At last I have a diagnosis

Prosopagnosia.

Nope, I’d never heard of it either, until I read this week’s Time Magazine and came across an article that made me sit up in startled self-recognition.  All my life, I’ve suffered from an inability to remember — or recognize — faces of people whom I should recognize.  It’s such a problem for me that it’s turned into a family joke.  My husband thinks it’s hilarious.  “You’re so good at everything else.  Thank god you have at least this glaring flaw,” he says.  Again and again I’ll meet people in our small town who greet me with a cheery and familiar “Hi!”.  I’ll answer with an equally cheery hello, then turn to my husband and ask: “Who the heck was that?” 

Or imagine this writer’s worst nightmare.  You’re doing a signing in your local bookstore, and a woman comes up to your table to get her book autographed.  She starts chatting as if she knows you.  Okay, her face looks vaguely familiar, but you can’t remember when you might have met her.  Then she starts talking about your kid, and is he still playing the fiddle, and how are the roses in your garden, and pretty soon you realize you’re supposed to know this woman VERY well.

But you still have no idea who she is.

So then she slides her book in front of you and asks you to personalize it.  And you ask, your hands now sweating in panic, “To whom shall I make it out to?”

“To me,” she says.

At this point you, as a writer, have two options.  You can either confess that you have no idea who she is.  In which case she’ll think that you are  a complete idiot (bad).  Or that you’re so damned stuck-up that you can’t bother to remember the names of ordinary people (even worse). 

Or you can throw a writer’s Hail Mary and ask, “How do you spell your name again?”

And just pray she doesn’t answer: “P-A-T.” 

Believe me, this has happened to me so many times that I now beg my husband to stand beside me during local booksignings, so he can toss out helpful clues such as: “Well hello, Pat!  It’s great to see you!” 

According to Time, this is a far more common problem than has been previously recognized, and it’s genetic — probably caused by a defect in a single dominant gene.  One out of fifty people has some form of it.  For some people, it’s so severe that they can’t identify their own children’s faces.  Thank god I’m not that bad.  But I suffer from a disabling enough case of it that I find myself avoiding many social situations.  Writers’ conferences scare me – which is why you don’t see me at too many of them.  I’m always terrified that I’ll inadvertently insult someone by not recognizing them.

That’s why I love nametags.  I wish everyone went through life wearing nametags.  And I love conference brochures that show attendee photos, like the one we had at Thrillerfest.  (Betcha didn’t realize that ol’ Tess spent her first night in Phoenix holed up in her hotel room, frantically studying those photos.) 

In two months, I’ll be starting my book tour for MEPHISTO CLUB.  Already, I’m starting to get anxious about all the fans and booksellers whom I’ve met before …. and won’t recognize.  It’s enough to make a writer want to hide away in her office forever.  I just hope that people won’t be offended or insulted when I don’t remember their names.  It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me.

But at least now my affliction has a name.

 

 

34 replies
  1. deesavoy
    deesavoy says:

    Hi Tess,

    Oh my God, I have the same thing. I’ll know I know someone but their name completely escapes me. I am an author, too, and booksignings can be hellish experiences when fans show up and I can’t remember their names. The worst time happened when I was invited to an event by a woman I wanted to thank during my talk and I completely blanked on her name. Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back to speak to that group again.

    I am also a second grade teacher. My students love it when I call them sweetie or honey or some other endearment. Little do they know I just can’t remember their names.

    I think I’m going to have a button made up to wear at book signings — Prosopagnosiac on Board, or whatever. Maybe while folks are trying to figure out what the heck the button means I’ll have time to remember their names.

  2. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    tess-i have just the opposite problem you have-i can’t seem to forget anybody i’ve encountered-this goes back to my childhood days-it’s the same with past events,even those of little significance-my friends and former co-workers would often joke about it and i got tags like “rainman”and “idiot savant”,but recently i ran into a lady in the supermarket who called me by name and asked me a whole bunch of personal questions-i got through the conversation and still have no idea who she is-so i’m thinking-“senior moment?”:)

  3. Eileen
    Eileen says:

    If you come to Vancouver Canada I will wear a giant sign that says “I AM EILEEN, I READ YOUR BLOG” I will force everyone who walks in the door to put on a nametag.

