By Carol Ovenburg
You’ve spent three years painting larger-than-life scale people in park settings – Your Urban Park series capturing the urban feel of Seattle parks. You’ve painted your subjects in striped t-shirts, cut-off jeans, bathing suits, running shoes. Painted bling and cigarettes. You painted a couple eating popsicles. Painted a couple arguing. A couple sitting by the lake. Many like these. Twenty-six paintings in all. Several commissions. Many shows.
You’re ready to push the boundaries of your art.
What if you paint the essence of people? Remove their identity? Make them abstract? Make them universal?
What if you pierce the adorned body parts? Dig underneath the skin through layers of brain and brawn?
Down to the bones.
You begin with pencils on paper.
You plunge head-first into graphite – the way you dive deep when you write. You bury yourself in the act of drawing.
Shapes resembling bones.
Dead bones. Live bones. Luminescent bones.
Bones with nodules illuminated.
Illuminated nodules and spurs highlighted.
Bones flying, floating bones pushing, pulling, singing and howling.
Long bones, hip bones, finger bones, backbones.
Dancing – white against black – drawn and shaded ribbons and knotted fabric penciled into swirls that kiss the edge of a bone.
Or vices that bind two bones together.
Or slings protecting two bones from falling.
Or jaws that pry bones apart.
You draw the dynamics of family.
Their baggage. Illusions. Delusions.
Their pain and their joy.
You dive deeper than dreams
Into the graphite ground
Burnt black as magic is black
The color of death.
You find bones in the dark and morbid underground
Waiting for you – memories of foul play.
Bones. Hear them clack as they bump one another. Making noise. Watch ribbons ripple and fly, hear the stretch of fabric just before it rips and snaps. Hear the grunts from tension and the whoosh as bones fall. Feel the burden of heavy loads. Hear the crumpling paper, the buzzing of fan shapes, the flirtations of bone fragments. Feel the weight. Feel the perishable peeling away of graphite layers rubbed out to create chaos at the edges.
A suite of drawings finished.
Now you paint. Paint on canvas with a fan brush.
A larger field.
An excavation site.
Mix complementary colors – ultramarine purple and yellow ochre.
Tinge bones dug from earthen graves the color of dried dirt.
Paint the light snagged by bone gnarls and bring them alive with white.
Then plow into your psyche and dig for more bones.
Dig deep into the dark dead earth and uncover the mother-bones
Mother-bones haunting you.
The other day you woke early
With another lucid dream –
The sort that feels so real you question
The reality of wakefulness.
Your mother called and said she needs you to go to her.
She needs you to cook for her.
She’s just too sick.
You said no.
You woke remembering you said no.
You knew what it meant to cook for her.
It meant she is hungry.
It meant she needs to feed off of you again.
You said no.
There was once meat on your bones.
Meat that made you strong.
The kind of meat mothers feast on.
Suck on until nothing is left but bare bones.
You can’t separate the bones – hers from yours.
You paint them all.
All your female archetypes.
Every dead writer, dead painter, every dead mother and daughter.
You plop gobs of paint on your palette –
Gobs of buttery paint luscious enough to lick
Like a Wayne Thiebaud painting of pie.
Alizarin Crimson, Viridian Green, Ultramarine Blue mixed
To form a near-black not quite the color of death.
This is your ground. Fill in the spaces between the bones
With a number 10 hog-hair bristle brush.
Let the tortured female bones lay on top
Alive with your nightmares.
In the meantime, you reach the semi-finals for Seattle’s Best with your Urban Park Paintings. Swedish Hospital buys two of your large paintings and two pastels for the new hospital cancer wing. The art curators for Seattle’s Best like the work you submitted from your slides. But during their visit to your studio they notice your bone paintings. Your shifting focus confuses them. They reject you.
You are crestfallen. Should you have stayed in the safe zone? Made a name for yourself? Become a caricature of yourself? Stunt your growth? To get into the finals of Seattle’s Best?
Fuck them. You’re onto something.
Bones identify. They tell the tales.
They have a voice. A loud voice.
You hear your childhood torment in these bones.
You hear Mother bones wail.
By Carol Ovenburg
You merge into Your Mother’s words, her thoughts, what she hears, what she smells, how she separates blooms from weeds. Her name is Marcia.
You are a weed in Marcia’s Garden – a long, scraggly weed. Not the beautiful bloom she expected.
Will she find value in this weed, find beauty in its resilience?
