What kind of a woman am I?

By Legal Eagle

There’s this stereotype about marriages that the husband comes home cheerfully, to find his wife stony-faced. After some time of receiving the cold shoulder, he tentatively inquires as to what the matter is, and finds out that he’s forgotten that it is his wedding anniversary.

With whom do my sympathies lie? With the husband, all the way. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a woman I am. I certainly don’t fit the stereotype. I am absolutely hopeless at remembering dates. When the time came to fill out our application for the baby bonus, I forgot the date of our wedding, and my guess was out by a day and two years (hey, at least I got the month right!). My husband is lucky – he’ll never get the cold shoulder for forgetting our wedding anniversary because I am likely to have totally forgotten it. In fact, once, as a teenager, I seriously forgot it was my own birthday, and had to be reminded by my father.

This hopelessness with dates and etc is a source of much guilt. When my birthday comes around, I feel so embarrassed that other people remember it. After all, it’s entirely likely that I’ve forgotten theirs. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that numbers and things don’t stay in my head, and I really don’t have a very good concept of dates. I had a terrible tendency to double or even triple book myself when I was younger as a result. I did have a good system a few years ago when I had everyone’s birthdays in the computer, and for one blessed year, I was able to e-mail people appropriately. However, our hard drive died and I lost it all.

I wonder if my problem with remembering dates is related to my problem with remembering numbers generally. I have terrible problems remembering phone numbers. It took me two years to remember my home phone number when we lived in the UK. Seriously, I have to write down my present home phone number in my address book. We’ve only lived here for a year and a half… I also have terrible problems with pin numbers unless I can think of a rhyme or obscure mathematical pattern to recall them.

The other thing I’m not good at are those little courtesies like thank you letters. It’s not so much that I forget, but that I take so long to get around to it that I become embarrassed, and decide it’s probably better to forget the whole thing rather than to send a thank you letter for a present given to my child over a year ago. It’s the kind of thing that haunts me in the middle of the night at 3am. At that time of the morning, I’m apt to regard all these things as fatal failures which mark me out as a Bad Person. The thing is that if I were a man, I think I would get away with it far more, but as a woman, it’s expected that I remember or do these things, and people are disappointed when I don’t.

So – to answer my question – I am a scatty kind of woman who forgets dates. But I mean well. (Do they not say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? …in which case I’m damned!)


  1. Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    as a woman, it’s expected that I remember or do these things

    Oh what nonsense. BTW Do you remember where I left my car keys, wallet, underwear…

    I really am surprised sometimes that there aren’t more lesbians considering.

  2. lilacsigil
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I can remember phone number of my friends from when I was 5, several different credit card numbers, all my logins and everyone’s birthdays ever, so I suspect the skills are linked! I still hate the stereotype of “if you cared, you wouldn’t forget!”

  3. lilacsigil
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, the expectation is far more annoying that the actual problem! I don’t try to remember numbers, they just stick! On the other hand, I’m should be all feminine and actually call people when it’s their birthday, and I don’t manage that…

  4. Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    You’re the exact same type of woman I am.

    I was nodding to every single point – including the one about other women expecting you to be more like ‘a woman’ and being offended at things they would roll their eyes at if you were a man.

    I forget my husband’s birthday all the time and have to ask his relatives secretly to remind me, or hover at the right time of year to pick up clues and write it somewhere. (I always forget where.) I get it mixed up between two different dates and never recall which is the real one.

  5. Patrick
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    My wife never bloody forgets dates. Needless to say I do. Thank God for electronic diaries on mobile phones.

  6. Posey
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Yep, me too, don’t remember birthdays or anniversaries or care about them much and have troubles with dates and all numbers.

    It’s sad people get upset when you forget their birthdays though I suspect there’s more to it than just forgetting since we have so many electronic and other means now of remembering. Perhaps it’s a form of unconscious rebellion against unimportant but de rigueur social customs. That makes more sense.

    I also discovered recently to my horror that I am incapable of learning how to tie complicated knots in a couple of pieces of rope. Do you think these things are connected? It was in a dumb-arse work training course where the trainer thought it’d be a good idea to start the session teaching us abseiling knots (his hobby) as an exercise in how to teach adults something new in a workplace setting.

    For the life of me I couldn’t do it even when he stopped the class and tried to get me to mirror exactly what he was doing. But because I was facing him and with the eyes of all others upon us I couldn’t manage this, got hand and eye unco-ordinated in the most alarming way and then to make matters even worse actually fled the class in teary-eyed embarrassment.

    Oh the shame.

  7. Posted July 28, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I don’t have too much trouble remembering numbers, dates and birthdays.

    I just don’t have any friends.

  8. Posted July 28, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    It’s probably not case law “taking up room”, but associative v declarative memory.
    Is it easier to remember how a face from the past had their coffee, their footy team, their favorite music (then) than pull up a name?
    Bad declarative memory forces greater use of “long links” to pull something back, AND thus gives enhanced ability to see novel links (eg analogies) between ideas that others don’t: creativity, also arguing from first principles and the joy of more internally-generated “ahaaaah” and “hmmm, i wonder if…” moments.
    It’s thought to be a mechanism why so many epileptics figure in creative areas.
    The curse is the blessing.
    More on this when i can type, not just thumb in, a comment.
    And stereotypes (not just gender) are good for little else than the basis of a joke. (“nothing wrong with female goal umpires, the posts are too heavy to move” just popped into my head)

  9. Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have too much trouble remembering numbers, dates and birthdays.

    I just don’t have any friends.

    Aawwww 🙁

    I’ll be your friend. You don’t have to remember my birthday. I don’t care.

  10. Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Aw shucks, thanks everyone. I just mean that I’m another a-typical female who doesn’t habitually go around in a ‘Sex in the City’-style gaggle. I’ve had a few close friends in my entire life so far, and though I like people, I deal better with them as individuals rather than in groups. I’m therefore not really close to a large enough number of people that would make remembering their birthdays a challenge.

    Yep, Dave. I do that. I usually hear the person’s voice saying something, have to fight back to the context of the comment which will give me their face and then the name is somewhere around there.

  11. Martha Maus
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    LE, I too, recognise myself in your confessional. I have come to some acceptance of my failings by reminding myself that I would not be offended if one of my friends, or even my husband, forgot those dates that I forget. So in the spirit of doing unto myself what I would do unto others… I let it go. But the phone numbers and pin numbers and other interminable number that I forget constantly are a real bugger!

    Word people v Number people, is how i see it.

  12. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    DEM – I’ve had a few close friends in my entire life so far
    I don;t think there’s anyone who ever lived that had more than a few real friends. There are heaps of people who think they’ve got lots of real friends but that’s la la land.

    I deal better with them as individuals rather than in groups.

    Indeed individuals can be sane. Groups are almost always out of their collective minds.

  13. Patrick
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Indeed individuals can be sane. Groups are almost always out of their collective minds.

    I’m sure that there is a theory or two out there to roughly the opposite effect, somewhere,…d…? da? do? di? du? I’m sure one of them starts with a d…
    mi?..me?..mu??…there’s one with an m as well, I’m sure,…

  14. Posted August 5, 2009 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I too am hopeless with dates and phone numbers. I forget everyone’s birthday. My partner and I regularly forget our anniversary too

    Sadly I am also hopeless with faces – meaning that long term acquaintances generally look like strangers to me. This is often very embarrassing.

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