May 18, 1997, The Sunday Star Ledger
The following paragraph is a comment inserted by the webmaster of these pages.
Note to the international crowd in our internet community. GA is an abbreviation for Geargia. Georgia is the second most southern state on the east coast of the United States, if you want to pull out your map and locate it yourself.
Dear Ann Lander: A while back, you wrote that anyone who reads your column regularly is sure to recognize himself or herself sooner or later. How true! It happened to me when I read about people who have trouble recognizing faces, even those of friends and relatives, when encountered outside the usual setting.
On March 2, my husband and I attended a Sunday school class taught by former President Jimmy Carter in Plains, GA. It was at Maranatha Baptist Church. After an inspiring presentation by the former president, there was a five minute recess. My husband and I decided it would be a good time to use the facilities.
When we returned, a pretty woman and a nice-looking gentleman were sitting in our seats. I was certain a couple of tourists had taken our choice second-row seats since they appeared to be unoccupied. I explained that my husband and I were sitting in those seats. The woman just smiled. I tried to tell her we had left our prayer books on the seats to save them.
At that moment, I felt a firm but loving arm moving me away. It was my red-faced husband. He whispered, "Honey, that woman is Roosevelt Carter, and we have been sitting in the Carters' seats."
When I gathered my wits, I went back to Mrs. Carter and apologized. She was very gracious and said, "That's perfectly all right. I realize you didn't recognize me." Needless to say, I was very embarrassed.
So, dear Ann, apparently, I have the same problem as the reader who didn't recognize her next-door neighbor in the shopping mall.
--R.F., from Plains
Dear R.F.: Thank you for your willingness to share a story that must have caused yuou some embarrassment. You aren't alone. Keep reading:
Dear Ann Landers: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have lived many years thinking I'm the only person in the world who suffers from the inability to recognize people.
I have a B.A. and an M.A. In colege, I was able to point out things that the professors missed. But I still thought I was a dummy because I could not remember who was who. I taught for many years and would memorize the names of students at their desks. It worked as long as they were in their seats, but come recess, I'd be sunk.
I am retired now and have been asked to run for office. I refused because I was sure, sooner or later, I would make a fool of myself because of my disability. I feel a lot better knowing that I'm not alone.
--E.S. in Racine, Wis.
Dear Racine: You and a great many others. Thanks for writing. And now for a letter that should help even more:
Dear Ann Landers: The reader who described an inability to recognize close friends might feel better if she knew that she had a medical problem known as prosopagnosia. This is a rare condition in which an individual cannot recognize faces and may have to depend on people's voices or the way they walk to identify them.
Prosopagnosia is usually caused by bilateral lesions of the ventromesial occipitotemporal regions or, in simpler terms, damage to the rear part of the brain. Sincerely
--Christopher Grote Ph.D., assistant professor Department of Psychology and Neurological Sciences, Rush Medical College, Chicago
Dear Dr. Grote: Thanks for a professional explanation that should reduce embarrassment all around.