I was walking along West 4th this afternoon after a meeting in my department with my mind buzzing with, well, stuff that I won’t bore you with here, about to pull out my cell phone to make a quick call when I heard, “Hey Cynthia!” I stared hard at the owner of the voice, silently going through my mental Rolodex as fast as my under-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, sugar-starved, and overwrought brain could handle. Not fast enough. She pointed to herself upon seeing my confusion and said, “Susan!” Of course! Of course I know Susan. Susan sang Mary Poppins and Phantom of the Opera for me at Ellen’s Stardust Diner last year! We baked cookies and made frosting together at Tanya’s, and we’ve been trying to make plans to have coffee ever since she started her grad program at NYU!
What is wrong with me?! This is not the first time something like this has happened. It seems to be a recurring issue that I’ve noticed more and more recently. The most recent incident happened at Costco in LA when I ran into Linda Peng and her mom. I met Linda at Phillip’s over Christmas last year, and had a very intense conversation/debate with her mom about the worth-it-ness of private elite universities that lasted the better part of two hours. Linda herself was learning how to play guitar, and her sister, Lisa, her, and I were supposed to go geocaching this summer. When I saw Linda and her mom at Costco, I introduced myself, only to be gently reminded that I had met them before. *sigh*
I forget faces. All the time. I remember names, and I remember details. Probably one of the most memorable forgetting happened with Emily (who’s one of my closest and dearest friends) – I met her in April 2000, when we were both at Northwestern’s Day at NU – an event held that would help us decide whether to or not to go to Northwestern. I met her in the lobby restaurant of the hotel we were both staying in, and had a rather substantial conversation with her and her parents. I later ran into her at Norris again. First day of classes freshman year – I had Chinese History. After class, the girl in front of me turned around. “You’re Cynthia, right?” I stuck out my hand and shook her’s as she said, “I’m Emily, remember?” Yes, I remember you, Emily. I just couldn’t recognize you.
This next incident is even more embarrassing…and I can’t remember if I ever told the person in question about it. It took me a VERY long time to recognize my good friend, Jane, by sight. Weeks, after seeing her regularly even – again, she was someone else I had met and had a substantial conversation with previously, who had to reintroduce herself to me.
Another one happened less than a year ago, involving my friend and batchmate (or, fellow cohort member) Ching. We were all out for Allison’s birthday at some dark Mexican restaurant, but it wasn’t so dark to excuse what happened. Ching sat diagonally across from me. I just couldn’t place her, and my brain jumped to the conclusion that I had never met her. It screamed at me, “NEW PERSON! NEW PERSON! Introduce yourself!” So I did. I even asked her name again, and when she told me, I could have sunk into the floor.
I hate not making the connection when it seems to come naturally for everyone else, and it’s even worse when it’s someone I consider a friend. It makes me feel like the other person thinks I don’t feel they’re worth my remembering, and the truth couldn’t be further from it. There have been countless times when I’ve stuck my hand out to shake someone else’s hand and said, “Nice to meet you”, only to be met with “Don’t you remember? We’ve met before.” Makes me feel awful. And, since I’ve started being aware of this quirk, I get slightly anxious when I’m about to meet someone I know I’ve met before and SHOULD recognize on sight (but often can’t picture their face in my head) – so much so that when I met my friend Kelly this summer for the second time over tea, I texted her beforehand to warn her about my penchant for misremembering faces.
So, in addition to publicly apologizing to Susan today for my brain going blank, I want to say, if this ever happens to you, I’m really REALLY sorry!!
I think it’s an indication I’ve been watching too much Law & Order SVU when I say, if you rape me, you don’t have to worry about me IDing you because I won’t be able to pick you out of a lineup, so don’t kill me, please.