Or will she dig at the roots to weaken you – wincing at your imperfections, training you to do the same.
Your Mother calls you a homely baby. Long and bald. According to Grandma, Your Mother won’t hold you.
You want to believe Your Mother had days when she cradled you, but you can’t remember her arms surrounding you with safety or warmth or pride unless it was credit she took for your accomplishments.
You need her to show you how to be proud of yourself.
Your Mother’s love comes with you tickling her back with the tips of your fingers. You cringe at the way she pulls at your touch.
She says – Now draw letters on my back with your finger. Let me try to guess.
You need her to love you without your working for it.
Your Mother is the book of rules and etiquette. She teaches you the proper way to set a table, to clean a house, to keep everything neat. She wraps her teaching in chores for you. Every Saturday morning, she says –
Rise and shine.
Time for your chores.
Wash the loads.
Then load the dryer.
Clean the kitchen first in case company comes.
Then clean the house.
Iron the king size sheets. Iron your stepdad’s boxer shorts.
The back-and-forth rhythm of your ironing arm sends you drifting into Cinderella fantasies as Your Mother trains you in the art of servitude.
You need her to teach you independence.
Your Mother is particular about body cleanliness. Your stepdad calls her Mrs. Clean.
She cleans you with baths and enemas.
She places a towel on the white tile floor of the green-tiled bathroom and has you lie on your side curled up. You grimace at the shiny red rubber bag swollen with fluid and its long red tube ending in a black hard plastic finger with ridges and holes and a flared-out tip.
Your Mother shoves the tip into your tiny butt. Cold rushes into your tiny belly. Spasms clench your tiny gut.
You rush to the toilet before it’s time.
Your Mother scolds you for not holding it in.
Whenever you sit on the toilet to pee, you stare at the deflated bag hanging over the shower head and you feel it inflate your tiny bottom punishing you for your dirty insides.
You need her to show you appropriate hygiene.
Your Mother tries teaching you how to pluck the dead petals of your eyebrows, how to apply makeup, how to help you look less like a tall thin weed.
You’re twelve when she dyes your hair.
You’re sixteen when she shapes your flowering – even weeds bloom at some point.
She tells the doctor you need birth control pills. She’s afraid of pregnancy.
You need her to teach you about sex and beauty.
You swear to yourself that you will never be like Your Mother.
But her voice – that voice lives loud in your head.
That voice – It’s too bad you didn’t get my eyebrows – those thick arched brunette brows that frame her deep-set hazel green eyes and need no filling in with an eyebrow pencil.
That voice – It’s too bad you didn’t get my narrow feet. You could have borrowed my shoes – the shoes Grandpa sends her because he is a well-known shoe designer and keeps her in the latest styles.
That voice – It’s too bad you didn’t get my hair – her glossy thick brunette hair with loads of body and natural wave – the hair that hairdressers love and use Your Mother in hair shows to show off their skill.
Her voice – It’s too bad you didn’t get my legs – shapely and in perfect proportion to her 5’2” frame.
Your eyebrows are thick and triangular with no natural arch. Your feet are wide – Bs to Your Mother’s triple As. You have a lot of hair, but it’s fine hair, dark brown, sun-bleached gold at the ends and stick-straight – the kind of straight hair even perms don’t curl. Your legs are long in the thigh, short in the calf, and your feet splay out when your knees point forward.
You wish you had Your Mother’s hair. Her feet. Your Mother’s eyebrows. Her legs.
You wish she had seen you as pretty. Not a weed that needs yanking and tossing.
You need her to show you how to appreciate yourself.
In Your Mother’s first house, she plants blooming shrubs – Dwarf gardenias. Single and double pink hibiscus. Red geraniums. She plants one tree – a four-foot magnolia for the front yard. She rips out grass runners from other people’s yards and plants them in yours. She buys an edger, an electric lawn mower. Yet it’s you who pulls weeds from her garden to manage her love of blooms and beauty.
You’re a woman now and people tell you you’re beautiful, stunning, striking. How beautiful your eyes, how radiant your smile.
And you say – Really? You think so?
You can’t believe it might be true. You’re a weed after all. Who ever heard of a beautiful weed?
Marcia is older now – the narcissus of her soul fading with her image. She’s grown to hate blooms.
She says – Don’t bring me flowers. I hate it when people bring me flowers.
You say – Why?
She says – Flowers die.
