Dear Miriam | What Do You Do in the Aftermath of Awkward Conversation?

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Dear Miriam,

At services this past Shabbat, I was reintroduced to someone I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. We were never close, but we had had more than one conversation in 2019. At the end of kiddush this week, she said, “nice to meet you,” at the same time that I said, “good to see you again.” There was a slight awkward pause, and then she left. Should I have been clear earlier on to establish that I remembered her?


We Meet Again

Dear Meet,

Who among us can really say that we remember 2019? Sure, maybe you can recall some flashes of a more carefree time, but I bet there’s a lot you’ve forgotten, too, probably including some random community members you spoke to once or twice. You personally don’t remember what you’ve forgotten because, well, you get the idea. Also, 2019 wasn’t all that carefree either …

This is all to say, so what? Maybe you weren’t memorable to her, maybe the difficulties of the past couple of years have eroded her memories or maybe she’s not that good at faces. The point is, don’t take this seriously or personally. If she’s a person you want to connect with — and vice versa — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to establish/reestablish a connection, and the lack of a memorable past together won’t hold you back.

On the flip side, it’s totally natural and logical if you do actually feel kind of hurt. At this particular historical moment where human connection feels especially tenuous and valuable, any discrepancies between memories and reality when it comes to other people can be especially challenging — to our sense of self, to our sense of the past, to our sense of how we function in relation to others. I encourage you to examine why this feels especially notable to you and whether there are people with whom you want to reconnect, or whether you are actively hoping to make new connections.

When you see this person again, you can act like you’ve just met this past week and work to get to know each other if that’s what you want to do. If it feels important to you, you could say something next time like, “You know, I think I remember meeting you at the Chanukah party in 2019. Is it possible that we were both there?” If she insists she doesn’t remember, you won’t gain anything by trying to convince her, but maybe you’ll retain an important grip on your own memories by saying something that’s both kind and truthful and, just maybe, jogs her memory.

Be well,



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