A Letter To All Those I Should Know

I took a trip to my home-town yesterday to observe my sister’s kindergarten class. (Reasons for this will be disclosed at a later date.) She walked me around the school, my old elementary stopping ground and the same building in which our father taught hundreds of children (me included), Art. But, my overflowing-nostalgia post has already been written and is not the point of this one, so I’ll move on.

We walked into the main office and chatted for a while with old family friends, friends of my Dad and now my sister’s colleagues.  Upon exiting, I turned to one of the gentlemen and said,

“Nice to meet you!”

Once the door clicked behind us, my sister sighed and put her hand up to her forehead.

“Emily.   You know him  He was in your high school  class. ”

Dammit. I refuse to be held responsible for this mental malfunction.

This story is one of many. It happens all the time. I have a problem. A serious and concerning problem.

All too often, I run into people both from my youth and my professional lifetime, that run toward me, yell my name, and embrace me with fervor.

I’m blank. Completely blank. Often I recognize them, but can’t place what school we attended at the same time or which show we did together.  It’s embarrassing. And, if embarrassing was all it was, I would deal with it, wait for my cheeks to drain the red and move on.   But, it’s rude and inconsiderate, and comes across as an aloof disregard for other humans with whom I cross paths.

The list of my flaws is approximately fourteen miles long, but I can assure you that “rude”and “inconsiderate” are not two of the qualities making up that mileage.

I care about every person I meet. In fact, I still feel badly that I didn’t offer an appropriate “Goodbye” to the stranger I was briefly chatting with on train today. So, I don’t believe this indicates a tendency to devalue my fellow-man due to an inflated ego. If you have read even a handful of my entries, have received an email or two, or have met me, you most likely agree that the mere suggestion of that idea is ludicrous.

I simply have some sort of face/name amnesia.  Either I spend very little time present enough to make lasting memories, or I get so nervous about hurting people’s feelings that I create a mental block that freezes my brain and all data stored inside it.

I’m choosing to believe the latter. The first possibility is too depressing.

But, the other day I back-flipped over  proof that I’m not alone. I was at an audition, and ran into a girl with whom I roomed on my first national tour. She looked at me and shouted,

“Mary, right!”

Thank you, Jesus.

I corrected her and reminded her of our shared bunks across the country. I also explained that she absolutely made my day by calling me “Mary”.

Because, when people remember my name, it just makes me feel bad.

And, how dare you?


have a click!


31 responses to “A Letter To All Those I Should Know

  1. Haha! This is so funny. I took My wife out for her special Birthday dinner and one of the waitresses said to me enthusiastically, “Hi, Henry!” I spent the rest of the evening between wine, appetizers, and a wonderful meal trying to figure out who she was. No dice! The worst part was thinking in the back of my mind. Does my wife REALLY think I have no idea who she is? Because I had NOOOOO Clue!

  2. I have lived in our new neighborhood since March of this year. I have met my next door neighbors many times–I still can’t remember their names. I must have the same condition you have.

  3. prosopagnosia?
    If you don’t know what this is, look up “prosopagnosia Oliver Sacks.” He’s the new poster boy of this rare disorder.

    • Oh my goodness. that is hilarious. Except not really at all. What an awful condition. I can’t believe it actually has a name. But, alas I cannot claim it as my own diagnosis. I often do recognize people, just can’t figure out why. Um…I was your next door neighbor? Back to the drawing board. There must be another disorder that fits my symptoms.

  4. Cute … were you at HB?? AND you have me curious … who was the guy!! *smile* AND OH by the way … wait until you are my age. I get in the shower, wash my hair, wash my body, exfoliate, brush my teeth, then I wonder did I wash my hair, or my body yet, so I do it agian, then I say, did I exfoliate, or brush my teeth, so sometimes I do it again, just in case, etc. So by the time I hit the bath rug I am squeakie clean!! LOL

  5. Yes, Emily, I am curious too as to who it was from our class. AND, I worked there and can’t think of who it may be. 🙂

  6. Oh, Mary,
    And I thought I had ataxia. Thank goodness that famous neurologist Oliver Sacks has come up with prosopagnosia as a disorder. Thanks to James’ comment I’ll look it up and proudly announce my new-found word with conviction, if indeed that’s what I have. Keep us laughing and thinking.

  7. Laura Dysarczyk

    hilarious Mary.

