Knowing Too Much

I would like myself much better if I didn’t know who Jon and Kate are. And that they appear on a reality TV show with their eight children. And that they have, apparently, some significant marital problems for which they are inclined to blame (huge surprise) “the media.”

But I do know who they are. I don’t actually watch their show – as if that makes it any better; but, occasionally I have caught a glimpse or two when I was trying to locate something else, like The Proust Channel, or was it HGTV?

I also wish I didn’t know the lyrics to Love Will Keep Us Together. Or the location of Wisteria Lane. Or the names of the best dancers on the old American Bandstand or the identity of the actor who played the little red-haired kid on The Partridge Family.

Sadly, I do.

In my defense, I don’t know the name of a single Real Housewife of any locale, and Star Trek references are completely lost on me, except for “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” which I read on a bumper sticker belonging to a long-ago neighbor. I haven’t jumped on the American Idol bandwagon, but I’m addicted to What Not To Wear.

It was well into the second season before I started watching The Sopranos and the third season before I became a Sex and the City fan, thanks to a cable upgrade. So I have big gaps in my store of who-got-whacked and who-got-dumped knowledge. Not a terrible problem, but it makes it hard to follow the re-runs.

The randomness of the little pop culture facts that stick in one’s mind is astonishing, and surely must account for crowding out some of the more worthwhile things. There was a time I could recite Portia’s “quality of mercy” speech from The Merchant of Venice. There was a brief time when I knew what the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to and actually understood why – sort of. I once had a tenuous handle on the names of all the state capitals, but time has erased North Dakota’s and Montana’s.

Yet, should you ever need to know the names of Nancy Drew’s detective gal-pals, I can help. Ditto the names of her housekeeper, her dad and her boyfriend. I do not have the same recollection for the characters in, say, The House of the Seven Gables or The Great Gatsby.

And I can still rattle off a comprehensive list of common English prepositions, learned in the fifth grade, anytime you want to hear them – and I’ll understand if you don’t. (“About, above, across, after, against, among, around … .”)

Still, the unpredictability of recall does have hero-making potential. If you’re the smarty-pants at the dinner table who can come up with the final score in the Georgia-Florida game made famous by Larry Munson’s, “Lindsay Scott, Lindsay Scott…” call when nobody else can, you look pretty good. (It was Georgia 26, Florida 21.)

And the element of surprise can work in your favor, if you happen to know something that no one expects you to. My husband was impressed the first time he heard me recite the infield fly rule, which I had perfected for the express purpose of impressing him.

An acquaintance was amazed that I know the date of Roger Daltrey’s birthday. (Not really a big achievement – I was born the same day.)

Oddly, there is no predicting which personal recollections have staying power. I’d have a hard time recalling what I wore last Monday, but I know exactly what I had on the first time I ever saw a game at Sanford Stadium. I remember when and where we acquired every Christmas ornament we own, but have to look up turkey-cooking directions every year.

All this is relatively harmless and some of it is even useful for the occasional trivia round.

But what always gets you in trouble is the music that sticks with you, because sooner or later you will find yourself humming – or, worse – singing in public places. And the tune that you embarrass yourself with in the grocery checkout line is far more likely to be Watching Scotty Grow or A Double Shot of My Baby’s Love or even The Farmer in the Dell than the aria from Madame Butterfly.











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