What do you do when someone says, “Hi, it’s me Blah-blah-blah. It’s been a long time, my friend. I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished…” etcetera, etcetera, and the name is not even remotely familiar? I’m not an impolite person (except with assholes) but on such occasions it is tempting to ask, “Have we met before?”
It’s true that a person cannot be expected to remember all the names and faces he has come across with his entire life. Oh, there are exceptions to be sure and they become politicians. For me, some people I recognize instantly even when I haven’t seen them for ages, some names I recall, some faces look familiar even when I cannot connect them with their correct names. But even women who have gotten married and whose married names I am not aware of… well, I’d remember first names if, at any point in time, we had been close enough to call each other “friend”.
For instance, back in college, I was at an LTO office renewing my driver’s license. A girl called out to me from across the room. She didn’t look familiar and I didn’t know how to react. She saw me knit my brows in my panicky attempt at rummaging through my memory so she stood up, walked up to me, smiled and said her name. Instant recall! We squealed with pleasure, hugged and laughed, and I was not being dishonest when I said I was so glad to see her. Of course, she wouldn’t look familiar — we hadn’t seen each other since graduating from grade school! But a friend is a friend and one does not forget.
At other times, I’d see a face in a crowd and I’m so sure I know the person. Years ago, Speedy and I were in a restaurant in Chinatown. There was this Chinese guy who greeted me by name. I found myself in a tight spot because I knew I had to make some introductions but I couldn’t remember his name. But I knew him — the speech pattern was familiar (meaning, we had spent a lot of time conversing in the past), the face was familiar, the smile was familiar, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember his name. Much later, it hit me — he was my seatmate for one semester in a Philo class and we spent the entire semester chatting and whispering instead of listening to the boring lectures.
Anyway, so someone got in touch with me online, mentioned a name that could mean a he or a she, called me “my friend” and I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t. Let’s call him/her Robin. Robin Surname. If Robin is a he, the full name should be familiar if we were really friends. If Robin is a she and Surname is her married name, then it’s possible that I really knew her but can’t remember — yet. But the only Robin I know is a he and he is Robin Something-Else, not Robin Surname. So, who’s this Robin?
Thing is, this Robin’s communication was so worded such that the impression I got was that he/she got in touch because I had become “famous” (tra la la)… He/She did use the word “famous”. You know, it’s that feeling and his/her words weren’t even all that ambivalent. It’s like, it’s no big deal not to remember me for two decades but I’m worth getting in touch with now that I’m in media and I have a popular food blog. How am I supposed to feel about that? Flattered? Or insulted? And that’s assuming that we really knew each other. Like I said, the only “Robin” I know is a he and he has a different last name.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that he/she is a total stranger feigning friendship because he/she wants something and he/she is counting on my polite side not to turn him/her down even if I can’t remember him/her. You know, just in case I really knew him/her.
But me? I’ve been through this song-and-dance routine many times before. That’s why I didn’t respond. I’ll let Robin bungle his/her way trying to explain how we’re “friends”.