Failing to remember

Failing to remember

It was the immortal Groucho Marx who ruthlessly demolished a hapless victim thus — “I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll make an exception.”

When it comes to putting names to faces, empirical experience suggests that homo sapiens come in two distinct brands — those who always remember and those who invariably forget, and being among the latter, I am frequently embarrassed when a jolly old soul greets me fervently as a long lost friend. While I find his jovial features vaguely familiar, I cannot summon up a single syllable of his name.

Those of the absent mind will understand how acutely embarrassing such a situation becomes when etiquette requires that you introduce your wife to this unknown ‘hi’, but you cannot think of a single syllable of his name.

Accustomed though she is to be left thus groping, it does play further hell with her elegant aplomb when on especially panicky occasions you forget her name as well and you are eventually forced to fall back on that familiar old ploy — “How nice to meet you again, and I’m sure you remember my wife.”

Equal discomfiture has to be endured in one of those once-in-a-blue-moon occasions when at long last having recognised a face and also firmly affixing a name to it, you advance triumphantly across a crowded room, only to have the object of your (brilliant) recollection declare bleakly that he cannot remember you from Adam.

Comfort can be taken from the fact that this is not so dire a fate as that befell a visitor to Rev William Spooner, the immortal originator of ‘spoonerism’, who was received with the cordial greeting — “I perfectly remember your name, but I just can’t think of your face.”

Women and elephants are supposed never to forget, and my research into this age-old adage has proved that it goes in spades for married women for they invariably possess an unrelenting recall of their spouses’ past and present escapades, peccadillos and indiscretions, minor and major.

The inadequate mental recall of the wedlocked, rather the deadlocked male is evidenced by the frequency with which their harassed wives have to berate them for never remembering the things they tell them.

Perhaps the first words that Eve spoke to Adam were, “Why do you always forget the things I tell you? Why do they go in one ear and out the other?”

This feminine recollective superiority can be attributed to Greek mythology where Mnemosyne is called the Goddess of Memory.

Speaking for myself, there are three things that I always forget — names, faces and the third, I cannot remember.

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