Maybelene: “Hey, did you see the Netflix documentary about Elizabeth Holmes”
Sherri: “Yeah, and I also listened to the podcast.”
Me: “did you read “Bad Blood”? Best book I read all year. And there’s a movie in the works based on the book featuring…..ah fuck, you know, she’s one of the popular youngish actors…been in everything…like…
Sherri: “That football movie…..”
Maybelene: “yeah….and the Mop movie…..”
Me: “Right….jesus, this is killing me…
Maybelene: “yeah, one of the movies has something about “clouds” in the title…..”
Sherri: “Silver Linings Playbook!”
Maybelene: “Jennifer Lawrence!!!”
Me: “Yes! She’s playing Elizabeth Holmes!
This is my new normal.
Every conversation is a game of Charades. “First word, three syllables, sounds like bathroom”
Losing my reading glasses, fine. Losing muscle tone? So be it. But losing words?
I‘ve grown increasingly mortified in client meetings or regular everyday interactions when my conversation crashes into a brick wall, awkward pause hanging there until I shove a random word into the silent space and move on, hoping this mental lapse will be forgotten until I forget the next word.
Add this to the list of middle-age maladies that stokes terror when it first strikes.
“Is this early onset dementia? Alzheimer’s? Am I losing my fucking mind?” You speed read Web MD and Google the shit out of “forgets words in middle of sentence” and “can’t remember husband’s name.”
The frequency of these giant brain farts increases. My mind has chronic gas.
I start asking my contemporaries about my recent dumbing down.
“Happens to me all of the time.”
“Oh god yes, sucks”.
Recently, one of my dearest and most successful friends and I were planning a trip. We could barely get through the conversation without the “what’s the name of that country” when she peered at me over her reading glasses to exclaim, “how the fuck do we have jobs?”
I like to think that our years of knowledge and experiences have filled our brain to capacity, and there’s no more room for new information. We just need more bits of storage space. They say crosswords and Sudoku are can help expand and stretch our mind, the equivalent of mental pilates.
A few months ago, I met Jslow at The Drawing Room, a small art gallery in the Mission for the opening reception of Men&Women, which showcased the work of Kelly Castro, husband of Jslow’s friend Stacy.
When I extended my hand for the “nice to meet you” moment to Stacy, she looked at me a little funny. I asked where she lived. “Bernal Heights” she said. “What do you do” I asked. “Makeup artist” She said. Twenty minutes and half a glass of rose later, it dawns on me that I fucking KNOW Stacy – not only had I been to her Bernal Heights house, but she had done my makeup. I even wrote about it here. She was even in my phone.
But I fucking forgot. “I thought you didn’t like me” said Stacy, in reference to my cool reception. “No” I said. “I’m just old.”
But I guess the moral of this story is this:
The smartest people I know are going through the exact same thing. The more we talk about it, the less shame there is. The more honest we are, the more it’s okay. I’ve gotten into the habit of addressing the forgotten word elephant by shooting it when it happens, like, “I’ve lost the word I’m trying to find” – and laugh about it. This typically accomplishes one of two things: a) I relax and find a suitable word or b) the client/friend/other laughs and inserts the word for me!
Sometimes, there just are no words. And that’s okay too.