It’s the spookiest time of the year. Ghosts. Goblins. Erratic weather patterns. I’m particularly good at making costumes for Halloween, but I’m doing something extra special this time around. I’m keeping my costume a secret, but I can say it involves a cheap wig that was marketed as “Will Byers/Beatles/Mushroom Lady Hairstyle”. It’s truly a synthetic wonder. I decided to do a little test run the other day to try everything on. When I turned around to inspect my new look I can’t explain what I saw.
Because I have mild face blindness. Unlike razor blades in your peanut butter cups, face blindness is absolutely a real thing. When I looked in the mirror, I startled myself because I didn’t recognize me. Not in a reality TV show makeover kind of way. I legitimately thought there was a stranger in my house who looked like a female member of a Merseybeat group.
At its most harmless, face blindness is like holding a dog up to its own reflection and insisting “who is that?” There’s a vague notion of what’s happening, but ultimately it’s a tedious and futile exercise. I have a difficult time watching any film or television show that includes any type of uniform. Cheerleaders? Nightmare. Are all the detectives in trench coats? This mystery just got extra complicated. I was thankful when Game of Thrones started offing folks immediately. The fewer brunette-men-with-stubble-and-complicated-pasts I have to keep track of, the better. I even had trouble distinguishing the dragons from one another.
Here are some things that contribute to my brain’s identity theft of both casual acquaintances and family members alike: haircuts, contouring, dim lighting, hats, sunglasses. Every time the weather changes and people start wearing a new coat I have to start over. Once, I was supposed to meet a date in a park. We’d only met twice before, both times at a bar and he was a schnazzy type of dude who liked to wear a suit. All of a sudden, in a wide-open space I had no idea how I’d find him. I walked right past the guy because he chose to wear jeans that day. The term “ghosting” means ending a relationship by slowly withdrawing and cutting off all communication. In my case, ghosting is a little more in the classic “I think my eyes are playing tricks on me”. The relationship didn’t last much longer. He didn’t see me for who I was, and I didn’t see him at all.
Ultimately, I rely on context clues to identify who it is I bumped into at the grocery story. Like a never-ending round of that kid’s game, Guess Who, I use the process of elimination to pinpoint a person. I love a set of imperfect teeth. A weird laugh. A nervous throat-clearing habit. All the unique stuff about you helps people like me. Personally, I’d love if we started wearing name-tags all the time. Or if blind dates (a term that’s painfully literal) held up signs like you do at an arrival gate at the airport.
All this to say, I apologize if I’ve ever seemed rude to you in public. I value you, just give me a minute to evaluate who you are. And never feel self-conscious of your chin mole or a visible scar. Those things set you apart which is a lifesaver when we bump into one another at the coffee shop. The scariest thing for a lot of people is to be forgotten. Unfortunately, I might ghost you all year round. But this Halloween, in my mop top and big sunglasses and impossibly fluffy coat, you can return the favor and find me absolutely unrecognizable.
This piece was written for the Community Columnist section of the Bismarck Tribune.