Thursday, 26 September 2013

References: When To Admit You Have No Idea

"Oh I was going to leave the gig early," she said. "But then I found out that Bladidoodoo and Blimpypimpy were playing!"
These were not the bands real names. I just didn't have a clue who she was talking about. Problem was she was looking at me with such expectation that I didn't want to disappoint her.
"Oh wow, yeah, you had to stay," I replied, nodding enthusiastically.
If she detected the emotional vacancy in my eyes, she didn't say, and the conversation continued seamlessly.
It's not just music references that I've pretended to get in the past, I've also lied about knowing actors, famous books, films and directors. In fact only last week, while I was explaining the tone of my book, a friend said: "So a bit like a Richard Curtis film?"
Oh god. My mind drew a blank. I knew I should know this one. This was a biggie. If I shook my head now it would be like admitting I didn't know who William Shakespeare was. Thank god I knew him. He wrote Great Expectations.  
My hesitation prompted a concerned frown from my literary friend. "You know, Four weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually?"
"Oh, yes, yes, yes! Exactly!" I cried, slapping my forehead to emphasise that it had only been a temporary memory lapse.
Internally I was wondering if I'd been frozen for a long period of time. It would certainly explain why I continuously failed to recognise so many cultural references.
I've often wondered how many times you should pretend you know who someone is referring to, before confessing. My rule has always been to nod your head knowingly for the first two unknown references, and on the third unfamiliar reference, admit your ignorance. The reason I eventually admit my ignorance is because a conversation about three people you don't know is just too uncomfortable. For all I know this is a common practice and more often than not, no one knows who anyone is talking about.
There are some subjects I don't mind people knowing I know little about. For instance, in my meditation group, a couple of members often reference philosophers and psychologists, and I'm happy to say, "I don't know who that is" five time in an evening.
With my writing group, I've also resigned myself to the fact they are all literary experts and have read everything worthwhile that has ever been printed. Instead of admitting I've never heard of it every time they mention a book, I usually don't say anything.
There will be times when I'll still nod. Those times when I sense I really should know something. For instance, who the prime minister is. His name begins with C I think. On the whole though I've grown more relaxed. Only the other day at a party, I asked someone what they did.
"I work for a PLMCT," she said, or something similar.
For a second, I considered nodding my head, but then thought better of it. Why should I know anyway? So I just told her directly that I had no idea what that stood for.
She was flustered. "Oh it's uh... how can I explain it..."
Obviously when she'd taken the job, she'd nodded her head and pretended to know what she was getting herself into. I felt quite relieved. I wasn't so bad after all. Not knowing who you work for has got to be worse than 'forgetting' who a director is, however famous!


Helen Barbour said...

A colleague used the word 'oligarchy' the other day and I didn't want to admit I had forgotten what it meant. I like to think I have good vocabulary and I'm a writer, for goodness' sake! Still, there are quite a lot of words, I suppose it's OK not to know/remember the meaning of all of them...

Emily Benet said...

Ah yes, oligarchy. I forget what that is too. Something to do with the rich running the country, or the priests? :/ I have lots of words I keep meaning to look up, like eponymous... do have a synonym for that old chestnut?