I am not the best when it comes to names and faces. I will remember one or the other, but I cannot seem to put them together. And I’ve even tried the thing where you hear someone’s name and then you imagine them wrapped up in their name, like “Monica Berg” becomes a cheeseburger moaning in ecstasy or whatever, but the next time I see that lady, you can bet I’ll somehow end up calling her “Patty Cheesescream,” right to her face.

Part of it is I’m not good at recognizing people once they’re out of the element where I knew them. Sticking forever in my GuiltSpot is the time I got caught checking the nameplate of a woman who was walking toward me for a warm reunion. “You had to read my name!” she marveled. In my defense, I hadn’t seen her in close to three years and when I had she worked for an entirely different network. I believe I stumbled out a, “No, I just got confused as to which room I was entering HELLOOOOOOOOOO!”

Still. I’m bad at this. Therefore it stands to reason that if you throw booze into it, I’m going to be worse. Friday night I reached a new level of “Wow,” so much so that I’m not sleeping so well over how stupid I must have sounded in trying to recover from my idiocy.

We went to a wine tasting on a hill in Hollywood, where you try various wines and enjoy a sunset tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. It all sounded lovely and like a perfect break from all the writing and rewriting I’d been doing, living in the imaginary worlds like a hermit.

Turns out it is the place to be if you’re under five and you’ve got parents who like to drink wine. For a good ninety minutes I couldn’t find another female who didn’t have a child on her hip, in her lap, running toward her, running away from her, or growing inside of her.

So much wine and expensively-clad children. I was unprepared, and therefore made up for my lack of offspring with enthusiastic wine tasting.

Halfway into my second glass I saw a familiar face. A man I’m going to call “A—,” because I’ve worked with him and this story is going to showcase my accidental asshole nature, so I’d rather just keep the focus on me. In any event, A— was wearing sunglasses instead of his usual frames, relaxed and smiling in a definite non-work mode. I opened my arms and he walked into them. “Hello, Pamela,” he said, kissing my cheek.

[scripty]

PAMIE’S BRAIN
“Pamela,” I didn’t expect the full name like that. Oh, and the cheek kiss. Never prepared for that. Don’t kiss back don’t kiss back don’t kiss back don’t kiss back–

PAMIE
Hello! I’m the only one here without a baby. Can I borrow one of yours?
[/scripty]

He has two. Twin girls, I remembered. I turned to the side to re-introduce my boyfriend, just in case people don’t know names.

[scripty]

PAMIE
You remember Jason?

A—
No, I don’t think we’ve met.

PAMIE’S BRAIN
Wait. If he doesn’t know Jason, that must mean… he’s not A—, he’s S—! I haven’t seen him in years! We worked on that show so long ago, but he also has two kids, so luckily I didn’t say something stupid. No wonder, the cheek kiss and the “Pamela.”

A—
Hey, so we’re sitting over there. Come say hello to L— and —-. We’re total regulars here. Come all the time.

PAMIE’S BRAIN
I think “L—” is the name of one of S—‘s daughters. Or was it his wife’s name? I’ve never noticed how similar they look before. I can’t be drunk yet, that’s insane. The point is: if he says he comes here all the time, then it must be S—, because A— lives like, almost half an hour from here. Who would want to drive to this every Friday night with a car full of kids? Okay, it’s totally S—. That’s funny. I can’t believe I thought he was A—. It’s the happiness that is throwing me. I’m not used to writers looking relaxed.
[/scripty]

Just before the tour, an older couple stopped us and offered up all of their drink tickets. (I’m just reminding you, there was drinking.) We met up with friends, went on our Hollyhock House tour, and then refilled our glasses.

I stood off to the side, staring at a girl I was mostly sure was Jessica, but I had seen her staring at me earlier and she never once gave a wave.

I had noticed her because, well, she looked like Jessica, but more importantly she was one of the three women at the wine tasting without a baby, and I wanted to make sure we all knew we had each other’s backs.

