According to Wikipedia, "... research suggests that 1 in 50 people suffer from this disorder to some degree." Bestselling author Tess Gerritson is afflicted with it. She didn't even know there was a name for it until she read about it in Time Magazine. I didn't know anyone else wrestled with it until I read about it on Ms. Gerritson's blog. It is Prosopagnosia.
Wickipedia's definition: Prosopagnosia (sometimes known as face blindness) was, until very recently, thought to be a rare disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, although the ability to recognize objects may be relatively intact. Recent research, however, suggests that 1 in 50 people suffer from the disorder to some degree, and it is thought to be highly heritable.
My definition: When someone comes up to me and starts talking to me like they know me. In fact, they do. Sometimes quite well. That's when I break into a sweat. My mind starts scrambling as they're talking away. I can't remember where or when I met them. Their face is familiar, but I can't place them. I can't remember their name.
Let me tell you folks, it's a terrible feeling. And it happens to me all the time.
Example #1) My husband and I met up with a friend for dinner. We visited a new restaurant. I stepped in first and was greeted by a waitress who knew me by name. "How are you, Beth? Fancy meeting you here. I haven't seen you in awhile." And on and on. Not only could I not remember her name, I couldn't remember where I knew her from. I contributed to the conversation as politely as I could without letting her know my dilemma. I could tell from what she was saying that we hadn't met just once, but several times. Then my husband stepped in. She knew him as well. And he knew her. From listening to what they were saying, it finally clicked. Her primary job was at the same casino he works in. The same casino where I emcee sweepstakes. I had worked with her at several special events and often saw her in the employee cafeteria. I DID know her. Pretty well, in fact. Why then didn't I recognize her right off the bat?
Example #2) I'm making a purchase at a store. The woman waiting behind me says, "I thought I recognized your voice. How have you been, Beth?" Her face was extremely familiar. I knew I knew her, but from where? And what was her name? My mind scrambled, grabbing on to what she was saying, praying her words would jog my memory. Finally she said, "... the meetings..." and it clicked. She was a writer. I knew her from the NJRW monthly meetings. Although neither of us had been to a meeting in several months. I did know her. Not really well, but well enough that I should have instantly recognized her. Her name came to me five mintes after I got in my car.
For the above instances, I could use the excuse that I hadn't seen or spoken to either of these woman in months. And that I was meeting them both out of context, meaning not in the places I associated them with. But they both knew me out of context plus they remembered my name. So really, what's my excuse? Either I'm a horrible, insensitive person or I have a horribly faulty memory. I'm not the former so it had to be the latter. But that didn't make me feel better. Not only did I feel like a bit of a freak, not only is it embarassing, but it's scary. Am I destinited for senility?
Reading Ms. Gerritson's blog this morning partly eased that fear. At least I don't feel alone. Everything she described is exactly what I go through, right down to how she handles not recognizing someone she should know at a booksigning or conference. She uses the same tricks as I do in an effort to spare someone's feelings. Apparently, our way of dealing with this pesky disorder is common.
Wikipedia says: Few successful therapies have so far been developed for affected people, although individuals often learn to use 'piecemeal' or 'feature by feature' recognition strategies.
So now I've outed myself. If you run into me in person somewhere, if I should know you and I have a bit of a dazed look, please don't be insulted. Please, bear with me. On the inside I'm dying a thousand deaths because I know I know you. I'll make the connection. It just takes me longer than the normal person.
I'm still not sure what I can do to fix the problem, but at least I can research it, because now it has a name. Prosopagnosia.