On Sunday, a very terrible and relatable thing happened at the Tonys: Neil Patrick Harris didn’t seem to know who Rachel Bloom was, despite having already met her.
Here’s how it happened. Live-tweeting the events from home, Harris posted, “Who is the woman in the top hat backstage at @TheTonyAwards? Gideon remarked that she says ‘like’ and ‘oh my god’ a lot. I’m confused…”
To which Bloom responded, “I’m a big fan of yours. We’ve met numerous times and my husband, Dan Gregor, wrote for ‘How I Met Your Mother’ for 5 years. Notably, he wrote the episode where your character finally meets his father.”
(NPH: “Indeed! Well said. Thanks for the reminder. How was backstage?”)
And this is where we pause to acknowledge how much we all want to pass away.
Here’s the thing. At one point or another, we have all been on a distinct side of that terrible fence. Once, I pretended I knew who somebody was for a full hour because I knew I should know exactly who they are, but couldn’t remember their name to save my life. (I am a ghoul.) And another time, I assumed someone would remember who I was (because they should’ve, obviously, as I’m a delight) and then I had to explain to that person how we knew each other and immediately wished I could disappear into the eternal void. Ultimately, nobody wins on either side because by nature, we’re all weird and socially inept on our best days.
So allow me to make the case for total social transparency – before I acknowledge that maybe this NPH/Bloom exchange was a bit meant exclusively for the two of them. (It may have been! We’ll never know.) So first: if you do not remember a person, do not panic. It’s fine. If it’s a party situation, you roll with the conversation until you can ask any other person the person-in-question’s name (discreetly). Or, you can just avoid using anybody’s name until a new guest shows up, you don’t introduce them, and they introduce themselves, allowing for you to hear the name for yourself. No harm, no fowl.
Unless you’ve been called out. And in that case, much like myself when I greeted a person by the wrong name and shouted out the wrong place we once worked together, you accept your fuck-up. You apologize, you acknowledge how embarrassing this is (for you), how rude you are (as many times as possible), and you offer no excuses other than your own incompetence. And then, you go quietly into that dark night. (All while the person understands because it happens, they get it, and we’re all just trying our best.)
But if you’ve been Bloom’d? If someone refers to you in a Mariah Carey-like “Who is she?” manner? After making a bad case for the way you speak? And then comments on your hat? That is when you unleash the pleasant, polite wrath. That is when you award no free pass because how dare anyone lack that much humility. You tell them exactly how you know each other, and you stand there with the calm face of any female Game of Thrones character everybody respects/fears. And then, when they issue a blanket statement (“Thanks for the reminder”) back, you say nothing. Because how dare they. The reminder? Are you kidding me? Absolutely not. In the immortal words of Jenna Maroney, “No, keep crying – I want you to feel this so that you never make this mistake again.”
So what can we learn from this Bloom/NPH . . . moment? (I was going to say “feud,” but it isn’t, and I choose never to misuse that word.) That when in doubt, apologize. Apologize for not knowing a person, apologize when you’ve been called out, apologize for tweeting in a way that isn’t particularly entertaining. But most importantly, apologize for not knowing who Rachel Bloom is. She can say “like” as often as she wants and frankly, we’re not worthy of any of it.