't sit in rows), putting names to faces. I became secretary of various committees, so that I would have names in front of me that I could use as aides memoires.

What I do usually remember are facts. If you were to be introduced to me, I would be listening to what you say. I might, therefore, not know your name or your face, but if you told me the names of your children, your opinion about an issue of the day, that you loved eggs Benedict but were allergic to nuts, that your dog was born on Christmas Day 2001, I'd know all that about you forever. Just not, unfortunately, who you are. Or what you look like.

I am not good about asking personal questions. If you don't tell me your name - and why not? Why not, for goodness' sake? I tell you my name, and I'll remind you of it the next time we meet** and how we last met furthermore, because it's embarrassing to be looked at blankly, but just how many people return this favour? Not enough. Really, not enough.

Funnily enough, contemplating writing about this, I read a few blogs and came upon today's from Stitchwort. Who is finding much the same as me, but as a more recent phenomenon. Though I suspect it is because, at present, she has too much else to think about as she remembers facts etc. as usual.

However, I have always wondered what would happen if I ever were to develop Alzheimers. How would anyone ever know? What difference would there be to notice?


*Actually, afterwards I realised that another hairdresser is called Nicki. I just had them a bit mixed up. Look, I always told you I was disorganised.

**This is, of course, assuming that I know who the hell you are

17 comments:

Wendz said...

Hello Z...my name is Wendy...I met you on your blog...I'm allergic to penicillin. I hate cooked cabbage. I don't like cats very much either. Oh and I live in France and I speak some French.

;-)

PS they'll know you have Alzheimers when you go to town in your undies and you don't realise it.

Z said...

I knew I was leaving myself wide open there......

Go to town in my undies? No, nothing remarkable in that.

stitchwort said...

Faces are not a problem - I remember faces very well, just not always where I've met them. With age, there are so many more times and places where you may have met.

Many years ago, in Durham, I saw a face I definitely recognised in the street. Couldn't think where I'd come across him, so I cheerfully said "Good Morning" as I passed him - it was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Z said...

I smile at everybody, just in case. They must all think I'm barking.

My daughter, some years ago, spent 9 months in Australia. Going to fetch her home from the airport, I was quite worried in case I didn't recognise her.

Wendz said...

I never forget a face or a name. Comes in handy - but then I sometimes see that THEY don't recognise me so I have to pretend I don't know them either to avoid embarrassing them.

jen said...

i'd much rather you know what i love and what makes me laugh than some name assigned to me 30 some odd years ago.

ho hum...if only Z posted haircut pics, my day might be made at once.

Z said...

I blame it all on being short sighted and not wearing glasses except for driving.

Names are all right really, I call everyone darling.
Haven't tried that on the Archbishop, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind at all.

My speciality is what you don't eat. No penicillin (not exactly a foodstuff) or cabbage for Wendy, nothing with gluten for Kitty who is also diabetic so needs regular meals and an alternative to the sticky pudding, put care into the choice of wine for Jen. How Do We Know and Blue Witch are both vegetarian but Clarice can't eat fruit or vegetables. Anyone I've left out?

Haircut looks good - if just for one day - shame about the boat race.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

The late Chairman could never remember anyone's name (admittedly he wasn't quite as bad as my mother who frequently addressed me as Allsort (her cat)), but he was very lucky. As an esteemed member of the Music Business, when he couldn't remember somebody's name, he resorted to a 'Hi Man, it's good to see you', thereby managing not only to be friendly, but to be cool.

The Boy said...

Oh boy, is this my problem. I never forget a face, and eyes in particular clue me in. Names though, always struggle to remember them.

I don't have the chairman's luck of informality. My role is senior enough most people know who I am. Any given day I can have a couple people come up looking friendly and clearly recognising me. I usually don't have a clue...

Z said...

That's it, isn't it, when people know you and you don't remember them. I suspect you are a sufficient VIP to get away with it however.......

I associate you with really delicious al fresco entertaining, by the way.

Kitty said...

Ooooh so kind of you to invite me for dinner. Don't worry about the food - I just like to drink. Not beer though.

I am good with names and faces - there are so many of them at my school and in their uniforms (the pupils that is - I don't make the staff dress up!) you have to learn ways of associating features with names.

I do have trouble remembering my own name though. I'm always booking airline tickets in the wrong name.

You are very amusing, by the way. "Nice" and "amusing" so far - you're doing well.

Z said...

As if I'd offer you beer, Kitty. A friend of mine, diagnosed as coeliac, said woefully "the worst of it is, I can't drink beer any more." So that's one thing I do know.

I'm not surprised you have trouble with airline tickets, you of many (two I know of, but presumably neither the real one) names.

I do try very hard to remember childrens' names. They are sensitive about that, and it is not appropriate to call them darling.

Thank you for the compliment. You, not being a child, I can call darling.

Tess Tennison said...

haha well I've never actually tried to book a plane ticket as Kitty. There might come a time though the way I'm going.

I am really Tess but I am quite happy to be called darling (except by men!). You're not Z for Zachariah I presume?

Have a lovely evening. I have the MIL for dinner (yummy scrummy - nothing like roast mother in law eh!?)

How do we know said...

this post was sooo entertaining Zoe :-)

I am particularly bad with names and faces and facts about ppl. Some book i read years ago said that it was bcs i was not sufficiently interested in ppl.. and gues thats true!

Its 0230 hours in the morning.. guess i'd better turn in!

Z said...

Darling you will be then, Tess, though I might call you Kitty. And I (how d'you do?) am Zoƫ.

HDWK - the book may be right, I used to think more about the impression I was making (and feel shy about it) than the person I was talking to. Now, I am prepared to show myself, even if I don't come over well, and be interested in others. Since then, I have been easier to like, judging by people's reactions to me (on the other hand, some have been well put off, but hey......they'd've found out sooner or later).

Names. Oh, weddings in India - so many people to meet and many with unfamiliar names. I try So HARD.

2.30 - bed, sweetie, get some rest.

Chiya said...

Fortunately, I have a preety good memory for names, faces, people and almost everything.

But, Quiet a lot of times I think, life would have been better if I could forget few things...

may be something like selective amnesia can help!!!!!

Z said...

Hi, Chiya, welcome. I aim for selective amnesia, especially never remembering a grudge. My mother had total recall and it was one thing I didn't want to inherit from her.