It’s Always The Other Guy

I prefer not to think of my own guilt or culpability if there’s any way it can be avoided. Surely this is a universal characteristic in my species, but it doesn’t make that admission any pleasanter. It’s lousy enough to think of myself as being quite so continually fallible and messy as I am without having to admit that it’s probably avoidable much of the time, and definitely not something I should just let slide or pretend I don’t have to attempt to amend. Being imperfect is crummy enough in itself, and when I look at my shortcomings and think of what I should be doing to let go of them and, presumably, to repair their damage, it’s more than a little bit overwhelming.digital illustration

It’s all well and good to sit and read a rip-roaring murder mystery novel and cluck with self-satisfied disapprobation at the terrible things those awful people do in it, but if I think I’m all spiffy-clean and untouchably innocent I’m just as deluded as any. I may take some delicate form of self-righteous umbrage should anyone dare to note that I’m not so much better than the petty criminals I love to decry in that movie I just saw, or to think myself piously, wonderfully holier than the lowlifes on the evening news who have done Such Terrible Things I can hardly bear to mention them, but what I conveniently disguise to my own satisfaction as trivial and wholly excusable imperfections might just as well be the crime of the century if they harmed another person or set something in the world off kilter, however indirectly or unintentionally.digital illustration

While it galls me beyond words to see other people painting over their own horrible inward rot with every excuse in the book or, as is the amazingly popular pastime among our kind, by blaming everyone except themselves for whatever’s wrong in the world, I hate to be reminded that I so often do the same. Mea culpa is easier to say than the plain truth of it in my mother tongue: I did it. I was wrong. I am sorry. I will endeavor to make this right. But at some point, whether all of the Other Guy suspects are ruled out or not, my own guilt should find me out, and I should be willing to stand up and confess.

If I don’t, my beloved sisters will eventually remember what I got up to ‘way back when we were small, and will finally tell on me. And I’ll have to admit to everybody that I was really hoping someone else with a slightly itchy conscience would’ve stood up and taken the blame for my stupidity and wrongdoings before I had to come out into the spotlight. Well, I did it. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure I was the rotten fool that messed up so royally, and I do apologize. The truth of it will surely be revealed. I hope you’ll be gentle with me, as it’s just possible you know how it feels, too.

Out of Context, Out of Luck

digital illustrationIt’s no secret that I’m ‘bad with faces’. I struggle with what I know is only the mildest of cases of Prosopagnosia, but even my minor jot of that pestilential face-recognition inability causes me occasional discomfiture. More importantly, it has occasioned a moment or two of awkwardness for others when they approach me, knowing that I know or have at least met them, and I fail to recognize them or even register that I saw them quite recently.

I went to a family wedding once and, seeing a cousin I’d not seen often in our adulthood but knew very well in our youth, effused to her on reconnecting. And then I proceeded to do exactly the same with exactly the same cousin at the reception, not an hour later. I knew that I knew her and that she was my cousin, thanks to the occasion and other basic clues, but literally could not see that she was the same person with whom I’d just rejoiced in renewing contact. Even in this obvious setting I failed to see what was as plain as the nose on my face, never mind the should-be-familiar one on hers. My own cousin.

I am enormously thankful that there are people whom I have little or no difficulty identifying and recognizing no matter when or where, but they are not necessarily in the majority. Remove whatever clues to identity my peculiar mind relies upon for identifying a person—that distinctive mustache (especially reliable in the case of a woman!), a man’s unique carriage when walking, that heirloom necklace someone has worn since she inherited it at age twelve—and I am meeting the face attached to that person for the very first time once again. I suppose there might be a touch of the humorous in such a ridiculous predicament, if the person I fail to recognize knows about the situation and isn’t insecure about any failings on my part, but I would rather not have to muddle through the struggle of bridging that synaptical gap, especially in instances when I would rather be friendly and welcoming.

Even the fully operational brain doesn’t always work perfectly in this regard, as witness the lovely and very bright friend I encountered in the grocery store recently. We both took our time staring and sizing up whether the approaching person was indeed known as well as our brains were urging us to know. I, with my Prosopagnostic niggling sense that I needed to place her in a different context to recognize her as a friend from church, school and work paths crossing, was puzzled by my failure to connect the facial proportions and eye color and such with her identity; she, as it turned out, didn’t realize who I was because after knowing me only with my 20-years-established short haircut, she couldn’t place my features now that they’re set in this chin-length swath of hair. So many reasons we might struggle, and it’s rather common after all, but we still rail against the frustration.

But isn’t that just the way life works in general? Whatever our flaws and shortcomings, however valiant and well-meaning our attempts to ameliorate them and better ourselves and at least appear to be improving with age, there are bound to be gaps and mishaps. All I can say is that I’m mighty glad people are generally so patient and forgiving with me no matter what the situation or occasion, and I—well, I will just have to keep trying to put the best face on it.