In any given social situation, I will either be very quiet / guarded or over-the-top friendly. There is no middle ground with me. I've come to realize that this is a coping mechanism thanks in part to my weird quirk.
Confession: I have a really hard time recognizing people.
I grew up in a tiny town in rural Indiana. Not a lot of people looked like me, and the tragic story of my father dying in the army when I was three, made me a recognizable face. To top it off, my grandma was a well known character in our little town, so even though I moved away at age 18, even to this day, when I go back for a rare visit, I still get recognized.
I've always shrugged off my inability to remember faces because I assumed I was easier to recall and recognize than most people.
I always thought that me not recognizing people I should know was a facet of my self-centeredness. If I had to confess a deep character flaw / recurring sin, I would say that I have the tendency to be aloof and self-serving. I don't typically consider other people's feelings even when my actions affect them. I cannot recall a single time when I didn't do something I wanted to do because of how another person may perceive me. I am overly confident and incredibly self-centered-- not because I'm purposefully inconsiderate-- it just doesn't occur to me that others may think differently than I do.
This led me to believe that everyone had a hard time recognizing others, but that some people had figured out a trick that helped them to remember. If only I could find that trick!
Here are some examples:
1. In college, I served in a kids' ministry, and try as I might I could not remember any of the children's names, despite seeing them every week for an academic school year. Kids would sit on my lap, I'd play games with them, I'd hug them, pray with them, and really care for them. However, from week to week, if they changed their hairstyle, I couldn't match a name to their cute little face.
2. When Facebook first started, I would deny friend requests from anyone I didn't recognize, even if we had mutual friends. I came to find out that I was denying people that I had interactions with weekly at church or at work, as they would confront me about the denials!
3. I introduced myself to (my now dear friend) Melissa for what I thought was the first time. She looked at me like I had a monster growing out of my head and said, "I'm Melissa. I know who you are. You've introduced yourself three times now." This was the first time someone called me out on this, but I later found out this was a common occurrence.
4. I went to a gal's house for a ladies' night out through my church, and as I was leaving, I introduced myself to her and said, "Thank you so much for hosting. It was really nice meeting you." She laughed, uncomfortably. I recognized that laugh immediately. I had met her before. Turns out it was someone in the worship band (i.e. someone I see every week), someone I had talked to several times, and someone I had lunch with three days prior.
5. A good friend was at a party, and I bumped my hip into hers and said, "I missed you in dance class this week!" She looked at me and said, "I don't go to dance class." I laughed because we have dance class together every Tuesday and had for months at that point. We dance right next to each other. "Dance Battle Build? At the YMCA?" She said, "You may be thinking of [R] or [J]." I searched her face. Wasn't she [R]? Nope. Note: these two women are both caucasian and have brown hair, but they do not look anything alike.
6. A few weeks ago, a gal in my community group, someone I am friends with, someone I see every single week (sometimes many times a week) was sitting in a chair at my house. I sat down next to her, but had to excuse myself to check on the kids downstairs. While downstairs I asked another parent, "Who was is that lady upstairs who was holding [Baby J]?" He said, "Isn't that [Baby J's mom 'K']?" "No,' I said, "[K] isn't here, is she?" It was totally her, but because I didn't expect her to be there, my brain could not synthesize that she was there... even though her baby was!
7. I have been married to Chris for twelve years. He has a large family who we see semi-regularly. I still cannot tell many of the aunts and uncles and cousins apart and at this point, it's way too embarrassing to say so.
8. For three years, I had an amazing intern, Rachel. She was like Andie in The Devil Wears Prada (which, sadly, makes me the Miranda). Without asking, she would slyly remind me who people were so I didn't appear foolish.
9. Chris and I have a secret sign that I do when he's supposed to say, "Can you remind me of your name again?" so that I can be reminded of that person's name again. This sign predates Chris (I remember teaching it to my family in high school), which means I've had this problem for a loooooong time.
There's more, but basically it comes down to this:
I can't recognize people out of context. Like if I know you from the blogging world, and I run into you while we're wearing exercise clothes at Target, I will introduce myself even if I can tell you know who I am. I do this so hopefully you'll tell me your name to remind me who you are.
In social situations, if I'm quiet, I am checking out who else you're talking to to see if I should know you. Or I'll approach you with a way too friendly / familiar attitude because I assume we've already met or I may have confused you with someone else. I'll secretly ask my friend your name later.
Online I do the social media for my church. If I have to tag your photo with your name, I have to have someone else double check my work. If you send me a friend request on Facebook, I will deny you. It's just easier to deny everyone but immediate family members at this point.
I try my very best to recognize you by the context in which I see you (gym? church? park? school?). If that fails, I try to recognize you by your children, your general style of dress, your mannerisms, and / or your hairstyle. But if any of those change, I may struggle. And sometimes, if my clues fail me, I might incorrectly conclude you're someone totally different than who you are.
