The Joy Of Face Blindness

Nutter Butter on a branch and Peaches in the tub and what do you mean you can’t tell them apart?

Me: (watching TV with spouse)

Me: (specifically an episode of The Big Bang Theory)

Me: (one of his favorite shows)

Spouse: (is married to the actual literal last person in the world not to have seen a single episode)

Me: (going for the win for marital harmony and cultural literacy)

Me: Oh!

Spouse: ?

Me: can you pause it please?

Spouse: sure

Spouse: (is used to this from years of watching TV with me)

Me: I know that guy!

Spouse: You know Sheldon???

Me: no no no

Me: I mean I know of him.

Me: That actor.

Me: He’s in another show I’ve seen!

Reality: (he isn’t)

Spouse (looking surprised and impressed): Really?

Me: Yes! He plays Moriarty in Sherlock!

Reality: (he way extremely doesn’t)

Reality: (also this incident took place several years ago when Me’s friend turned her on to Sherlock)

Reality: (this blog is the place for topical and fresh-off-the-press references)

Me: (would you MIND)

Reality: (sorry please go on)

Spouse: Huh. Busy guy.

Me: yeah sorry go ahead and unpause

Me: (manages to watch for like two uninterrupted minutes)

Me: sorry can you pause it again?

Spouse: (doesn’t even sigh or anything)

Me: okay their voices are nothing alike

Spouse: Whose?

Me: Sheldon and Moriarty’s. I mean, he must be a great voice artist if he can do an American accent so perfectly, but still…

Reality: (but still)

Me: (shut UP)

Me: (feels familiar sinking feeling)

Me (sighing): can you keep it paused a minute? I have to look this up.

Me: (googles that stuff)

Me: Damn it.

Reality: (hee hee hee)

Me: I hate you.

Spouse: ???

Me: no no no not you

Me: that’s just way extremely not the same actor

Me (showing screen to spouse): see?

Spouse: …yeah, that’s really not the same guy.

Me: I blew it again.

Me: Big time.

Me: I mean, they’re both white guys with dark hair, but that’s it. 

Me: I mean, when I’ve got the picture of the Moriarty guy in front of me and then I look at Sheldon on the TV, even I can see they look nothing alike.

Reality: (oh really?)

Me: (snarl)

Me: but I mean there’s gotta be something

Me: there has to be some reason I thought they were the same guy

Me: This is more than just the usual face blindness.

Spouse: (politely waiting to be allowed to watch his show already)

Me: sorry go ahead and unpause it again

Spouse: (watches show)

Me: (sort of watches show)

Me: (really just kind of stares at it)

Me: (not even bothering to try to keep up with the plot now)

Me: (cheese and crackers – once he’s unpaused, Sheldon looks exactly like Moriarty again)

Me: (to me anyway)

Me: (why why why why why)

Some character on Big Bang Theory: (says something Sheldon isn’t thrilled by)

Sheldon: (grimaces)

Me (triumphantly): that’s IT

Spouse: What’s what?

Me: That look. That funny little expression Sheldon gets. The thing his whole face does, just for a second. 

Me: THAT’S why he looks like Moriarty

Me: That’s when he looks like Moriarty.

Spouse: Huh.

Reality: (yes um sorry but I can’t see it)


Spouse: ?????

Me: …sorry how ’bout we just watch this show like two people watching a show

Spouse: Sounds good!

As a kid, I didn’t know about face blindness. I just thought I was “bad with faces.”

Really bad.

Badness #1:

Six-year-old me: Hi, Aunt Suzy!

Lovely woman with new haircut: …I’m your mother.

Badness #2:

Fourteen-year-old me (who just spent an entire afternoon with cool new friend): Let’s meet after school tomorrow and hang out again!

Cool new friend: totally

Fourteen-year-old me (next day): (could someone please invent cell phone technology so I can text the girl who’s sitting next to me and make sure she’s the human I spent hours with yesterday because no I can’t tell by looking and yes I’d know her voice but sadly she’s not talking)

Cool new friend: why are you staring at me like that?

Cool new friendship: (dies)

Badness #3

31-year-old me (to cool new mom friend at cool mom hangout): Hey, it was great meeting you! Wonderful talk! See you next week!

31-year-old me (at cool mom hangout next week): um

Badness with extreme prejudice:

32-year-old me (at park with own toddler): Okay, I recognize those overalls. That’s my kid.

32-year-old me: …I think.

I am not making any of this up.

Yes, face blindness is real. Jane Goodall is face blind and was good enough to write about it in the introduction to her book Reason For Hope, which was how I figured out that I wasn’t just “bad with faces.”

Yes, face blindness is often associated with autism – or rather autism is often associated with face blindness. Point is, I do both and I do them well.

Yes, face blindness can make it a huge pain in the arse to keep track of who’s who and what’s going on in TV shows and movies. (Fun fact: Rogue One is a drastically different movie if you understand that there are actually two dark-haired men with facial hair in the first rapid-back-and-forth half hour of that film, not one man who’s having an unusually busy day.)

And most of all: no, face blindness is not just being sort of bad with faces. Face blindness is taking this test and answering all twenty questions either “OH HECK YES” or “OH NO WAY,” depending on whether the questions are “I never recognize anybody I’ve only met once unless their name is Godzilla and they’ve starred in several movies that have titles such as Godzilla” or “I’m so good at recognizing celebrities in those ‘before they were famous’ photos, that’s how I got hired to write for BuzzFeed.”

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play with my little bearded dragons, whom I was immediately able to tell apart from the day I brought them home at the age of three weeks. Because apparently I can recognize some people. Just not the ones most people hang out with.

3 thoughts on “The Joy Of Face Blindness

  1. I can relate entirely 🙂 I too have almost total face blindness. Even with the wife. Fortunately, she’s usually the shortest person in the room (147 cm, 4’10”) and, being Japanese, likely to be the only person of “Asian appearance”. Context, such as location, clothing, jewelry etc help in identifying people as well. On the other hand, I can instantly recognise friends, family, acquaintances, etc by their voice.

    Liked by 1 person

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