Friends and readers of the ‘Ham, I have a confession to make. I don’t know you. Or, to be more precise, I can’t recognize you.
Summer is here, which brings the onset of a lot of get-togethers, races, group runs, and parties. Basically, all human group interactions. So I feel the need to warn you before I go off and offend someone.
I have a problem where I can’t remember faces. Friends, loved ones, acquaintances, celebrities—it doesn’t matter. Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t know you from Adam. Well, maybe Adam because he’s my brother-in-law. But anyway.
I can’t put names to faces, faces to past interactions, or a past interaction into a new context. I can walk into a crowded room and struggle to pick out my friends. And no, not because I don’t have any.
I am notorious for confidently walking up to someone I have met before, sometimes multiple times, and introducing myself. Most of you guys play it off well. Others get snippy and rude, which I can understand. Or not. I have been known to furiously scroll through Facebook looking for you (or a person who resembles you). I have surreptitiously texted other friends describing your features in hopes that they can put a name to my description. All other times, I fake it ’til I make it. I’m sorry, it’s true.
This has become more noticeable over the past few years, especially living in Birmingham. Naturally, I Googled this shit. And learned there’s something called prosopagnosia. Often caused by acute brain damage. So, dear Tato Bo (my daddy), dropping me on my head as a kid did knock some screws loose. I kid. That’s a little extreme. But I did click on this link and scored a 100% (or 0% if you’re a “glass half empty” kind of person) on the facial blindness quiz.
I know people struggle to remember names all the time. I do too. But it’s ten times harder to remember a name when you swear you’ve never seen the person standing in front of you before. And out-of-context confusion is common too; that’s where I struggle the most. Runners? Forget it—you don’t have a chance in hell of me recognizing you. I know you as people who are smelly and muddy. I can pick you out by gait, shoe preference, and yes, sometimes odor. But put me in a scenario where we’re all showered and clean and looking presentable? No way José.
It blows my mind when people I don’t know well (or at all) recognize me and call me by name. What is your secret and how do I do it too? It happens frequently with blog readers, and I feel so bad because I have no fucking idea who you are. But I love and appreciate you all. I met a man last September at a race and spoke to him for ten minutes, tops. A few weeks ago, I was at Whole Foods and heard someone calling my name. It was him! How do people do that?! Luckily, he gave me enough contextual clues for me to remember our conversation, but I swear I had no recollection of seeing him before. He could have told me he was Tom Cruise and I wouldn’t have known the difference. For real—I can’t pick Tom Cruise out of a lineup.
Sadly, this doesn’t just apply to people I kind-of-sort-of know. I have known one of my friends for well over a year. We do things together. Frequently. Like, go on weekend trips. A few weeks ago, I had a long conversation with my friend. I complimented her haircut. Asked what was new. Quietly wondered why she wasn’t at work and where her husband (my good friend) was. It wasn’t until she mentioned going “back home” that I realized this wasn’t my friend at all—this was a girl I knew via Twitter. The fuck, Tanya?! Sadly, this happens more often than I’d like to admit.
So please, don’t take offense if you walk up to me and I have a blank look in my eyes or ask who you are. It’s not you, it’s me.