Editorial Notebook

“Dory Syndrome” epidemic

Hey you. Yes you. You’re that one guy that I met in the floor lounge. Or at Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond. Or I sit near in math. You’re the one that I say hi to when I see you around campus or in the residence hall or at a hockey game. I know you. Well, I know your face. Unfortunately, names aren’t exactly my forte, and, to be honest, a lot of other people struggle with them too. I, along with many others, have mental files full of faces that we just cannot place or put a name to.

I’m just drawing a blank. I knew your name twenty seconds ago when you introduced yourself, and now it’s just not there. Then again, no one wants to say hi to someone, only to realize that it’s not actually them. So, I’m sorry if I didn’t say hi when you waved. Or when you walked by my room. Or when you held the door for me. It’s nothing personal, I promise. I’m not trying to forget your name on purpose. It just happens.

As a first semester college freshman, I have met a million and half more people than I was prepared for. Granted, I’ve met maybe 200 of you, but still. With so many names, majors, hometowns and other characteristics to play “Guess Who?” with, many have fallen in with the mix. I couldn’t count on two hands how many people I greet in a day, only to realize seconds after they have left that I still don’t remember their name. Sometimes I’ll ask someone I am with whether they remember the name of “the person I was just talking to,” but after that long conversation we just had? That’d be embarrassing for both of us.

However, the longer I wait, the more awkward it will be for me to be brave and declare, “I give up. I just don’t remember what your name is. What was your name again?” And now, a month and a half or so into the semester, we’ve come to the stage where I may have had too many interactions with someone for it to be socially acceptable for me to have forgotten their name.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t want to meet you or get to know you or even be introduced to you. I’d like to meet you and not forget your name. I’d like it even more if, after a week or so, I could still remember your name. If you haven’t heard me say your name to you since we met, chances are that I have, regrettably, forgotten your name.

So, remind me. Talk about yourself in the third person. Tell me an anecdote where someone talks to you and refers to you by name. Make a joke about yourself. Invent a silly nickname for yourself. I don’t want to be rude and call you Christopher when your name is Roxanne. I want to know your name if I’m going to get to know you better, but I might need a small hint.

This isn’t just my own problem either. I will bet every single person who reads this two dollars that they know someone, or are someone, who suffers from chronic name-forgetting, or “Dory syndrome,” as it’s known. It’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. For my fellow sufferers, there is hope. Maybe you’ll get lucky and someone will say their name while you are talking, or they’ll do one of the listed things above and remind you. However, sometimes, honesty is the best option. Just go for it. Tell them you are terrible with names and you just need a reminder. Most people will understand.

Or you could try out a new trick that I read about somewhere. Carry a post-it note and ask them to write their full name on it. Then when they ask you why, make up something good. “My cat wanted to know,” “I want to forge your handwriting,” or “It’s for when I turn in a list of names to the National Security Agency” are all perfectly normal excuses that you are free to use to help you get out of a jam. Now go get out there and learn some names.