Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?

I have issues with recognizing faces that should be familiar. This is called prosopagnosia, aka face blindness.

All those years my older siblings heckled me about being dropped on my head as a baby? Maybe it was true. They also used to tell me I hatched from a piece of bird poop they found on a rock, but Mom told me they lie, so it’s natural to dismiss everything my siblings say without a formal investigation (i.e. asking Mom). My next question to Mom: “DID you drop me on my head?”

Only after I wrote the above paragraph did I remember there may be another cause for my “brain damage”. I was never officially diagnosed with anything other than, “Yup, this girl needs stitches.”, and don’t remember feeling any pain, just sopping up lots of blood. I don’t remember how old I was (another thing to ask Mom), but was very young… young enough to not know whether a head injury could have affected my memory in any mild way.

There was a pool party at my house, and my siblings are crazy, so there was a lot of roughhousing going on in and around that pool. The water was cold and I didn’t want to get in, but they weren’t about to let even a child not party, so one of my brothers snuck up behind me and shoved me in. A natural response to being shoved into anything you don’t want to be in is to lean back or recoil, and that’s what I did, so on my way down I pulled back and cracked my head against the edge of the pool. Oddly, it didn’t hurt, and now I was wet, so I decided I’d join in the fun. No one realized I was injured until that same brother was giving me dolphin rides under water and someone noticed a trail of blood leaking from the back of my head and yucking up the pool. One ER trip and several stitches later, all was forgotten (no pun intended). Now I’m wondering if that could have been the beginning of my facial recognition issues?

Today I was reading a post by PurpleClover called Prosopagnosia: So That’s Why I Never Recognize Anyone!, and it dawned on me that what I never thought was an official problem is an official problem. I’ve been keenly aware, especially since my kids started school (6 and 10 years ago) and have each had multitudes of various teachers and aides, that I have a problem recognizing faces. I’ve been like this as far back as I can remember, but it only became glaringly obvious to me when there were people introduced into my daily life that I had to remember.

This really sucks when you just talked to a teacher yesterday at the school and the next day she says hello to you at the grocery store, and you have to wrack your brain trying to figure out who she is. It also really sucks when you go to more IEP meetings than you can shake a stick at and can’t remember the faces from meeting to meeting. I’m grateful the attendants of the meeting are obligated to introduce themselves in round-table fashion, whether you’ve met them before or not (as there is always at least one new person attending) because if they didn’t? I’d be sitting there looking dumbfounded trying to figure out who they are instead of listening to the important stuff.

My saving grace is that once I’ve “met” a person enough times, something finally clicks and I can recognize them from that point on. Depending upon the impression they make on me (I tend to remember scary faces on Wanted posters with ease), sometimes “enough” means once or twice, but other times it means a dozen encounters. The strangest, most confusing incident happened at work, where I developed a bit of a crush on a coworker. I knew I liked him, I knew his voice and his mannerisms, but for the life of me I could barely pick him out of a lineup until I’d talked with him more than a dozen times.

I mentioned this post to my husband as I was beginning to write it, and he looked at me quizzically, “I never realized you had this issue.” And I’m like, “Have you met me?”. And he said, “Well, you look familiar.” And he sat there thinking, trying to remember incidents and quirks that might point to me having major brain damage. It made me feel odd and defensive as I saw lightbulbs dancing around over his head. Am I really that weird? Well, I’ll own that. But I may have to pretend I don’t recognize him.

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