WOW-WOMEN ON WRITING RUNNER UP CONTEST WINNER 1st QTR 2023
Inside the Lines
By Carol Ovenburg
Crayola crayons—my first pack. Eight colors lined up in their yellow and green box in perfect order—red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown, black.
I’m three, crouched on the floor of Grandma’s parlor, coloring inside the lines as Mother instructed, in my new Cinderella coloring book, with my new box of crayons. Mother introduces me to her date. I’m coloring Cinderella’s gown. Pressing hard with my blue. I want her pretty for the prince.
“Are you my daddy,” I ask.
“I’ll have to see what we can do about that,” he says.
Stay inside the lines. Keep order, don’t fray, don’t stray, bear down hard for brightness. Mother reminds me often that perfection is a virtue.
Whenever I think of crayons, I think of Daddy rescuing me on the day I shaved down crayon nubs with Mother’s grater. I am seven with an idea. The idea to make paint with eight shaved colors—red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown, black.
I wait until noon, the sweltering part of a deep south summer, to mound the shavings in little clusters, each color perfectly spaced on the straight-line walk from the street to my house. The crayons melt in the hot sun, but they don’t turn to paint. They ooze into the rough concrete making a mess on the sidewalk and harden there when the sun fades. I feel Mother’s fury. I’ve colored outside the lines. She yells, clean up this mess. She is about to whollop me when Daddy intervenes.
I don’t know the way to my creativity yet. I’ve been taught to stay inside the lines. For Mother’s attention. I watch how others do it—my friends in fifth grade. How they get attention. Try to be like them. Like Julia. She laughs a raucous laugh at anything funny. Mrs. Centenni doesn’t scold her. Just cajoles her. I see the attention Julia gets, so when Julia howls with laughter, I do too.
Mrs. Centenni doesn’t cajole me in the same way. Instead, she seats me away from Julia in a desk right next to hers. I feel ashamed. Ears burn hot. The class is watching. Mrs. Centenni tells them I’m not being punished. She wants me close for creative aid. She sees my talent.
I feel good about myself for the very first time.
Other teachers take notice, give me drawing assignments. And lots of attention. They like my detail, my perfection. They like the way I color in Christopher Columbus’s face—the way it looks in pictures—pressing down hard with each color for brightness. I use red, yellow, brown, blue to get his skin tone right. I want him to look real. It’s hard work.
Mother admires hard work. Here’s a bucket of cleaning supplies. Put your talent to good use. Scrub floors, wax floors, clean cigarette butts out of the ashtrays, wash the highball glasses. Dry them and put them away. Dust and polish the furniture. Clean the bathtub, sink, and toilet with Ajax cleanser. Polish the mirror in our one bathroom. Wash windows. Clean the grout between the tiles.
I clean for Mother’s attention. Create order in our house of chaos.
I stay inside the lines. While Mother and Daddy drink.
Live my life for Mother’s attention. Her approval. Stay inside the lines. For her.
At thirty-five, pregnant with my daughter, I make a drawing for her room using colored pencils to make perfect replicas of crayons posing at different angles and heights as if suspended by invisible wire. With actual crayons, I scribble with a heavy hand—run each scribble to the tip of the same color crayon. It looks like each colored-pencil-crayon is making its own scribbles on which to hang. I title the drawing, “Crayons Suspended from Tangled Scribbles.”
Two days before I turn sixty, Mother dies. I rejoice with paint. Learn unrestrained creative expression. Express a different me, unbounded by rules. Confident. Finding enjoyment in taking risks.
Use my grout-cleaning arm to let go of the line, make new kinds of lines. Crosshatch.
Use my floor-scrubbing arm to scumble paint onto canvas. Rub it in hard.
Use my circular-cleaning arm to color the canvas with bars of color the texture of softened butter.
Use my floor wax-applying arm to wax and polish my canvas when it’s done.
I’ve outgrown the need for attention-getting perfection. The need for Cinderella trappings and tools.
I’m not that three-year-old. Or that seven-year-old. I’m not that ten-year-old anymore. Or that thirty-five-year-old. I’m not even that sixty-year-old anymore. I’m finding new expression beyond Mother’s restraint. Beyond the order of colors in my first box of crayons.
I’m free from Mother—no longer confined to her prison of lines.
by Carol Ovenburg
Suzie by Carol Ovenburg - Minerva Rising Press
Modern dance is on my mind when Suzie taps my shoulder and introduces herself. My second semester junior year of high school, 1962. She stands behind me in a registration line for a modern dance class in Phys Ed.