  4. Steve Clackson
    Steve Clackson says:

    I have the same thing and my wife assumes your husbands role.
    After 20+ years in commercial real estate I still meet people and have no clue who they are. Once after selling a multi-million dollar shopping center I met the new owner (this time not wearing a suit) and failed to recognize him until my secretary told me who he was. Can you say awkward!!!

  5. Samantha Ling
    Samantha Ling says:

    I remember Connie Willis once told my writing class that whenever you see someone, especially at a convention, you’re supposed to reintroduce yourself again by saying, “Hello, my name is X, we met at Y so long ago.” Because authors meet so many people and some of them you only see once a year maybe every other year, that it’s easy to forget a face, even if you did spend 3 hours with them in the hotel bar. So I do that to her every time I see her, and she’s glad I remember, even though she knows who I am.

    It also helps with conversation because the author doesn’t feel embarrassed for not remember and then wander off trying to avoid you.

  6. Tess
    Tess says:

    >>It also helps with conversation because the author doesn’t feel embarrassed for not remember and then wander off trying to avoid you.<< Yes indeed! If a writer seems unfriendly, there's a good chance it's simply because she's embarrassed!

  7. Thuy
    Thuy says:

    Is this part of alzheimer’s and/or dementia?

    I’m horrible at remember names, but am very good at remembering faces.

  8. ruby55
    ruby55 says:

    Whew! What a relief. I’d sometimes feel so terribly embarrassed when I didn’t recognize someone right away. I just met someone the other day whom I saw every day for a whole four weeks just a little over two years ago when we took classes for another medical condition which is known for its short-term memory loss. It turned out she didn’t remember my name either so I didn’t feel too badly about it.

    I always have to see the people in context. I was a language teacher for a number of years. I’d know the names of the students if they were in the classroom setting. If I saw them on the way home, panic would grip me because I knew them but couldn’t remember their names or sometimes where they were from.

    I also confuse people easily. When I watch “America’s Most Wanted”, I always think, “I wouldn’t recognize this character again if he came at me with a knife.” Yet other people in our fair city recognized a double murderer from TN a few years back and he was captured.

    I’m horrible at names and faces. As soon as someone changes his looks with a new hairdo, I’m lost. It’s a good thing that I can still usually recognize myself. Everybody who knows me thinks I have a great memory but unfortunately not where it counts: with people. Maybe subcosciously that’s why I don’t get out much either to socialize in a bigger group. I’m afraid I won’t remember names.

  9. ruby55
    ruby55 says:

    I didn’t read the last line of your blog before I tried to get in a comment and found I had to register, wait for an e-mail, etc.

    I went around with sore stiff muscles, severe headaches and numerous other problems including being hardly able to write a word among them. No doctor from Winnipeg, MB to Montreal to x number of doctors in Germany could tell me why. What a relief to know that the doctor here at least believed me and didn’t tell me things like “You’re just scared of your exams” or “You just don’t like writing.” I knew that was baloney.

    Then in 1990 my doctor was finally able to give me a name. What a relief that was! It was unbelievable. Some people still didn’t believe I was really ill but at least I felt some validation and…relief.

  10. Allison Brennan
    Allison Brennan says:

    I must have a mutated strand of prosopagnosia. I recognize faces easily–but I can’t remember people’s names. I look at the person, know that I know them, but can’t remember their name. I love name tags, too. Usually if I see the name physically attached to the person I can remember their name.

  11. ellenmeister
    ellenmeister says:

    This is fascinating, Tess. My 14-year-old wonderkid with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high function autism) has the same problem, though he hides it well. I found out years ago, by witnessing him mistake one person for another, that he uses a gestalt approach to recognizing people, looking at their hair, age and body type. Also, he has uncanny perfect pitch and auditory memory, so I suspect he uses that, too, indentifying people by their voices.