  8. So, a few things stuck out to me in this one, Em. First, good job on the correct usage of the word “whom!” Second, go to prime time on demand and look up “Perception.” I believe episode 2 or 3 has a guy with “face blindness.” not sure if it’s a real diagnosis, but when we watched it last week, Mike and I actually joked with one another that that could be your issue! Ha (not LOL). And third, you neglected to share the remainder of the conversation after you shouted out, “Nice to meet you!” Friends, it went something like this… As we reached my classroom a minute and a half later, my teammate from across the hall said, “hi, Emily! I didn’ts even realize that was you!” to which Emily graciously responded, “oh, Hi! How ARE you?” then she turned and made the “are you freakin kidding me? Twice in two minutes?” face! I laughed and said, that was —–, our next door neighbor from childhood. Then Em heard something across my classroom and looked over. She said, “oh. There’s a child in here!” I said, yes, mine. She Thought one of my students just came to school early. So, I repeated, “Em, it’s MY kid!” once again, Em burst out laughing and I joined right on in!!! With love, Hilary (your sister!)

  9. This happened to me recently at Target. I was there with my son and someone came up and said, “Jean, right? From High school?” Umm… I still have absolutely no idea who. I blamed it on being scattered with a toddler around. And the irony is I’m actually weirdly good at remembering people.

  10. Try having a name like Conchita! Everyone ALWAYS remembers me and I ALWAYS feel terrible because I’m usually clueless as to who they are. If only someone would call me Mary!!!

  11. Ugh! That happens to me all the time! Have you gone to a high school reunion? Geez, it is like three days of feeling incredibly embarrassed every time someone runs up and says, “HEY!! It is SOO great to see you!”… it’s worse when they start naming your family members and reminisce about spending the night or going to parties together… I NEVER remember that stuff! I must spend my days asleep on my feet!

    • No! Have not done the high school reunion thing. That will surely be a debacle for me. Stay tuned for an interestingly tragic post in a year or so. I’ve lost count of the years and can’t remember when I graduated.

  12. Okay Mary- So it’s possible that we are all just not as nice as we think…I was at the club where my band has played for 19 years, every other weekend. I went up to the bartender and said “Hi. I’m Kassie. It’s nice to meet you.” He said, “Um. Yes Kassie. We’ve worked here together for 15 years.” I said, “Oh. Then great to see you.”…I bounced off thinking, “geez…Who the heck was that guy?”

    • Now, that is funny. Did you ever figure it out?

      • Sure…he must be the bartender….he looks familiar to me now. Trouble is that I must be a bit self absorbed in my jump…perhaps if he served the cheese sticks I’d know him by name…i might even bring him a birthday card…alcohol ? Not so much…

  13. Your story was good, but I think Kassie’s might be funnier. I can usually recognize a face as familiar but often struggle trying to remember their name or how I know the person. I blame that on having worked at many different schools teaching many students over the past 16 years and having 5 kids on different sports teams and other activities. There seem to be familiar looking people I feel I should know all over town. I am usually thankful when someone doesn’t seem to remember me – no pressure for me to try to figure out what their name is.

    • You hit the nail on the head as always, Rita. I transferred from one Musical theatre program to another during college years, and thus have two groups of stereotypical actor types to confuse. And, my two broadway shows just happened to be in the same theatre. Obviously those casts morph together! Add that to a few tours, and a few regional gigs, all full of basic standard Musical theatre content, and everyone runs together. Oy Vey. And, now I am forgetting that I am not Jewish. Or, am I?

  14. You are not alone. This is one of the reasons I don’t want to attend my high school reunion. I don’t remember those people when they friend me on FB. I don’t want to be the jerk who can’t remember them to their face.

  15. ok good gravy, I have a way bigger things to worry about than peoples feelings. 😉

    Seriously, I have been alive a long time. I have met a lot of people. I am NOT in any way embarrassed if I do or do not remember someone I’m supposed to remember. I’m polite, I tell people they look familiar, and then I let them do the work for me. I feel no shame in having very little memory. if I haven’t seen them since high school, chances are I won’t see them again before I die. No need to waste my 3 remaining brain cells on their name.

    and don’t get me started on the people who think they need to remember everyone’s birthday. Or anniversary. Or today’s date.

    • I get angry every time I receive a Birthday card. It’s just plain rude. Clearly these people know I suck at birthdays and other important dates and will never remember theirs, so why add salt to the wound by sending a thoughtful reminder of my inadequacies? The audacity is astounding! Happy November 3rd.

      • LOL.

        Are you really a November baby? I promise not to remember. Because: see above about the three brain cells.

      • No. May. But making a joke about my birthday instead of a reference to your confusion of today’s date would have been much funnier. This comment is more proof that you are always a few notches aboveme on the wit meter. Dammit, Christine! this is worse that getting a Birthday card.

      • You’re funny because my first thought was that I was a moron for not getting the obvious reference to my confusion about today’s date.

        Let’s go with your assumption that I’m clever. I’ll go to your blog and make it clear that I’m a moron and *you’re* the clever one.

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