“Okay,” she said at the check-stand like she usually does. “I will pack the groceries while you look at the magazines. At least you’ll be out of the way.”
Now, normally these instructions motivate me to assist with our items but our trip to Kroger last night was an exception, for I found myself riffling through a celebrity gossip magazine to learn that some incurable disease was afflicting Brad Pitt. After endless pages of anti-aging formulas plus a special ad for a Thomas Kinkade® Christmas snowman encircled by an authentic old-fashioned Christmas train, I finally found Brad and his malady.
It’s called prosopagnosia, better known as “face blindness,” a very rare but very real inability to recognize most faces. Mr. Pitt, sez the article, suffers certain social difficulties in that he lacks confidence in recognizing faces, even those he should know well.
Unfortunately for him, it seems that a good many people don’t believe that prosopagnosia is real. Unpleasant commenters accused him of fabricating the condition. “Oh,” wrote one: “You made up a disease so we would feel sorry for you.” Another: “I’m a surgeon, and I’ve never heard of any such condition. Did you find it in a book somewhere?”
No, he did not. “Face blindness” is a real, albeit rare, brain malfunction. There is no cure and the symptoms are as described. Its consequences can be devastating, and I know this because I have it. Turns out that everyone’s memory for faces resides in a special section of one’s noggin, only it’s a section that Brad and I lack. I only realized I was face-blind ten years ago, in my ‘60’s.
Before then, I didn’t quite believe it either. I’d read discussions about face blindness here and there, but it never occurred to me that I might qualify as a poster child for anything more profound than Stage IV cluelessness. “What’s the matter with you?” asked exasperated teachers, colleagues and bosses I’ve encountered throughout my 75 years.
Well, now I have an answer. Fortunately, I also have Natalie and a host of good friends who extract me from potentially-fatal social gaffes. I hope that Brad Pitt is as blessed as I am.
Mark Kinsler, firstname.lastname@example.org, lives with Natalie and two supervisory alley cats in our little old house in Lancaster. He may recognize your name and your clock but unless Natalie is nearby, probably not you.