    If it makes you feel any better, I think we all have neurological glitches that we learn to compensate for. For instance, unless I make a concerted effort to get my bearings before I enter a store, when I leave, I’ll no idea what direction I came from. It’s like the memory doesn’t exist.

    Ellen

  12. BA
    BA says:

    Inability to remember names is one thing. Inability to recognize a face as familiar is another. Frequently I run into people in professional meetings or the grocery and they greet me and start talking. Only after concentrating can I find something vaguely familiar about their face. These are all people I SHOULD recognize! Tess is right – it is a terrible feeling!

  13. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    I also have this problem…not to a debilitating degree, but bad enough that it influences my daily job….as an innkeeper! Yes, I’m an innkeeper and I have a hard time remembering faces and names. Once, we had a couple come up to our door, and I gave them the standard greeting. The woman said to me, “We just checked in two minutes ago. We went to get our luggage.”

    I had to laugh off that one…but still…I was mortified!

  14. BA
    BA says:

    I read up on this today after reading this blog. It is so weird. When someone comes into my office, I don’t know if they’re a new patient or someone there for a follow-up. Since they are “patients,” I use the excuse that medical error prevention standards require that I ask them to state their names. That law is such a godsend for prosopagnosiacs!

    Interesting though, when I examine them, I remember them distinctly – every detail – except their face.

    I love to read house floorplan books and often browse therough them on line in the grocery. I recognize the plans instantly from one book to the next. Yet, last week in the grocery store, a woman called me by name, hugged me and introduced me to her son. She told him who I was and I did not recognize her. Fianlly she spoke about a work project and I figured out that she was a manager at a certain referral sources’ office.
    THIS is exactly why I read every word of Gerritsen’s. Whether it is a novel, blog, or rantings, I ALWAYS learn something significant. Tess, you have changed my life!

  15. ruby55
    ruby55 says:

    For a while at our church, everybody was presented with a name-tag after a few visits. Of course, half the people would forget to wear them but at least you could address the rest. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been done for a long time now.

    It’s funny too that I’d sometimes mix up the husbands’ and wives’ names. For example, there would be a Pauline married to Joe. If I saw Joe, I’d be inclined to call him Paul. Or Clare. I’d see his wife and want to call her Clare.

    Tess, I also wanted to tell you how great I find your books. I can’t really with honesty say that I enjoy them–if you know what I mean? There are sometimes such sad things that take place in them and quite a bit or gore that I’m leery of. I can deal with my own wounds quite well. But I just have to remember holding up my sister’s foot that she’d cut on something in the river behind our house and I feel “green”. I held it over the sink and the blood went “plop”, “plop” into the water. Suddenly I felt so sick to my stomach and since her little friend was standing there watching, I quickly turned to her and said, “Michelle, can you please hold up Marlis’s foot?” and ran from the room.

    Mind you, I was in my late teens and these girls were 7 or 8 years old. I felt like such a coward. but then something happened when I was no more than 6 years old. I can remember that I was out on the street in front of the small apartment building we lived in. I saw a man walking towards me with blood flowing in rivulets from his head. Once I told my parents about this and they just said, “You must have been dreaming.” I’ve never felt any other “dream” was reality except this one. And it’s one that I haven’t forgotten for over 50 years. That’s essentially what I always think of when when I see somebody else’s blood.

  16. ruby55
    ruby55 says:

    Actually, that wasn’t really what I came here for. Well, it is 0230 EDT.

    I wanted to thank you for making me aware of the problem of sexual slavery. It’s horrifying to think that any man will treat a young boy or girl in this manner. Others have written about this type of thing as well. I know your victim’s were a little older than some of the children are. But I’m so glad that the message is starting to get out. What is making our world so depraved?

