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