I was walking through the mall when I noticed someone staring at me across the crowded corridor. She looked somewhat familiar, with long brown hair and scrutinizing eyes. I’d only made eye contact for a second by accident, but suddenly she was coming toward me. Her face transformed into a bright smile as she greeted me.

“Hi!” I smiled back trying to hide my confusion. My brain was working hard to piece together where I knew her from. Who was she? How did I know her?

She was my best friend’s step cousin, whom I’d met once or twice before a few months prior. I thought it’d clicked in time for me to save face, but I heard back from my best friend later on that I’d completely ignored her cousin at the mall. The cousin claimed I acted all weird and seemed embarrassed to see her. But I simply didn’t recognize her.

This has been a common occurrence in my life. Just last year, I met my school-appointed mentor for coffee and totally hit it off. We had a great chat about life and agreed to keep in contact. A few weeks later, I saw her again at a conference. But I didn’t know it was her. In my mind, she was just some lady with beautiful bold lipstick I admired. Only later did I realize where she was from. Even after my email apologizing for not greeting her at the conference, she never attempted to meet up with me again.

The worst was on the first day of a new module of the course I was teaching. I met 20 new students, and while most of them were quiet, I really got along with Tim and Sophie, who were seated in the front row. I taught 3 periods to the same group of students for a total of four and a half hours.

At the end of the class, I dismissed them, then turned my back to erase the board. A complete stranger tapped me on the shoulder, catching me a bit off guard. Confident he was just another student from a different class, I listened as he asked me, “what room will we be in tomorrow?”

For the previous month, I had been teaching in a smaller room. That morning, my students and I had had to switch rooms last minute because my old one was too snug to fit my whole class. I asked, “well, who’s your teacher?”

The look on his face instantly revealed my mistake. I noticed just slightly too late that he was wearing the distinctive silver coat that had hung on the back of Tim’s chair for the past four and a half hours. All he’d done was put on a coat and my brain had glitched completely. I didn’t recognize him at all.

It’s happened to me time and time again. Strangers waving and greeting me, I always just smile back regardless. When my best friend joined instagram, I had to double check that her tiny profile pic was her. Watching movies is a particularly annoying challenge, especially when there are several characters that look the same.

Once, someone took a picture of me from a bizzare angle and all of a sudden my nose was larger and my features all changed. When I showed this picture to people to emphasize how it didn’t look like me, I got a steady stream of, “no that’s exactly what you look like.” So I don’t even know what I look like. I could never date someone online just out of fear that I’d accidentally catfish them.

When I finally heard the term, “prosopagnosia” or more accurately, “face-blindness” a lot of these experiences began to make sense. I’m not just dopey, I have a slight cognitive facial perception disorder that makes me seem dopey. Or rude. But I’m not the only one. Lots of people are bad with faces.

I think my dad is too. A few years ago, while I was still living at home, I went for a bike ride. I put on shorts, a bright green t-shirt that made my tan appear ten times darker, and I tied my hair up in a high ponytail for the first and only time in at least 20 years. I decided to pop into the local liquor store before heading back home and spotted my dad in the check out line on his way home from work.

Naturally, I approached him with a casual greeting and got to see firsthand the look of confusion that I so often feel. He didn’t recognize me. We lived in the same house, and he didn’t recognize his own daughter. Who he sees every day. He looked so shocked and so guilty. But I get it. I live it.

So if we ever cross paths, and I’m supposed to “know” you, please don’t be offended if I look at you like I’ve never seen you before in my life. Because in my brain, I probably haven’t.

2020

 

44 thoughts on “The Faces

  1. I got about halfway through that and thought β€œIt’s face-blindness.” I’ve gotten really horrible at attaching names to faces as I’ve gotten older.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all need to remember Paul’s words in the “love chapter” (I Corinthians 13), “Love is not easily offended.” We all encounter so many people every day – maybe hundreds – and life is too short to be offended when someone sees you and draws a blank. Anyone who is offended by another’s momentary memory lapse should just get in the habit of introducing himself/herself when greeting someone.
    (If someone does that, please don’t look offended and say, “I know who you are!”)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was exactly what I was thinking as I read along – face blindness. A most annoying, to say the least, but intriguing anomaly. I can’t remember names but faces, oh my I can’t forget them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting! I’m so impressed by people’s abilities to recognize people when they look completely different (in costumes, or a new role in a movie, or baby pictures).

