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I’m face blind, not a space cadet

The New Yorker has a fabulous article this week about face blindness, which is a condition that I’ve suffered from for years but only recently figured out. Technically it’s called prosopagnosia, and it’s the inability to recognize faces, even when sight is normal. Mine isn’t as severe as the man in the article, who sometimes can’t recognize his own assistant, but I definitely have huge issues with people I haven’t seen SEVERAL times in rapid succession.

And if someone is out of context, I blank them. For example, I volunteer at Cedars Sinai every week, but if I see the the people I work with out of uniform at Whole Foods, I’ll walk right by. Then they think I’m rude, high, or a total freak.

Dating can be a challenge, especially on second or third dates with guys of average height who are wearing suits in a dark restaurant. I’ve developed strategies to cope: I’ll always be early, and text from the bar while pretending to be immersed in my iPhone Sudoku application so he’s forced to tap me on the shoulder. Though once I did blank a guy I’d supposedly been intimate with, so it’s not a perfect system! 😦

What’s even weirder is that I CAN recognize celebrities: Because, like artist Chuck Close (who is also face blind and says he draws portraits of his family so that he can memorize their features), I can identify people much easier from a flat surface, so photos and magazines are no problem.

In addition to people thinking I’m a) aloof or b) a space cadet, a town like LA poses other challenges because I have to use cues like raised eyebrows and smiles to figure out if I’m supposed to know a stranger. Here,  EVERYONE is superficially friendly and smiles at attractive women, so I get a lot of ‘false positives’, i.e. men pretending to be know me–and I go right along with it. Two of my male friends have come clean and admitted that our first meeting happened because I actually believed the old ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ chestnut.

Still, I think that face blindness (and my general horrible sense of direction) has brought me other advantages. I don’t have any proof, but I believe that my hearing and ability to read facial expression has gotten much better partially to compensate. It’s also brought me a new respect for how much we don’t know about the human brain.

Research suggests that this condition, in varying forms, could affect up to around 2% of the population. Still, I hope that face blindness doesn’t become the new Attention Defecit Disorder, with everyone claiming to have it.  My male friends are already using it as an excuse when they can’t remember the name of a colleague or girl they dated, so that they get sympathy instead of looking totally insensitive!

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2 thoughts on “I’m face blind, not a space cadet

  1. M.kind says:

    I am a man. Simple, intuitive and able to read into things quite clearly. However I have been unable to adequately understand your explanations and theories in a practical sense.

    Man invented the wheel, hell he discovered fire or as I believe invented fire, he has painted the ceilings of the most holy places in the world. A common theme to all these is that they are things you can see, you can feel, you can download (metaphorically speaking).

    It is mans belief that you should not only invoke visuals, but supply man with visuals of what you are trying to articulate.

    Being a proud writer myself, I know the satisfaction of doing things by myself and having them classed as “my work”. Therefore on behalf of all strong and proud men everywhere, I encourage, nay I call upon you to put your money where your mouth is. Show through yourself what you describe in your columns.

    If you have already recorded images of a personal nature, in a home setting or otherwise, please do not be restrained by personal angst nor moral obligation rather have the belief you are shaping the world in which it will be released, quite literally for the better.

    Mankinds wishlist:
    -physiological and anatomical visual recordings of yourself and/or other parties
    -Instead of written aids the use of visual summaries starring yourself
    -More naked pictures of you and less words from you

    In summary please upload a naked image of yourself for google hunters everywhere. Surely you have no issues with sex or sexuality so show some boobs. Surely you must want to join the ranks of other prominent writers such as Debbie who visited and ultimately did Dallas not once but three times.

    Yours in anticipation
    MANKIND

  2. M.Kind says:

    I am a man. Simple, intuitive and able to read into things quite clearly. However I have been unable to adequately understand your explanations and theories in a practical sense.

    Man invented the wheel, hell he discovered fire or as I believe invented fire, he has painted the ceilings of the most holy places in the world. A common theme to all these is that they are things you can see, you can feel, you can download (metaphorically speaking).

    It is mans belief that you should not only invoke visuals, but supply man with visuals of what you are trying to articulate.

    Being a proud writer myself, I know the satisfaction of doing things by myself and having them classed as “my work”. Therefore on behalf of all strong and proud men everywhere, I encourage, nay I call upon you to put your money where your mouth is. Show through yourself what you describe in your columns.

    If you have already recorded images of a personal nature, in a home setting or otherwise, please do not be restrained by personal angst nor moral obligation rather have the belief you are shaping the world in which it will be released, quite literally for the better.

    Mankinds wishlist:
    -physiological and anatomical visual recordings of yourself and/or other parties
    -Instead of written aids the use of visual summaries starring yourself

    In summary please upload a naked image of yourself for google hunters everywhere. Surely you have no issues with sex or sexuality so show some boobs. Surely you must want to join the ranks of other prominent writers such as Debbie who visited and ultimately did Dallas not once but three times.

    Yours in anticipation
    MANKIND

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