FACELESS AND DIRECTIONLESS

The Faceless World

I don’t recognize faces. I recognize people I know very well – as often as not because they appear in a context that makes them recognizable. I know this lady because she is the checkout person at Hannaford, but if I see her somewhere else, I probably won’t recognize her. It is embarrassing.

I can pretty much always recognize Garry and my son — and other family members — but we’ve been recognizing each other for somewhere between 45 and 60 years, so at least I’ve got those people nailed in place.

Thing is, I don’t “see” faces. I am okay dealing with people with whom I have spent significant time and with whom I’ve had  meaningful conversation. If you are close to me, I will know who you are. But my first husband always wore a beard and one day, he decided to see what his face looked like — and I had no idea who he was. He too was faceless. Without the beard, I’d lost him.

I thought this was just me, but I have since learned this is a syndrome and goes handily with my inability to know where I am — even when I’m close to home.


It was a comment from Judy Dystra-Brown – lifelessons. She said:

Locational dyslexia and facial blindness go together. I have them both as well. Took me years to figure out the facial blindness. I thought I just didn’t pay attention. I have terrible problems with films and tv shows where all the women look alike.


I had no idea it was a “thing.” Like her, I thought I just wasn’t paying enough attention. But this inability to recognize faces (or remember names, a whole other issue) has dogged me my whole life. That’s a lot of dogging.


She went on to say:

I discovered the location dyslexia when I was taking an in-service class on learning disabilities when I taught H.S. I found out about the facial blindness from Duckie. He has it, too. Then I found out the two are often associated from a woman who presented at a writer’s conference here who I was giving rides into town to. Always learning.


It was a revelation for me. I have had this problem my whole life. I know we develop memory issues as we age, but this was a problem when I was still a teenager. Some guy would ask me out, but when he showed up, I wasn’t sure I knew him. I would have recognized him in class — where I met him — but out of class and wearing a suit? Was it the same guy? I had to assume it was because here he was, at my door. No one else was supposed to show up.

And then, there’s the “Where am I?” problem. Some places, I can find in the summer, but if it snows, I can’t find them. I don’t recognize the driveway. I may not even recognize the road.

I am totally hooked on signs. Big signs. The bigger, the better. I think everyone at every party should wear a name tag because otherwise, I don’t know who they are.

Worse? Garry doesn’t recognize people or places either, so together, we are perpetually lost and often arguing about it. It’s the lame and the halt fighting about who should lead the party.

I get to be the navigator and have printed instructions to go with the GPS, (which I don’t trust because it often sends us places by very strange roads that aren’t really roads). Garry feels he needs to argue with me, which simply takes my base confusion and ramps it up into high “I’m completely lost” levels.

Faceless?

We are currently making a deal that if I’m navigating, he should shut up and drive. If HE wants to navigate, that’s fine with me.

On some level, in my world, everyone is faceless. If you put a paper bag over my head and spin me twice, I won’t know where I am, even if it’s my own living room.

Faceless and directionless. All the way.

48 thoughts on “FACELESS AND DIRECTIONLESS”

  1. Whoa. Thank you for information I too never had. I don’t suffer from these things, but now I understand relatives who probably had them. I thought they were just not paying strict attention. Particularly the one who got lost, no matter how often she’d drive a route. Thanks to my father, who had a compass in his head and who endowed me with the same trait. It’s rare that I get lost. Now the facial recognition? I’m worse at it now, and I was never great at it. I thought that was because I simply didn’t care enough to memorize people I met briefly…but hmm. It must be a big trial to live with these conditions. But at least someone has recognized what they are and given them a name…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My son can go someplace once and always find it again. He thinks we are funny. But I don’t think he recognizes faces well either. He has to look very carefully, like he’s looking for a specific feature with which to identify a person. It’s not a handicap, but it is embarrassing. And more than a little humiliating.

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        1. If he hadn’t been Ted Kennedy, maybe it would have been. But “famous” people get forgiven. People assume as they did with Garry, that he is just very busy and therefore can’t remember everyone. Me, on the other hand? It’s MY fault. It is, as my husband points out, ALWAYS MY FAULT. Or maybe one of the dogs’. Besides, you can’t miss a president. There are 1000 secret service guys everywhere you look.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea this was a recognised problem. I know many people who do not recall faces or places…at all, and I never forget either, which makes things interesting. Names now, I can forget names at the drop of a hat…

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    1. I was glad it has a name. It’s frustrating to meet someone and they obviously know you … but you don’t know them or think you don’t. They think you weren’t paying attention (maybe I wasn’t, but also, maybe I was). As for lost, I thought the GPS was going to fix that, but they’ve gotten pretty wonky too recently. So yeah. Who IS that and where AM I? The story of my life.