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not that bad, but I’ve had moments like that. One distinct memory of that kind of thing I’ll write about eventually.

    I spent much of my 30s involved in various kinds of partner dancing, and I used to do check-in at the door and take people’s money. I was telling one of the other volunteers once about how I feel bad with people who show up about once a month, because I see them often enough that I should remember their names, but in reality I don’t. My friend agreed. I said, but sometimes I’m just the opposite, I remember names really well. Like that girl (I gestured to someone across the room out of earshot), she hasn’t been here in about six months, and I remembered her name right away. My friend said, well, that’s because she’s hot. I’m thinking… well… yeah…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I too have prosopagnosia. People who don’t have it (98% of the population) are unable to comprehend that such a condition could exist. Wikipedia has a great article. I think Reagan had it. 60 Minutes had a segment about it.

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    1. Yes! That’s such a good point. I had friends message me after I posted this and say, “I can’t believe your dad didn’t recognize you because you had a ponytail” but that’s how it goes. It must sound so bizarre to people who have no trouble recognizing people.

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      Like

  6. I have it too. Recently I went to the opening of a new local library, had a nice chat with the librarian, moved on, and about ten minutes later introduced myself to this nice librarian, who said, oh yes, we were just speaking…Same lady, of course. I had no idea. My life is full of these moments. I’ve learned to be a good actress and I also try to pick out some details of the person’s outfit, etc., to remember (no problems with that). But if the person changes clothes…! After a lifetime of 60+ yrs I just laugh at myself. I meet someone, I know what’s coming! Confusion! And I let people think whatever they will.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The husband aka Cat Daddy has this, too. He doesn’t remember faces or names. I don’t remember places and directions. I could drive to a place 100 times without incident but then get lost the 101st time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have it too. I’ve written about it before and it’s easy to make it a funny topic, but it can be really damaging to relationships and can make it hard for new relationships to get off the ground. My funny/not-so-funny story is when I picked up my daughter at daycare, I sometimes didn’t know which one was her. All the babies looked the same to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. BTW, I’m in the middle of a conversation about prosopagnosia on a Tourette facebook page. Since they are both neurological disorders, I was trying to determine if they co-occur frequently (like in me). One of the participants told me that prosopagnosia appears frequently in people on the autism spectrum (and there’s a well documented link between autism and tourette). Not sure if any of this applies to you. I found it all interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I read a book last year about a woman who was diagnosed with Face Blindness after an accident. I hadn’t heard of it before. I hope it doesn’t cause too much complication in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am good with faces but am horrible with names. I have been in a new office for 9 months and I still struggle with names of people I don’t interact with regularly. Tell me their name and I immediately know who they are. But meet them in the hallway and have to come up with it on my own? Big problem. If I shared your difficulties with faces I would be in trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have the same problem. I can meet the same person a thousand times (sometimes within minutes) and think I am meeting somebody new every time – until they say something that alerts me to the fact that they know me and then every sense boils into overdrive whilst I attempt to dredge up some kind of recollection. I seldom do. So now, whoever talks to me, I always smile, I’m always polite and I always ask how they are, and other than that I say as little as possible. My habit of asking over the health of the recently deceased – whose funeral’s I have often attended – drives me insane! A problem shared huh? One day we will meet and neither of us will know it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yes! I worked at a hostess at a very busy restaurant when I was in university, and people standing around waiting were not impressed by how many times I’d greet them, thinking they were new.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, glad we’re not alone πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This was very informative! I don’t have that condition myself, I’m just terrible with names to the point that Ken will use a person’s name deliberately if we meet them on the street or in a store so that I remember who they are!

    Liked by 1 person

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