You're either a Rememberer or a Forgetter, and you apparently don't want to be the latter.

Over the weekend I was trying to recall a memory from an overseas trip with my best friend. 

I couldn't remember the year, the name of the city, or the context of how we got there. I could just remember that we were in Montenegro, we'd climbed up a big hill that day, and we were having a really nice bottle of red wine and getting tipsy in a restaurant in the middle of a pretty square surrounded by sandstone. 

I don't remember what we spoke about, just that I was really happy. I don't remember what we ate, just that it was really good.

She remembers everything. It was 2016. We were in Kotor. The restaurant menu had a Sydney Harbour Bridge on it, which we thought was bizarre and kind of funny. We were impressed by the wine, because it came from the only winery in the world to use scientific research on heart health in its making. There was a sporting event on in the city that night, and we got strawberries and cream from a shop and ate it on a bench and watched the locals. She was wearing, she remembers, her red Tigerlily playsuit. 

"You're insane," I told her. I simply couldn't muster that kind of detail about a random relatively un-eventful night eight years ago.

The only photo I could track down from that evening. Featuring the wine and the red playsuit, just like Amy remembers.


It's a skill she's demonstrated to me multiple times over the years. In fact, I rely on her for it. I often ask her to tell me about our adventures because with a few simple sentences (like the ones above), she can re-paint a picture for me that my brain hadn't bothered to retain. 

It's niggled at me though — the fact I can't remember. I worry that one day I won't be able to recall the memories I am making now with my parents, or the childhood antics of my son once he's grown. 

It wasn't until I read an article by Katy Schneider in The Cut that I realised (with a sigh of relief), I am not alone.

"To my mind, the world is split into people like my sister and people like me: Rememberers and Forgetters," wrote Schneider. 

She described a relationship not unlike mine and my best friend's. When a family friend died, Schneider only recalled a few memories of her along with the general sense that she loved her very much. Her sister, on the other hand, who knew her just as well was flooded with memories after her death. She found reliving them to be "haunting and exhausting".


"I wondered if this meant she felt much sadder. Of course, memory and selfhood are intrinsically tied; there are entire schools of thought dedicated to the subject. But it seemed as though our capacities for memory — hers, teeming; mine, not so much — might mean we experienced the world differently," Schneider mused. 

I don't think that's true — that Rememberers experience sadness more intensely. Just because I don't remember every memory I have created with my beloved Oma, doesn't mean I wasn't devastated by her loss. To this day I can picture her smile, her smell and her very essence — and that to me is how I remember her, not necessarily the conversations or meals we shared. 

But even if some Forgetters might experience sadness differently, it seems being one is the more undesirable of the two traits to have. While I find the Rememberers in my life to be very helpful, apparently our counterparts consider us to be very rude.

As my colleague Jessie Stephens shared on Mamamia Outloud last week, as a Rememberer she feels herself getting annoyed by us Forgetters. She's married to one, and finds herself wondering if perhaps he just doesn't care about her as much as she cares about him.

"I have found myself deeply offended by Forgetters, because I think you just don't care," she began. 

"I will remember every little detail about Luca [my husband], and what he likes, and this story he told me and whatever, and then it will get to my birthday or some story [I've told him] from primary school, and I think he doesn't care enough to remember." 

Watch some of our discussion on Mamamia Outloud. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia

I didn't tell her at the time, but I felt mortified at her words. That anyone would think I didn't care about the memories I shared with them because I couldn't recall them word for word. 

I am a very organised and empathetic person. I remember exactly what appointments and events I have in the calender for the next few days, weeks and months. I am fastidious about regularly checking in on the people I love and telling them what they mean to me. It's just that when those memories have aged beyond a certain point; they enter the moosh that is my long-term memory. A strange place that can recall random snippets in intricate detail while forgetting most others around them. 

My fellow Forgetter boss Mia Freedman thinks that perhaps I have a sensory memory, which makes sense. I can remember the smell of the backstage of my highschool theatre, what it felt like to be in costume and with the stage lights shining in my eyes. But I don't remember a single line from the play. 

Memories are a funny thing, aren't they. Photos make them stick a bit harder. Trauma or extreme emotion does too. But then there's those random completely mundane tid-bits that seem to stick around forever for reasons you can't quite work out. 

Like the fact I can remember the exact experience of eating an 'orchy' cup (of frozen juice) on the walk back home from primary school with my sister and friends. We did it most Fridays in the Summer, and for some reason I can practically taste that memory. I remember exactly how it felt to scrape the wooden spoon down the icy treat. 


Schneider looked long and hard for research on the topic, and discovered there isn't much. The literature that does exist mostly focuses on external factors influence on memory; like trauma, age and mental disorders.

But she did discover the terms SDAM (severely deficient autobiographical memory) and HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory), with researchers finding that those with the former didn't necessary having anything wrong with their brains, they just struggled to hold on to their memories. 

That's good news. Because my assumption deep down has always been that one day perhaps I am more likely to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's. It's a thought I try not to dwell on. 

Also good news for me, my best friend Amy doesn't find my slippery memory annoying, "most of the time". 

"I find it funny how we are so opposite," she told me when I asked her. 

"Phew," I told her, before sending her Schneider's article in explanation. 

At least now I know I have a way of explaining. I am a Forgetter, but that doesn't mean I don't care. 

Are you a Rememberer or a Forgetter? Let us know in the comments below.

Listen to the full episode of Mamamia Outloud, where Mia, Jessie and I discuss our memories, here.

Feature image: Mean Girls. 

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