Ever feel like you have Alzheimer’s – even if it’s temporary? Why is it that I can’t get people’s names straight sometimes?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just terrible with names. I can’t remember them, unless I commit them to memory by force.
It starts at home. I can’t always place my own kids’ names at the exact time when I need to say them in a stern and “I mean business” kind of voice. I usually end up saying all three of their names before I get it right, and I throw in their mother’s name for good measure. Now part of this is my own fault, or at least partially of my own doing. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but we named all of our kids with names starting with A. Abigail, Amalie and Andon. Just saying them together makes for an alliterative nightmare, and confuses lesser mortals. Oh, and my wife? Yeah, her name is Aimie. I don’t stand a chance.
So I witness, or hear in another room, something going on that I feel I should, as a dad, react to. Something like this:
Abigail: “Amalie, do you want to be the princess or the ugly troll?”
Amalie: “Oh, I’m the princess. Thank you, Abby!”
Abigail: “Well, Am, you should really be the troll, because you’re a stinky-bum, poopy-head.”
Amalie: (laughing) “No, YOU’RE a poopy diaper face!”
Abigail: (laughing even harder) “Ha ha, you’re a stinky loser, pooper-head, troll-face ugly girl!”
Amalie: (not laughing at all, suddenly with tears in her voice) “YOU SHUT UP!”
Me: (thinking I should probably step in here) “Abigail, no Andon, no Aimie, no Amalie!”
After a long pause of silence, where my girls are obviously wondering how long it will be until they need to change dad’s diapers and why he’s a stuttering fool…..
Abigail: “Sooooooo, are you talking to Amalie and me, or mom, or Andon? Because you said all of us.”
Me: “You know what, smarty-pants? You just mind your own business, young lady. And please get along with your sister. And no name calling.”
Amalie: “Who? Me?”
Me: “BOTH OF YOU! Wasn’t that clear? I listed off the whole family there because I would like everyone to get along and not call each other names. OK?!??”
Abigail: “OK, dad. Whatever you say.” And then I hear her whisper: “You’re still a poopy-head, Amalie”
Another thing that causes me great concern is meeting new people. Especially in big crowds. If I am introduced to one person, by another person, and that’s the extent of it, I have come up with a trick that works for me. I try to say their name back to them, if it doesn’t sound ridiculous.
Our mutual acquaintance: “Wildsau, I’d like you to meet Bob here. Bob is a taxidermist.”
Me: “Hi Bob.”
See what I did there? Now if saying their name back to them sounds funny, or isn’t applicable within the conversation, I say their name to myself five times while looking at their face. Somehow that works. If I don’t do that, I will meet Bob again five minutes later, and be at a complete mental standstill, staring over the gaping chasm that is my ridiculously ineffective short-term memory and wishing I could find the bridge that crosses it.
I had breakfast with one of my best friends recently, who also happens to be my brother. He told me a hilarious tactic for “remembering” people’s names – I say “remembering” because really, it’s just cheating and it’s more of a reminder. He said he has the same issue with remembering names, and has done the following to try and get away with it. Upon meeting the person again, and drawing a complete blank when it comes to remembering even a shred of their name, he will ask: “Say, how do you spell your name again?” The hilarity ramps up a notch, of course, when the person is like: “Um, B. O. B.” At that point, you might choose to dig your hole deeper by exclaiming, “Really?! Man, I thought it was B. A. W. B.!” But realistically, you should be aware that you’ve been busted and it’s just clear that you couldn’t remember their name. But a very novel approach, if I do say so myself.
My final issue comes out to play when my mind displaces information with other information that isn’t valid. At my age, my brain often tells me that someone’s name is something it is not. As a matter of fact, it’s not even close, and it can make for awkward, but mercifully short, conversations. For example:
Me: (thinking, oh hey! There’s Bob! I should say hello. It’s been years!) “Well hello there!”
“Bob”: “Hey, how are you doing, Wildsau? Wow, it’s sure been a long time. How are Aimie and the kids doing?”
Me: (suddenly miffed that “Bob” remembers my wife’s name and that I have kids, and I’m barely stringing together his name) “Oh, um, they’re doing well. Thanks!” (this is followed by a wave of relief, because it’s clear I don’t have to say the other person’s name and our conversation is rolling along nicely)
This wave of relief quickly ebbs away and is replaced by a sinking feeling, as you see your “I have to be introduced to everyone” friend, Fred, striding over, with purpose, to join the conversation. And it gets worse when Fred says: “Hey Wildsau, who’s your friend? Why don’t you introduce us?”
Me: (thinking, no problem, I’m sure this is Bob I’m talking to) “Oh sure – this is my friend, Bob. Bob, meet Fred. Fred, Bob.”
“Bob”: (glaring at me) “Um, actually I’m Betty. It’s nice to meet you, Fred.”
Me: (and this is where the conversation stays mercifully short) “Oh right. Betty! It just sounds so much like Bob. I confuse those two sometimes. Right. OK, well – Fred, Betty, you’ve met. I’ll move along then. Look at the time!”
I realize now that I started thinking I was just horrible with remembering names. But as it turns out, I think I’m realizing I’m slowly getting old, and I’m just horrible at remembering anything now.
So, please, if I call you Bob, take pity on me. My kids will be changing my diapers soon enough, and I need all the help I can get.
You know what I say? Long live the nametag!
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