    I was at my pastor’s house on Thursday night having dinner when he talked about a trip that one of our elders had made to Thailand. He is in a group of (former) businesmen who travel to Third World countries to help destitute people set up a business that will nurture both their bodies and spirits and maybe give jobs to others in their community.

    Anyway, he flew to Thailand and on the way there started talking to his seat mate. They talked about various things and then came the subject of why each of them was going there. The stranger, unabashed. said, “To check out the candy.” Dave felt rage well up in him. He was so incensed that he was ready to slug the man.

    When I got back from dinner, almost the first thing I did was to look up a friend’s blogsite. She had one listed for “Zoe Children’s Homes”. I have never had a child myself but what these men do to children is so shocking, so perverted that I will never be able to think of the word “candy” again without this association. May God make these men realize what they are doing to these children.

  17. Tess
    Tess says:

    Kristin, I’d have to say that your story about not recognizing the guest who had JUST checked in takes the cake as the single most embarrassing example I’ve come across!

    Ruby, you’re not the only one who finds my books a little too intense. My mother-in-law has been forbidden to read my books. After nights of waking up screaming from nightmares after reading HARVEST, her husband has declared my books off limits to her! (Although he reads every single one.)

  18. Darwyn Jones
    Darwyn Jones says:

    Tess –
    I’ve gone through life having a name that everybody seems to forget. Darren, Dagwood, Dwayne – I don’t care. If it starts with a ‘D’, I’ll answer.

    I must say, it was a great boost when I met you at Thrillerfest and you said, “Darwyn, I’ll be sure to remember that name.” Now, don’t worry, it’s not a contract – I’m not holding you to it.

    Seriously, it was great to meet you (briefly) at Thrillerfest.

    Your new blog junkie –
    Dwayne, I mean Darren… Darwyn, yeah Darwyn

  19. Gabriele
    Gabriele says:

    Lol Darwyn, my late mother had two sisters, Gertrud and Gisela, and she named me Gabriele. For some 40 years it was, “Gertrud … eh, Gisela … no, Gabriele.”

    I’m not very good with faces and names of people I don’t meet on a regular basis in not too long intervals. But I’d recognise a guest who just came in two minutes before. Fortunately. So I’m probably having a mild version of the syndrome.

    But I’m not sure if I shall look forward to booksignings should I ever be published. Maybe I could wriggle my way around by sticking to reenactments and meetings of historians/archaeologists.
    “We met last month during the reenactment at Vindolanda.” – “Ah yes, you’re the one dressed up as aquilifer. Didn’t recognise you without the lion’s head.” (The aquilifer is the standard bearer of a Roman legion and looks like that.)

  20. Zoe
    Zoe says:

    I may have a very mild version of this. I can recognize people, but it takes work, except for people I see a lot. And heaven help me if someone changes their hairstyle. More than once I’ve been at a friend’s house when another friend of ours shows up, and have had to ask, “Who was that?” after the other friend is gone, because the person has gotten a haircut or dyed his/her hair. And my boyfriend is always trying to point out actors to me, but it’s usually hopeless. We’ll be watching something, and he’ll tell me that the actress on the screen starred in the movie we went to see last week, and I simply can’t see it, because the actress has different hair for this show than she did for that movie.

  21. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    “But at least now my affliction has a name.”

    Sure. But how do you pronounce it? It won’t be very convincing if you are explaining to a person-you-should know why you don’t know them because you have, “Prog… no, no, it is ‘Pograsmiphanosis’. Hang on. ‘Promagaflippinickis’. Aw shit. It means I can’t remember people I should know, okay?”

