Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Everyone Looks So Familiar!

Barbara: Okay, it wasn’t so long ago that I was bemoaning the fact that I have a hard time remembering people. I am a “people person” and not remembering people kinda defeats the purpose, no? And yes, I do take small comfort in the fact that most people have this same problem.

Of course, we’ve all found a myriad of ways to cope with this conundrum. There’s the trusty party trick where two friends play each other’s wingmen: Friend 1, “I know I’m supposed to know her, but can’t for the life of me remember how I know her or what her name is.” Friend 2, “No problem, I’ll introduce myself and get all the stats.” There’s also the “ignore the person until I can place him/her” solution. Or the “fake your way through the convo” option, just smile and say benign things that don’t betray your ignorance.

Okay, a whole blog post could be written about this. But here’s the thing: lately friggin’ everyone looks familiar to me!! I’m walking through the garden centre and have to hold myself back from shouting a hearty hello to every Tom, Dick and Sherri. I’m at a party and find myself in disorienting conversations with one person after another: “Oh, where did we meet? I just know we know each other. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Were you at the (fill in the blank)? No? Are you friends with (fill in the blank)? No? Well, didn’t we chat about the (fill in the blank)? No, no, and always no.

The truth is: I DON’T know them. We’ve never met. And we have nothing in common. Well, that last part is an exaggeration because ironically my maniacal efforts to remember imaginary connections often results in … interesting new connections!

But why does everyone look so damn familiar??? Is it that I’ve lived long enough now that I might in fact have randomly bumped into this person somewhere in the past? Is it that I’ve lived so long now that many facial traits have imbedded themselves in my brain and I’m actually seeing everyone’s doppelgangers? Is it that I’ve … lived soooo long???

Deb: A few years back, the boy gave me a button that said, “Don’t feel bad, I don’t know your name either”. I really should wear it every day. In a way, I have made my peace with this because it seems that a good deal of the world is in the same boat. Even the boy at his young age struggles with this. I read something interesting that said the reason we don’t remember names is that we have too many numbers in our heads. And numbers trump names.

Barb, the fact that people look familiar to you (happens to me too!) is that there are only so many different facial configurations in the world, right? Or it could be past lives and the people you met there! I have found a foolproof way to cope however. Instead of those pesky old individual names, everyone becomes “sweetie”, “darling”, or “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”! Now I know that most people are on to this ruse, but I say, Who cares? I mean, after all, who would balk at being called sweetie?

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  1. Ok so I am HORRIBLE HORRIBLE at this. With me,I can remember a face,but never the name. I have a kind of bad mind as it is anyways. See I always stare at people and try to figure out who they are. YES, I know I should not stare but it helps me think about who they are.
    If I don't know who you are then I will always start out an introduction with " HEY,you" I never say a name to someone unless I know for sure who they are. I don't want to call someone by the wrong name which I have to admit that I have done a few times now.

    I do have to say that I have seen people talk to me that are trying to figure out who I am as well. I just dislike my no name brain. If only I could store names and faces in my head then I would be in good shape.


  2. My husband does it to me all the time, he'll nudge me and say "isn't that so and so"

    I'll look around not seeing anyone that looks remotly familiar. He'll specify who he means and to me they look nothing like the person we know.

    He thinks eveyrone looks like someone and most of the time I'm shaking my head going "ahhh nope, you're nuts"

    I'm pretty good with putting names to faces but only if I actually see them. I never ever ever notice people first. I'll have people say they saw me somewhere and I'm usually completly oblivious.

  3. Yeah, Lyndsie, we need a file in our heads for names and faces, not silly numbers!

    And, Erin, thanks for that. Your husband and I would be no good together in a crowd! Thank god we have the spouses we do :)

  4. I live in a small town. Everyone starts to look familiar. lol

    I am terrible with names. When I meet someone new, I usually say, "I'm gonna go ahead and warn you that I am terrible with names. So, please don't be offended if it takes 2 or 3 more times meeting you and asking before I get your name locked into my brain with your face." Without fail, the other person chuckles and says something about being the same way.

    It's worst for me when I meet a lot of new people at once, e.g. at a meeting, first day of a new job, first day of a class. 10? 20? new names at once? Never gonna happen! The name storing and matching portion of my brain just gives up and lays down curled up in the fetal position sucking its thumb.

    And, here's the name conundrum I'm always running into with my silly brain. I learn the kids' names easily, but the adults are forever doomed in my brain to be Riley's Mom, Rachel's Grandmother, Christopher's Mom, MaryOliver's Dad, Madison's Mom and Dad, etc.

