I just can’t see her.

I can see it now, the way she tosses her hair when she is nervous. The way her lips part briefly and her top teeth settle on her bottom lip when she is apprehensive. The way her eyes widen as she tucks stray hair behind her ear when she is faced with a situation that challenged her perceptions. The way she wrinkles her nose when she’s amused.
The changes in how she moves driven by her emotions.
I just can’t see her.
I know she is attractive, I’m not blind. Well not in the traditional sense.
She used to have the wavy brown silky hair that supermodels spend hours emulating before shoots. She had sculpted eyebrows, and the type of makeup that looks like none. She had an immaculate dress sense, and a self confidence that captivated many. Now she is older, less concerned with her appearance, rounder, but still secure with that confidence when she needs it.
Her voice is smooth with a hint of Welsh accent cutting through when she gets tired. She is smart with the degrees to prove it. She just feels like a fake sometimes.
I still can’t see her.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her in the bathroom, something that hits me with the recognition of the girl I still think of her as. Caught like her image in a photograph as a teen. I can see her in the photograph, I see her hair up, her lips red, a hint of a smile on her face. Large hooped earrings catch the light. I think it’s her great grandad’s 100th birthday. I know it’s her, but she may as well be a stranger.
I know her well. I know her every thought, hope, dream. I know all the masks and strategies she employs when she’s around other people.
But I can’t see her.
Sometimes she shocks me, a change in hair colour makes such a difference. The extra weight from a happy marriage hangs from her frame. Sometimes I see her and I don’t recognise her at all.
Her family are the same though. Her husband is tall, with long red hair, her children are various ages from 6 to early twenties, so they are easily told apart. Except in photographs of them when they were babies. Then they all look the same.
It’s always been like this for me, strangers in a familiar land. Strangers in my own house. Stranger in the mirror.
———
I have been faceblind all my life. I identify people in various ways. I call them markers. This is the sum of things that identifies to me who someone is. You all have them. I can sometimes draw huge leaps of identification from someone I knew as a child to the adult when people around me don’t recognise them. It’s amazing what doesn’t change with people. There’s a girl from school I knew who behaved like a mouse, she’s grown up now, full of confidence, definite swan from a cygnet. But she still moves the same. She still has the same eye colour.
Find a partner. You don’t have to inform them that you are doing this, but choose someone that’s sat near you. Roll up a paper tube like you used to as a kid. Embrace your inner pirate. Now look at them through the tube. They should be close enough that you can see one feature at a time through the tube. Look at their eye, now ear, now nose, now chin, now mouth, other eye. Look at their hair.
That’s close to how it is I guess. I can see the features, but they don’t form a picture. They don’t come together in my mind to identify them.
It’s called prosopagnosia.

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