The Lovely Way My Wife Tries To Save My Dumb Ass From Embarrassment

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relationships forgot names

Seriously, I'd be a mess without her.

There are about a hundred thousand reasons why I probably couldn’t survive without my wife. First and foremost, of course, because I love her, I treasure our marriage, and she’s the mother of my child. But coming up close behind that are all of the ways in which our relationship helps me be less pathetic.

For instance, I have a horrible problem with names. I know, you’re about to say “Me too!” because everyone thinks they’re bad with names. But I’m REALLY BAD with names. I like to call what I have “name blindness.”


It's really bad. And embarrassing. There's no good excuse for it and yet... my wife has found a way to live with my name amnesia. I have a social life, free of name anxiety, largely thanks to her.

How has she improved my stupid existence so dramatically? By helping me develop a trick for remembering people’s names in social situations. It's not even about remembering really. It's more about sparing me from the indignity of having to admit to someone I've known for decades that I have NO IDEA what their name is.

And because that trick has saved my dumb ass SO many times, I want to share it with all of you.

It started with the drills.

For years, my wife and I have run drills, name drills, before she takes me out in public.

If we’re driving to an event, for example, we spend most of the car ride with her quizzing me on people’s names.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a work event or a family wedding. (It doesn’t even matter if it’s MY family or her family.) I flounder. I flail. I can’t put a name to the face.

I tend to blame my condition on social anxiety. I am normally so keyed up when I meet new people — trying to smile, act normal, and remember all of the anecdotes that I’m convinced make me delightful to strangers — that I miss the first few seconds of our conversation. And guess what you learn in those first few seconds? THEIR NAMES.

Once that moment has passed, it’s a hard, sobering thing to have to tap the brakes and say, “I’m sorry. What was your name again?” Granted, it can be done. It’s what a strong, polite person would do.


I am not a strong, polite person. My wife knows this and, god bless her, she helps me hide that side of myself from the world.

Want to know how bad it gets? Want an idea of how pathetic my ineptitude with names is?

Here's the trick I promised earlier. The trick that will help you escape when you're trapped in a situation with a person whose name you can't remember. But it only works if you have a partner-in-crime. A partner who just happens to be the best wife in the world.

My wife and I have a contingency plan — that we’ve practiced — for when I forget someone’s name at a party.

Someone will approach us, smiling. I recognize this person. This person recognizes me. We’ve interacted before. They’ve never met my wife before and they’re coming over to say hi.

There is a social contract — a very reasonable social contract — that dictates that I will greet this person, firmly shake their hand, and then introduce them to my wife.

But I don’t know their name.

Fortunately, my very patient wife KNOWS that I don’t know their name. She can see it in my eyes. The terror, the abject panic. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. So we have a “move.”

That’s right. A move.


Here’s how it goes: The nameless acquaintance reaches us. I greet him or her enthusiastically. “SO good to see you.” The nameless one addresses me warmly, often using my first and last name, because the universe likes reminding me that I am a terrible person.

We reach that natural pause, the pause when two people talking recognize the third person standing next to them, where every rule of common decency demands that I start making introductions.

So I begin to introduce my wife and…

I start coughing.


I start fake-coughing as hard as I can. I hold up a finger (“Just a sec”), I make an exasperated face (“Boy, something went down the wrong pipe”), and I cough and I cough and I cough.


I cough for so long that, eventually, it becomes socially acceptable for my wife to just introduce herself, apologizing for her enfeebled husband, while I fake-struggle to fake-compose myself.

The nameless person, who is SO sympathetic to my plight, responds in kind — “Hi, I’m Mark” — and I recover just in time to say:

“Yes! Mark! Honey, this is Mark!”

[Cough, cough]

“Sorry, Mark. [Cough. Whew! What was that?]”

“Anyway, Mark, have you met my wife before?”

I shamelessly repeat Mark’s name over and over, just to make sure he knows in big bold letters that “OF COURSE, I KNEW YOUR NAME” and, if I’m being honest, to help me remember his name for the next five minutes until he walks out of my frame of vision and I forget his name again.

That’s how bad it is.

I can blame nervousness and anxiety, but, really, the fact that I’m forgetting so many names probably has more to do with ego than anything.

When I meet people, I’m making the experience about myself, not about them. I’m in my own head, constantly thinking of the next thing I want to say, rather than being in the moment and actually listening. I’m turning my conversations into a performance rather than an actual human-to-human interaction.

My wife has been a wonderful, exceedingly patient enabler over the years, but perhaps I need to abandon our move and let myself fall on my face occasionally.

Yes, it will be embarrassing, and, yes, I might even hurt some feelings. However, in the long run, I might actually learn something about the people in my life (maybe finally learning their names is the right place to start).

At the very least, it would give my wife a break. Because, bless her, she's been getting my back, no matter how stupid the situation is, for over eighteen years now.

And THAT, my friend, is LOVE.

She knows I'm ridiculous. She knows that I do ridiculous things. And yet, she happily participates in my dumbness, simply because she's trying to protect my heart.

That's the opposite of ego. That's empathy. That's heroism. That. Is. Love.

So, please know that, if we ever meet in public, there is a 99% chance I will forget your name almost immediately. I'm not proud of that fact, but it is what it is.

Fortunately for me, I'm the luckiest dumb-ass in the whole wide world, so you might not even realize it. All because of HER. And, for that, I have my wife to thank, always and forever.

(I want to say her name is Annie... I'm pretty sure her name is Annie.)