I have a real problem learning people's names. I think that whatever part of the brain we have set aside for name retention is completely underdeveloped inside my brain. Either that, or I've had early onset Alzheimer's since I was about 4. I have to resort to stupid tricks to remember new names - associating it with a beloved cartoon character ("Ok, Chester, like Chester Cheetah the Cheetos Cat - you like Cheetos sir, because you are Chester Cheetah, that cat with the sunglasses) or in extreme cases, storing the information on my body, not unlike what's his name - that guy from Memento:
It's embarrassing and frustrating to no end, and I hate it. I even forget the names of people I had once fought so hard to remember ("It starts with an S - fuck, what is it - Stephanie? Samantha? Is she a character from Sex & The City, or did I label her as having a Steph infection?).
However, once I've gotten to know you, then we've entered a special place - a place that, while incredibly rewarding for all of those who are willing to take up the cause (i.e. friendship, general merriment), some may find it to be a little intimidating. I take my friendships quite seriously, and like the good Christian who quietly takes a mental note of every sin you make in front of him, I've immediately begun quietly judging you on all of your behavior.
Let me break it down a bit, because it's important for people to know the level of scrutiny they're being placed under:
We've spent enough time together that I've gotten my specific mnemonic device for you down. I'll make it a point to say hello to you when I see you, I will make it a point to remember certain details of conversations we've had, and I'll consider buying you a beer if it's your birthday or you recently told off your boss and got fired.
Paths to Promotion: You ask me how my "year off" is going, tell me about an awesome game you heard about and/or played. You put a cool new spin on saying my name.
Paths to Demotion: You ask me if I've played that awesome new game yet. You introduce me to a girlfriend I'm more interested in getting to know than you. You are a vegan. You call me Mark.
If things are going really well, and at some point in our busy schedules we make plans to hang out together, alone or in a small group, without any particular cause of end goal in mind other than the business of eating or beating the snot out of each other in mortal kombat, then we've progressed to a Level 2 friendship. We have each other's phone numbers, you receive weekly emails from me inviting you to come see my improv team, donate to my cause and/or go to the movies, and I will probably delight you with stories about my cat on a regular basis.
Paths to Promotion: You read my blog (congratulations!). You seek me out on gchat. You ask me about the status of my cat. You've taken the trip to good 'ol Bed Stuy (do or die!) at least once.
Paths to Demotion: You move to an area not reachable by NYC Metro or the LIRR. You tell me that video games/Chipotle/Lost are a waste of time/too many calories/not an awesome show. You are a vegetarian.
If things are going well and we're really gellin', then you may just be lucky enough to enter level 3 friendship, also known as BFF-dom. This is not only the hardest level to reach, but the hardest level to maintain as well. Those of you lucky enough to stay at level 3 for over a year should consider yourself very lucky to be in this exclusive club.
Paths to Promotion: You establish a "night" or a regularly occurring event that establishes our mutual desire to spend time together. You help me move. You buy or make me something awesome*.
Paths to Demotion: You start dating someone. You move in together. You get married. You have kids*. You turn down a burger one night.
There's a level of sarcasm associated with much of what I've said in this post. But those of you who know me well - and I'm talking to all the Level 3's reading right now - know that it's actually a lot more factual than you might think.
Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: As Darth Vader in a world he has no business being in:
*Hint, hint - the stuff I like/want has been promoted regularly in this very blog!
*You would be amazed how many people make an error in judgment and wind up making every single one of the mistakes.