When A Bad Memory Can Be A Good Thing

Queen Mary with Ladies-in-Waiting 1911 by J. Fortesque via Wikimedia Commons (CC0)
Queen Mary with Ladies-in-Waiting 1911 by J. Fortesque via Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

On Wednesday, I was a lady-in-waiting. I’m not so well-connected as a royal lady-in-waiting, but I am right up there with the waiting skills. First, I spent almost two hours waiting at the car dealership for “just a quick fix” on my vehicle, and then I spent another hour waiting to get a police information check. I needed their certification in order to volunteer at a local non-profit organization working with homeless people.

I had already done the crossword in the local paper at the dealership, so at the police station I filled out the form requesting an information check, then I read one of the e-reader books on my phone, and I waited. While waiting, I noticed that the young woman who was attending the front desk was the most patient and long-suffering person in the whole world. She was amazing. She repeatedly thanked people for waiting in line, she asked each person who came to the desk for their two pieces of identification, she told each person how long their wait for an interview would be, and she gave each person the same directions on how to fill out the form. Not only did she display remarkable fortitude, she smiled every time! Whatever they are paying her, it isn’t enough.

Waiting Line by IK's World Trip via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Waiting Line by IK’s World Trip via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Anyway, despite having had plenty of time to watch the receptionist and think while I waited, when I actually got to see the interviewer I realized I had made a mistake on the form. I had completely forgotten about my first marriage.  The form asks for all former names, and I dutifully gave my maiden name but omitted the name I had during my first, brief, marriage. When asked if I had had any other name, I was a little embarrassed to have to own up to this, and in my befuddlement, I tried to justify it by explaining I was very young, it was a long time ago, it didn’t last long, and so on. The interviewer didn’t care. She just wanted to know the name.

On reflection, this failure to remember is actually a success story. When my first marriage failed, I was heartbroken. I had defied my parents to marry him, and then it turned out they had been right about him from the beginning. It took me a long time to get over both the marriage and the shame.

Youth Culture - Hippies 1960s by Paul Townsend via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Youth Culture – Hippies 1960s by Paul Townsend via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

It had been one of those marriages that starts out great but rapidly turns bad. He had me throw out all the clothes I had worn as a secretary because they were remnants of my former ties to the establishment. We had met at art college and he saw us as part of the counter-culture of the late 1960s. He discouraged contact with my family and made it difficult for me to visit them. We were living a “starving artist” lifestyle, without actually creating much art. We moved from one low-paying job and one small studio apartment to another so many times I lost count. When I made new friends, he became unreasonably jealous and nasty.

Anyway, to cut a short, sad, story even shorter, after I left him he emptied and overdrew our joint bank account. It took a long time to pay that back. I thought I’d never forget the unhappiness I felt while we were together and the difficulty I had getting back on my feet afterwards.

Lo and behold, it turns out I had forgotten it so successfully I even forgot I once had his name! This is good news for anyone who might be living in a bad relationship. You can get out of it, you can get back on your feet, and amazingly, you can even forget it ever happened.






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