Why I Don’t Know Who You Are


Like most writers, I have fairly unenviable social skills. I say strange and inappropriate things because I want to compliment someone, or because the awkward silence has gone on a minute too long, or because I have had too many glasses of wine at that book launch thing and trying to be a normal human is hard.

But this weekend while I was hanging out with far cooler people than myself at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, I realised I have an added disadvantage.


And this is totally a problem I have with both facial and name recognition. All people look pretty much the same to me unless there is something remarkably distinctive about them, like they have only one leg, or pink hair, or are nine foot tall. And even then we probably have to meet several times in real life, within a context that I will remember because of Events, so that I will be able to associate your collection of features and syllables with that set of conversations or actions.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have face blindness – I don’t know enough about the condition to know if I fall within those parameters – but it is a very real problem for me.

This did make FLF a little distressing for me because I felt terrible when someone would say  “Hi, I’m so-and-so, we met last year,” and I am literally shaking on the inside because I now have to scramble through my index of associations and try get all the things in the right place and let me tell you that never works well.

So, no matter what it looks like, I am not snubbing you, or being wilfully rude, or pretending we’ve never met, I am just panicking on several levels. Be kind like you would be to a small child, say your name slowly, and give me an association I can use (“We were at Bob’s party and I told that terrible joke about an elephant and I wrote a book you said you liked, you nitwit.”) and give me time to set the pieces in place. I will get there. 😉



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2 Replies to “Why I Don’t Know Who You Are”

  1. Sometimes even a context won’t help. I’ve had people tell me about events I was at, people who were present, movies we saw or foods we ate, shocking things that happened…and I’m all “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    My memory is full of holes.

    My memory for people is HORRIBLE. You are not alone!

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