The problem is, when I first meet someone, I have a million random thoughts buzzing through my head like so many annoying mosquitoes trapped in a screened porch in July, each demanding attention: Is this person having a good first impression of me, Have I already met this person before, Do I have broccoli in my teeth, Do I have bad breath, Did I put enough quarters in the parking meter, Did I accidentally park in the handicapped spot, Does this person have kids the same ages as my kids, and Did I already say what my name is?
That last one is a big part of the problem. I have a name that is quite similar to another (popular) name, so people are forever misunderstanding me when I introduce myself. “Hello, my name is MOV,” I’ll say as clearly as possible while shaking the woman’s hand, and then she’ll lean in and mumble, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, MOVela. I’m (Some Name), I think your son is in my daughter’s class.”
The resultant noise in my brain is overwhelming, what with having to correct her about her misinterpretation of my name (I certainly don’t want her to continue calling me the wrong name) as well as the brand new information that Short (or Tall? which one!?) knows her child (are they friends? is this an opportunity here? do I need to attempt to set up a playdate now?). A simple introduction has become a complicated game of mental chess where I have already ricocheted five moves ahead. I ignore the basic premise of meeting someone, which is to learn their name. I know I need to concentrate, but then I am distracted by her pretty scarf or distinct accent or some other completely irrelevant detail that has absolutely nothing to do with her preferred moniker and how the hell I am going to remember it.
You can see how I get into trouble. All the books on improving memory suggest repeating the
I search the Google of my mind for an image of a lily to mentally graffiti onto her unsuspecting face. Oops—I think that’s a daisy. What do lilies look like, anyway? Tulips? Roses? And what color are they, are they always white? Or can they be blue? What is the name of that blue flower I like, is it iris? Wait—did she actually say her name was Iris?
She is moving on to the next person she is meeting here at school, or work, or a party, or wherever, and she turns and says, “Great meeting you again, MOVela! We should get together for tea sometime!” and there I am stranded: Again? Why did she say again? Again as in right now again, or again as in she met me last week again? And do I look like a tea person? Maybe most MOVelas drink tea? Is MOVela a British name? Does she think I’m British? I could be British, but I hate tea. I have tried tea with sugar or without, with milk or without, hot, cold, with lemon, and you know what—I am just not a tea person.
Yes, yes, let’s get together for tea or coffee sometime, that would be lovely! Thanks, Iris! er, I mean Rose?
I fare no better at events with name tags, as messy penmanship is involved. The worst is when I am suddenly required to introduce two people who I supposedly know to each other. “Milk, this is my dear friend, uh, Tennifer.” They both wince and then re-introduce themselves with very boring versions of the names I just said, like Mike and Jennifer. Then learn how to write your damn names, Mike and Jennifer! Do they take a perverse pleasure in making me guess? How hard is it to write legibly? Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.
The Husband approaches me and leans in to whisper something. “How are you doing with learning everyone’s name?” he asks slowly, like he's talking to a four-year-old.
“Awful,” I confess. “I hear them say their names, but it’s like I forget the name as they are saying it. I swear, I am really trying!” I am relieved that he has taken the time to come over and help me, so I gaze up at him with my eyes full of admiration and love. He confuses this look for drunk.
“MOV, I have an easy way to remember people’s names. Just listen to them. Without distractions. Set the glass of wine down and focus for five seconds.”
Oh, that Gusband. He thinks he’s so smart.