The subject has replaced all others in my circle of friends and acquaintances. Finances, kids, spouses, partners, religion and politics all take a backseat to Topic A:
Put two or more people of my age group — baby boomers — together, and the embarrassing, mystifying, sad stories abound. One by one, each woman or man steps forward to recount her or his latest "senior moment" — a colossal memory or attention lapse.
Always, one confession inspires another:
"You think THAT'S bad, let me tell you what I did. . . ."
And almost always, someone pipes up with a well-meaning but totally unsuccessful attempt at consolation:
"Don't you think it's just because we live in such distracting, stressful times? Because we just have too much in our heads?"
No, it is because we are getting older.
Legions of experts work on various drugs, programs, exercises, supplements and voodoo dances that might help millions of us mitigate the unraveling of our brains.
They suggest we "make lists."
I make lists, then forget to check them. Or forget where I put the lists.
Now that I have a computer, I could put the lists there. But a recent experience while on vacation scared me off of that. I tried to sign on as a "guest" on AOL at my parents' house, but I had forgotten my password.
AOL's help line gave me a temporary password to get me into my own e-mail, but without my real password I couldn't access my personal address book.
What good is e-mail without one's e-mail address book? Like I'm expected to remember e-mail addresses when I can't even remember my own password?
Another memory expert suggests that we can better remember or focus on things if we can "incorporate them into a story."
I write "stories" for a living. Just last week, I wrote "Julie Christy" in a column when I meant to write "June Christy." Alas, both are blondes, but Julie Christie is a film actress and June Christy was a singer with Stan Kenton's band.
Last month I wrote that I started working at this newspaper in 1975, when I clearly knew that I began in 1976.
A lot of good it does me to incorporate information into stories.
But, as I mentioned a few paragraphs back, remember? I know I'm not alone.
Sales of Gingko biloba — an herbal supplement that is rumored to aid memory but has never been proven to do so — now top $250 million a year in this country.
Health food store shelves are stocked with products with names like "Deep Thought" and "Brain Gum." Bookstores carry titles like "Why Can't I Remember? Reversing Normal Memory Loss."
In New York, an entrepreneur is launching a chain of "memory centers," hoping to become the Fantastic Sam's of short-term recall.
All of which makes me feel better. When it comes to forgetting, misery does love company.
Like the New England professor not long ago who apologized profusely for not calling me back at the appointed time of our interview.
"I'm so sorry," she said, "These days I have Swiss cheese for brains."
I so liked that image (and remembered it) that I have used it several times since.