Monday, November 16, 2009

Erasure Displacement

retro Pictures, Images and Photos

Yes. A new term. I LOVE coming up with new terms for things I see in society. My newest, (Erasure Displacement) refers to the syndrome where people from your past seem to forget they ever knew you.

An example of this odd state:

Today, dropping my daughter off at school I ran right into a man I knew a lifetime ago. I was aware he switched his kids into the school (kids? he has kids? how can he have kids? can he be old enough to have kids? oh! yes.... we are BOTH old enough to have kids. many of them.) I spied him at the orientation but it was crowded and he didn't see me.

Usually, I drop my daughter off earlier than most of the other parents. I have to make it to work, so we sit in the car and wait until the doors open, we zoom in and I zoom out. But today is Monday and it's my Sunday(I work on Saturday) so I took my sweet time and brought her in at the same time as the masses.

And there he was. I bumped right into him.

Me: "HI!!! Oh. My. God! How've you been?"
Him: Mumble, "Um.. hi, late." his eye twitched as he ran from me and got into his BMW (nice!)

So I stood there. Was it me? Surely not. I even put on make up this morning. I looked better than I do on a workday. I even checked myself before I left the house and thought "Yep, still hot." Maybe I'm SO HOT he didn't recognize me? No...... I could see the recognition in his twitching eye.

It wasn't me he was running from. It was his past. Erasure Displacement.

Here's how it works. (I figured the whole syndrome out in the time it took me to drive the two blocks from my kids school to my house... I know, I'm losing my "figure it out" touch... I've been so tired lately... so tired)

I am a storyteller. I love my lurid, tainted, crowded, misery filled past. It gives me this deep well to dip into whenever I need to create some kind of emotional transition or character complexity. But some people want to erase their past. Let's take this guy.

He dated my very best friend for three years in our late teens and early twenties. They had a volatile relationship and a beautiful loft apartment. I know, because I PRACTICALLY LIVED WITH THEM.

There was always a lot of screaming and yelling and pizza and beer. They were glamorous and very much in love. He told me secrets. Tales of being not ordinary. Living his life on the edge. Being a rock and roll star.

By the time they broke up for good, I had to do what most people do, I had to go with who I was friends with first. The girl. We all had to break up.

But here's the point. I suppose for him it is difficult to look into the eyes of his past and say "Yep, Hey! Look at me! I didn't do ANY of those things we used to talk about."

That's the Erasure Part. Erase your past and it doesn't exist. Re write it in your mind. (YUCK!)

The Displacement part is more complex. He thinks that I'll look at what he Hasn't Become and make some kind of judgment. But really? I think he is fantastic. His boys are beautiful. His hair still as black. The smile is gone.....but we all lose that....for a bit every now and then, right?

Ordinary is just as interesting as Extraordinary. I would love to hear his story of how he got from there to here. From anti disestablishmentary, black leather pants wearing, cool loft boy-- to BMW driving father of two (Wearing a suit and a frown)

Oh well.... I guess I'll just have to make it up. Figure it out on my own. Wink and nod at the next orientation. Hey! He can be a character in my new novel!

*A note to the boy. I think you are amazing. I remember those days and love you still. I hope you really do suffer from Erasure Displacement and aren't just unhappy to see me. You were part of my life. A good part. And I've missed you. OH! And by the way! It was really good to see you. Say hi to your wife.*


  1. I call this same phenom. the "Magic Slate" mindset. :)

  2. One of my biggest fears in life - not being recognized/acknowledged by someone I recognize. So usually when I see people I recognize but haven't seen in years, I run and hide. Thus avoiding the possible
    "Oh my god! how are you??"
    "Uhhhh........ do I know you?"
    humiliating conversation.
    Good for you for saying hello! Maybe he was thinking all Erasure Displacement things in his subconscious. And maybe he was just caught off guard. I bet next time, he'll chat.

  3. This is why I'm nervous about ever attending my high school reunion. Oh awkwardness!! My best friend was drop-dead beautiful so I have many, many of her ex-boyfriends to experience this erasure displacement with.

