Flawed memories

Sometimes, as a person who likes to write things, I collect stories and end up telling it to others and in the telling, I make it better than the original. The thing is, I’m not lying; what’s happened is I’ve misremembered the details and then filled in with other bits. Sometimes this includes the conflation of two completely different events.

Here’s an example. I’m going through my ‘files’ – which are news clippings and notes going back years. A story I like to tell people is a true one about my cousin, who works as a captain on fancy-pant luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. The story goes that he was working for the King of Spain, and one night there was a party on the yacht and my cousin did a disco move a la John Travolta, and split his pants. The King of Spain then lends him a pair.

The note I just found, which I made after hearing the story from my aunt, reads thusly (remember, the above tale has been told several times, most sincerely):

[Cousin] worked on a boat. Owner (Spanish) and the King of Spain sometimes was a guest with his mistress. The king invited everyone one time to see his boat, but [cousin] then split his trousers and sent his apologies saying he couldn’t go. Next time he saw the king, the king asked why he hadn’t gone that time. [Cousin] explained he felt he couldn’t go because of the trousers but the king said that would have been alright. He’d been disappointed my cousin hadn’t gone… implied he wouldn’t have been bothered by split trousers.

My explanation is that one time, my cousin did do a disco move a la John Travolta and split his trousers, I know because I also was at the Blue Light Disco in Frankston circa 1978 and saw him do it. The rest, I’ve managed to embellish but not consciously. I wonder how many other of my stories are bullshit?

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