January 10: forgetting names

I always used to think that under interrogation I could trick the lie detector by not registering in any part of my anatomy when I tell an untruth. My logic was that the difference between true and untrue is often a foggy zone anyway. Recently, I have had to accept that my body does act against my will at times and does register micro-shifts in anxiety without my permission. This manifests itself, I think, in the business of name remembering when you meet someone unexpectedly in the street. Only when I encounter someone in an unusual context does this distraction afflict me, but I can only assume that it is a momentary anxiety which brings about that loss of memory.

Yesterday in Herne Hill I was passing the house of somebody I know and I thought I’d prepare myself in case I bumped into her in the street. Immediately I couldn’t remember her name. The prospect of anxiety was enough to freeze my recollection. What I then do is construct an elaborate scenario in advance to avoid having to introduce the person I am with to the friend whose name I can’t remember. I could say: I’ll leave you to introduce yourselves to each other (this is a facile and transparent manoeuvre that would be easily seen through). I could just do one half of the introduction (undemocratic). I could introduce them through description alone, as in This is an old friend from school. At least that way you introduce, if not by name. Names are overvalued anyway.


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