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Musing on memorable

March 10, 2015

Things or people are ‘memorable’ to me because they’re interesting. Sometimes that means they’re salient to interests I currently have. Sometimes that means they’re salient to interests I’m developing, or about to develop. Sometimes they’re just unusual, which pings my High Need for Novelty.

Finding something ‘interesting’ is a compliment, because that is required for my brain to ‘turn on’, and I love being engaged with cool stuff or people. {Everything that is not ‘interesting’ can be either neutral; or worst case, ‘boring’, which means my brain will not turn on, for love or money, or my gears will persistently grind because Incomprehensible. A great many things in the human social world are ‘deeply boring’ to me.}

I tend to form attachments to things and people that I find interesting, since I prefer to be engaged with The World, and as I said, so much of the human social world precludes my interest.

Thinking back to encounters with new people, I’m wondering now if my rank/status is complicating whether other people find me ‘memorable’.

This is where/when/how homophily kicks my butt:

If everyone attended college, and their majors fall into certain broad categories, mine… doesn’t.

If everyone got this job through ‘working their way up’ or ‘personal connections’, I … didn’t. I answered an ad.

How most married people met their spouses and how I met mine… don’t overlap. We did not have friends in common; we did not work together; we did not attend school together; we were not the same religion; we did not live in the same state.

Most people want to talk about their ordinary interactions with specific family members, like their parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins. This is a minefield for me: not only can I not reciprocate, I have no idea what I can say at all, that will not kill the conversation immediately.

There are generally people who like to exchange charming stories about their kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews or neighbor kids. I don’t personally know any children: don’t have my own; don’t have relationships with any relatives’ kids; don’t know any neighbors at all. I also very rarely find stories about children interesting, unless the kid is unusual (which normally, they aren’t). Still, I wouldn’t even mind listening to the stories, if I could reciprocate, but I can’t.

All the other volunteers likely live fairly nearby. I live relatively far away, so am not familiar with the neighborhood institutions, or how things were in the Good Old Days. I am also not nostalgic, at all.

If everyone volunteers here because “all the people are so nice”, I’ll have volunteered here because I like the subject matter itself, and wanted to learn skills related to it, and/or engage with The World through it. I and the “nice people” will mutually bewilder each other.

If religion is salient at all, everyone else has been the same thing all their lives, and so have most of their friends, and most people they know. Rarely, they’ve converted to something else, once, and now hang out with people in that new religion. … I’ve been 2 (very different) religions, and now am something I don’t have words for. I have been a solitary practitioner since 1986, as my spiritual practice is not compatible with human social interactions.

I read a lot. I have always read a lot, but now that I have so much time alone, I read even more. And yet, if there are genre-specific tropes that all fans know, I… probably don’t know them. Somehow, I can’t pick up on most of that stuff unless it’s pointed out to me very directly. {Probably another reason I haven’t been able to write fiction.}


Okay, so I wandered far afield of where I started.

My original thought was that other people are embedded in human social contexts all the time. Therefore the rank/status of other human beings are probably salient to them all the time. In fact, rank/status might even be metadata in their memories of people, i.e., what makes people ‘memorable’.

Since I don’t belong to communities, friend-groups, kin-groups, or any other ordinary social context, the metadata field would be… left blank? I as an individual won’t fit any extant categories. Since I don’t seem to possess any useful-to-others qualities that would suggest creating a category for me as an exception, I just… don’t register at all. Therefore, I cannot be ‘memorable’.

It has nothing to do with how ‘interesting’ I am. That is, this happening over and over does not mean that people find me… ‘boring’. Or explicitly ‘forgettable’ (my deepest fear).

From what I can tell, ‘interesting’ and ‘boring’ mean completely different things to other people than they mean to me. I’ve often seen other people use ‘interesting’ as an insult — it’s a ‘polite’ word to use when you’re flummoxed by someone’s (unacceptable-to-you) behavior.


I’m a Splitter not a Lumper (usually), so I’m happy to routinely create new categories for unfamiliar types of people. I’m also happy to update my mind-maps of which types of people seem similar to each other, or contrast with each other in intriguing ways.

Apparently other people do things differently.

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