I have forgotten the names of friends' spouses and children hundreds of times. I now understand why my parents had so many acquaintances called "whatshisname." Big social occasions become gauntlets as people whose names I've forgotten greet me by mine. When I do remember someone's name I sing it out proudly -- and then later cringe at the thought that I may have gotten it wrong anyway. I wish I could wear a sign around my neck at times like these. It would say roughly the following: "Please don't take it personally that I cannot remember your name. I can list the last several articles you've written that I particularly enjoyed or the talk you gave at whatever that was broadcast on C-SPAN. But names are my nemesis!"
There are other dismaying aspects of middle age, but there are also major compensations. Truly. George Bernard Shaw (at least I think I remember that it was Shaw) famously quipped that "Youth is wasted on the young." One great aspect of getting older is that you gradually shed your self-consciousness. To quote Cher's character in "Moonstruck," you "get over yourself." Young people are in perpetual fear of being embarrassed, of saying or doing or wearing the wrong thing. They are burdened by an exaggerated feeling of conspicuousness. We middle-aged people get to the point of not caring so much about the opinions of others. We know that most of the time people are too wrapped up in themselves to even notice or care what we may be doing. And if they do take notice and judge us harshly, who cares? Suddenly little old ladies in tennis shoes make perfect sense.
So fear not. While the mental decline may begin at 23, the serenity kicks in later.
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