January 9, 2011
I Remember Nothing
I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
Nonfiction – Essays
2010 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on 12/2/10
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
In my early days of forgetting things, words would slip away, and names. I did what you normally do when this happens: I scrolled through a mental dictionary, trying to figure out what letter the word began with, and how many syllables were involved. Eventually the lost thing would float back into my head, recaptured. I never took such lapses as harbingers of doom, or old age, or actual senescence. I always knew that whatever I’d forgotten was going to come back to me sooner or later. Once I went to a store to buy a book about Alzheimer’s disease and forgot the name of it. I thought it was funny. And it was, at the time.
Here’s a thing I’ve never been able to remember: the title of that movie with Jeremy Irons. The one about Claus von Bulow. You know the one. All I ever succeeded in remembering was that it was three words long, and the middle word was “of.” For many years this did not bother me at all, because no one I knew could ever think of the title either. One night, eight of us were at the theater together, and not one of us could retrieve it. Finally, at intermission, someone went out to the street and Googled it; we were all informed of the title and we all vowed to remember it forever. For all I know, the other seven did. I, on the other hand, am back to remembering that it’s three words long with an “of" in the middle.
My note to the curious: It’s Reversal of Fortune. Now see if you remember this in two days. ;)
As with Ephron’s previous collection of essays (I Feel Bad About My Neck), I found several gems that caused me to laugh out loud. Others, not so much. They’re mostly all about growing older, but it’s the ones about memory (or lack thereof) that resonate so strongly with me, probably because I'm beginning to worry about my own forgetfulness. I keep meaning to ask my doctor about this, but I can never quite remember to!
The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up. You can delude yourself that no one at the table thinks of you as a geezer. And finding the missing bit is so quick. There’s none of the nightmare of the true Senior Moment—the long search for the answer, the guessing, the self-recrimination, the head-slapping mystification, the frustrated finger-snapping. You just go to Google and retrieve it.
You can’t retrieve your life (unless you’re on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).
But you can retrieve the name of that actor who was in that movie, the one about World War II. And the name of that writer who wrote that book, the one about her affair with that painter. Or the name of that song that was sung by that singer, the one about love.
You know the one.
I’m sure we all recognize ourselves in this one:
I know you. I know you well. It’s true I always have a little trouble with your name, but I do know your name. I just don’t know it at this moment. We’re at a big party. We’ve kissed hello. We’ve had a delightful conversation about how we are the last two people on the face of the earth who don’t kiss on both cheeks. Now we’re having a conversation about how phony all the people are who do kiss on both cheeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You’re so charming. If only I could remember your name. It’s inexcusable that I can’t. You’ve been to my house for dinner. I tried to read your last book. I know your girlfriend’s name, or I almost know it. It’s something like Chanelle. Only it’s not. Chantelle? That’s not it either. Fortunately, she isn’t here, so I haven’t forgotten both of your names. I’m becoming desperate. It’s something like Larry. Is it Larry? No, it’s not. Jerry? No, it’s not. But it ends in a Y. Your last name: three syllables. Starts with a C. Starts with a G? I’m losing my mind. But a miracle occurs: the host is about to toast the guest of honor. Thank God. I can escape to the bar.
This next one is very similar to a post on my cousin’s blog. Go here now – before you forget! – to give it read.
Have we met? I think we’ve met. But I can’t be sure. We were introduced, but I didn’t catch your name because it was noisy at this party. I’m going to assume we know each other, and I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” If I say, “Nice to meet you,” I know what will happen. You’ll say, “We’ve met.” You’ll say “We’ve met” in a sort of aggressive, irritable tone. And you won’t even tell me your name so I can recover in some way. So I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” I’m going to say, “Nice to see you.” I’ll have a big smile on my face. I won’t look desperate. But what I’ll be thinking is, Please throw me your name. Please, please, please. Give me a hint. My husband is likely to walk up, and I’ll have to introduce you, and I won’t be able to, and you’ll know that I have no idea who you are, even though we probably spent an entire weekend together on a boat in 1984. I have a secret signal with my husband that involves my pinching him very hard on the upper arm. The signal means, “Throw your name at this person because I have no idea whom I’m talking to.” But my husband always forgets the secret signal and can’t be counted on to respond to my pinching, even when it produces a bruise. I would like to chew my husband out about his forgetfulness on this point, but I’m not exactly in a position to do so since I myself have forgotten (if I ever knew it) the name of the person I’m talking to.
A few other essays that resonated with me, (but are far too long to share) include The Six Stages of E-Mail, What I Won’t Miss, and What I Will Miss. I especially like the latter—a list of what will be missed after dying. I think I’ll start a similar list and make a point to appreciate every single item while I’m still alive!
I started my list. I was afraid if I didn’t do it right away, I’d forget. ;)