What’s your name again?

My ability to hold names inside my brain has reached its maximum capacity. I may recognize you, but it’s likely I won’t remember your actual name. If I make an attempt to call you by your name, there’s a high probability that I will get it wrong. I will call you “Lisa” when your real name is “Linda.” It’s in the ballpark, right? No?

Blogging friends, I appreciate that your name is written down for me. Thank you. Truly. I feel safe and successful here in the blogosphere because, even if I don’t know your actual name, I know I can call you by your written name and there’s a good chance you’ll accept it. In real life, things are not so black and white.

How did I get here? My husband would say that it all began with the birth of my first child. When my placenta left my body my brain went along with it. Oh, friends, this did not happen! This is false! However, he may have a point. Names flooded my brain at the same time that I was deprived of precious sleep. If you don’t have kids and have trouble recalling names, don’t worry. I’m sure you have your own story and I want to hear all about it. I know we’re not alone.

My story goes something like this. With my first child, I belonged to a mommy group where it was necessary to remember not only the child’s name, but the parent’s name…and one more step…connect them together. Now I was masterful at this, even when I had a screaming child on my arm. Fast forward to child #2 and the amount of names you must remember grows exponentially. Now it’s child #1…child #2…parent…connect. Things are getting fuzzy.

Enter children in elementary school and major slippage happens. My brain regains control with a school roster. That helps. Yet, I’m walking on the fault line when my kids play sports, and especially if these sports overlap, as they do. Do I know Johnny from baseball…or is it basketball?

Name recalling reached new lows when I began substitute teaching at the local dance studio, sometimes four or five classes in a night. In any one class, I might encounter the following names: ASHLEY, AUBREY, AUDREY, ALEXIS, ALEXA, ALEX, ALYSSA, and ARIANNA. This is only letter A. I’m not making this stuff up. Not to mention that they all wore the same leotard outfit and bunhead hairdo.

Same outfit, same hair, same moves...you understand.
Same outfit, same hair, same moves…you understand.

These girls smiled sweetly at me up, to a point. After months of trying in earnest, I do believe they turned their bunhead heads on me. For the first time, it became abundantly clear why substitute dance teachers of my youth were so aloof. Here, I had thought some teacher was a pompous prick and full of himself. No, no…this was about self-preservation.

There’s got to be an App for remembering names, right?  iName, iFriend, or WhoRU? I know what you’re thinking. I can practice, just try harder. I can say their name three times after meeting them. I can rhyme their name, create a mental picture of them in my head. Now, if I’ve already met them four times, this is tricky. Either you go on not remembering and continue your smiling and nodding or reveal the obvious and say “I’ve forgotten your name.” This usually works to clear the air.

You feel better if you both forget, don’t you? You are caught in that blank stare with each other and there’s that moment of pure clarity. You know. You breathe a little sigh of relief and say, “I’m sorry. What is your name again?” You both laugh, promise, and hope not to forget for the next time.

Do you have trouble remembering names? Is it a sign of the times? Are we too self-absorbed or distracted? Bad listeners? What do you think?

photo credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina} via photopin cc

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63 thoughts on “What’s your name again?

  1. I’m so here with you on this one. I will either remember a name or the face. And I’ve given up worrying if I’ve forgotten, I just say so, and ask their name again. When hubby and I are out and meet someone and they just chat away, I know he’s forgotten their name when he doesn’t introduce me. It doesn’t happen often, but I just laugh about it now. After we’ve moved on I say to him “you forgot who that was didn’t you?”
    And what is with a class full of girls with the same letter name?

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    1. I do the same, Jen. I ask again and again. Sometimes it sticks! It just seems like there’s so many more names to remember than ever. I’ve had that same situation with my hubby. If I know for sure, I’ll just butt in and introduce myself. Yes, it’s true with the class. Sometimes there would be 20 girls and they had names that were so similar. Hey, this could make a good clone/sci-fi story.

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  2. Hilariously written! And I am right there with you, my dear friend! Sometimes very awkward too when I call a student by a different student’s name… even ones I’ve taught for a few months… Remembering the parents’ names – yikes. Very troubling. And then there’s the – “do I know you from botany or ballet?” thought that goes through my head when I meet someone who seems to know me, and I have no recollection of whatsoever.

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    1. Hi, Ixchel! Good to see you!!! I miss you. How are you? I don’t know how you remember all the names you do!! I’m sure you’re really good at it, you have so many to remember. The botany or ballet conundrum…that is a lot to sort out!

