“You ate your sausage butts.”
“That’s what you say every time.”
Last night at the dinner table, my husband made a comment that he apparently makes every time our son eats the round ends of the Italian sausage we serve on spaghetti night. When our son said, “That’s what you say every time,” my husband had an oh shit moment. As in, Oh shit I’m getting old. And repeating Dad jokes.
He and I talked about not knowing which is more distressing: repeating ourselves, or not even realizing we’re repeating ourselves. I’ve said things to our son and daughter that I thought were brand new thoughts to me. Our daughter is gentle when she tells me I’ve told her something before; our son is blunt. “Yeah, you said that yesterday.” When they tell me I’ve told them something before, I’m like no way, I only just now thought of it. But honestly, I trust them more than I trust myself, and maybe I’m just already losing my marbles at age 45.
I do this when I’m writing, too. I’ll do a whole 15 minute write that I’ll think is fresh and new. I’ll be pleased with a particular sequence of words and will puff myself up and pat myself on the back for my genius. Then I’ll read an old blog post with the exact same phrasing and realize, for Pete’s sake, I’ve already written this.
The main problem with repeating ourselves, aside from the losing our marbles part, is that jokes and phrases become stale when they are overused. If they somehow manage to be good the first time, the chances of them being good a second time is very low. Scarcity makes them special; the second time they come around they’re just disappointing. For example, I’m reading a book now that used the word “panache.” What a fabulous word! We all know the word, but it’s rare that I hear it or read it. When I came across it in my book the first time, I was delighted! When the author used it again 50 pages later, I was deflated. It lost its specialness in its duplication. Perhaps the author is using it intentionally for two different characters whose fates will intersect, but I’m doubtful.
My memory has always been crap, so it’s unlikely I’ll suddenly start recognizing when I’ve written something before. Without editing full time, I don’t know that there’s much I can do about the repetition thing other than apologize to you, dear reader, if I repeat myself too much about the marshes and salt water, about books and reading, about dreams and desires, so that they become stale for you. If anyone is aware of a miracle memory tonic, please let me know!