The more I stared, the more I became convinced that this woman fifteen feet away from me was definitely my friend. So I went over. Luckily, I was right.

[scripty]

PAMIE
You were staring, so I wasn’t sure!

JESSICA
Because I was staring at your dress, it’s so cute! I never looked at your head!

PAMIE
That’s okay, there’s a guy over there who I thought was someone he wasn’t, and the only thing that kept me from being a complete asshole is that he also has two kids, because everybody here has at least one.
[/scripty]

She was with the third woman who didn’t have a baby, and we formed a tight, ovarian-shielding circle of solidarity as we talked.

During this time, S— had passed me a number of times on his way to and from the food trucks, the wine tables, etc. Each time we have mostly avoided eye-contact or chatting, because who wants to do that awkward over-step and exaggerated drinking-motion you have to do when you repeatedly pass someone on your way to lines or refills.

Four glasses in, emboldened by my, “I know everybody here and it’s totally a reunion,” feeling, I recognize the woman in line in front of me as someone I’d gone to college with, but I hadn’t seen in a very long time. We weren’t close in school but we were in the same department. I didn’t know how to best approach the, “I’m not stalking,” nature of our reunion, so I went with–

[scripty]

PAMIE
Hi, excuse me. You are Aimee.

AIMEE?
Uh, no.

PAMIE
Oh. Sorry.

NOT AIMEE
I get that a lot, though, that I look like someone.

PAMIE
Me too! All the time. So, I know how you feel. But, listen. It’s not an insult. She’s a lovely girl. Aimee. So. You should just, know that you look like… someone named Aimee, or how she would look now I’m guessing, I haven’t seen her in a while. We went to college together. We weren’t even that close in college, but she was friends with friends of mine, so that’s why I wasn’t sure you were her but I thought you were. I mean, it was totally a longshot. Maybe she lives in New York. I think I heard that. But anyway. I’m sure you’re nice, too. I mean, you’re here with friends, so…

[Pamie notices she’s now talking to Not Aimee’s back.]

[/scripty]

I tell you this so you understand my fuzzy mental state as the next thing goes down.

It’s late and getting dark as the wine tasting is winding down. I turn to see S— standing behind me with his wife and two kids — a boy and a girl. The girl is in her mother’s arms. S— is no longer in sunglasses but in frames, and now really looks a whole lot more like A—, so I see why I had that earlier confusion.

S— says, “I just wanted to say goodbye and introduce you to my wife.”

“We’ve met before,” I said, boldly, as I’d met S—‘s pretty wife on set. I didn’t remember her being a blonde, however.

“Oh, I didn’t think so,” she said.

I shook my head dismissively with a laugh. “Well, it was a long time ago,” I said, letting her off the hook. I pointed at the girl on her hip. “This one wasn’t even born yet! There was just the boy.”

S— took a second before he slowly, politely explained. “Well, they’re twins, so….”

Which is when I IMMEDIATELY knew I was talking to A— and not S—, but I’d just made a super colossal number of factual errors all at once.

“Uh,” I said, trying to joke myself out of this one with what is technically the truth. “I’m so bad at kids’ ages. Honestly, they could be six or zero and I wouldn’t know. Plus you’ve got one down here on the ground, and one on the hip. How am I supposed to know they’re the same age?”

A— still wasn’t finished. “Plus, they’re four, so they would have definitely been born by the time you would have met my wife…”

I turn, “Have you meet Jessica? This is A—.” The subtext clearly screaming: I KNOW YOU. I KNOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR KIDS AND WIFE AND WE ALL HAVE HISTORY.

Jessica asks, “Are they twins?”

Show-off.

I attempt to save face many times more, asking a series of questions so specific about A—‘s current project, which I very much know about because at one point I was helping to work on it. I apparently asked him so many questions he finally admitted, “You’re making me feel like I should be stressed out.”

