So You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name at a Party is a purported humorous article in the New Yorker. It is actually my life.

“You’ve met four times. They definitely know your name. And yet . . . you still can’t remember theirs. Jamie? Janie? Or maybe it’s something crazy, like Beth. Whatever they call themselves, you’re ten minutes into the conversation, and at this point it would be rude to ask.”

It happens to me ALL the time. And I’ve done all those “how to remember names at a party” tricks , such as repeating their names as often as possible without being obnoxious. “Well, Sarah, I grew up in Binghamton…” It doesn’t work consistently well.

If I meet six people, it’ll usually work for the first and second. Maybe the third. But by the fourth, the second person’s name is gone. Yet I’ll recall details about them. “So when did you get your teaching degree?”

The article suggests these solutions: “Die.” Well, that seems extreme. It’s not that I haven’t said, “I just want to die,” but I didn’t mean that LITERALLY. You know LITERALLY literally.

“Build a Time Machine, Go Back to the Moment They Were Born, and Name Them Something Easier to Remember.” I’ve been wary of interfering with the space-time continuum ever since I saw the ill effects on some Star Trek episode. I change their name, they’re mortified by it, and they never go on to win a Nobel Prize in Physics. I just can’t bear that responsibility.

“Start Mimicking Them and Get So Good at It, Others Accidentally Start Calling You by Their Name.” Given all my fine qualities, I’m surprising not good at this. Besides it’s more rude than I choose to be.

“Persistently Call Them a New Name Until They Have No Choice But to Accept It As Truth.” As a librarian, I am keenly aware of false news, and I shall NOT be a purveyor of same!

“Pay an Arsonist to Set Fire to the Party.” Seem extreme. Well, I won’t do that if I’m otherwise having a good time. I don’t get out that much.

“Say Every Name You Can Think of Until They Respond to One.” I’m not going to add MORE stress, thank you.

“Draw a Scar on Your Head and Say You Lost the Part of Your Brain That Remembers Names in a Motorcycle Accident.” Mine would be a bicycle accident, but as the writer suggests, it is a “particularly elegant solution, because now you will never have to remember another name ever again.”

“Stage a Robbery to Gain Access to Their Wallet and Identification Cards.” Again, too much work; I guess I don’t hang out with the right crowd.

“Ask Another Friend What the Person’s Name Is.” That I’ll do, with increasing frequency.

Of course my real solution is that everyone needs to wear name tags, with at least 27-point font. That’s a minimum.

4 Responses to “So You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name at a Party”

  • Uthaclena says:

    As this situation has progressed in my own life I have begun begun bluntly telling people that I WON’T remember their names because I’m an Olde Guy, and that they are free to refer to ME as “Hey You” with no hard feelings.

  • Jaquandor says:

    Heh. I’ll just note that it’s a good thing for me that I work in a place where nametags are required.

  • CGHill says:

    I think I could get by with a 24-point font, but otherwise yes, yes, YES.

  • fillyjonk says:

    My problem is different: I’m a little bit what they call “face blind,” so while I can remember names, I might not put the right name to the right person, if it’s someone I don’t know well.

    And I’ve learned there are some cues I canNOT count on – I get discombobulated when a student shaves off his beard (or changes their hair color), it turns out I use hair color/style and presence of facial hair to help me remember…

    I know on some campuses they have name-tag “tents” people set in front of them in class, but that’s not a thing here and I’m leery of trying to start it.

    (Then again: I have students who cannot remember MY name, even at the end of the semester, and they have at most five professors to recall, whereas I have somewhere north of 100 students….)

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