I used to play this very charming game where I would guess a woman’s name. Most people, you see, don’t go with “KathyB” or “ShellyFunTimes” when selecting a screen name for their online dating profile (though I would admittedly love to get to know anyone who could be described as ShellyFunTimes). Most Internet daters pick something like “CrazyM” or “VWishingStar”, which is meant to be whimsical and subtly revealing about their character, but between you and me is usually fairly annoying. And when they find a way to intertwine their love of The Dave Matthews Band with their subtly revealing screen name, well that’s when things jump all the way to full-fledged annoying.
The point is, you’ll often go one or two emails with a lady and have no idea what her name is. Which is not a big deal…until you turn it into a big deal by announcing your ability to guess people’s first names. There was a time when I thought this was my finest trick. Sure, I was funny and intelligent on email, and made just enough typos to let them know I was a real person and not some state-of-the-art romance robot, but when I guessed their names – oh how the women swooned. Usually you’ll have the first letter from their screen name or when they sign their email with just an initial. “L” or “F” or “G”, they’d toss out mysteriously. Then I’d gather it up and win them with my boundless skills of seduction. (Please note: my skills of seduction most certainly have bounds.)
It’s really pretty simple. You take the first letter of their name, type “female names starting in L” into your Google machine, find the most popular ones and start guessing them in rapid succession. “Looking at your pictures, I’d say you’re most definitely a….Laura. No wait – Lisa. Leslie? No, you’re not a Leslie. Lauren? I feel Laura and Lauren are effectively the same, is that cool? Wait. I’m sticking with Lorraine. It’s definitely Lorraine or Leah or Laura/en.” Chances are, you’ll get it eventually, and you’re being charming and playful and a bit of a buffoon, so they’ll laugh and you’re in like flynn. In fact, it becomes even more winning if you can’t guess their name and it takes two or three emails to get it. Then you’re totally in a get-a-drink territory, and they’ll just give up and tell you their damn name by that point. Unless you’re emailing with “HfromAlaska.” In which case, be careful.
H, I thought, would be a lay up. She put her initial right out there, she gave me a little cultural context, she talked a little trash about my ability to guess. Allll going according to plan. Then, in the next FIVE emails, I proceeded to guess the following names:
Heather, Hazel, Hannah, Hailey, Holly, Helen, Helena, Helene, Henna, Harley, Hurley, Haley Joel Osment, Hilda, Hillary, Harper, Harriet, Harmony, Hildreth, Hadley, Hortence, Hyacinth, Hunter, Hermione, and Helga.
None of those were her name.
All 23 of those were incorrect guesses, but the only one that was truly wrong was Helga. Here was the resulting IM discussion…
H: Helga? Really? Helga is an ugly girl’s name.
Me: Well, I’m kinda running out of names here.
H: Do you think I look like a Helga????
Me: I mean, I thought you looked a lot like a Heather or a Hannah, but I was obviously mistaken. Maybe everything I thought I knew about names was wrong.
(a minute passes)
H: So you think my name might be Helga…
Me: Well, the way you keep bringing it up, I’m starting to think that maybe you are named Helga.
H: What? I can’t believe you said that?!? Do you think I’m ugly? Helga is SO an ugly girl’s name.
Me: Well, Hortence doesn’t sound like much of a looker either, but you didn’t seem to have a problem with that one.
She then told me her name, somewhat out of spite, and we agreed to go out for a drink. But for some reason I just couldn’t get Helga out of my head and her real name into it. I thought it would be clever to call her Helga when I first saw her, which she laughed at. But then, accidentally, I kept calling her Helga all night long. I would open my mouth with every intention of saying her real name, and my brain would just lock up and I blurt out Helga again. Again and again and again. I don’t know why I kept saying her name in the first place, it was like I had just been to one of those assertiveness seminars where they tell you to address the person by name so they know you mean business. It was awful. She made it clear with her expression that she didn’t find my little Helga gambit particularly amusing, so I apologized and then said it at least three more times. It was like the worst private joke in the world, and HfromAlaska then made it very clear that she would not be seeing me again. And the worst part of it is, to this day I can’t for the life of me remember what her real name actually was. I do know, most certainly however, what it is not.
And that was the last time I ever played the game where I guess their names.