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      1. I am dreadful with names… unless that is how I first meet someone, usually online. I am hopeless with dates… apart from a handful of birthdays, I have to write them down or I WILL forget. Numbers don’t seem to fix in memory unless I am using them all the time… whatever they are!

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        1. I used to remember numbers better than names and words, but that has disappeared with most of my short-term memory. A lot of people have this problem. Ted Kennedy was famous for never knowing who anyone was — and he was a senator for most of his life. He would call everyone “Hey, you, hi!” and everyone knew he didn’t know their name.

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            1. Garry can’t remember ours. He points out that he never calls it, which is true. Actually, he never uses any of the phones. Ever. I had to sit down and memorize mine and my son’s. It was an exercise. I figured at least those two numbers, I had to have in my head.

              My friend Tom say we are being made increasingly stupid by GPS’s and cell phones. We are so used to our devices knowing the information, we don’t even try to memorize it. He’s probably right.

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              1. I agree with Tom. I used to be able to remember phone numbers at least… but not any more. I suppose the brain prioritises what it HAS to remember.
                But the GPS? Hmmm… in cities it may be useful for finding an actual address… but I still prefer maps on paper. I like maps.

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                1. Actually, the GPS is least useful in cities. Too many signals. Our GPS is best in suburbs. Not great in open country — not enough towers or signals — and deeply confused in Boston where it doesn’t know whether it should be on which piece of Boyleston Street (on opposite ends of the city and don’t ask why … it has something to do with the building in the middle) and can’t find the hospital. I’ve almost given up on it. Even when it does give me directions, it tends to give me directions based on maps completed in 1862.

                  I would use maps, but it’s hard to get an accurate street map of Boston. They’ve been rebuilding it for the past 30 years and every time you are there, another street is closed and there’s a new spur off the main road. The road you used to use is now one way in the wrong direction and the adjacent road is closed for road repairs. And there’s no parking — anywhere.

                  I used to know Boston very well. I could find my way pretty much anywhere. Now, I feel lucky if I manage to exit the main road in the right section of town.

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                  1. London is like that with the GPS…or was, last time I ws obliged to drive there. It is probably where I learned to loath th GPS in the first place, after being sent round and round in circles to get to a street that had been blocked off with concrete bollards in the end.

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                    1. In Boston, a lot of the main roads go underground, below buildings, so you lose your signal and you exit the tunnel and have NO idea where to go. It’s not like it’s light traffic and you can pull over while waiting for the signal to come back. There are cars and trucks coming at you in every direction. I don’t even bother to use the GPS in Boston. I have friends who had the same bad experience with the GPS in Paris. They don’t work in cities … and that’s exactly where you really need them.

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  3. I had not heard of this before you mentioned it. I wonder how many misdiagnoses have occurred as a result. It could certainly be unsettling, nervewracking and even scary. I applaud your ability to get in the car and drive to go anywhere. The picture you posted, is quite often what I see and I find it so unsettling. I memorize body shape and movements which I can see. Then even when I can’t see I recall the body movement (whether dark or light form) and think, ah, it’s so and so.

    Liked by 1 person

              1. I have to do that with my son and daughter’s schedules, they are so diverse I can’t keep track otherwise. Then there is cooking days. I fill in but have sat sun Mon as a rule. Adam has thurs u mattress he’s evenings and my daughter work fine late shifts and I take up the slack there. Two grand cook one night each. I have to write that stuff down cause there are fig times with my grandson in dance, one grand horseback riding, both thurs. One in gymnastics 3 x a week and it’s usually 7 before we can all sit down to dinner.

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    1. It never occurred to me that this would be considered a disability. More like finally I have a name for it. I’ve always had trouble recognizing people … and being unable to find anything unless I have a really good map. I CAN find my way with a map. It’s not a disability anyway, not in the sense that it makes one unable to earn a living or anything like that. It’s much more of a persistent social embarrassment and no one pays you for that.

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      1. I lived in Chillicothe for years, and I’m sure that route 104 use to go directly into the Ross County Fairgrounds, then I would make a right into the fair! Well, actually there is a left turn that needs to be made around route 207 or something like that, and then a right into the fairgrounds. Oh well…

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        1. Now THAT sounds like ME. I need to have the exact route. Every turn. Landmarks if possible. If I miss ONE turnoff, I can’t figure out how to do the same thing backwards. Also, I don’t remember which way WAS backwards. I’m really bad.

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  4. Like others, I had no idea about this. My sense of direction isn’t great, but I am really good at recognising people, even from a long distance. Seem to recognise more than just their face. Of course, I’m complete rubbish at remembering their names.

