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Growing Pains: What's in a name?

Elizabeth Kukla

Elizabeth Kukla

I went on my first cold-turkey date this past Friday. I’ve been on dates before, but this was the first when I had been asked to dinner by someone I had never met and had no mutual friend or connection to in any way.

He's a first year med student at UVA; he is nice. When I mentioned this upcoming date to my mother, she asked me his name. Problem was, I didn't know it. Rather than the scolding I was expecting, this was greeted by howling laughter on the other end of the phone line.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t remember anything anymore,” then  “I can't believe you don't remember”  amid bursts of our laughter.

I’m not good with names. I love meeting new people. I love learning about them, their cultures, their lives, past, present, future. I will remember their faces forever. But names? I will likely have forgotten that within 10 seconds of hearing it. It’s a problem I didn’t really realize was out-of-hand until this past weekend.

I went on a 3+ hour dinner date with a nice enough guy --had a rare, grass-fed hamburger with grilled onions and garlic aioli,  cheese from a local dairy farm, on a locally baked, multigrain bun, at one of the only restaurants in Charlottesville that serves Abita Amber (which I obviously ordered) -- and never did figure out his name. His number is sitting in my phone as, well, just his unlabeled, Atlanta number.

I’ve tried repeating names when people introduce themselves, rhyming their names with something, but it never works.

This is partly because when I am out meeting new people, I operate on the assumption that 90 percent of the really cool people I meet will be “fest friends” -- you know, the ones you have a great time with and never see again. So really, what’s in a name?

I dated a guy my first semester of college, and when I met him, had almost an hour-long conversation with him. He was an engineering student, his parents moved here from Germany, his dad is a professor/historian at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. When he came to find my friend and me the following night, I introduced Megan to him first, and let him introduce himself, because I couldn’t remember his name, either.

Then I think about this random guy my childhood friend and I met in the Quarter one night, passing the Hermes bar. He was visiting. He had a cup from the Cat’s Meow, so we decided he would be “Cat’s Meow Cup Man” or “CM squared”; his actual name was Daniel.

I think about my coworker Cass, who blatantly introduced himself to me in front of a customer we were both helping by saying, “Excuse me one moment, sir,” and then turning to me, “Hi. I’m Cass, I don’t think we’ve me t...” I never forgot his name once, as I did with at least half my other coworkers at the running shop, when I first started working there.

With the latter two, finding out their name was part of what made that funny and memorable moment what it was. With the former, their names were small talk, which I don’t have space for in my brain amid all the personal restaurant and meal reviews stored there.

It’s something I should probably work on, but then again, fest friends are pretty great. And my mom needs to feel like she isn’t the only forgetful one. So, I may just carry on.

 

Native New Orleanian Elizabeth Kukla is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She writes about being a NOLA girl from afar in “Growing Pains,” a weekly column at NolaVie.