After I made sure to say A—‘s correct name about fifty more times, they excused themselves and walked away. Jason shook his head, so uncomfortable for me. “You sit across from someone in a tiny room for more than six months and you don’t recognize him in public?”

It felt like this time went to the Magic Castle and watched a magician perform a close-up card trick right in front of me. The cards never moved, yet somehow they changed suits, right in front of me, like they morphed, CGI-style, right before my face. (PS: Lots of drinking at the Magic Castle, too, so…)

But still. I was so confused. I thought it was A—, then proved through a series of questions that it had to be S—, only to be completely smacked in the face with it being A—!

Hours later, at home, I shouted, “THEY WERE BOTH THERE.”

That had to have been the solution. I went on Facebook, Twitter, desperately trying to find some proof that both of those men where there, both with pretty wives and two adorable children.

[scripty]

PAMIE
Here. Here’s a picture of S—. Wasn’t that who we saw first?

JASON
I have never seen that man in my life.

PAMIE
They both worked on the same show, they know each other. They’re similar!

JASON
If this is bothering you so much, why don’t you write A— an email explaining how you got tongue-tied, that you thought he was S— because he said he didn’t remember meeting me, which is how you ended up doing basically the same thing to his wife.

PAMIE
You mean the truth? That would be the worst thing I could possibly do!

JASON
You know that whole drive home his wife was going, “She didn’t remember you.”

PAMIE
That is impossible. I asked how his show is going! There’s no way I couldn’t know who he is if I asked about his show.

JASON
Then he was probably thinking, “I’m glad I didn’t hire her. That woman can’t even tell twins when they’re staring right at her.”

[/scripty]

If you are wondering just how much this bothered me, that night I had one of my literal dreams that I sat down next to S— and told him the entire story.

The next morning, after some clarity and coffee, I realized that S— had never been there. There’s just no way. The combination of A— in sunglasses combined with his (HIS!) initial faltering around Jason (and okay, FINE. Perhaps all the wine), made me unable to stop making an asshole out of myself.

It has been days, and I still cannot let it go, because it’s something like this that makes me worry my brain is not what it used to be, and seriously, I am not okay with being that wrong in public! Forever, I will hear A—‘s hesitant baritone in my head. “Well, they’re twins, so….”

Just another addition to the list of reasons why I really shouldn’t make it a habit of leaving the house.

19 thoughts on “Tales from the Accidental Asshole: The Wine Tasting

  1. *sigh* Had something very similar at the U-pick, We-Grill place at lunch today. It was made worse (IMO) by two things. 1) I was bitching about the chick who kept going out of line, holding up the checkout, and was just generally NOT FOLLOWING PROCESS (turned out to be the Brazilian girlfriend of the guy who was about to talk to me – she’s not from here & doesn’t speak English so maybe she was genuinely confused on the process) and… 2) even after he re-introduced himself I still have no fucking clue who he was. He worked at our office for 5 years, knew everything about me & my colleague and kept saying “really? nothing? 5 years?”

    I am also an asshole. It was lunch though, so I wasn’t drunk :) Well. it was _Monday_ lunch so I wasn’t drunk.

  2. I’m also terrible with names. There are neighbors across the street from the house we’ve lived in for the last 8 years whose names I don’t remember. Mary, may be the wife’s name. It could be Marge. Something with an M.

    Also, I’ve worked at the same place for 12 years. There are two guys who I just say “Hi” to without adding their names because I get them confused. All the time. They don’t look all the much like each other, but I can’t stop confusing them. It’s a good thing I have never seen them when I’ve been out drinking. I’d probably end up arguing with them about their names.

    I feel your pain, is what I’m trying to say.

  3. I’ve been very lucky that all my encounters with people who I don’t remember happen on facebook and then I find whoever we are both friends with and send a DM asking “what, who is this person?” and then when they tell me some random fact about said person, reply with, “ohhhhhhhhhhh”

  4. This happened to me so much I had to devise a plan to outsmart myself. I instruct whoever I’m with to introduce themselves to the person in question if I look lost. Then I jump in with an “oh sorry, excuse me this is so and so” and since they have already introduced themselves I for sure know their name. However, you do have to be with someone else to make this work.