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    1. A lot of people are navigationally challenged. I was never any good at it, but I used to use maps and I could find my way anywhere with a good map. GPS’s make you stupid … and lately, they seem to send us on roads that have been out of use for at least 100 years and to bridges that were washed out 10 years ago. So I also get printed directions.

      As for faces, i do my best, but if I don’t know who someone is … I ask. It’s better than using the wrong name.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My problem is “names” facial recognition is an easy one for me. I also believe that facial types get repeated. Maybe God ran out of ideas for faces and had to improvise every so often. Directions are not usually a problem as I can often remember a place I’ve been to well enough to re-visit it years, even decades later. The thing that gets to me is how much a “place” has changed. This is true as well for faces as I often have a mental picture of someone from a long time ago. Fortunately, there seems to always be some characteristic, in a face, that remains no matter how old we get.., it will just have a few wrinkles, and sags, around it… 🙂

        The amazing thing is how our impression of beauty can often mature with age. Old girlfriends are still beautiful to me despite, maybe, 50 years and as many pounds. Do our standards change or do we just accept who that person is and look deeper into their persona??

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        1. Garry still thinks I’M pretty. I think he’s whacked — in a good way.

          I have never been able to recognize faces unless that are close friends. I need to have had enough of a relationship to have a connection beyond facial recognition.

          And Jeff without a beard was … well … unrecognizable.

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  5. I’m pretty good when it comes to location and directions, but when it comes to faces, that’s something else. It’s not so much facial blindness. I recognize different faces. I just don’t know who they belong to or how I know them. So often people will look familiar and I know I’ve seen them before, put I can’t neither attach a name to their face nor the circumstances under which I know them. And that can be embarrassing when they say hello to me using my name and I have no idea who they are or how we know each other, even though I recognize the person’s face. I hate when that happens, which is all the time.

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    1. It gets worse when they remember all the stuff you did in High School … the clubs you were part of … and you don’t remember them at all … OR any of those activities. Sometimes I wonder if maybe they think I’m someone else, but it has happened too often. I recognize “types” of people. Blond ones, dark ones, old ones — but all children look the same to me. But I can spot any kind of dog at 200 yards.

      Sometimes, I look and I know that in that blankness is a face I ought to know … but I have no hook that contains a name or any other relevant information. It is a social disability and sometimes, really embarrassing. I have given up. Surrendered. I simply say ‘I’m sorry, I forget names and faces, so please remind me.” Most people deal with it pretty well. If it turns out to be your cousin, though, you’re in trouble.

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      1. Embarrassment is when you go to introduce a really good friend, whom you’ve known for years, and can’t remember the name which was there only a few minutes ago. Most of my friends are aware of this quirk in my being and will often jump in before I can answer, saving me the unwanted access to my humility.

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        1. I count on Garry remembering when I forget. But as often as not, neither of us remembers who is who. I lose words in the middle of sentences. Sometimes it comes back, sometimes not. That short-term memory lapsing is typical of our age group, but it’s bloody annoying. I keep telling Garry — as long as he usually recognizes me, we’re okay. So far, so good.

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  6. I had no idea it was a thing either. When I get lost, it is a totally different thing. I use the Navigation app on my phone when I am unsure how to go. It works very well. I used to rely on maps but that did not always work. I have a GPS, but it is years old and things change.

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    1. Boston is an old city and many streets are located in various parts of the city with no street of the same name in between. The GPS never knows which part of the street you should be on. Worse, it doesn’t know which part of the hospital you want to go to. And then — there are the tunnels. Between one thing and another, it’s hopeless. maybe in a city that doesn’t have a lot of tunnels and is organized in some sensible way, but Boston ain’t that city.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One thing the great Chicago Fire allowed for was Chicago to design itself. We are on a grid with a logical numbering system. If someone told me to go to 4000 North and 2500 West I would not need a map, a GPS or even to know the street names. I could get there. There are few cities laid out like this. Bridges, tunnels and streets that do not run in a straight line (for the most part) would be a problem.

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  7. I was about to say that your first paragraph perfectly described me as well, and had no idea that “condition” had a name. I would have a hard time recognizing the people I work with if I ran into them somewhere else… and don’t get me started on an ex-coworker who comes back into the store at some later time and I have absolutely no idea who they are. If I have to walk away for a couple minutes to find something in the back for a customer, I have to really hope they’re still in the same place when I come back because I’ve forgotten what they looked liked. Faces are just so faceless to me… so I guess the next time someone I apparently used to know seems disappointed that I don’t recognize them, I can tell them I have facial blindness with a side of location dyslexia…

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