Years ago at the Shabbat table my sister and I used to tease my father's "selective" memory with the old joke "the memory is the second thing to go." What made this funny was not the joke itself, but the number of times we were able to successfully elicit the appropriate response of "what's the first?" Our amusement increased exponentially each time.
Sadly, it seems that I've inherited the selective memory gene, or at least as it pertains to my dating life. I first noticed this on a flight to Israel for last pesach. Trying to be friendly, I introduced myself to the person sitting across the aisle only to be reminded (very gracefully I might add) that we went out once about a year and a half earlier. Only after a good 5 minutes of solid thought was I able to recall the date. During that stay in Israel, a friend referenced the fact that I went out with someone with whom she was indirectly connected. This time it took a few days to make the connection and remember that I did in fact go out with that person. A few weeks later I participated in a Hospitality Shabbat in Washington Heights. It turns out I had gone out once with the wife of the hosting couple, but I had no idea who she was until I noticed her maiden name on her diploma.
My memory is generally flaky regarding people. Sometimes I remember a name, other times I can only remember where we met, and often I just remember that I know the other person and can go on naturally. Or I can forget someone's name but recall some peculiar detail about the person. While I suppose it's normal to forget people from time to time it does bother me when I cannot reciprocate even basic recognition. It's especially troubling when I've met this person in the context of a date in which the entire purpose is ostensibly to actually get to know the other person.
I don't think it's a matter of cognitive dissonance so much as that most dates were, to put it bluntly, wholly forgettable. If a date goes horribly then we have comical stories to tell our friends. While I have my share of those, the majority of dates haven't been good or bad, they just sort of...were.
I freely admit that it often has to do with my attitude. Given the number od disappointments and inappropriate matches, I can't really get excited enough to put in the time, money or emotional energy to do something special. But even as dates should just be "getting to know someone," conversations are generally safe and bland and this too is largely due to personal or ideological incompatibilities (I've even had to adopt the policy of avoiding talking Torah on dates). Regardless of the reasons, the results are the same. What should ostensibly be a pleasant outing usually becomes what I tend to call a "Date By Numbers."
Mind you this doesn't apply to everyone. Despite the frustrations, the dating process has also introduced me to some incredible and special people, some of whom have become close friends. The point is that some dates have become so perfunctory and meaningless to the point where people are interchangeable.
Even adopting a more selective approach in accepting matches has not reduced the number of pointless excursions.
I'm not going to reduce this to yet another gripe session on Jewish Dating or about how this is just part of a process etc. (Remember, I moderate the comments). Perhaps it's just natural or inevitable to forget people who haven't had a lasting personal impact, sort of like most grade school classmates. Even putting in more effort in the date won't help if the other person is disinterested in reciprocating and you'd likely never see each other again.
Then again on the plus side, it does make the memorable encounters all the more valuable. And who knows, maybe one of those will be special enough that it won't be one to let go.
Now that would be a first worth remembering.