LC Van Savage
Faces, Names and Helen
Helen Hayes, (remember her? First Lady of the Theater?) is credited with
saying what has become for me, a mantra; “I never remember a name, but I
always forget a face.”
Maybe that didn’t originate with her, but it’s from her I first heard it
and it’s now my life- credo. I can’t remember names or faces. Almost always.
Verily I wish it were the law of the land that everyone be required to
wear large stick-on white name tags, their names in huge, thick black
letters thereon, seeable from a block away, through 100 year old eyeballs.
I’ve been forgetting names of people I’ve known for years, some my whole
life. I recall the first time this happened. I was in my thirties and had
just had dinner with our next door neighbor, a lovely woman named Maureen.
Our children were always at each others’ homes, we babysat each others’
kids, our dogs, we were good friends and talked on the phone nearly every
day. After dinner we had to go to a meeting. Maureen did not know the
hostess, so I stood in the doorway and began to introduce her and whoosh,
her first and last names vanished, along with the names of her kids and dog.
I froze. She stared at me in utter disbelief and I stared back at her, now a
total stranger, my mind an echoing blank. A bad moment. With an edge to her
voice, she rescued me by giving a brief CV, and was a little distant from
This difficulty didn’t end with that blundered evening. Alas, it continued
to happen, often frequently with people I’ve known intimately. Once I quite
nearly forgot Mongo’s name (hard to believe, right?) but he forgives all my
gaffes. I have avoided highschool and college reunions because I fear some
of my old school chums won’t want to wear their name tags and their faces
will be fairly unchanged, and maybe I roomed with them or had some
unforgettable, life-altering experiences with them and I’ll go blank and
they’ll be insulted. Or something. Maybe I’ll get over this by my 65th
reunion since by then no one will remember anything anyway, and it won’t
While we’re on the subject of names, what’s with all this
first-name-repeating stuff that’s going around? Is there some new-agey
how-to, let’s-make-everyone-feel-important book out there telling us this is
a great idea? Is it a rule that if we constantly repeat a person’s name
again and again and again in all conversations with them, we’re making them
feel valuable or something? This practice is incredibly maddening, making
me want to shout, “I know I forget things, but I swear, I know my own name.
You don’t have to keep saying it!!”
Perhaps for people like Helen Hayes and me, saying a person’s name a couple
of times does a kind of imprint deal, stamping those names forever into our
flighty brain memory spheres. Perhaps not. But to use a person’s name
constantly, after every four words in the conversation, every single time
we meet, at every gathering, at casual meetings — can really make you nuts.
Well, it makes me nuts. Here’s a sample:
“Hi LC! Good to see you LC. How’s Mongo, LC? I see you’ve just bought a
big bunch of arugula, LC. LC, you really like that stuff LC? Ugh, I think it
’s so bitter, LC. But each to his own, LC. Personally LC, I prefer Bok
Choy, LC. ‘Bye now LC.”
Get the idea? And then to compound this insanity, I see the same person the
next day and the new conversation again includes my name at least 27 times.
Maybe I ought to go blank next time and say, “Who is this ‘LC ’ of whom you
speak? My name is Therulatta Tonnaschell. Go away.”
Now that’s a name even I wouldn’t forget. Maybe.
As an author with several books published, LC Van Savage still finds time for air time and an active community service life.
See her biography by clicking her byline (name in blue at top of the page.)
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