When a Million Gigabytes Isn’t Enough

See that little guy in the middle? My daughter spotted him.

Words written in my novel so far: 27,383

Blades of grass that are still green in our yard: 2

Visits from an old friend in the last 24 hours: 1

In sixth grade, I stood in front of the orchestra each day before class and sang “Rhythm of the Night” by El DeBarge. People heard me.

There. Now I have no more secrets left in the world. My life is officially an open book.

The good news is that people I knew in middle school still act like they want to be my friend. I know. Weird, right?

So a good friend who I knew in middle school but didn’t get to be awesome, amazing, lifelong friends with until high school stopped by last night with her kids. Every single time I see her, she mentions something that makes me realize that my memory is not as wonderful as I previously imagined.

Possibly, between the two of us, we could reconstruct, hour by hour, each sordid day of high school in excruciating detail. This is why we can’t live too close to each other, because the horrible mundaneity (made-up word?) of our high school lives would cause us to self-destruct.

This visit’s revelation: I don’t remember junior prom.

We went to prom as a group but also with guys we had already broken up with. I mean, the important parts of the evening were already written in stone: the gorgeous dresses, the limo rental, the dinner reservations, the prom tickets. The boys were incidental… arm candy, really.

And, well, hindsight is 20/20, but I could have done better on that front if I’d been a little more creative.

We were on the junior prom planning committee. Our truly creative colors: black and white and silver. Our venue: a hotel in downtown Atlanta. Our dinner: I don’t remember a second of it, almost as if it never happened.

There were the photos on my friend’s front lawn, the limo ride, BLANK HERE, and more limo riding. I remember being back in the limo and my date and another guy arguing about whether the Porsche 928 or 911 was cooler.

Now, a psychotherapist might suggest that something horrible happened at dinner that I have wanted to block. I would suggest that absolutely nothing memorable happened. And I mean: nothing.

My husband, my friend and I were sitting around after dinner last night, and the subject of prom came up. She said, “Yeah, remember dinner at that Japanese steak house?”

Blank. Nothingness. Black hole.

I must state that alcohol was not involved in our prom experience. Though truthfully, alcohol would have been a heck of an improvement.

“Japanese steak house?”

“Yeah, you remember, the one called… shoot. I can’t remember.”

Since that part of my life never happened, at least for me, I didn’t try to pretend I knew. “Was it Kyoto?” Well, maybe I tried a little.


So we were talking about it and remembering the guy she went with who went on to move to San Francisco and have three kids and turn out all respectable and stuff, and then I brought up bowling after prom.


“Yeah. Don’t you remember? We went over to J___’s house and had brunch and watched movies and went bowling.” I remember the bowling because I hate bowling and never manage to get above about 25.

“Did we change clothes?”

All I could think about was us in our long dresses and silly bowling shoes, but I assured her that we did. The guys kept their bowties on for a special flair.

(It must be noted here that none of us got married to each other at any point in the future, and the bowties may have played a role.)

My friend also brings up people’s names who am certain never existed. Sometimes I accuse her of making them up. She says they have become Facebook friends, but we all know how easy it is to create a fake persona on the Internet. Shameful, really.

I read or heard a report a few years ago about the memory capacity of a human brain. I remembered it–ha! See? I can retain information–and looked it up just now in Scientific American. The human brain can potentially hold about a million gigabytes of information.

I have no basis for comparison for what one gigabyte is versus 20 trillion, so I am going on the assumption that one million gigabytes is pretty a-okay.

My brain is so full of useless details, muck and drivel that I may need to do a spring cleaning.

Apparently, junior prom dinner was cleaned out a few years ago in a similarly hopeful sweep. I probably needed the memory space for things like how to make pesto or how to teach a child how to blow a bubble or something.

If anyone remembers anything notable about prom night, please email, Facebook or call me. I probably said something very smart or provocative or premonitory. That’s why that gazillionth of a gigabyte exists no more.


34 thoughts on “When a Million Gigabytes Isn’t Enough

  1. Holly says:

    Was it Benihana? Was this the one you wore the light pink dress to? Didn’t you and your date get into a big argument over something?

    I’m sure something very useful is taking up the junior prom space in your brain. Pesto is definitely worthy.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes! She got home and emailed me that it was Benihana on Peachtree!

      I actually wore an awesome white lace dress that in retrospect was a little too wedding-y.

      Pesto is definitely worthy.

      • Holly says:

        Oh, right! I remember the lace dress.

        Why had I not heard the story of you singing Rhythm of the Night? So funny.

  2. Melissa says:

    I openly admit that I have a severe case of CRS…can’t remember s*&%. It’s embarrassing. But I have a treasure trove of useless information up there that makes me awesome at trivia games…and that’s about it. However, I do remember junior prom…sort of. But mine was a few years before yours 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      I will remember never to play you in Trivial Pursuit. My mom is the same way, and we all claim defeat before we even start. She can remember details from the year she was born better than the rest of us can remember what we had for breakfast.

  3. 4amWriter says:

    Blame pregnancy and motherhood. I consider myself to be well-educated, articulate with a sharp memory. In fact after taking some sort of IQ test for high school, the test-running-guy told my mother I have the best short-term memory he had ever seen. EVER. True story. I secretly prided myself on that fact, rattling off phone numbers from sheer memory without needing to check a phone book.

