I have a reputation as a pretty
easy going guy. You know - don't sweat the small stuff, pick your
battlefields, all that dime store philosophy.
And to achieve this peace with the rest of the universe I didn't
have to sit on a mountaintop, fast, watch Oprah, shave my head or
graduate from any 12-step program.
The secret to this general happiness is actually pretty simple -
all you have to have is a really bad memory.
There are all kinds of things that are locked in my brain
forever. My high school German teacher would be astounded that I can
still recite a hundred-line poem I memorized more than twenty years
ago. I also have Shakespeare, Schwartzenegger movies and Monty
Python skits locked forever in my brain that some day will make me
the hit of the nursing home.
But with few exceptions I have trouble remembering people who
have given me a tough time in the past.
I suspect it might be a man thing. For example, most men I know
look back on failed romances with a certain amount of fondness. The
male brain is chemically designed to only remember the good times
when thinking about old girlfriends. It's only after a great deal of
prodding (usually by friends and loved ones sick of listening to you
wonder why it didn't work out) that men remember the time she set
your sheets on fire and chased you through the streets with a carrot
If your friends won't remind you, a quick call to the former
object of your affection usually clears up the cloud of nostalgia in
short order and makes you realize you were lucky to get out with
your life. A few weeks later you'll be wondering again why it didn't
My wife is an invaluable help in these matters (especially since
I'm long past the girlfriend stage. We're old-fashioned, and decided
that we should stop dating after we got married.)
But without my wife I simply wouldn't be able to carry any
grudges at all.
For example, she'll see me talking to someone at a party.
"What are you doing talking to him?" she'll ask.
"Don't you remember you hate him?"
I'll get that look of a man trying to remember if he turned off
the coffee machine before leaving the house. "Remind me again
why I hate him," I'll ask.
A story of back-stabbing, betrayal and deceit will follow in
which I was apparently the victim. Most of it will be news to me, or
at best a dim recollection. It will certainly seem like a reason for
hating this person, but for the life of me I'll still have trouble
dredging up the raw emotion.
Of course, my wife is of Scottish descent, where neighbourly
disputes result in four hundred year blood feuds. She still refers
to other Scots with certain last names as "sheep
stealers", even though for the life of me I can't recall us
ever owning sheep, let alone having them stolen. But then again,
like I said my memory of these things isn't particularly reliable.
For all I know, we may well have had sheep.
Long memories run in her family (in addition to sheep-stealing
neighbours), and it is best to take anything she says as gospel
My only alternative is to start putting sticky notes on everyone
I meet so I can separate my friends from the sheep-stealers.