  5. I am really good at remembering names and entire life stories of people who I know, but if I see them in a different place, or with different people, it confuses me.

    My husband? No memory. Not the name, not the face, and certainly not the stories….unless they are people he went to elementary school with thirty years ago. Those people, he remembers. Drives me crazy.

  6. So the entire post is hilarious, but I have to tell you that I started laughing out loud and had to step away from my computer at “Patty Cheesescream.” It’s making me laugh again just typing it. Thank you.

  7. There are two women that I went to high school with 20+ years ago, who I always confused, even though they don’t look alike at all. One day, on Facebook, I answered the one woman with the other person’s name, as in, “Thanks, Jamie!”, when it was Melissa I was supposed to be thanking. And I was on Melissa’s wall!! Horrifying. I had a hard time explaining my way out of that one, because the only reason I even knew I did it was that someone sent me a PM pointing it out to me a couple of hours later. Total red face.

  8. I failed to recognise my own cousin once. Not in a minor, walking past her in the street sort of way – she said hi to me and we made small talk for about a minute. Not only did I have no idea who she was, I was also convinced she’d mistaken me for someone else. And then it hit me. This was six months ago and I am still toe-curlingly embarrassed about it.

    It’s not like she’s a long lost cousin that I barely know. We’re not hanging out every week but I see her four or five times a year. I blame the out of context thing and the fact that I was trying to run a stall at a flea market for the first time and a little bit stressed out! Still – total brain fail. I was so shocked and embarrassed that I didn’t even manage any sort of save – I just told her that I’d had no idea who she was! And then hugged her which probably made it worse. She’s 17 – I probably embarrassed her half to death.

  9. Totally feel your pain. I did that with my sister’s husband’s sister in a grocery store — no context = no clue who she was.

    Have Glark make you a nifty button that says “I’m Pam. And you are?” and keep multiples of it — in the car, in your purse…

  10. Ugh I hate this, I’m the same way. I worked as a cashier at Best Buy in college, and if one of my coworkers (someone from another department, I’m not so bad that I can’t recognize my fellow cashiers) came through my line on their day off without their blue polos on, I wouldn’t recognize them. I was at a laundromat once and this guy came up and started talking to me and I just thought he was being creepy until he started talking about Best Buy stuff. If those assholes wanted me to recognize them outside of work, they should have just worn their polo shirts everywhere.

  11. I have the opposite problem, although it’s equally embarrassing. I remember everyone and elementary school and they will have no idea who I am and I can tell them their parents and siblings names and where they sat in the classroom in the 4th grade. And then they look at me like I’m a crazy stalker. So, I spend a lot of time trying to act like I don’t remember them in case they don’t remember either. Oh, the Xanax I need… This is also why I don’t go out much.

  12. My spouse’s workplace had a birthday lunch for him so he invited me to join them. We sat down at a table and he said, “This is x, x, and x.” I said, “it’s nice to meet y’all.” I feel like I am owning this lunch! Then 30 minutes later on of the xs says, “well, it was good to see you AGAIN.”

    At least I was just the ACCIDENTAL asshole.

    1. I’m going to suggest here that maybe, MAYBE, it is not the people who make these mistakes who are the assholes. Maybe… it is the people who have to passive-aggressively point out that you have made a mistake.

  13. Oh, bless. If it helps, I’ve done the same thing with FAMILY members. Only I straight up introduced a distant cousin by another distant cousin’s name, and introduced her children by other names while they all stood and gaped at me.

    It doesn’t help that I have usually held higher profile jobs in corporate communications, so 1500 people end up knowing my name and face, and talking to me like we are deskmates. I just stay confused about which people I know, and which people just know of me.

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