We've all been there: You stroll into a party, see someone you kinda-sorta know walking towards you, and immediately launch into an internal panic over WTF their name is. Your mind races; things that shouldn't be sweating start to; and while you know you know that name somewhere in an impossible-to-reach corner of your brain, the fact is, that name is gone. Gone for good. The painful (and sometimes embarrassing) struggle of not being able to remember names is real, people — and if you're reading this right now thinking, "That is totally me," then man, do I feel you.
The truth is, that awkward little moment can play itself out over and over again in a million different ways as life goes on, and I'm sorry to report, it never fails to be super uncomfortable when it's obvious. Because let's be honest — when you're terrible with remembering people's names (or, even worse, the fact you've ever met them), you basically look like a jerk. And it can suck a whole lot. On the flip-side, though, it's not fun being on the receiving end of a forgotten name, either. Mostly because no one enjoys the suspicion they could be forgettable. We're all special little snowflakes, perfect in our own, totally unique way. And surely, we'd all like to believe that when we meet someone new, we make a profound, lasting, and positive impact on them... right? Apparently, not as long as there are people like me (and probably you) running amuck.
Of course, there are ways to cope with your affliction— like actively working on ways to boost your recall. For example, experts say exercise can help improve memory (which might be the best motivation for me to join a gym I've ever heard). But before you've mastered how to magically pull a forgotten name out of your butt, there are 13 super real struggles you're bound to have (and keep having). May they each serve as comfort, and remind you that you're not in fact alone out there.
1. You're Quick To Re-Introduce Yourself
Ah, yes. That special little moment when you introduce yourself to someone who appears to be a stranger, only to learn that you've indeed met before. It's a particularly painful exchange, I'll admit. Especially if the other person is visibly miffed that you forgot they ever existed. My advice to you: Play it off with a joke, and remember that everyone does this — and will likely do it to you one day.
2. You Repeat New People's Names An Almost Embarrassing Amount Of Times
Probably the most popular tip for improving name memory includes repeating a new person's name while staring into the face of said new person while repeating their name. If you can pull this off without being obvious, it might just do the trick. How come? It's supposed to essentially make the name stick, by imprinting it on your brain. Even if you've totally tried this before and it hasn't worked, you're probably committed to keep trying it anyway.
3. You Have Immediately Followed A New Acquaintance On Social Media For Name-Reinforcement Purposes Only (More Than Once)
Truthfully, I've done this one a bunch. As a result, I see way too many updates in my Facebook newsfeed from people I met literally once at a party freshman year of college.
4. You Use Generic Salutations Almost Exclusively
"Hey, babe!" or "Great to see you, dude!" or "Let's definitely talk soon, girl," fall into this category of friendly, yet non-specific salutations. And you know what? Ain't not shame in that game — at least you're saving yourself from embarrassment.
5. You Live In Constant Fear Someone May Notice You Don't Know Their Name
There is a catch to that last one, and it's this: Someone you've met multiple times might eventually grow suspicious after your millionth, "Yea, babe!" That's why you're constantly terrified that you'll out yourself — or worse — someone may quiz you on the truth and you'll have no choice but to fail spectacularly and be exposed.
6. You're The Worst At Explaining The Plotlines Of Movies And Books
"It's about this guy who gets a job for another guy, but then they have to trade places to avoid a third guy. And then one guy has a total disaster because the other guy..." Yeah, so this is why no one asks for your movie recaps ever. (In case you were wondering.)
7. You Find Job Interviews Extra-Nightmarish
Forgetting someone's name you bumped into once at a high school party is a forgivable offense. Forgetting the name of the CEO who just asked about your work history during the interview? Well, that's certainly... frowned upon.
8. You Regularly Surprise Yourself With Identifying Qualities You Subconsciously Assign People
You know what I'm talking about here. That guy in accounting is totally "Nose Guy," because his nostrils flare when he talks. And then there's "Sneezy," the office receptionist, who goes by that name because you first met her during a particularly rough week for her allergies. "Suit Dude" is "Suit Dude" because...well, actually, you can't really remember the reason for that one, but hey, whatever works!
9. You Have To Review Names On The Guest List Before Attending Any Kind Of Gathering
I will not reveal the frequency of how often I scan Facebook events I'm going to for everyone else who RSVP'd "Yes." OK, and then silently repeat the names to myself an hour or so before heading out to said event. (Almost every time.) I also feel best double-checking their back stories first with mutual friends. ("Monica is dating Katie, who might also bring her brother Gregory.... right? OK!")
10. You've Developed A Secret Code With Your S.O. And Close Friends
When all else fails, there's always Plan B. For many, that's having a secret code with your friends or significant other — crucial for parties and for going out in general, if you ask me. It could be a simple wink or the act of thumbing your nose. Secret codes vary, but they all communicate the same message to the person you're with: "I'm not introducing you to this human I'm now exchanging polite conversation with — and it's because I have zero idea what their name is. Hurry! Introduce yourself first before they catch on!" If you haven't yet adopted this plan, do it now.
11. You Have Created A Cheat Sheet Before
On your hand, tucked away in your planner, written in the Notes section of your phone... wherever. Name cheat sheets are sometimes necessary, and chances are, you've totally got one hiding somewhere. But it's okay, you're not alone. A friend once revealed to me he set geographic reminders on his phone so it would remind him of bartenders' names when approaching their respective bars. Sounds super extreme, but I felt inspired by his genius little trick, and set the same one up on my phone. (FYI, here's a tutorial on how to do that.)
12. You're Also Not Gifted With Titles And Names Of Places
Books, restaurants, out-of-the-way locales... they're never top-of-mind for you. But here's the bright side: At least you're fairly decent at describing other identifying qualities about them that might go unnoticed by others. (So that's something, right?)
13. You Don't Believe In Mnemonic Devices
Because you've tried the popularized "cure" and you cannot feel good about mentally referring to another human as Gelato Jessica. Nose Guy, however, is fine. Brains don't always make sense.
14. You Feel Paranoid That Maybe You're Actually A Cold-Hearted Garbage Person
You've definitely wondered this one a million ga-jillion times: "Everyone else doesn't seem to have problems remembering names, so why can't I get them to stick? Is it because I don't care enough?" It's a reasonable question, and while I wish I could tell you it's totally, 100 percent untrue, science has kinda proven me otherwise. In fact, back in 2012, a Kansas State University study found that people who chronically forget names do so out of lack of interest more than anything else. Hmm... well, damn. But, hey at least we're fun at parties?
Sigh. I give up. And I'm sorry for everything, y'all. (BTW, "y'all" is a great, gender-neutral collective term you can use for a whole group of people whose names you've forgotten. So, you're welcome.)