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That Woman

In addition to driving myself mad whenever I misplace something in the house, I am equally bothered by being unable to name songs (thank you, Shazam, even if you don’t help with humming tunes out) or place people.

The placing people thing really gets under my skin because solving the question means talking to the person and admitting that I’m trying to figure out how we know each other.  Or… more often than not… not really know each other because we’ve never actually met.  They’re just random people I’ve seen waiting for the bus on a daily basis or seen across the aisle at shul.  Anyway, sometimes the people are too far away to strike up a conversation, so I’m left staring at the back of their head and running through lists of possibilities.  It bothers me to be that close and that far away at the same time.

We went to see Evita, and a woman I couldn’t place was sitting two rows ahead of me.  I stared at the side of her face on and off throughout the show trying to jog my memory.  Where would I know her from?  Their old preschool?  Was she someone’s grandmother?

I left without figuring it out or getting to speak to her.  It bothered me all night.

The next morning, the ChickieNob and I went to get our hair cut, and THE WOMAN was sitting in my hairdresser’s chair, getting her hair styled.  It felt like the universe stuck her in my path again just so I could ask how I knew her.  When she went to pay, I admitted that I had sat behind her at the theater the night before and was trying to figure out how I knew her.

“The library,” she told me.  “I used to be a librarian.”

Mystery solved.  Huge sigh of relief.

The ChickieNob told me that she thought it was very brave that I would choose to look that weird in front of a stranger.  But… it isn’t weird to ask someone how you know them (right?) AND it bothers me a lot when I can’t place someone.

Doesn’t it bother you enough to ask?


1 Karen { 07.24.16 at 8:23 am }

Always. Usually I say, “you look so familiar and I know we have met before but I can’t remember how!”

There was a woman at Owen’s indoor soccer game one day last winter that I could not place and I finally had to ask. She admitted the same thing! It took us about 15 minutes of comparing notes, but we finally figured out that we were colleagues from work. I felt so much better afterwards – I would have wondered for so long!

2 Beth { 07.24.16 at 9:05 am }

I wish I could do this. I am so awkward talking to strangers, especially in places where I’m already uncomfortable like the hair stylists’, that I don’t ask and then it torments me. This is why I love the internet when I’m watching a show or movie – imdb can tell me right away why a particular character looks so familiar and where I’ve already seen him/her. I need imdb in real life.

3 a { 07.24.16 at 9:59 am }

People often “recognize” me…except they don’t actually know me. I just look like everyone. :/

And I’ve noticed that the longer I live in a small town, the more familiar everyone starts to look. I’d be spending all my time asking people how I knew them when I’d only been at the post office at the same time they were.

4 Cristy { 07.24.16 at 3:11 pm }

Yes, I have to ask. More often than not I find myself in a situation where I know where I know the person from, I just can’t remember exactly who they are. Joy upon joy as it’s usually past students who then want letters of recommendation.

5 Working mom of 2 { 07.24.16 at 3:49 pm }

Usually I don’t ask for fear of embarrassment, in case it’s someone I should really remember, e.g. I worked with them before…

6 Mali { 07.24.16 at 10:49 pm }

I think it’s better to ask than to risk insulting someone who thinks you should remember them. In my 20s and early 30s, I used to be quite offended when people couldn’t remember me when I remembered them (I generally have a pretty good memory for faces), but a good friend of mine has explained her terrible memory for faces, and now I’m much more forgiving. So I’d rather be asked. Even at the hair salon.

But songs? I can never remember the names of songs, or the singers. Remember? I usually never know them in the first place!

7 Danielle Dayney { 07.25.16 at 6:26 am }

You are braver than me. I don’t know if I would have the courage to ask a stranger anything – I’m pretty shy, by nature.

8 Jessica { 07.25.16 at 8:16 am }

No, I would not be asking where I met them.

9 chickenpig { 07.25.16 at 8:59 am }

I’m with a. I live in a very small town, and people will walk right up and start talking to people like they know me, and I won’t know them from Adam. Then they tell me that they like my kitchen or that they want my bathroom. (apparently my house was on some kind of Christmas open house tour, and the former owners had a huge tag sale when they divorced. Everyone in town has seen my house. And has opinions on it.) People also randomly honk at me when I am walking my dog or playing with my kids in the front yard. Then at the grocery store (everyone ends up there, eventually) the random person will say “I saw you in your yard with your dog, you didn’t wave!” (true story, she was an aid in my daughter’s kindergarten class). It’s kind of creepy if you are an introvert, like me, and have trouble remembering people’s faces.

10 Jess { 07.25.16 at 10:16 am }

My husband uses Shazam all the time, but sometimes it’s to identify new songs he hasn’t heard before but really likes, so he can collect them. In some cases I might be as brave as you…but I tend to put my foot in it. I have normally really great facial recognition, but had a very, very embarrassing situation this past year when we had a substitute teacher in for a 1:1 aide in my classroom, and I couldn’t place her so I said, “You look awfully familiar and I’m so sorry to have to ask, where do I know you from?” It turned out that a) I had been on an interview committee for a job she didn’t get and b) she had been a long-term sub for 3 months in our building on the 7th grade team EARLIER THAT YEAR. I wish I hadn’t asked, because way to make someone feel invisible. But, if there’s that nagging feeling and I had the opportunity to run into the familiar stranger TWICE? I don’t think I could pass up the opportunity to ask. You were brave and it paid off! Mystery solved.

11 dubliner in deutschland { 07.25.16 at 11:19 am }

gosh, I would be too embarrassed to ask someone how I know them! I remember one time a long time ago a girl I knew but couldn’t for the life of me remember how struck up a long conversation with me in a shop. I was able to keep chatting all the while trying to work out who she was and what her name was! Eventually I remembered that I used to go to school with her and I was used to seeing her in our school uniform that seeing her out of context threw me off.

12 Ana { 07.25.16 at 11:39 am }

I’ve gotten better at asking these days. I just lead with “I know I know you from somewhere, but I’m terrible at names/faces”. Often times the other person has the same issue, and we work it out eventually. I actually have an overall good memory for other details, so once I can place the person I can follow up with something they had told me once, so its clear that its not just that I can’t be bothered to learn their name.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.26.16 at 12:59 pm }

I would ask. And how coincidental that circumstances brought you in each others’ orbits twice in 24 hours.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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