One of the surprises in growing older, at least for me, is that you have trouble recognizing people you’ve known for ages. It’s not that you start forgetting who your friends are — again, at least in my case — but that they no longer look like the person who is lodged in your visual memory. Only after a double take do you realize who it is, and only after the encounter is over does it occur to you to wonder if you have become unrecognizable, too.
As I drove out of the Reutershan parking lot recently, my attention was drawn to a woman walking along who looked vaguely familiar.
OMG! I belatedly realized she was someone I’ve known pretty well for 30 years or so but who looked so different all of a sudden that she was nearly unrecognizable — older, wider, and with an entirely new hair color. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, but that didn’t seem a sufficient excuse for not knowing her. Of course, our bodily shapes tend to change as we age, and our facial muscles are apt to sag, but should these superficial factors negate other physical characteristics? Aren’t our eyes, and noses, and bone structure (not to mention our style of dressing) enough?
For me at least, recognition, or lack thereof, has a lot to do with the color and length of someone’s hair. This particular friend had deep, dark waist-length tresses when I first met her . . . and, suddenly, there she was on the sidewalk in front of Scoop du Jour, her whole mane white. Obviously, I had blanked out the gradual change in her appearance — gray slowing etching lines in the black — that had transpired over the intermediary years or even decades. Either I wasn’t paying attention or my visual memory refused to face reality.
On the other hand, I’ve got a friend, a bona fide nonagenarian, whom I would know anywhere. She’s looked pretty much the same or as long as I’ve known her, which, in this case, is upward of 40 years. She admits to having had a little facial work many long years ago, but I doubt that it would have come with a permanent guarantee. If she’s got a secret, she isn’t telling what it is, leaving me to think she’s the exception that proves the rule.
So, can we make a deal? If in the near future we run into each other, and if, at first, you don’t recognize me, don’t worry about it. The problem is probably mutual.