It’s a new calendar year. Why not start a new thing on the blog?
For the next little while, I’ll feature tidbits of personal trivia I have been informed are not as well-known as I imagine them to be. It’s another topic to alternate with book posts, writing rants, media consumption lists, baking recipes, and so on.
My first not-so-major revelation: I am face blind.
Yes, yes, I know lots of people have trouble remembering names, many people are bad with faces, but…have you ever walked right past your parent or your spouse or your best friend of many years because you DID NOT SEE THEM out of context?
I have. Many times. That’s my level of “bad with faces.”
It doesn’t mean I’m people-blind. I recognize people…mostly. Just not faces. Or voices. It’s more that I deliberately construct conscious brain imprints of overall person-ness — how you move, speak, dress, etc. I can spot friends across crowded rooms, especially if I’ve made note of what they’re wearing.
But do I spot details like changes in hair color, eyeglasses, makeup, scars, tattoos or “identifying characteristics?” NOPE. As a kid, I thought the ability to describe and remember other people like characters in books & on TV was a fictional power. And names? Pffft. The label for your gestalt may be stowed away in a totally different mental zone, because I have a WTF brain.
This means if you’re standing still, if I’m not looking for you–and especially if I haven’t seen you recently? My chances of knowing who you are or even SEEING you is 50/50 or worse. The longer it’s been since we last talked, the worse my chances are.
This makes conventions more than moderately terrifying.
Why? In large part because people tend to remember me for some reason. Good friends I see only at cons, wonderful people I met at conventions past–y’all spot me and make a point of saying hello, being the awesome, cool, kind, and wonderful people you are…
…and there I will stand, without the slightest clue who’s talking to me.
I am often forthright, even pre-emptive, about admitting I don’t know who someone is, but not always. Constant confession is emotionally exhausting and jabs a lot of big, red social-interaction buttons that trigger guilt dumps.
And whether I admit it or not, nothing will never erase the unhappy belief that people think I’m lying, that I’m a lazy jerk making excuses for not caring about them enough to remember them. It hurts to not be recognized by someone. I know this.
I DO LIKE YOU. YOU’RE AWESOME! But I have faulty exterior-recognition software.
Guilty awkwardness is a burden on top of the already-huge stressiness of being at a con. (I love cons. TRULY. I love them. But it’s also true I love many things that aren’t strictly good for me…)
ANYway. Let me wrap up with this:
If you don’t see me often, there are a few ways to help avoid instilling quiet panic and deep-seated guilt in me when we meet. I don’t expect people to make the effort, but when it happens, I am FOREVER grateful.
The platinum standard: starts with “Hi, Karen (or Kem, or Kay, or Tigger, or Herkes, I answer to all these) great to see you again.”
This demonstrates you know me. Then it’s decision tree time.
IF I respond with your name or a personal tidbit that makes it crystal clear I remember who you are, we’re good. My brain has coughed up your imprint in a timely fashion. Yay, brain.
If I DON’T use your name, could you please consider proceeding to something like this: “I’m <your name> we know each other from <place/time> and add something about our prior interaction?
By doing this you:
- providing release from expectation damps down my guilty adrenaline rush. (adrenaline not being a friend of higher brain function)
- Offering memory tags right off the mark helps me place you in context, which gets me to the proper brain space where your ID is stored.
- The more you talk and move, the more data I have available to match to the gestalt of physical characteristics on file.
You can be as simple as, “It’s Felicity. From work? I’m in Accounting? We don’t see each other often.” Or as complicated as “I’m Gwen. We were table neighbors at XYZCon, and it turned out we went to the same elementary school. We talked about meeting for dinner next con–how are you?”
But even if I appear to be entirely comfortable chatting, if I don’t respond with your name or personal deets, it’s likely I do NOT recognize you at the start of the conversation.
Talking comfortably at length with total strangers is a survival skill I mastered long before I knew face blindness was a thing, not a failure of effort on my part. If we talk long enough, I often…eventually…figure out what our relationship is.
It’s a huge relief when I don’t have to work that strategy or confess to cluelessness, though.
And yes, I do try to do this for others, on the rare occasions I am introducing myself to people I recognize.
Because I never expect anyone to recognize me.
Okay, that’s enough for now. Until later, world!