One of my ex-girlfriend's friends has prosopagnosia, and meeting her was when I first became aware of the illness. Of course, being me, I immediately began to wonder if I had it. I've come to the conclusion that I don't, but I do feel like I have a hard time remembering people's faces.
In high school, I used to be able to recognize anyone by looking at their back. I don't know how I did it, but hair, clothing, height and weight were much easier traits to use in noticing someone in the halls. Maybe it didn't help that I grew to be six-foot-four, and most faces were below my field of vision. I don't think I do this to quite the same extreme anymore, and I have to wonder how I kept such a running catalog of everyone's back.
Lately, I have had opportunities to reflect on my problems with faces. At my workplace, I've been tasked with keeping track of the parking lot, which means I see a lot of the same people every day. I apparently have an amazing talent for recognizing license plates (we keep track of the people who don't pay us by the end of the day), but when it comes to people, it seems to take forever for me to be able to recognize them.
One girl in particular comes in all the time and tends to stay later than she's supposed to, so we make arrangements for her with the towing company. The only way I ever recognize her is by her license plate, which is a vanity plate and thus easy to remember. It's easier to tell who she is when she's wearing sunglasses, because that's how she looked when I first met her, but even then it takes a while for me to figure out who I'm talking to. The fact is, she looks too much like every other white, preppy, lightly tanned girl with perfect skin that I've ever seen.
There's a second side to this issue, though. I'm measuring my ability to recognize other people versus their ability to recognize me before I recognize them. The fact is, my face is pretty unique, and it could just be that I'm far more memorable than most, because ain't nobody else looks like me.
I got to thinking about this due to the part of the book where the author starts telling people about her prosopagnosia. A lot of people didn't believe her, and her psychiatrist told her that was because they wanted to believe that they were unique enough to be memorable. I find this funny, because, brother, you don't want to be unique, take it from me. I can't ever get away with anything, because if anyone sees my face, they'll remember it. Not to mention I'm pretty creepy looking (as Amy will tell you), so I can't do things like offer candy to my customers the way another of the parking lot attendants does. She's a kindly, grandmotherly type, but I'm more of the "Would you like some candy little girl? It's in the back of my black-windowed van" type. At least, that's what my face is.
So, yeah, having someone not recognize you can kind of be a blow to the old ego. But be careful what you wish for; sometimes anonymity is a thing to be revelled in.
Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't
LibsNote: Copy won from Goodreads Giveaway program.
*This post was originally written October 30, 2010 to give the regular blogger a break.Yeah, it's taking me awhile to read The Ground Beneath Her Feet.