I recognize that you have face, but occasionally, if you're out of context, in a group setting, without your children or spouse, dressed differently, or have new hair, I cannot remember how or even if I know your face. And if I can't recall your face, I can't recall your name.
I often describe people by the way they dress or their height. I can weirdly recall what people are wear even if I can't recall their face. I just thought this was because I'm interested in personal style. But it could be because I pay more attention to sartorial details because regularly I instantly forget faces.
In most cases, over time, I will know you because I've got all the everything except your face imprinted into my memory. But very, very occasionally, my brain can't access that information. If someone can sneak me your name, everything will come flooding back to me.
However, if you know me and I've forgotten your name, that's on me. That doesn't mean you're not worth remembering or that I don't want to be your friend. Please forgive me if I introduce myself again. I'm Indiana, and apparently I have a mild form of face-blindness. Apparently that's a real thing.
This account describes almost exactly what it's like for me to have this issue, but I'm hesitant to diagnose myself as Face Blind (I would feel most comfortable if a doctor could officially diagnose me)- Prosopagnosia: What it's like to be Face Blind:
These quotes jumped out at me because it's precisely how I feel:
For years, I just thought I was a self-absorbed jerk unwilling to remember the people around me.
As a child, I had terrible vision that went uncorrected until the 6th grade. I recall borrowing a friend’s glasses on the bus and for the first time, realizing you could see individual leaves on trees. So initially, I blamed my poor sight for my inability to pick out friends in the hallway or anyone out of context.
Except I didn't find out I needed glasses until I was 15, when I went in to get my drivers' permit.
And it’s not like forgetting a name, where you can apologize and ask again. In some cases, I can’t recall people I’ve known for months or years. Basically, if someone is out of place or I don’t see them on a usual basis, I am often stumped.
In a lot of ways, realizing this is, indeed, a real thing gives me immense relief. Maybe I'm not such a self-absorbed jerk! Maybe I don't have early on-set Alzheimer's. In other ways, however, it makes me even more determined to find a trick to help since other people experience this to some degree. There's got to be a tried and true trick, right?
I wanted to write that I have started this post 1000 times in the last few days, but I'm prone to exaggeration. So I thought that instead I'd write that I've started this post at least 10 times in the last couple of days, but that still wouldn't be the truth. So... the truth is this: this is me, writing off the cuff, without much thought or measure, and I'm blogging for the first time since January.
I love blogging. I've been doing it as a hobby since 1999 and over the years I've met hundreds of fellow bloggers at various conferences, including TxSC (rest in peace, my little blog conference!).
But for the last couple years I've noticed that Instagram seems to be where the party is at.
Some years you make a big to-do about your Christmas cards. Outfits were coordinated, a photographer booked, cards were printed, envelopes were addressed, stamps were affixed, and heart felt notes were written.
Other years you do a quick snapshot in the backyard and hurriedly send the file off to a one-hour photo and hand them out to family on Christmas day.
Other years you rush your family in front of a hastily erected tripod just as you're headed out the door to Christmas Eve brunch and you opine, "This year, a social media digital photo is gonna have to do. I hope great grandma has email!"
We'll let you guess which year is this year for our family.
May your Christmas be filled with the love and laughter this Christmas, no matter what kind of year you've had.
-Indiana & Chris
& Lucy, Caroline, & Jude
A Christmas post from Indiana . . .
Even though we don't do Santa Claus (i.e. presents left under the tree from Santa on Christmas morning), we do take our kids to the mall every year to take a photo with the guy dressed as Santa.
This year's picture did not disappoint. I'm calling this work of art "Lucy Isn't Having It".
This year the kids were joined by their baby cousin Clover (purple shirt on Santa's lap- R), who is six months younger than Lucy (white shirt on Santa's lap- L). I'm not sure if Clover is frightened by the man dressed as Santa or if she's empathy crying for lil'Lu who is freaking her ever loving freak.
This picture joins an incredible line-up of Santa photos from years past [click photo to view larger on Instagram]:
Visiting mall Santa, at least for the next couple years, is going to remain one of my favorite family traditions.
Speaking of... if you meet a family (like mine) who isn't doing Santa, don't assume we're kill joys or that we think your family shouldn't do Santa. We do celebrate Christmas in other ways --big ways! fun ways!-- but we decided that the whole leaving presents from Santa and using him as a behavior modification tool just wasn't right for our family. We've told Jude that Santa Claus was real and that some families have a tradition of pretending to give gifts from Santa Claus. We've told him that some families like to pretend the mall Santa is real (kind of like characters at Disney World or in movies) and if he wants to pretend too, he can because using our imagination is fun. However, it was important to me that he knows that the presents our kids get on Christmas are presents from people who love them and know them and thoughtfully chose each and every gift and wrapped it just for them.