    Good luck with that explanation. ;^P

  22. cubic_heat
    cubic_heat says:

    Hi Tess! My name is Natalie, I’m 19 and live in England and first and foremost I’d just like to tell you that you’re my favourite writer- I loved to read as a kid but hadn’t in years, and my fiance Dan was the same, until he bought one of your books on a whim… now we’re both avid readers of your work, and love the Rizzoli/Maura series, so thanks for bringing literature back into our lives!
    I was struck when I saw this blog entry as I recently found that I have prosopognosia and it was like a revelation! I’d suffered in silence for years and my friends thought I must be somehow dyslexic (or ignorant!)… I’ve made a fool out of myself by guessing at who people are when so many people all look the same to me (my best friend Jess was laughing at me for years after I went up to her and asked “Have you seen Jess around?”)
    Finally, after speaking to my boss in a very informal way, mistaking her for a co-worker, AND greeting an absolute stranger both in the same day, I was so exasperated that I went online to see if it was dyslexia- and it turns out it’s a real condition and I have an excuse! I made contact with Dr Brad Duchaine (www.faceblind.org) who was very friendly and helpful and NOW I find out that someone I really look up to can empathise… I feel great now, my confidence is totally restored!
    By the way Zoe- I get the exact same thing with famous people when they change their hair- it’s very inconsiderate of them! I asked my fiance who someone on a poster was the other day and he sighed patiently “Julia Roberts”… but the most annoying thing for me is when people in TV shows have similar hair and features cos I can’t tell which are which. And BA you’re so right- face-blindness is nothing to do with forgetting/mixing up names, it’s simply looking at someone you should recognise, and they look like a stranger!
    Well anyway Tess keep ’em coming I can’t wait for The Mephisto Club! You have my absolute admiration for your talent and for approaching very gritty subjects humanely and with respect- your books aren’t too gory; sadly there will always be things happening in the world that are worse than any novelist could write! But your books help us keep believing that there is always hope no matter how dire the situation!
    xx

  23. struggler
    struggler says:

    Thanks Tess for helping me to learn that I am a Prosopagnosiac! I feel better for knowing that I’m in such exalted company. I used to be an insurance agent years ago (I live in England by the way) and had well over 1000 clients who I would visit in their homes. Problems arose when I would bump into them in the local supermarket or wherever, when they would come up to me to say hello and had to bluff my way through a conversation and make sure they never knew that I never knew! In the early days I would put my foot in it by asking seemingly polite questions such as ‘How’s your husband?’ only to witness a furrowing in their brow and the response ‘Waddaya talking about? He died four years ago, you came round and handed me the life assurance cheque yourself’ – and so on. But the situation I will always remember took place in a night club when I caught sight of a woman who I instantly knew to be a client but could not remember her name. Before I had time to think about it I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned round and there she was with a huge beam on her face saying ‘Hi! What’s up?’ I displayed my by-now well practiced look of complete recognition, showing warmth and friendliness that never gave the game away. I asked one of my clever and harmless questions such as ‘How’s the family?’ and she responded straight away with ‘Oh, Steve’s fine thanks, so are the kids’, so I asked her how work was going and she said that things in the construction industry were pretty tough at the moment. Still I had no idea who she was, even though I knew I’d been to her house many times – I just didn’t know where it was. So I said ‘It must be coming round to that time of year when I come and see you, isn’t it?’ – again, no chance of a mistake with that, and sure enough she reminded me that I always come round in December to talk about her husband’s pension plan. STILL I’m none the wiser, and after a while she drifted off, but it was starting to niggle me by now and I just wanted to know! So it got to 2.00 am and I went over and asked her if she’d like a lift home, knowing that as soon as I saw her house, it would all come flooding back. She said hey, how nice of me! (If only she knew!!). But this was when things went wrong….big time. As she got into my car she admitted that she and her husband had had an argument a few days before and she was staying at her sister’s, with the children. I put on a pained expression and said how sorry I was, while inside my head I was thinking ‘****, this is a waste of time, why doesn’t she get out of the car and I can go home’. But I was committed now, so she gave me directions to her sister’s house, and we’d been sitting there outside the house chatting for barely a minute when suddenly the passenger door flies open and there’s a guy standing there screaming his head off. Yes, it was her husband. Apparently someone in the nightclub had phoned him and told him that his wife was there, and she was having an affair with the insurance man…..