    Oh, and in a small Southern town, you've got to be very careful because everyone's likely to be kin to everyone else somehow by blood or marriage (or, they were before a divorce). There's a lot of cousin and in-laws action around here. lol And, you don't know from day to day who's feuding in a family and who's made nicenice. I may see someone who looks very familiar but not be able to remember their name, but chances are I can tell you who they are kin to and the like. lol

    One time, R, A, and I went to a cooking demonstration show that was held in the theatre on Main St. There was a big crowd. A had only been in town I guess a year or so. While we were sitting waiting for the show to start, we were looking around people watching, and I was giving A a running commentary. "OK, that lady down there is *****. She works as a ****** teacher. She's married to ***** who works at ****. Her husband is *******'s brother. Their family are the ones with the big farm out in ****. Her husband also serves the county as ******** **** *****." I went through a bunch of people in the seats this way kind of briefing A slowly weaving them all together showing A how everyone is tied together. NOT gossiping, just explaining connections. I watched A's eyes bug out as it slowly began to occur to her how tangled up this town is. She kept saying, "How do you know this?" And, I kept saying, "Just wait. You will, too. And, now, you also understand why gossip is such a rampant, killer problem here. Everyone is connected. And, this is also why you'll have no privacy here."

    This small town names and connections thing can be an advantage, though. When I needed to find a chiropractor, I was supernervous about letting anyone mess with my neck. So, I did a little investigating. Before I ever even met my chiropractor, I knew he let C call him at home to take care of her when her back went out on a Sunday morning. I knew his current wife was my church's program coordinator's uncle's ex-wife. I knew what church he went to and what committee he served on. Etc., etc. Heck if I'm gonna let an unknown dink around with my C-spine! And, for the record, my chiropractor is one of the sweetest, most helpful people you'll ever meet. I was just scared in the beginning and being very careful.

  5. OR ... you could live out here in northern hillbilly country (and I say that with all respect, as apparently I am a proud undulating-land hillbilly) where you would walk down the street in your local small town and see familiar faces ... of people you've never met, far younger than you, and know who they are because they are spittin' images of their parents, whom you DO know. It's so cool ... but weird.

  6. Kate! Yes! There's no hiding who the babydaddy is in a small town! lol

    Is this just a Southern thing, or do folks do it elsewhere? When discussing a woman who's married, her maiden name and family of origin get brought up. As in: "Jane Smith, you know, John's wife. She was a Jones. Those Joneses who farm over in Huffman. Her mama was a Carter."

  7. Ha! Thanks, ladies for the bird's eye view of small town life. I've never experienced it and it sounds at once daunting and lovely. I guess I'd be okay with my endless questions about how I know you, though. With so many real connections between people, we would surely find a common link!

  8. LOL True, Barbara! You know that Degrees of Separation game? It gets played at the Olympic level in the rural South. lol

  9. I have lived in the big city of Los Angeles all my life, never moving more than 4 miles in any direction. I run into people all the time from grammar school on up. I am usually pretty impressed with myself but have used the bait and switch where I have the person I am with introduce themselves so I can hear the name. Or I just say I have forgotten your name and just move on in the conversation. I guess with age you get a pass sometimes. Great column today.

  10. Madge, you might be the first person I've met you grew up in LA, born and bred. I want to make a callous joke about meeting old friends over and over thanks to plastic surgery. But I won't, 'cause I'm not callous ;)

  11. I started work a little over a year ago in a relatively big organisation, and I am STILL having trouble with names. Every time a colleague sits next to me in the staffroom, I have to rack my brain to think 'now what was your name again?' it's terrible :(

  12. It's funny at conference a couple months ago, I could have sworn I new this one woman, and she thought she knew me in return, but we couldn't place each other. I'm starting to think we'd either had some fleeting moment and our faces stuck with each other, or we'd never met at all.

    I used to think I was good at remembering names. I was wrong. In fact, I don't remember much of anything anymore. :)

  13. Elle, that would be tough, having to remember a whole company worth of new people (all of whom I probably would believe I have close personal connections with :) )

    And Megan, so glad you know what I mean!! It's weird, huh?

  14. I've been meaning to comment for a while, but my sister and I really enjoy reading this blog. Surprisingly, I'm pretty ok with names, but my mom is the one who is bad. We'll be at the store or something and we find someone we know, start talking, then after the person leaves she's like "who was that?" Makes me laugh every time.

    Been blogging myself if you ladies would like to check out. Cheers! :)

  15. Welcome, Kelly! We love that you enjoy reading us.

    And I just read your blog. It is so beautiful. Thanks for that! Here's the link (although you can also find it through Kelly's avatar)

  16. You are not alone. I have a terrible time at remembering people's names. At one time I was in the middle of a conversation and called the person by the wrong name - later when I recalled the convo I realized that it was NOT her name. I felt so bad because I was adament that it was her - I don't think she noticed :/ or maybe she did. But hey, you are not alone.

  17. Ouch. Yeah, I've done that one. So mortifying! Thanks, Gabriella!

  18. If I am not mistaken, I don't think that Barbara's original post was about not remembering names, I think it was about everyone who she met looking familiar. I can relate. Do I need to sign myself in?! More often than not I recognize everyone, everyone seems familiar. Is that what you meant Barbara? This has to be some kind of disorder. I can't know all these people.


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