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  3. I can totally relate. I do try to make an effort to remember people’s names, especially in a one-on-one situation, but group situations are difficult for me. Someone will introduce people like, “This is JOSHMICHAELSARAHJULIAMARYCONNOR.” This quickfire method, coupled with my social anxiety, just leaves me to say, “Hey…everyone.”

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    1. Ha ha, Jen. That’s a wonderful intro of names and that’s just how it sounds, too. All blended and huh? Hey, everyone would be my greeting, too. Big groups, forget about it. Sometimes, I try to remember two and then I feel successful. That way you have at least two people to meet and greet again. I think in the future we’ll just shake hands, and names will be sent to our electronic devices with pictures.

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  4. Oh yes, I’m terrible with names! Sometimes I forget to even listen when I’m told a name, so I don’t even know it from the start, let alone remember it! I’m always really impressed when people remember names well, I notice it at work if I ever attend a training session, or some kind of class about something, and we go round and introduce ourselves, and the person leading the session somehow remembers everyone’s name! How? I particularly get annoyed at myself leading up to Christmas, when I’m writing Christmas cards, and I keep thinking “Damn, what’s her husband’s name again?! And the youngest child, what’s her name? Or it is it a he?! I really need to pay more attention…”

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    1. I think it’s just a matter of too much information sometimes. Do you think? Or, maybe we just spread ourselves out more. If you miss that initial intro, say someone didn’t say it very clearly or loudly, oh…so much harder. What could it have been? I can remember names in a class setting best if people stay in their same seats. That’s why teacher’s do it. My kids all have a number now. If all fails, a kid is a number. Sad, but with so many, I understand. You’re good if you can remember spouse names. You’re good, Vanessa!

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  5. I’m pretty good with names but directions are my downfall. Never ask me where any place is because it does not matter how many times I have been there I will have no memory of the name of the street…it can be embarrassing at times, like telling someone about this really great restaurant and they go; oh yeah, where is it?

    And I stare blankly at them and go; well it’s on that street…near the yellow building.

    And then it is their turn to stare blankly.

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    1. Ah, that’s like there’s this great restaurant…What’s it called? Hell if I know…where is it? I don’t know…That would be funny. Well, at least you remember the name of the restaurant. Hey, J.D. now with GPS, no worries, right? In fact, you don’t have to remember the street name anymore! That’s fabulous you’re good with names! I’m very impressed with this.

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  6. Great post, Amy! I’m a visual learner so if I’m at a function where people are wearing name tags, I’ll remember their name forever. And while I think I’m a good listener, I just don’t absorb the name when it’s spoken – unless I see it “visually” in my mind. And large groups? Forget it!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! I feel the same way. I’m also very visual. Audio, forget it! I like to watch everything close captioned on my TV. I was tempted to ask these girls to wear name tags, but never did. I honestly think it was a lost cause!

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  7. I struggle with new people as some just don’t want to sink in. I think I’m so into the conversation, I forget who they are. … Love the list of A names as it got me thinking – I don’t know anyone with those names growing up.

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    1. That has happened to me too with conversations. Sometimes the name just kind of slips your mind. I didn’t have those A names either growing up. Now they seem quite popular, especially in ballet class. Many times there were duplicate names…to add to my confusion.

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  8. Sometimes I cannot remember a name – but mostly I’m completely comfortable with asking and saying…”I might forget again” – but I will most likely remember a ton of details about them that will excuse the name issue. I also do try to use mnemonic devices at times. For work it’s easy, most of my correspondence is via EMAIL – so everyone’s name is right there…. OH JOY!!!

    Just call me Rutabaga and all will be well ~

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    1. Ha! You’re so funny. I think I’m a visual person. If I can see it written I will remember it better. I try that one – I might forget again. You are excused in advance. I think most people accept you’ll forget a name now. I wonder if that’s always been the case, Rutabaga. Sometimes I think people are fed up with me. But maybe not. Except, of course, for the ballerinas…Rutabaga, thanks for your lovely comments!

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  9. I am THE WORST at remembering names. A face I will hold onto forever, even dialogue within a conversation is rooted to my brain but I swear I can forget the name of someone I’ve known for years– if only for 30 seconds or so. I have no idea what causes us to be like this… the second I’ve let go of someone’s handshake I’m thinking “Oh my gosh… what did they just say their name was?” I don’t even have an escaping placenta to blame for this.