I say, hello. She says, hello.
I’m new at this school. Don’t know anyone. But they know me – the new girl who came here from another high school two weeks before midterm exams. Flunked them all. I’m taking modern dance to redeem myself.
She says, are you a virgin?
What? I nod yes, turn around, face forward.
Another tap. What does this girl want?
She wants to tell you why she looks so ragged this morning.
She wants to tell you that her boyfriend, soon-to-be-husband insisted on having sex before she left for school.
She wants you to know that her behavior is abnormal because she’s a nymphomaniac and needs to have sex.
She wants to tell you she’s had shock treatments and everything. She wants you to know this about her.
She wants you to be her friend.
Suzie is not like the other girls – perky and 1962-highschool-stylish, like me, with shoulder-length hair turned into a perfect flip. Her brunette hair is pulled back into a twist. It’s a little messy. But not ragged like she thinks. Her long lashes frame her dark brown almost black eyes.
She wants you to know she was adopted because her adoptive parents couldn’t get pregnant, but after the adoption, her mother got pregnant seven times giving Suzie seven younger siblings. She says she feels like an outsider, thinks that’s what may have caused her nymphomania.
All this about Suzie while standing in line – her brown/black eyes piercing my blues. Suzie seems desperate to make friends. I’m a little cautious, but I could be her friend. We’ll have modern dance in common.
I haven’t had sex yet – couldn’t get anyone at my other school to venture into the territory of my cherry. Just necking and a little fooling around, falling in love with anticipation. That feeling I’d melt – buttery legs, flushed neck, slack jaw, pounding heart, heat flowing up and down my spine. Pussy juicy. Ready.
Same at this school. No takers. Just necking.
Like with Phil. His mother took thalidomide when she was pregnant with him. He has one stub arm. But he also has a car and I need rides to school. I neck with Phil to secure those rides. He likes me. I like boys with flaws. They’re kinder. But I’m not kind to Phil. Such is my shallow way. During the beginning of our senior year, he dumps me and falls in love with someone else. He gets her pregnant then marries her. I lose both him and my rides.
Suzie introduces me to a guy named Claude. A cop. He’s 26. Has no business hanging out with seventeen-year-old girls like Suzie and me. But he visits me often.
My little brother Johnny calls him Gumshoe. His last name is Waddle. Claude Waddle. Or as Johnny says – Claude Gumshoe Waddle. His middle name happens to start with a G – G for Gordon. You’d think with a name like that he’d be ugly or fat or pimply. But he’s cute – tall, tanned, nice build, black hair cropped short – almost a buzz cut. He has a cowlick at his forehead hairline – a hair swirl.
I show him my new fake ID. Suzie has one, too. Claude says mine and Suzie’s are the two best ones he’s ever seen but he won’t let me use mine when I’m out with him.
When he’s not working at the county jail getting prisoners to wash his car, Claude drives
a school bus – the one I should have been taking had it not been for Phil’s rides. Since Claude drives my school bus, I’ll have to consider him and the bus as my new wheels. But it’s a long walk to the bus stop from where I live.
I ask Claude about Suzie – whether he knows she’s a nymphomaniac. He says she tried to date him for a while, but she’s become more of a friend. And, yes, he knows, which is why he won’t date her. That and she’s underaged. But he still likes her.
Having spent the second half of my junior year being Suzie’s friend, enjoying our partnering in modern dance class – the only time she doesn’t talk about sex – and making fun of our teacher who is old enough to be our grandmother, in our senior year I’m developing a more concentrated interest in Suzie’s otherwise active libido. I ask her if she can fix me up with someone to de-virginate me. I’m ready to find out what this intercourse business is all about.
She calls a friend – Corvette Guy (he drives a red Corvette convertible) – who calls a friend.
We cut school one morning and drive over to Corvette Guy’s place. There we meet Linebacker Big. One look at him and we say a prayer. Our prayers are not the same – mine is an oh no and Suzie’s is an oh yes.
He’s thick big. I look for something to like about him, something to excite me for what I am about to do. He’s dressed in dark blue jeans, a red plaid madras shirt. He has ZERO distinguishing smell – 0 aftershave smell, 0 deodorant smell, 0 soap, 0 sweat. He’s clean. Dark brown hair, short and parted on the side. Too clean. Ordinary except for his size.
Suzie heads off with Corvette Guy to another room.
Linebacker Big leads me onto Corvette Guy’s bed. He is all verb. I am all object.
