I think there’s something wrong with me. Not physically. Mentally. I can’t remember jack shit. I read something and then I forget what I just read. Someone asks me if I liked a movie. Yes, I did. “What did you like about it?” they ask. I have no idea. “Remember the part when she orders the veal and her server says, ‘What is this? Amateur hour?’” “I don’t remember that. But it was good. It was a good movie.”
I was a history major in college. UCLA. I love history. And I believe a strong grasp of historical events is critical to understanding the world today. But I don’t have one. In fact, I have no idea what happened to anyone. Ever. I re-read the basics all the time trying to piece together the past. Familiar stuff. The American Revolution, WWII. I would love to be able to talk to you about the history of the Jews. But I can’t. Something about the parting of the Red Sea, getting out of Egypt. Then things get foggy.
I think I used to be a smart person, but I can’t be sure. Don’t quote me on that. I listen to the news, try to stay abreast of the situation in the Middle East. But I seriously do not think I could point out Iraq on a blank map, though I have studied its whereabouts many times. It’s not that I don’t care. I care. But my brain has become incapable of retaining information.
I’ve had to become skilled at the art of “faking it.” You know, sounding smart when in fact you know nothing. I vamp. I know when to nod when trapped in a meaningful conversation with someone intelligent. I repeat something they’ve just said and pretend I had the thought simultaneously.
Intelligent Person: “Isn’t it just awful what’s happening in Syria.”
Me: “Isn’t it? It’s – I – Damascus… What a mess.”
Intelligent Person: “What’s your take on the Ben Ghazi situation?”
Me: “Oh, God. Ben Ghazi. That poor guy…”
The room falls silent. I suddenly sense I have made a grave error.
My parents are smart p
eople. They read everything. My younger brother was just accepted to three stellar law schools. He did so well on his LSATs the Ivies were offering him scholarships before he even applied. Harvard wrote him a letter. Wanted to know why he hadn’t applied there. Really?
I don’t know jack.
The name Hugo Chavez came up the other day and I could not remember who the fuck he was. Something to do with grapes? There was that episode in the 70s where my mom quit buying grapes cuz there were bad people taking over the industry in Latin America. But there was nothing on Google about Hugo Chavez and grapes. Che Guevara popped up. I thought, of course, that’s the grape guy. Nooo… he’s a Cuban Revolutionary. Bay of Pigs. That sort of thing. I asked my BFF, Gabby, about it and she said, “You’re thinking of Cesar Chavez.” And I’m like, “Ohhhhhh… right.”
(Hugo was the president of Venezuela – just so you know).
My mom used to brag about my history degree. She’ll never do that again. We went down south recently for a family reunion. Stayed with my redneck cousins: loud cars, chain smokers. Out comes the Trivial Pursuit. Now, I have learned to bow out gracefully from this moment to avoid embarrassment. But I thought this was a shoe-in. I mean, they wear too much make-up. They have big hair. But there they were answering tough questions… correctly! I don’t know what the last fucking Imperial Chinese Dynasty was! How am I supposed to know what lake the White Nile is sourced from?! They kicked my ass. It was a catastrophe. The horror on my mom’s face. I had totally let her down. I can’t even go down there anymore. They teased me mercilessly for the remainder of the week about being from L.A. and how my brain cells have gone up in smoke… and I don’t even smoke.
Every once in a while I blurt out the correct answer during Jeopardy. But I’m facing an uphill battle. And I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m a dumbass. Blame it on peri-menopause. Or 21st century information overload. I can no longer carry on an intelligent conversation. I just freeze up. Like that episode of the Brady Bunch where Cindy goes blank when the TV camera is turned on.