I've never really noticed before, but I'm willing to bet that the least represented group on Jeopardy! is women ages 45-52. And for good reason. As I have determined this week, we have no business being on national television showing off our intelligence in that seven year span. More precisely, we have no business showing off our ability to make speedy withdrawals from our memory banks during that time-frame of our lives. When I was in my thirties, I used to feel sorry for contestants who were women in that age group who would stand there staring into space until two and a half categories were already gone from the first round before they rang in. I thought they weren't quick enough on the buzzer. I thought maybe they felt intimidated by the younger contestants. Now I get it: It was neither of those. It took them that long to remember the answer to the very first question asked in the round and they were too stubborn to mentally move on until they'd remembered that answer that had been on the tips of their tongues for the first eight minutes of the show including when they were talking to Alex Trebek at the interview segment. (Externally they were chatting to him about how they'd met their spouse but internally they were agonizing: "I can see the woman's face. She was married to that man who was Catholic. His name started with a 'G'... I'm pretty sure.") So, this epiphany of what these women go through on the program came to me the other night while I was actually watching the program. One of the clues mentioned the play Peer Gynt. Nobody asked for the name of the playwright but I was determined to come up with it anyway. I had to prove I could remember something. And this wasn't short-term memory stuff. This was high school stuff so it should be a cinch. I kept snapping my fingers and repeating to my husband: "He was Swedish" even after the answer to the question was revealed to be: "What is Norway?" Then I rattled off everything I knew about this playwright trying to jog my memory. It was like on soap operas when they show old family albums to amnesia victims. "He wrote A Doll's House and then he wrote..." Then I got sidetracked for a while because I knew it wasn't Nathaniel Hawthorne but I couldn't get his name out of my head anyway. Then I had to interrupt the racking of my brain every minute and a half to admonish my husband: "Don't tell me! I want to get it myself!" To which he replied every time: "I wasn't going to tell you. I never heard of Peer whatever. I have no idea who wrote it."
"Yeah but you were about to ask your phone!"
About 10:30 pm EST, three hours after the Jeopardy! final credits rolled, I murmured: "Henrik Ibsen" not entirely convinced that I wasn't confusing his first name with the New York Rangers' goalie's. Either way, I felt very self-satisfied: Not like when you're in third grade and you win the spelling bee. More like when you finally triumph over a four-day bout with constipation.
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