Here you are lying on your back
His having shed your underpants,
the first obstacle to discovery, and
his having hiked your blue polyester knit pencil skirt
to your skinny waist while
he catches you staring at his big goal-post-hard dick, and
he wonders how he’s going
to get his thing inside of you.
You lie in that bed line straight –
notice you feel nothing – no arousal. Nothing. Not even fear. Not even disgust.
He mounts you and
Pushes apart your legs with
guides his dick to
pushing gently at first then harder because
won’t go in and
you tell him to push harder. It
still won’t go in and then one last
shove before you yell, OUCH.
He stands up, says, “You’re bleeding.”
So that’s what he sounds like – first words I hear him say.
He dresses and leaves the room. That’s it? You cut school for this?
This sex business may be working for Suzie, but it’s not working for me. I get off the bed, straighten my skirt, walk into Corvette Guy’s front room. He’s sitting shirtless on the sofa blowing smoke rings. Points to a big blood stain on the back of my skirt near the hemline. Shows me where to wash it out. We small talk while my skirt dries.
He says, “What happened in there?”
“Nothing,” I say. “NOTHING, except he made me bleed. Where’s Suzie?”
“In the other room,” he says. “I’ve had enough. She keeps crying for more. I need a break. So, I sent Linebacker Big in to tackle her.” Then he says, “You and Suzie are an odd combination to be friends – a virgin and a nymphomaniac.”
That’s Way #1.
Suzie and I are an odd combination in other ways:
This is Way #2 – I’m a recovering catholic and Suzie is a holy roller. God help me – it’s two weeks after the attempted de-virginating and she’s taking me to church with her. The service starts out calm. Then heats up and before I know what’s going on, people are in the aisles –
wailing, crazy talking,
eyes rolling, dropping to the floor,
It’s madness. At least from my perspective.
I tell Suzie I’m leaving. “I hear enough of this screeching, crying and hysteria at home. I don’t need to be here for this.”
She grabs hold of my arm.
“Please don’t leave now, not during this part. Wait a few minutes and I’ll leave with you.”
When Suzie gives the nod, we tiptoe out – the nymphomaniac/holy roller and the
This is Way #3 – Suzie is not the most graceful when it comes to modern dance. Whereas dance is in my DNA. I think it’s because her extremely high arches throw her off balance for one. And for another, she only sees out of one eye. I didn’t mention this earlier because it doesn’t matter to me that Suzie is blind in one eye and that she squints to camouflage her eyes not tracking together. Sometimes it’s hard to remember which is the good eye. I had a teacher like that in the sixth grade. He had a glass eye, and we could never tell who he was eyeballing in his
class. I think one-eyed sight makes dance hard for Suzie. Or maybe she’s just not as coordinated as I am.
This is Way #4 – I live in a minor wealthy neighborhood, in a nice house, in the foothills of La Cañada (pronounced Canyada). Suzie lives in Pasadena in a small house that needs work. And cleaning. The first time Suzie invites me over, she wants me to see the room and the table where her shock treatments take place. But when I walk in the door, the first thing I notice is the smell – cooking grease and cigarette smoke. I notice how dark the house is. How small. Dingy wood floors covered in paper scraps, old newspapers, and dirty clothes.
“How can you live like this, Suzie? This is disgusting. And your mom is a NURSE.”
“I know, but Mom works the night shift and sleeps all day. Grandma takes care of us and does all the cooking, but Grandma can’t see her mess because she’s blind as a bat.” “
"Okay, I’m going to help you out here. We’re going to clean up this mess.”
We start in the kitchen where the linoleum flooring is hidden under layers of dirt and grease. Suzie gathers supplies and tries to explain to Grandma what we’re going to be doing and
Grandma can’t see anything wrong with the floor the way it is because Grandma can’t
We scrub that floor four times after I show Suzie how to use a brush and hold a mop,
which does not come naturally to her.
She’s gratified when we’re done to see what lay under the dirt, but not enough to keep it that way.
Suzie hates cleaning,
Grandma can’t see,
Nurse Mom is too busy
working and sleeping.
The (1) seven (2) siblings (3) are (4) useless (5) for (6) chores (7).
So, it’s my guess the kitchen will be back to filthy in no time. Along with the rest
of the house.
I have my first actual sexual experience just before graduation and Mother is right – it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. However, sex still equals a predominate pastime for Suzie.