And because we mentioned it on our most recent podcast (returning soon, I swear!) and said we'd publish it on the blog, here are the want / need / wear / read gifts we got (or will get, belated) for our children this year:
- WANT | Jude told the mall Santa he wanted a nutcracker, and it's the only thing he's consistently asked for. So cute. Maybe this will be a yearly tradition.
- NEED | We haven't purchased this yet, but embarrassingly, Jude is still sleeping in his crib. I mean, the toddler rail is installed and he fits just fine, but it's time for us to re-do his room and get him into a big boy bed. He's been asking for a bunk bed, but we're unsure. We think a loft bed or a day bed may be a better choice. Pictured: Land of Nod Tall Order Loft Bed.
- WEAR | He used to wear his NASA cap all the time, but it got lost shortly after our move. I ordered a replacement.
- READ | Chris got him a Narnia box set for them to read together at night.
- WANT | She told the mall Santa she wanted a "new kazoo". She has a perfectly fine kazoo, but we'll indulge her. I love that she always asks things like this. For her birthday, the only thing she wanted was a pointed, cardboard birthday hat.
- NEED | She has outgrown her hand-me-down bike, so we've upgraded her to this and Lucy will get the hand-me-down bike. Do you know how hard it was to find a girly bike that didn't have cartoon characters on it and / or wasn't all pink and purple everything?
- WEAR | She has outgrown the fluffy winter hat she wore all last year. Because she loves leopard, I ordered a similar hat but in her favorite pattern.
- READ | Every time we go to the library, she checks out a bug book. Now she can have her own.
- WANT | Every time I ask her what she'd like for Christmas she says "Dah". "Dah" can mean "dog" or "doll" so I had to make a guess. This doll is good because she can practice buttons, snaps, and ties, which means she can be on her way to dressing herself... which means she's only a few steps away from dressing crazy like Caroline.
- NEED | We have second hand Tripp Trapp chairs for Jude and Caroline, and Lucy so desperately wants to sit in them at the table with us instead of being relegated to her high chair. Thankfully we scored one on Facebook from a local garage sale group last week!
- WEAR | Lucy is obsessed with wearing other people's boots. Sadly, Caroline's frog boots (originally Jude's, originally someone else's) bit the dust, so Lucy doesn't have rain boots in the pipeline for a hand-me-down. I'm eying these cuties since Lucy loves animals so much.
- READ | I can't remember where I saw this book (maybe on Oh, Joy?) but I saw it today at Barnes & Noble and grabbed it for Lucy. I love how cute and simple it is.
It probably isn't at all helpful for me to publish our gift list with just one shopping day between now and Christmas, but maybe you'll be like me, braving the crowds tonight and tomorrow morning or giving a few belated gifts with only a moderate amount of shame.
Or maybe you can use this next year and check back in to see if we'll have a "Lucy Isn't Having It, Part Two" photo. Sound good?
A Thoughtful Closet post from Indiana . . .
There are two types of people in the world: 1- people who are good at giving advice, and 2- people who are not. But you've got to beware of people who are not good at giving advice because many of them are delusional and think they give good advice or many of them try to give advice anyway, so they masquerade as a good advice givers.
This surprises a lot of my friends when I tell them this, but when it comes to fashion, I am a person who does not give good advice. However I'm savvy enough to know this about myself and to not even try. This is why I'm not a stylist and why I'm uncomfortable when stores ask me to come in to style people for events. Some days I can barely dress myself.
That's why it's been a little befuddling that since I've been tackling my Thoughtful Closet experiment that a fair amount of people have contacted me to help them make their own capsule collection or pared down wardrobe. That is so flattering, y'all, but it's not at all within my realm of capabilities. In fact, this is me laughing at the thought of styling other people.
But because people have reached out to me about it, I know it's a real want that's out there. I just sort of winged it when I started and for sure have some mistakes that I'll share another time, but for next season / my spring experiement, I've been test driving Cladwell's new site (still in beta!) called Capsules. They're calling it "a destination that helps you create a simple, minimal wardrobe with only clothes you love." For $15 per season ($5 per month), they'll help you build your own capsule wardrobe based on your lifestyle, color preferences, and more. It's way more affordable than a personal stylist (my stylist friends charge $250 - $500 for this service), and I think it's really rad and easy to use.
If one of your new years resolutions is to start shopping more thoughtfully or to try a capsule wardrobe, may I suggest trying Capsules? As a bonus, the first 50 folks to sign up with my link can enjoy the service for $10 this season (instead of $15). It's a small price to pay to avoid bad fashion advice givers pretending to be good fashion advice givers, am I right?