I sat down just now and wondered, What do I write about today? And somehow the idea of names floated into my head. Not what we are named (I wrote about that back in May). But the fact that whenever we meet someone new, we pretty much immediately forget what that person is called. And then feel ashamed, or at least apologetic, when we have to ask again.
I've gotten pretty good at saying simply, "I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name," without having also to splutter that I always forget names! I'm so bad at names! Sometimes I have to ask three or four times!
As we all tend to do . . . Because, yeah, names are hard. There's nothing obvious about a name. I mean, I could be Anne or Meredith or Pocahantas—well, okay, Pocahantas you might remember. But I kinda almost think not. Because I do not look like a Pocahantas. You would just remember me as "that woman with the really weird name. What was it? . . . Something Indian? Really? Who does she think she is, anyway?"
I was let off the shame hook on the subject of names years ago, by Art Garfunkel. He was on the Dick Cavett Show, it might have been around 1970, and Cavett asked him something about his name. I don't know what. Maybe what it is like to live with such a memorable name. After all, that name—Art Garfunkel—does have a certain cachet.
And Art said that he doesn't put a lot of stock in his name. "Names are so arbitrary," he commented. He said it very eruditely (he's a pretty smart guy), and I wish I remembered more of what he said, but the gist was: Don't worry about not remembering people's names. They could be called anything.
As I was trying to come up (via the Internet) with something more than that scanty memory, I happened on many amazing videos of Simon & Garfunkel performing together, and that sweet, sweet voice harmonizing so beautifully. Art was dubbed "the second name," but without him that duo would have lacked their special magic. (And I don't dis Paul Simon in saying that: he's a formidable artist, and I love him. But Simon & Garfunkel were something else.)
And then I stumbled on this: Art Garfunkel in 2013 at age seventy-two, writing a note to his younger self (a CBS This Morning series). And, yeah . . . like I said: he's a pretty smart guy. And I'm glad to this day that he taught me not to worry about remembering people's names. Eventually, if they're people I want to know, their names will stick.