We stay friends through high school. We double date for our senior prom. But after graduation, we have a natural parting of the ways – new friends, different interests, different goals. No more modern dance for either of us past high school.
Two years later I run into Suzie at the cosmetic counter of a downtown Pasadena department store. She’s bleached her hair blond. Still quite beautiful.
Still talks to me
about her sexual episodes and her plans to marry the guy.
We chat for a few good moments.
A customer comes to the counter for what looks like a makeover.
I stand close by and watch Suzie perform magic on the lady.
I listen to their interactions.
Smile at her and ponder who we once were
and who Suzie might still be.
I wave goodbye
knowing in my gut
it’s the last time
Suzie and I
I’m not good at remembering names. Scared to make introductions because once, way back in my early thirties, I blanked on my husband’s name. I’d like you to meet ______.
In the void, there are no synapses, no neuronal pathways, nothing close to tip-of-the-tongue recall. My inner voice screams. My blood rushes. My adrenalin flows. My nerves rattle in that moment I’ve blanked on a name. It’s trapped in some chamber of my brain.
Eyes search – up and left.
Eyes search – down and right.
Searching for the brain chamber of hidden names through twenty-six mnemonic devices.
A—Anthony? Andrew? Allen? Arthur? Not close.
B—Bob? Ben? No. Try C.
C—nothing with C or D or E or F or G or H or I or J or
K or L or M or N or... WAIT. Go back to L—Larry. No. Way off.
Or O or P or Q or R or S. S—that’s it. Stephen.
Why can I never remember his name?
I know him well, this Stephen. I know a lot about him. If you ask him a question about anything—hold on tight. His answer will take you down rapids. His emails are pages long and often quite funny. He dances Argentine tango like many of us do. And sometimes, as sympathy for followers, he dances in high heels.
I should remember his name.
I see Stephen at tango festivals several times a year and when we dance, his feet catch every musical beat, and he doesn’t slow down. And sometimes he holds me too tight, and I think he thinks my following will falter if he loosens his embrace. He brings me homemade biscotti. The last time two new flavors—cocoa with coffee nibs. Pistachio and ginger.
I absolutely should never blank on his name.
The other day, two friends—a married couple—came to our house for lunch. Chamber open—his name is Dennis. I dance tango with Dennis, too. He has white hair pulled back into a ponytail. A nice man. A nice dancer. Then suddenly, chamber locked—I’ve blanked on her name. How is that possible? I’ve said her name a thousand times and now I’ve blanked on it. I panic.
Quick. Pull out the mnemonics.
A—Anita? Yes. Anita? No. Not Anita.
B—No. C—No. D—No. E—Erica?
No that’s not it.
I’m sure her name starts with an A.
Finally, the chamber opens and
ANNETTE falls out. That’s it. Whew.
Is name-blanking a flaw of my brain? Like for those who can’t remember faces?
My friend has this condition. I can’t remember the name of it, but I know it begins with a P.
His name also begins with a P—Philippe. He’s French. He knits hats. He says he knits to stay calm. We dance tango together, too, when we’re both at the same dance events. After our first dance he tells me about his condition—how he has trouble remembering faces so when I see him again at another tango event looking aloof, avoidant, it means he’s forgotten my face. If that happens, I’m to go up to him and remind him who I am and of course he’ll feel terrible. I don’t think I’ll blank on his name. But if I do, I’ll go through my twenty-six mnemonic devices until my locked chamber opens and spills out PHILIPPE.
Sometimes my partner calls me Alice. I call him Matt. A habit from past marriages. We’ll laugh because habits are not the same as that brain chamber where a person’s name hides in the white-out.
I’ve researched this name-blanking thing, and the thing is—it’s common. There’s no name for it. No diagnosis. Nothing that gives it a label like the label for forgetting faces. According to many studies, remembering a name is arbitrary—a name is nothing the brain is interested in committing to memory. Stress can be a factor, too. If I’m nervous about introducing someone to someone else my brain responds to my cortisol surge and activates the amygdala and busies itself with fight or flight and then—BAM—a person’s name flies into the chamber and the chamber locks down.
When I introduce myself to someone for the first time, within seconds I will have examined their face, their features, the expression in their eyes. I will have noticed their dress, their height, the color and style of their hair—if it’s thick or thin, long or balding. In those few seconds of visual distraction, I will have forgotten their name. And they will say to me, remind me of your name again.
When someone forgets my name, it relaxes me, lets me off the hook, makes me feel easy when I say no worries. I’ve forgotten your name, too.
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