It’s taken me this long to realise that I have a real problem.
A year or so ago, I decided to look up why I have so much trouble recognising faces. My eyesight is good and I genuinely want to remember people. To my surprise, I found other people who have the same problem, to different degrees. It’s called face blindness. If someone has a severe case of it, they’ll fail to recognise their own family. It’s formally called, prosopagnosia.
I have it only very slightly. I may not recognise you if you:
change your hairstyle
change your hair colour
are somewhere I don’t expect you to be
are with a group of people I don’t expect you to be with
are wearing different clothes than you normally wear
are in a crowd
And sometimes, I just won’t recognise you even if you look exactly the same as last time I saw you and you’re in exactly the same place. I do recognise people I know well, in any situation. (Although not always.)
I can’t picture a face in my mind – not even my own.
I have trouble following a movie if there are two female actors with the same colour hair and hairstyle (which happens more often than you’d think) or when there are lots of men (men generally have short hair in a similar style.)
I love it when people are easily recognisable – such as a distinctive hair colour or hairstyle. If you have a distinctive look, for the love of prosopagnosia, don’t change it! Or, as Billy Joel sings, I love you just the way you are. Don’t go trying some new fashion, Don’t change the color of your hair … Oooooh … ooooh … (Video below ) I really do love you just the way you are.
Recently, a childcare worker at my child’s preschool came back after a long holiday. I had talked with her often. But on the day I saw her again, I didn’t know who she was. But my four-year-old did.
I’ll almost never notice someone I know in a crowd. I just won’t see them. They have to come up to me and say hello first. It’s hard, because there’s no quick explanation you can give for ‘ignoring someone’ that’s easily understood. And if you said you had prosopagnosia, they’d probably think you made up a disease that doesn’t exist.
I can get anxious in a social situation where it’s polite to remember people.
I used to work in promotions – which was great – I could work within school hours and the pay was at entertainers rates. But parts of the job drove me nuts.
This is me (far left) at work on Oktoberfest. (Twelve years ago.) As part of my job, when it was either the ‘spin the barrel’ or ‘bingo’ games, I had to take a prize to a person in a hall of 300-odd people. I’d seen the person that won, but by the time I went to collect the prize and hand it to the person, I’d completely forgotten their face.
I learned to take note of the clothes they were wearing and the exact position of the table they were at.
Previously, when I failed to recognise someone I knew, I put it down to not trying hard enough. If I tried harder at memorising people’s features, I wouldn’t have this problem.
And I tried. I’m sure at times people thought I was staring weirdly at them. Or perhaps they thought I needed my eyesight checked.
It’s actually not just faces. It’s also cars and places. I have trouble recognising cars and I get lost walking around the corner.
I admire people who can meet a group of people for the first time and remember their names and faces right off the bat. There are mothers of children in my son’s class, who know every child’s name and face.
It’s a skill I struggle with.
I love the internet – it was made for people like me. People online are where you expect them to be and they look the same everyday (Except when they update a photo – and then it’s just a matter of getting used to a new one.)
They might be on Facebook, Twitter and forums with the same photo. Yeah!
So, if someone you’ve met doesn’t recognise you the next time they see you – don’t immediately think that person didn’t think you worthy of being remembered.
They might remember YOU well (the person who are you are), just not what you look like.
Hey, Billy Joel wrote a song for people with face blindness
Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are
Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care
I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.
I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you.
I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.