  4. That's great! I've been on the other end of this, actually. One of my ex-boyfriends' friends came up to me when I was out with my friends and I didn't know how to react. I'd kind of forgotten about this part of my past and thanks to this friend, it all came back to me. Not something I wanted to deal with at the time. I kind of rushed the conversation and returned to my friends. Later, I felt bad, so I approached him and explained my behavior. I didn't want him to think it was him, just the link he represents.

    P.S. If you know of anyone in search of a critique partner/group, send them to my blog.

    Lynnette Labelle

  5. I'm really glad I'm not the only one that happens to. I'm also glad you gave it a name. Now I least I know what to blame. :)

  6. Wonderful post! These unexpected convergences of past and present provide story lines on so many levels. And, I completely agree that ordinary may be more interesting than extraordinary ever could be. Thanks for the insight.

  7. I've had someone approach me before and I couldn't place the face until they had to say, "I sat behind you in math, you told me all your secrets. Remember?" I was more than a little embarrassed and said, "Oh yeah. I'm so sorry." I felt so dumb. But he did have more hair back then.

  8. I've never been great with names, but then, I never paid much attention to people until I started writing again. Perhaps now things'll be different, since I'm always looking for details and characters.

    But I completely agree with the "my lurid, tainted, crowded, misery filled past" thing. Not that I love that about myself, but I value it as having taught me lessons about angst and pain and sadness and avoidance. Those are things I can write now, because I've experienced them. They weren't fun at the time, but in retrospect they were a gift to the writer I am now and hope to become.

  9. *sigh* It's so nice to know that there are people out there that don't judge you for who you didn't become even though you were sure you would. The world seems right again.

    hannog, really? What does that even mean?

  10. So glad you wrote that "note" at the end.

  11. You're an amazing person, Suzanne. It's little wodner that I like you so much.

  12. I'm so going to use this for a character in one of my novels. Erasure Displacement. Nice.

  13. Suzy, that is a fascinating phrase you created, it's perfect for the situation. I'll borrow it. Thanks!


  14. I had this very same thing happen with an old 'boyfriend' in highschool - actually just someone I dated casually for a while. We went to church together, he was at my home often, and he had even stuck around til I was old enough to actually go on a date! It wasn't a hot relationship, but still. I had a very memorable last name, Ecklund, and when I wrote him about ten years ago, after seeing something about him on the news, he wrote back and said he didn't have a clue who I was, but believed he probably had known me since I remembered so much about him! I was glad it wasn't a face-to-face like yours, though, because that would really have been ackward. And it's kind of disconcerting, isn't it? I mean, you go several decades and every once in a while you'll think to yourself "I wonder what ever happened to so and so? I wonder if he/she remembers me like I remember him/her?" And to find out they didn't think about or remember you at all....

  15. I am usually the one to pretend like I do not know the person. Sometimes it is because I do not like them and sometimes it is because the past brings back some memories that I like to keep in their own little space.

  16. I still think you were so hot he didn't recognize you. I mean, I get that ALL the time. "Oh! It's you! I thought you were that supermodel for a second...what's her name? Naomi? Gisele something?" ;)

    I love the term "erasure displacement." And I love that you're not disappointed that he didn't do all the things he dreamt of doing. I hope he gets to hear you say that (or reads this post), because everybody needs to hear that once in a while.

  17. I was filled with nostalgia as I read this. I recalled a similar situation where a very good friend of mine was dating another very good friend and when they broke up it was a sordid affair, and because I loved both of them equally, I felt so lost in the middle. I met her a few years ago and she pretended she didn't see me. I was saddened, heartbroken. Why? I think seeing me brought back too many memories she didn't want to relive. And like you said, your past is your past and you can't undo it, but if some of the people who figured in it don't want to be associated with it anymore, oh well, they're food for characters! I haven't used her as food yet, but I might be soon!!! ;-)


  18. Perhaps he doesn't want the kids to know he wasn't always Mr. Beemer. Facades are tricky things.

  19. LOL- now I have a word for this habit I observe in some people.

    Great post :) Thanks for your comment on mine. It meant a lot.

  20. This is too funny! And I'm sorry to say I have a terrible memory and I'm sure there have been people that I've accidentally erased. And then there are random people who I really remember and they have no clue who I am. The mind works in mysterious ways, no?

    And for the record there's nothing worse than feeling ordinary after you've spent your youth feeling extraordinary. I think that's a difficult thing for some people to come to terms with.