This column is filled with information you absolutely must have if you are going to live a healthy, meaningful, friend-filled life. No, it’s not about mammograms, dental check-ups, or global warming (I don’t care whether you write a gardening column or a financial column, somewhere in your body of work you have to decry global warming or the government will eventually deport you). No, this medical minute is about a mental condition, which is increasingly common among people whose names I can’t remember: Wishinewyanamia. (Pronunciation: Wish-I knew-ya-name-i-a.)
In short, Wishinewyanamia is a very common condition suffered by busy executives, pre and post-menopausal women, and some receptionists, wherein the sufferer has a total brain meltdown – or to use the technical medical term, “brain freeze”, and cannot recall the name of the person they are talking to. I myself am a sufferer, and am just waiting for clinical trials to start up soon so I can start taking “investigational medication” for this frustrating condition. (Nothing is more reassuring, mind you, than the words “investigational” and “medication” in the same sentence.)
It goes something like this: you are standing outside a school or on a ballfield, talking animatedly with someone you see every week, or even every day. You have shared confidences, disappointments, pet peeves, everything, as the weeks drag on. You have one problem – you cannot remember the person’s name!
You leave each run-in with this person muttering, “I have got to remember his name!” You try different names on the person’s face as you drive home: is it Bill, or Frank, or something edgier, like Prince, or even just a symbol instead of a name? (“Peace sign,” “H2O”, or even “N/A”?) You have no clue. It is absolutely way too late in the game to simply ask them what their name is – you shared the results of your latest physical with them, you both grew misty over remembering the freeze-frame at the end of Brian’s Song! You guys are in it together – bonded! Your Wishinewyanamia is running amok, and you aren’t liking it.
Then, your worst nightmare happens. Up until this fateful day, you have gotten away with a lame, “Hey…dude!” or “How’s it goin’…Daddy-O?” when greeting this person. It is a shame that this person apparently has a brain that is clicking along just fine – their memory at times reminds you of the mental equivalent of a Maytag appliance, while yours is more of an Easy-bake oven – and they use your name every chance they get (are they taunting you? Remember, paranoia is a symptom of Wishinewyanamia). “Deirdre, how’s it going? I was just saying, Ask Deirdre, she’ll know! That’s what I said, ask Deirdre. Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre – ask her!”
They smile in a friendly way at you, secure in your burgeoning friendship. All you want to do is shake them and say, “What in the name of all that is good and right is your name?” You just smile. Suddenly, a friend is approaching – someone you know, that your nameless friend does not know. You are going to have to introduce them. Your mind goes into a freakish overdrive, as your heart starts pounding and a little tiny wisp of smoke comes out of each ear – this is how hard you are thinking about this person’s name.
You watch the third person approaching in slow motion, arm up in a wave, smile on their lips, eyes riveted on your nameless friend. Your Wishinewyanamia is about to cause you a breakdown. You think of leaving, but you and Nameless were talking about global warming, and if you leave abruptly, it will seem like you don’t care about the planet! Your only option is to … do nothing. Let it all play out.
So, you simply do not introduce the third party, even though the two people on either side of you obviously do not know each other. Finally, your friend with a name holds out her hand and says to your friend without a name, “Hi, I’m So-and-so,” and Nameless says, “Hi, I’m Bob.” They both turn to look at you, and all you can think is, “Bob? Are you kidding me? How easy is that? I’ve got to do some Sudoku or something, if I can’t remember Bob!”
You smile at both of them, and with a hint of surprise in your expression and your voice, say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you knew each other! Bob here is my great friend – Bob is just the best! The old Bobinator.” They both smile happily, although Bob squints at you a little – Bob knows. Bob’s no dummy.
So, remember to try this technique the next time your Easy-bake of a brain lets you down – that, or “investigational medication.” I’m going to try Sudoku first – is that what you call it? I can’t remember!
Deirdre Reilly has written one humor book, and authored a syndicated family life column for Gatehouse Media for 13 years. She has won a Massachusetts Press Award for humor, her op-eds have been published in the Boston Herald and The Hartford Courant, and she has had short fiction published in literary journals. Deirdre was raised in Columbia, Md., and now lives outside Boston, Ma. She enjoys outdoor pursuits, and is obsessed with the care and happiness of a retired carriage horse named Nello that she bought for a few hundred dollars on a menopausal whim.