Thursday, September 22, 2011

Familiar Faces, Less Familiar Names

Paris is getting smaller.  It’s getting the point where I start running into familiar faces.  Everywhere.  The problem with familiar faces is that the names that go with those faces aren’t always as memorable.
Everyone should have to wear one...with or without correct spelling...
I’ve encountered several uncomfortable situations lately where I’ve run into someone and I couldn’t remember their name.  Clearly, however, the other person went in for the bise and I knew that we must be close.  That was Fiona’s fried, right?  Or was it the person at Erica’s party?  Or was that Melanie’s classmate?  In any case, I fake it, ask how they are doing, and make it away without anyone being any wiser to my ignorance. 

The problem, sadly, is when I’m not alone and I meet someone.  The other day, on the rue du roi de Sicile, with my friend Genevieve, I saw a guy at a café that I knew.  He stood up from his table and flagged me down.  An introduction was imminent.

“Hi, ca va?” he asked.

“Heeey, oui et toi?” I responded.  When I draw out my hello like that, it’s a surefire indication that, indeed, I have forgotten your name.  Then there was that pivotal moment.

"Here is my friend Genevieve,” and they shake hands.  And then, nothing.  Normally it’s at this part that he would say, “Hi, I am John, or Bob, or Pierre,” and I would be saved.  But no.  Nothing.

Awkward.

We stood there, asking about our friend that I remembered we had in common, and then Genevieve and I went on our way.  But the damage was done.  The next time we see each other at a party, he’ll know I forgot his name, that he’s not part of the 150 individuals that the human brain can remember.

There must be some strategies to avoid this uncomfortable situation.

1.  If they are French, just ask them how they pronounce their last name again, since no one expects an Anglophone to remember French last names.  Then you can call them Madame or Monsieur last name for the duration of the icky conversation.  It comes off as cute with an American accent.

2.  If they are American or English, a simple “buddy” or “chica” will suffice, if you can pull it off adorably.

3.  Cut your losses and don’t introduce your friend when you’re with someone.  Let the other person take the high road and introduce him or herself to your friend, making you look rude for not initiating an introduction.  But at least you won’t look like an idiot for not remembering their name.  Weigh your own values – I’d rather be smart than polite.

4.  Find a common topic and attack.  Talk immediately about a mutual friend, a shared experience, a class you took together, anything to circumvent any possibility of addressing them by name.

5.  Call them by the wrong name while introducing them to your friend and then act really apologetic.  It’s much easier to play it off if you say that you mixed up their name with that other friend who was at the party.  This is much less offensive than forgetting them altogether.  And let’s face it, none of us can run the risk of losing friends on Facebook these days.  Too bad it’s not called Namebook...

7 comments:

  1. Or you totally plan it out with your friend so that you will look away for a moment (maybe you got a "text"), and your friend leans in quickly and say, "Hi, I'm Genevieve," and then as the one whose name you can't remember just gets to the end of his name, you look back and say, "Oh, I'm so sorry! X this is Genevieve, Genevieve, this is X."

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  2. I know too many icebreakers, but very few that would be appropriate in an adult social setting...though who are we kidding? That wouldn't stop me...

    And Lindsey, I will now. You've just won yourself a new nickname...

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  3. funny, I was also going to criticize "chica"

    clearly Lindsa(e)ys think alike

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  4. Oh good lord, this happens to me ALL the time. And to make matters worse, I will often forget if the person is English/American or French so if I go up to them and say Salut! And they respond with a lukewarm Hi, well then the gig is up -- they know I have absolutely no idea who they are! Glad to hear this happens to you young folks as well as I have been worried for some time it was a sign of senility! :)

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