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    1. Aussa, nice to meet you. Yes, yes, I’ve had this same exact thing happen to me. The second I let go of the handshake, so goes the name! If you don’t ask immediately that little window zips by and then it’s awkward. Maybe we should all just walk around with name tags. Won’t that just makes everything so much easier? Thanks for stopping by. My name is Amy by the way.

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  10. I used to remember names well — in fact, I was the go-to person at my husband’s xmas parties to remember his co-workers’ and partners’ names! But now it feels like I have too much other information in my head and the not-immediately-necessary stuff leaks out pretty quickly. Just the other day I was chatting with a school mom and she apologized for having to ask my name. We went through the whole routine of how hard it is to remember someone’s name you don’t see very often, or confusing them with another mom, or remember where you know them from. And after all that I forgot to ask her her own name, and never did get it.

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    1. Ha, funny story. After all that, no name. But you talked about names! I feel like I used to be better at the name thing. Now, not so much. It also feels easy to ask again, because it seems that everybody does it, BUT how many times can you ask? How many times is too many times? I’m with you, I have way too much information trying to infiltrate my brain.

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  11. As someone who’s been called a lot of names, I can honestly say, “What’s in a name?” I have a neighbor who calls me Tiffany. She’s been my neighbor for five years. I don’t have the heart to correct her now. So many people say things to me like “you look like a Jennifer.” What does that even mean? I decided when our daughter got married that Honie is what I want to be called if we have grandchildren. I chose it as my blog name because Stephanie is too long and HAnie just doesn’t make since. So it’s spelled funny. Honie is just as sweet as Honey, isn’t it?

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    1. I love Honie and it does make me think honey. And, of course, you are very sweet so it all makes perfect sense. I can’t believe your neighbor has called you the wrong name for 5 years! I hope you don’t mind I”m laughing a bit at this! After a while, how can you say anything? You don’t look like a Jennifer at all, whatever that means. You are Honie through and through.

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    2. Haha! I just made a comment where I said that someone looked like e.g. a John. Not sure what it means though. All I can say is that for some people when you hear a name it just doesn’t click and then you go through a list of names until you get to one that makes you go “Ohhh yeah! That fits”

      Maybe it’s because the artist in me though. I tend to do this when I need to name my characters. 🙂

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  12. I am terrible at this. I try to remember to repeat the name out loud when I meet someone, but I usually forget to do that, too! I think I’m a hopeless cause. And if I had all those similar A names to remember like you tried to? Well, that would be game over. Guess I’d start giving people complimentary nicknames and hope they’d let me slide with that. 😉

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    1. Carrie, I wish I would have thought of the nickname thing, although I’m not sure I could have come up with so many, and then I didn’t see them all the time, so then I would have to remember nicknames! It was pretty much game over for me, too. Hopeless!

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    1. Right…sometimes that first name you stuck in your brain, even if it’s wrong, is the one that remains. Just Lisa and Karen? But certainly not Amy, right? In college, there were three Amys on my floor. So we were Amy Black, Amy Red, and Amy Blue. I was Amy Blue!

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      1. Ha ha. I like that idea of relating it to personality. What would “Red” be? Saucy, fiery, HOT?! It actually referred to hair. Black hair, red hair, and since I have brown hair, it referred to my eyes. Thank goodness! I wouldn’t want to be Amy Brown! No thanks!

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  13. I have a pretty good memory for names, Honeybee (and a good memory for nicknames, as I have nicknames for so many people), but I can absolutely see how someone could have a bad time with names, especially with kids. A friend of mine has a son who goes to school with a Brianna, a Brina, and a Branda. So I laughed heartily at your A names list. How the hell is a person supposed to keep track? I’d have a hard time, even with my memory!

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    1. Weebs, I’m not surprised one bit that you have a good memory for names! Of course, I love all your nicknames, especially the one you’ve given me! So many kid names sound alike, and they’re complicated too. Let’s not forget the unisex names. My youngest falls into this category, so I’m guilty. It was the one thing that concerned me. I guess nicknames can really come in handy then. The A names…oh brother! A lot of times, there were duplicate names in a class, too! I give up!

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      1. I hear so many people talking about their kids Hunter and Tyler and Shelby and Madison, and I have idea if these kids are male or female. It was bad enough with names like Pat and Chris, but this is ridiculous.

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      2. I know! I was just talking to my son tonight and he thought Dave was a strange name! And my name, Amy, what a weird name! How times have changed. Nothing is simple anymore. Not even names. I’m guilty of it, too. I admit it.

