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 I'm Sorry....Do I Know You?

by Rose Madeline Mula

So you can't remember names, and you think that's a problem. Tough toenails, as I used to say (before I dumped my old crowd and joined a more sophisticated circle).

But back to your so-called dilemma. The reason you get no sympathy from me is because I have a much worse problem: Though I have little difficulty recalling names, you see, I have absolutely no memory for faces. And I can't even blame my aging brain. This affliction has plagued me all my life.

That's not so terrible, you say. Really? Look at it this way. What's the good of having lots of names on the tip of your tongue if you don't know where to spit them out? On the other hand, if you remember faces but not names, you have it made. When you're at a party or walking down the street and you bump into someone you know you've met, you can smile brightly and say "Hey! Good to see 'ya!" or "How absolutely delightful to have encountered you!" depending on your own sophistication level. Me, I walk right by without a flicker of recognition, leaving the other person assuming I'm an obnoxious snob. It's painfully embarrassing, especially if I had just had breakfast with that person a couple of hours beforeor if he's the man who had filled in as a substitute at bridge the previous weekor if she's the woman to whom I had given a card last May that said, "To My Wonderful Mother."

Okay, so that last example is a slight exaggeration. Actually, I do recognize close friends and relatives. However, if I see most other people outside of the environments with which I associate them, they might as well be total strangers. For example, last December when I was clearing snow from my car in front of my house, a man drove up, got out of his car, and offered to help. I thought it was the guy who had just moved out of the condo next to mine. Wrong. It was my financial adviser whom I visit regularly. He had come by to drop off a Christmas present. But because he was wearing a ski jacket instead of a business suit and he wasn't behind his desk, I didn't recognize him.

Most people cannot identify with such experiences. One friend is particularly skeptical. That's because she remembers everyone she ever met since she was two years old, even if she hasn't seen them in fifty years and they've had three facelifts in the interim. Then she rubs it in by saying something like, "You'd have known her, too—she has the same look around the eyes as she had in the second grade." Yeah, right. Like I'd remember how someone's eyes had looked like this morning, never mind in the second grade. I not only can't convince this particular friend that I'm not lying, I've come close to losing other newer friends whose feelings are hurt to think they apparently made so little impression on me.

If I hear later that I've inadvertently snubbed someone, I of course try to explain. Fortunately, I now have ammunition to back up my apology—photocopies of an Ann Landers column reprinting a letter she had received from a woman who suffered from the same handicap as I. Good old Ann checked with doctors and learned that such a malady actually exists. It seems that some of us have "faulty cranial wiringprobably a second cousin to dyslexia" that causes us to forget facial features. Ann went on to report that "People with dyslexia were thought to be stupid, until research proved they are often brighter than average." Nyah! Nyah! (Sorry. Guess I haven't completely purged my vocabulary of those old expressions.)

But I won't flaunt my superior intelligence, if you promise not to be angry if I don't speak to you the next time I see you.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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