    Well let me tell you, he was MAD as hell. His wife had left him and now he saw me as the reason for it. He reached across her and started raining punches into my face while I tried to release my seatbelt and get out of the car. His wife was hollering at him that there was nothing going on, she was not having sex with me. People in nearby houses were opening windows and shouting at us to keep the noise down. He kept on hitting and kicking me even after I got out of the car. I didn’t try to hit back because I knew it was all a big misunderstanding. Eventually he turned his attentions back to his wife, so I jumped back in my car and cleared off.

    You might be thinking that by this time I recognised who they were, but no, I still didn’t. When I got home I looked in the mirror and my face was a mess: black eye, bleeding nose, split lip, everything, so I decided to call the police. This was 2.30am. While I was waiting, I went through my files, looking for December clients, anyone called Steve who was a builder with a pension plan. Found him. So when the police came, I made a statement and gave that name and address. Eventually I went to bed, exhausted, at about 5.00am.

    Things were to get much, much worse.

    At 7.45am my front doorbell rang. It was the police again, two different guys. They asked me to describe the man who had assaulted me earlier that night, so I did. They then dropped the bombshell. “At 6.30 this morning we went to the address that you gave us and we made an arrest – the man whose name you have our colleague in your statement was dragged from his bed with only his underwear on, thrown into the back of a police van and taken down to the local police station, and put in a cell. The problem is, the man we have in custody is about 5 feet 1 inch tall and bears no resemblance at all to the description you gave earlier.’

    Grabbing at my files again, with a slowly-rising sense of dread within my chest, I discovered that, had I looked more carefully, I had TWO clients called Steve who I visited in December, both worked in the construction industry and lived within a mile of each other. And I picked the wrong one.

    I used to be a pretty good salesman, if I may say so, but wow – I had to make the sale of my life when I visited the home of the innocent man a few days later and try to salvage the situation and keep him as a client. I had already written a lengthy letter of explanation and hand-delivered it together with a bunch of flowers for his wife (who the arresting police had accused of having an affair with me), along with various other gifts. I say with pride, nearly 20 years after that eventful night, that I managed to retain BOTH those ‘Steves’ as clients when I visited them the following December, and both of them increased their pension contributions.

    Since then I have never offered a lift home to any of my clients…..

    Viva Prosopagnosia !!

  24. Tess
    Tess says:

    Struggler,
    I’ll hope you’ll forgive me for this, but … I haven’t laughed so hard in a long, long time. Thank you for the most amazingly hilarious (albeit cringe-worthy) example of just how bad things can get for us sufferers! I hope you don’t mind if I suggest my readers visit your comment posted here. Everyone should read it! (and by the way, you should be a writer.)

    When I go on book tour in the UK in January, I do hope I’ll get a chance to meet you. I’d like to meet you face to face. Even if I don’t ever remember it again!

    Cubic_heat: you poor, poor dear. It’s hard to explain this problem to people, isn’t it? I’m so glad you’ve found comfort with faceblind.com!

  25. struggler
    struggler says:

    Thanks Tess, you’ve made my day knowing that I made you smile! And I do hope to see you when you’re here in the UK – just remember to write TESS on a big yellow Post-It and stick it on your forehead, could you?

    PS Thanks for a great blog, your honesty shines through xx

  26. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been terrified of one day becoming successful as a writer for all the very reasons you’ve described. While no one, I think, could ever quite top Struggler’s story, here’s one of mine:

    Once, I totally forgot the name of a man I was dating. It wasn’t a first date either, or even the second. In fact, we’d worked together for a year in a tiny little restaurant, then dated for several months. I was madly in love with him. We’d even…um…er…well, you know.

    We were just leaving my house for an afternoon date at, ironically, the circus when we ran into my landlord. I’d told her about “this great guy I’ve been dating” many times, but they’d never met.

    Oh…that awkward moment when you’ve forgotten everyone’s names at once, and you just hope and pray someone will rise to the occasion and open the introductions.