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  14. Seriously? — “ASHLEY, AUBREY, AUDREY, ALEXIS, ALEXA, ALEX, ALYSSA, and ARIANNA” — Ahahahaha! All wearing a bun hair-do and a pink tutu? 🙂 I think at that point I’d address them as one lump — the “Bun-ny-tutu-cuties” or something. The worst is when I go to introduce two people and realize I’ve forgotten one of their names. Makes me feel like such an ass.

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    1. Oh, that’s cute, Sandee. Bun-ny-Tutu-Cuties…and then by number. How can they find fault with that one?! I agree the first seconds of an introduction can be your make or break moment on whether or not you’ll remember a name. Introduced to more than one at a time…game over!

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    1. That’s a good strategy, Guapo…wait for it, wait for it. My husband will ask, “What was you name?” No…I meant your last name, playing it like he knew the first name. Ah, his secret is out now! But no one really falls for this anyway, I’m sure. Ha ha!

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  15. Ohh I tend to give people nicknames 🙂 I’m not thaaat great with remembering names as my mind is constantly wandering around and I’m usually registering a bunch of other stuff and while I’m doing this, the names are said and I think…”Ohh great. I didn’t get that…or did I. Oh yes, he looks like a John and she looks like a Janice.”…

    I really need to tell it to pay attention hehe. I do recognize faces though. I always tell my sister “Oh heey! I know that dude/dudette!”

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    1. I know faces better, too, TJ. I guess that’s better than nothing, right? If all else fails, a nickname should work. I think you have the perfect excuse. You can say it is based on one of your lovely characters that you are creating, and then they will be so impressed they won’t care if you forgot their name!

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  16. I may or may not have wanted to call you Amanda. Even though it’s written, I’m sure you won’t know so I didn’t say that. Per Vanessa , I forget the spouses names too but what about the children’s’? So do you not send the card at all or do the “Smith Family”? I honestly just do the “so sorry I’ve forgotten your name” thing if in person. Fabulous post Amanda, I mean Amy.
    And PS, I like that you substitute taught dance. Sweet.

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    1. Really, Amanda?? Okay. It can be your secret, Shirley. I like the family cards myself. They work for me just fine! In all honesty, I have no trouble admitting I’m clueless about a name. Sometimes, I can get it. Other times, it’s just circumstances that make it hard. Oh yes, I’ve taught all levels! Thanks!

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  17. I have to admit that most of the time I’m pretty good with names. It keeps my brain moving if I can remember most of the people that come into the library. However as I often use the excuse: I’m sorry I’m having a brain freeze, I forgot your name.
    I wear I name tag and people still call me the wrong name. I always get Audrey or Andrea. Wtf!! Or I get ” what an odd name”

    Have a good weekend Amy. Great post that we can all relate to!

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    1. Oh no, Audra, even with a name tag they get it wrong! The nerve. Although I could see it. Your name is just slightly different so people can’t wrap their heads around that. I like your name a lot, Angela. Just kidding! Thank you. You have a great weekend too!

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  18. I wonder if it is a similar thing to how no-one can remember phone numbers any more since we all have them stored electronically? It’s bizarre as everyone could remember a dozen numbers and now, I don’t know my home number and have to double check my mobile number.

    At work, I would go for weeks or even years avoiding admitting I didn’t catch someones name by thinking ahead and structuring the sentences in a totally different way so I never had to ‘name them’.

    Anyway, I’m really sorry you can’t remember names Annie 🙂

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    1. Hey…watch it! Actually, I would prefer to be called Ann. I’ve always liked that name. Annie will do. That’s funny that you’ve restructured whole sentences to avoid a name. I find this amusing. I hope you don’t mind me chuckling about that. I, too, do not know phone numbers to save my life, even ones that I really should know! Street names, directions, bah….we got that covered now.

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  19. I feel your pain. As a teacher, I have to learn the names of about 100-150 kids’ names per year. Korean names too. I one had a Su-Hyeon, Su-Yeon, and Seo-Hyeon all in the same class. I usually learn them pretty quickly but then forget them a couple weeks after I stop teaching them. It’s frustrating since I sometimes have kids come up to me and ask if I remember their name. I remember them, but not their name.

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    1. Wow, David! You got me beat. I don’t know how you can remember all those names. They do they seem foreign or are they second nature now? How wild! I know that look of disappointment when you’ve clearly forgotten a name. Usually, they forgive you, right?

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  20. I sort of drifted over here from the Le Clown thing… I think we have a lot in common… I will try to come back and poke around more after the holidays… I too have written novels and I think we might share some other things. Good job. I look forward to getting to know you better.

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