    Since my first pregnancy, my memory is shot. Kaput. Lying in a dazed heap somewhere who knows. All I can say is, blame the children. And even if your memory was terrible before being pregnant–blame the prospect of having children.

    • Carrie Rubin says:

      We can always blame the children. For the memory lapses, the leaky bladders, the descent into uncool. You name it, and they can be blamed. 😉

    • Amy Mak says:

      I COMPLETELY agree. It was after the children. I now start talking and there are…long…empty…spaces of mom trying to remember the word for “refrigerator.” I can’t even remember the names of any of my children. The rule is: “If I’m looking at you, I’m talking to you. It doesn’t matter what name I say!”

      • annewoodman says:

        Well, you have more children than I do, and mine are a boy and a girl… not much I can do about the name thing. ; ) But it’s pretty embarrassing when I forget words, which happens on a farily regular basis. I mean, I’m a writer. And here I am, staring up into the air, trying to remember the word for “ungainly.” Sad.

    • annewoodman says:

      I am sooooo good at remembering phone numbers (not at all good at numbers in any other way). But when I was sleep-deprived after my daughter was born, I forgot my sister’s phone number. I dialed it at least twice a day. It was a very obvious symptom of the brain cells I was killing through motherhood. It’s definitely their fault. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  4. thepoelog says:

    I have not even gotten past the first paragraph before I was compelled to scroll down and comment on your excellent song choice. And now I’m happily bopping along to “Rhythm of the Night” for the rest of the afternoon.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    This is all kind of like a foreign language to me. I remember little about high school, even less about my prom, and still less about El DeBarge. Only the first two memory lapses disturb me. The last one I’m quite pleased about. So now I must search my brain for any decent memories. But like most people, I was only too glad to have high school end. 🙂

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    A good school friend and I run into this every time we get together. One of us remembers something clearly while the other draws a complete blank—even though we were both there. And, drat it all, we can’t blame it on children! I’ll have to fall back on your suggestion that more important information for the current day replaced those memories. Like, say, remembering my characters’ names and their stories! 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      I think your novel’s characters are a very worthwhile gigabyte. I just feel compelled to remember all the details before something happens to one of us! I mean, what if she forgets the name of the Japanese steak house forever?

  7. Bernie Brown says:

    Really fun blog, Anne. You should have posted pictures of you in the white dress. I bet you and it were beautiful. Okay, my prom memories are quite a bit older than yours. Junior year, I went with my steady who was pretty dull which was why I eventually broke up with him. The height of after prom fun was to hire the local theater to run all night movies, which we attended. Staying up all night watching movies sounds like fun (or at least it did then), but all it did was make me really tired and I was so glad to get home about 6 AM the next morning. Senior year I invited a college guy from out of town. We ditched the dance pretty early on and when to a parking place and made out. I had to lie big time to my mom who came, with other mothers, to peek in the windows at all the beautifully dressed kiddos. I don’t remember what I told her exactly, but I don’t think she believed me for a minute. Thank goodness, she let it go as I was soon to graduate and be off her hands, sort of.

    • annewoodman says:

      OMG, Bernie! I can’t imagine if my mom had coming looking for me in a car somewhere! I might have died of embarrassment! You are so brave.

      And all-night movies sound fun… at least back when I could stay up all night. Now, I would just see it as an easy way to get to sleep. ; )

  8. robincoyle says:

    You don’t remember the naked happy dance in the hotel fountain? How about the nap on the banquet table? Remember getting married to Johnny at the Justice of the Peace? Really? No? Hang on . . . let me find my photos.

  9. Ravena Guron says:

    Being still in high school I had my prom the other day. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the bad food, the loud music, the “hollywood” themed venue (which was made “hollywood” through the fact that someone had chucked golden stars all over the dance floor.) It may be something I want to block out… but probably won’t. I don’t think that taste of rubbery chicken will ever go away.

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow, yes, you will be surprised about what you remember and what you don’t! The thing I got so irritated about in high school was when the committee would try to do things to be “different,” but they were rebelling in exactly the same way as everyone else at the time. Sigh. I hope high school students today are cooler than we were.

      Man, I remember eating a whole lot of rubbery chicken at business dinners in my 20s. I hope you don’t have to endure that. ; )

  10. David Gentry says:

    I remember prom! It was held in the student center, and afterward we went to Shoney’s and had a Big Boy burger (a real splurge). What a night!


  11. Really, arm candy?

    Every time it is brought up, I try to forget junior prom. Boring date, boring night. Now senior prom was another story. Good time was had by all. 🙂

  12. juliaboriss says:

    I kept a diary in high school, and when I go back and read it now, it is amazing to me how many things I have forgotten or completely mis-remembered (usually in a way that has placed me in a better light).

    I also started doing some writing about high school, and the more I wrote, the more I remembered- things that I’m sure wouldn’t have come back to me otherwise. You should give that a try and see what else might be buried there just waiting to come to the surface 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      I’ve written quite a few blog posts about middle school (eek) and high school, and you’re right: details come back. But now it makes me question whether I got it right or not. It’s so funny when my good friends remind me of something I had blocked from my mind.

      I like how your memories put you in a better light. Mine, too! Imagine that. I usually remember that things were a whole heck of a lot more fun than they really were. Note to self: do not agree to go back in time if a time traveler gives me the opportunity.

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