    Neither did. They both just stood there. Staring at me.

    My face burns red just thinking about it.

  27. john lovell
    john lovell says:

    Being a newspaper reporter made it especially challenging to have to cope with this affliction. Still, there were high points, such as the time a woman I knew I must know (but couldn’t name) cleverly said at a crowded social event: “You don’t remember my name, do you?” My reply, as we were jostling among other guests: “Sure—I just didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”

  28. struggler
    struggler says:

    John, I really hope you only use your clever riposte with the FEMALES you don’t recognise…..

    As a Prosopagnosiac who only ‘came out’ thanks to Tess’ blog just a few days ago, perhaps I can pass on a few tricks of the trade that I have developed over the past quarter-century of affliction – the scenario is usually a public place such as a big store or a pub, i.e. with lots of people milling around. Usually I am approached first with something along the lines of ‘Hi Russell, how’s it going?’ and since, nine times out of ten, I have not the faintest idea who this person is, I can’t reply in kind (using their name) so I just say ‘Hi, I’m fine, how’s things for you?’ When it comes to more direct questions, I’ve long ago stopped asking how their husband or wife is (or ‘other half’ as we say in England) because I’ve put my foot in it more than once with some lonely, single people; so the safe option is ‘How’s the family?’ as pretty much everyone has some family somewhere, even if it’s a cousin in New Zealand they have never met. ‘How’s work?’ is usually safe, but ‘How’s life treating you?’ is absolutely water-tight, as the person opposite me may be retired, off sick or plain unemployed (or they could be a struggling writer…..) – these are plain vanilla, meaningless questions that very rarely offend or confuse and yet might just trigger a response that in turn triggers recognition. ‘Hey, it’s been ages – where were we when we last saw each other?’ is a risky one, you have to think on your feet with this, but if you can get away with it, it might generate an answer that brings everything flooding back. It’s risky because, among other responses, they might come back with ‘What? Don’t you remember that motel last night?’ or some such….

    Of course the funny thing about this condition is that you can find yourself talking to people who you don’t like – it’s just that you’ve forgotten you don’t like them. My ex-wife ran off with another man before we split, so I could in theory (since he’s an old friend of mine from way back) bump into him into the street and shake his hand, asking him how he is! ‘Great to see you!’ I might say, and he’s looking at me as if I’m nuts….

    But rather than asking too many questions, the best tactic is to deflect the topic away from yourself and instead pay some flattering compliments such as ‘Wow, have you been working out?’ or ‘Hey, you’ve lost weight!’ I learnt a long time ago that there’s nothing that people want to talk about more than themselves, so if you get them talking, and you spend 90% of the time listening, there’s a fair chance that they will unwittingly mention something, or someone, that instantly tells you who you’re talking to. I’ve learnt to keep a dead-pan face at that moment of realisation, so that after we’ve said our goodbyes, he/she/they never find out that I didn’t know who they were for most if not all of the conversation!

    Only fellow Prosopagnosiacs will understand all this, but it’s just great to know that I’m not alone! My latest problem however is that, unless I look at Tess’ website, I can’t remember what the condition is called…..

  29. ebenezerearl
    ebenezerearl says:

    Ran across several references to Prosopagnosia that I wanted to share. You can test your face recognition skills at icn.ucl.ac.uk/facetests. The Prosopagnosia Reseach Centers, affiliated with Harvard University and University College London, have a website http://www.faceblind.org

  30. dorio
    dorio says:

    I am a fellow prosopagnosic (I believe that is the correct term after doing a lot of research on the subject), and I have started a blog for prosopagnosics and others interested in learning more about the subject. Its at http://www.NoFaceLikeHome.com

    Nice to read about so many fellow PA’s out there! Someone has even designed a great t-shirt specifically for us. Its on the Cafe Press website. There is a link to it from my blog. Tess, it would be great to wear at your book signings, if you are ready to tell people about the condition (exhausting proposition, I know;).

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