I Probably Can’t Remember What You Look Like

Not for people I know well, obviously. But if I’ve only met you once or twice, chances are I have a really hard time remembering what you look like, even if we sat and talked for a while.

True story: during my freshman year at BYU, I went on a blind date with a girl. We had a great time. Really hit it off, and I liked her right away. The only problem? I couldn’t for the life of me remember what she looked like after that first date. I had her name and her phone number. I knew what building she lived in. But if I tried to remember what she looked like?

Nada.

She was short and blonde and cute, and that was all I could remember.

In my defense, the date had been dinner and a movie, and it’s not like you’re staring at a person’s face throughout a whole movie. It was also at night, and dark in the restaurant. (We went to a rib place. It was tasty. I can remember that now, over 20 years later. I’ve forgotten what movie we saw, however.) I called her up and asked her to go on a second date, and she agreed, but the whole time between when I asked her out again and actually picked her up, I went around BYU being extra nice to any short, cute, blonde girls I saw. (Not particularly difficult to do, I’ll grant you.)

I developed this sort of non-committal, friendly smile that I still use to this day. You sort of tuck your lips in and pull them back in a way that might be a smile and might be you just getting ready to face the day. I teach a bunch of students here at UMF. I interact with many different professors. I can’t honestly remember all their faces, so I’m right back at the same place I was after that first blind date: worried I’ll inadvertently give someone I know the cold shoulder.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I eventually did go out on a second date with the girl. (Though I couldn’t remember what she looked like even when I was standing in her lobby waiting for her to come down. That was a bit touch and go, but I got through it.) We even became a couple for a while, and I’m still Facebook friends with her today. (Yes, I can now remember what she looks like, even without double checking on Facebook.)

But if I haven’t met you more than three or four times, there’s a high chance I can’t remember your face. I remember we met. I remember what happened. But that’s about it. It’s not personal, I swear. But it makes things like family reunions awkward, as a stream of people I rarely see all remember exactly who I am, while I’m scrambling to remember which family member they are and hoping they’re not one I should know really well. Or when a student or faculty member comes to the desk and seems like they might know me. Or they might not . . .

Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me?

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