Face-Blindness Fridays #3

I have to leave for work in a little bit, and am SUPER GLAD that the shows this weekend are actually a film festival. That means a) I can get some work done and b) I won’t be hugging strangers and then checking lineups to figure out who that person I just hugged was. Yaaaaay…!

The thing about having face blindness is that I make friends slowly. I have to first, be able to name you when I see you, which takes about 6-7 times of you introducing yourself. Then I have to know something unique about you to go along with the name and face. Then, we have to have some sort of uncomfortable moment. You can’t be real friends with someone until after your first fight. But, once I love you, I love you forever — or until you cross me, haha…

Generally, for me at least, having face blindness is a relatively minor inconvenience. It’s sort of like walking down the street about 20 steps behind the people you’re with (I’m also a slow walker). I will say, though, that one benefit is that I don’t generally judge people based on what they look like. I mean, I’m as superficial as anyone else. I would prefer to look at a pretty face than an ugly one.

But when you’re not around, and I can’t picture you, what I have to grasp on to, memory-wise, is what it felt like being around you. Was I comfortable? Did I feel safe? Did you make me laugh? Were you nice? Were you interesting? People with visual memories don’t have that advantage. I get to separate, in my mind, who people are from what they look like, whereas for most people, those two things are intrinsically linked.

That’s why, when I don’t recognize someone, even though we’ve met several times, it hurts their feelings. They feel like they’ve been erased completely. It’s really hard to explain to someone that they are a complete, multidimensional person to me — it’s just that the memory of them is triggered when I hear their name, not when I see their face.

Then again, maybe I had a super great conversation with someone and didn’t catch their name. So now, I had a great moment that I will carry around with me for the rest of my life, with someone I will never see again. Unless that person actually brings up that conversation again, I will have no idea that that moment was with that person.

It gets a little abstract, trying to describe it, because there aren’t any visual ways to describe someone’s soul. I mean, you can use colors and stuff, but for me, it’s a sense. Right after my mom died, I missed her. I tried to recall the feeling that she brought into the room with her, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t only get to experience her presence again when I’d dream about her. I don’t know why my waking mind only allows me to partially remember what it was like to be around her, when I dream about her, I get to feel it fully.

And in my dreams, my mom doesn’t look any particular way. She’s a vague, mom-shaped blob, but the way that I feel about her is how I know it’s her. I’ve had dreams in which someone I knew looked like someone else. Like I’d be looking at Vin Diesel, but it would really be my best friend, Madlen. Then I’d wake up, and I’d be like, that was weird. I was dreaming about Madlen, but she looked like Vin Diesel. Alternately, this hasn’t happened, probably because it happens so much in real life, but I’ve never, in a dream, had someone say they were someone I knew, and they looked like that person, but I knew they weren’t.

My dreams are the only time I never have any trouble recognizing anyone. In real life, not only do I completely forget what people look like, but I’ll mis-remember their hair color or basic body shape. Half of the time when a comedian is on stage, I’m correcting my memory of what they looked like by observing what they actually looked like. How people can tell when I’ve lost two pounds, I don’t know. They never mention it when I gain those two pounds back, though, which is nice.

Or I’ll get two people confused. Like, there is a comedian named Brian D’Augustine, and his name does not match his face because when he filled out the independent producer form, I was like, “Oh, I know who that is,” and pictured Andrew Duvall. So when I run into Brian, I always picture Andrew Duvall, but I can never remember Andrew Duvall’s name when I’m talking to Brian because he has the name that I think that Andrew Duvall should have. And they don’t look at all alike.

Brains are weird. It’s amazing that I’m functional at all, really.