Losing the plot…

I sat and stared, listening to my mouth continuing about its business. With a curious, detached prescience, I was acutely aware that my words were about to run out. I needed his name. Needed to end my speech with it. I knew that I knew it. But could I recall it?

I was exhausted, I ached, I’d driven for hours on little sleep… all good reasons. Even so, the blank spot was curious. A ‘senior moment’?

It would have been bad enough were I speaking to a new acquaintance; I am notoriously bad with names in person, though I never forget faces. I pass people in the street, folk I met years ago, and remember them. I can remember the circumstances… even if I only met them briefly in the line of business, but names escape me.

Oddly, though, the people I meet mostly online, I remember by name. It is that first point of contact that seems to matter…that fixes them in memory. My memory seems to prefer to work visually, which probably explains why I take so many pictures. Someone I meet in person will be remembered by their face, but a blogger, for example, will be known, first and foremost, by the name I see on screen, and by the picture they use for their online presence.

Once I get to know a person, though, I don’t forget. Except, apparently, I do. The person I was speaking to was more than a chance acquaintance… it was someone very close to me, someone I love. One of the handful of people at the heart of my world. And he was suddenly nameless.

I seemed to see a thousand lifetimes where our paths had crossed or met, each bearing different names. I listed them in my mind, knowing I would forget them instantly, wishing I could remember them to talk about it later. But the one name I needed eluded me.

While my mouth was busy, I started mentally retracing the steps of our relationship, visualising events, until I found his name ‘written down’ in my imagination. It took no more than a split second, from panic to recall, though the blank spaces felt like eternity.

I could not possibly have said, “What was your name again?” to someone I have known for years! He would either have been mortally wounded, or (more likely) I would never have lived it down having afforded him untold amusement. Anyone a little less close might have been seriously offended… because it matters that people remember our names.

That was what struck me. We label ourselves and our self-image with variations on our name, from the formal names and titles we use in the workplace, to the diminutives, derivatives and roles used by our nearest and dearest. Our names are the one thing we offer unreservedly to the world… and, once given, we expect the world to catch them and retain a good hold. We define them for ourselves… and then allow them to define us.

I wonder why they matter so much? We speak of someone ‘having a good name’ or ‘getting a bad name’, we attach importance to our lineage and, historically, preserving the ‘family name’. Sons who would carry that name forward were prized when daughters who would change their name were not. It is an odd idea.

I have, and have borne, many names, nicknames and ‘titles’ throughout my life. Oddly, the only names that are unchangeably mine … my full forenames… are never used, except when I am in trouble or coming round from anaesthesia, which is pretty much the same thing.

The names that have always mattered most to me have been short, foreign or not really names at all. The three letters of  ‘Sue’ and ‘Mum’, the French version that always came with Leonard Cohen quotes, ‘Grandma’, the hobbit references and the occasional ‘Wendolina’… these are truly ‘given’ names and mean far more to me than their official counterparts, for they were given with love.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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48 Responses to Losing the plot…

  1. One day, while talking to Garry, I forgot his name.

    One day, when Garry was reporting from a location somewhere — on TV — he forgot his OWN name.

    I don’t know why we have these odd slippages, but I’m not good with names or faces unless I’ve had some kind of relationship — a talk, an exchange — something that fixes someone in my mind — online or in person. But the forgetting of someone you’ve known? It happens and not just to old people. It also happens to people who get too busy to keep track of their own minds 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Suzanne says:

    I’m terrible with names too. Once I forgot the name of work colleague even though I saw her at least once a week. She thought I’d completely lost the plot when I confessed. In my defense I was very stressed and exhausted with work pressures at the time. Like you say – I got too busy to keep track of my own mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. buffalopound says:

    Whew – glad I’m not alone in this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    The brain likes to play tricks on is.💜

    Liked by 2 people

  5. jenanita01 says:

    After you reach seventy, you seem to get away with moments like this. Not that I enjoy the knowing looks, or the ‘never mind’ that tends to come with them. But at least I get to forget all of these as well!


  6. I tend to remember the name of an owner’s dog rather than theirs. Then of course you get the occasion when the dog is called Tim and the son Horatio (oops). I was always the sister Di, not Di, the sister. The arrangement of those words seemed important all those years ago. Now I’m just Di, and I’m comfortable with that.


  7. Your last line says it all and I heartily agree with the sentiment. I’m a bit rubbish at names myself and am often accosted by people who clearly know me leaving me grinning wildly while struggling to remember where we met!!


  8. Mary Smith says:

    Oh, yes, I’ve been there, too! A friend brought my book to be signed at a book launch and I blanked. I’d known her for years, could have told you the names of her husband and family, her address and post code, but not her name. I kept chatting but the line of people waiting was growing. Finally, inspiration struck and I asked: “Whose name shall I write in the book?” She said: “Oh, just mine.” I confessed. Her face was a picture – a mixture of hurt I’d forgotten her name (though it was clear from our conversation I had not fogotten her), anxiety and pity that I was showing signs of Alzheimers. I’ve learned to ask people how they spell their name, explaining that nowadays there are so many variations!


  9. Fandango says:

    I’m pretty bad when it comes to remembering names. So I end up calling someone “pal” or “buddy” or “dude” if they’re male. I used to call women whose names I couldn’t recall “honey” or “sweetie” or “babe,” but that is no longer acceptable, so now I just smile and ask how they’re doing without using any name or name substitute.


  10. noelleg44 says:

    I’m bad with both names and faces – I guess 30 years of teaching does that. But I never forget a voice!


  11. Eliza Waters says:

    It is so embarrassing when this happens! It happens most often to me when I am introducing some acquaintance to another. My mind just goes blank. Some help me out by filling in the blank, but most think I’m losing my mind, which maybe I am! 😀


  12. Widdershins says:

    I’ve never been good with names, but these days I just barge on and ask ’em what it is, and carry on. 🙂


  13. dgkaye says:

    You are not alone Sue with that name blank, lol. The same happens to me sometimes. I wonder if it’s an age thing. Scary omen if so, lol. And like you, my full first name is much too formal for my liking, reserved for doctors and such, and of course, the name my mother used to call me when she was angry. No wonder I don’t prefer it. 🙂 ❤


  14. Jennie says:

    You wrote the words that have been brewing inside me for the last ten years. Thank you for that!


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