Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

So Many Faces, So Few Names

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just went to a reunion at my college. I graduated more than 20 years ago and have gone back only once or twice over the years. This was a big event, so I decided to go. It was kind of awkward, because I hardly remembered anybody, but many of my former classmates remembered me. They kept coming up, very nicely, to reminisce about things that occurred years ago, and I honestly didn't remember. I tried to be nice, but it felt weird.

Now I've been asked to come back next year for another reunion. It makes me think my former classmates didn't notice how disconnected I was. What should I do to smooth things over if I attend again? -- Forgetful, Silver Spring, Md.

DEAR FORGETFUL: The more time you spend with your old college classmates, the easier it will be to remember them. That said, perhaps it's not even that important to remember them by name. You can be cordial and kind to people without making a big investment of time and energy in remembering their names.

What people want most is to be acknowledged. When I see people whose names or faces I don't remember, I simply greet them warmly. If needed, I ask them to remind me of their name. If they get an attitude, it's on them, but that rarely happens. Usually people feel good that an authentic connection of some kind has occurred, whether or not a name is mentioned.

One other thing to keep in mind is that it's perfectly normal not to remember people you haven't seen in more than 20 years. You can say that you're sorry you can't remember someone without feeling guilty. Ask the person who she or he is. Then it's up to him or her to respond.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son said a curse word today within my earshot, and I couldn't believe it. He is 7 years old, and my husband and I have worked so hard to shield him from profanity. We also have made it crystal clear that it is inappropriate for him to ever curse.

Now that we have heard the word, I'm not sure what to do. I don't believe in spanking. I do believe in getting the point across that it's not OK. What do you think is best? -- Ringing Ears, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR RINGING EARS: When I was growing up, my mother threatened to wash out my mouth with soap if I cursed. One day she did, and I never cursed in front of her again. Today, child-rearing experts advise against such actions.

You can take away privileges -- things your son really values -- to make him think twice about swearing. You can make him put money in a jar every time he curses. You can cut his allowance, if he has one. Take away something that will make him sad -- something that will help him remember right from wrong.