June 6, 2011


The other day I was watching Love Actually in bed, and one of the bit-part actresses looked crazily familiar. I lay there, insanely irritated, trying to recall who she was, until I gave up and went downstairs to Google the movie. It was January Jones, from Mad Men. DUH.

This happens to me all the time. I'll see someone on the screen and know they're a famous actor but have no idea which famous actor they are. Last night, for example, I mistook Mathew Modine for James Van Der Beek, which I thought was quite understandable (they both have long chins), but which my husband took as a hilarious indication that I still fantasize regularly about Dawson's Creek*.

Of course, I don't just get confused about faces on the screen. I also get utterly confused about faces in the street (or, in my case, faces in Westfield). Either I'll know I know someone, but have no idea how, or I'll know exactly how I know someone, but cannot access her name from the dark recesses of my brain. Or I'll think I know someone, but she turns out to be someone quite different to the person I thought she was. Or I'll know how I know her, and I'll remember her name, but I can't remember the names of her kids, what work she does, or if she is the one whose husband just walked out on her for his personal trainer or if that was her sister.

Or in fact, if she has a sister.

And sometimes these occasions can be embarrassing. For example:

  • The time I bumped into an old friend and smiled and waved at her and was mortified when she threw me a patronising half smile, until I realised that she was actually a famous newsreader who I'd never met in my life.

  • The time I sat next to a celebrity in a cafe and was delighted when she smiled at me, until I realised hours later that she was actually my GP.

  • The time I was chatting to an acquaintance, and enquired about parents, only to be gently reminded that her mother had died about five years earlier.

  • The 17 billion times I've conducted animated discussions with people I bump into, pretending to know exactly who they are whilst having not the slightest bit of a clue.

  • There's only one thing that can help me. I need a Face Recognition app for my iPhone. You know how Shazaam will instantly tell you the name and artist of any song that's playing? I need an app - let's call it Whozaam - that will instantly tell me the name, personal details, and circumstances of meeting of any person I wave my phone at.

    Of course, I do acknowledge that there may be some small privacy issues with this software. But let's face it: no-one has much privacy these days anyway. And the usefulness of my app will far exceed any minor concerns about having the details of one's life open to the entire world. Besides, I suppose an individual could always opt out of having their details on the Whozaam database.

    But if they do, then they can't expect me to say hello to them. I know I know them, but I haven't the slightest clue how.

    *Which I may or may not do.


    1. I would definitely be the first to download that app.

      It is SO frustrating when I know someone, but I cannot remember where I know them from. It's even worse when I can't remember their name and it is JUST on the tip of my tongue but I can't get it, so I end up saying something completely generic and impersonal like "Oh my god, hiiiiiii how are you". Ugh.

      Until Whozaam becomes available at the app store, I think it'd be best if I just stay at home and avoid social contact altogether. x

    2. Rebecca Jade McGuireJune 6, 2011 at 10:53 AM

      Kerri! I've done this too...but with people who i've seen in friends' photos on facebook. people that i don't know. it is embarrassing. but then again, so am i. x

    3. Whozaam would be perfect.

      Yesterday I was walking thru Pitt St Mall when I saw this guy that I knew from Darwin (how funny that wr should both be in Sydney at the same time) but couldn't work out who it was. So I looked again (to wave, I didn't want to be rude!)..

      Then I realised it was NOT somebody I knew from Darwin but rather Mini from the Syd Roosters (the team I've followed since I was about 4, don't judge me). Awkward.

    4. Annoyment, my comment was eaten by blogger.


      I need Whozaam.

      I was walking through Pitt St Mall yesterday, when I saw some guy that I recognised, so he must have been someone I knew from Darwin (fancy him being in Sydney at the same time as me!).

      I looked again (to wave, I didn't want to be rude) only to realise it was NOT somebody from Darwin , but Mini from the Syd Roosters (I've followed them since I was 4...). Awkward.

    5. want. it. now. in fact, i will even go out and BUY and iphone if this app exists … over to you, geekie appie people.  xt

    6. Thank goodness it's not only me I though Old Age was setting in a bit too quickly yes definitely need the App hate it when I see an old Movie and can't remember the Actors name till 3 in the Morning thank Goodness for IMDB. When Whoozaam is released you'll be rich with all the Baby Boomers buying :)

    7. Brilliant - I could absolutely use this!  It won't make up for the years when I seemingly blanked people I know whilst walking down the street (hey, I've moved around a fair bit and can't recall where I know people from or if they are my cousin. Or sister.), but it will help me out now, I'm sure of it!

    8. This is precisely how I met my husband. I saw him in a city nightspot. I knew I knew him but couldn't remember how, why or when. I narrowed it down to our home town but still couldn't remember his name. So of course I had to go and ask. I went to school with his sister and at least 3 of his cousins were ex-boyfriends or crushes!

      Whozaam is an excellent idea, by the way! :)

    9. "The time I sat next to a celebrity in a cafe and was delighted when she
      smiled at me, until I realised hours later that she was actually my GP." made me laugh out loud. xxx

    10. I have to have my IMDB app on hand whenever I watch Tv/Movies
      I always need to know who it is, what else they were in etc
      Often I stop watching show/movie and waste hours playing six degrees of separation
      Like did you know Peter Boyle from everyone loves Raymond was on that XFiles ep I watched last night and so on

    11. lol I could use this as well...age and children are depleting my brain cells!

    12. I so need this app. Not only do I never recognise familiar faces but I think almost every face I do recognise is a famous person cause I watch so much TV therefore taking me all night to talk to someone at a P&F mtg that was a good friend in my mothers group 12 yrs ago.

    13. Oh, how I wish I had had Whozaam at your book launch. Like you I am SHOCKING with faces- a fact I like to blithely declare is due to the fact that I'm a writer and hence use the "face" part of the brain to store words instead- and spent the first hour of your launch with tweeps squealing in recognition when they saw me and me squealing back in blind panic because I knew that I knew them, I just had no idea who they were. This, of coures, came to head when I was approached by Caroline Overington- a brilliant, gorgeous best selling author, Walkley award winner and TV panellist, who had recently very kindly agreed to blurb my novel for me. I have tweeted and emailed with Caroline, I have read her columns (and seen her photo) online and in The Australian, I have admiringly watched her on TV, I own (and devoured) her novels, at least one of which has an author pic... and yet when she so kindly came to say hi at your launch all I could manage was a blunt "Who ARE you?"

      I am still cringing at the memory. Thanks for reminding me. My only defence is that I am so facially challenged I would have done the same thing with Lady Gaga, Kate Middleton or even you. Luckily you'd already given me a lift there!

    14. When I went to a book launch, some mad female came rushing up to me and hugged me. I have no idea who it was. Then I realised I'd seen that face on a book cover, somewhere.......

    15. I didn't give you a lift there. It was Caroline Overington. Tee hee...

    16. Oh no! If it was for Whozaam, you would still be single!

    17. 'avoid social contact altogether'.... LOL

    18. Maybe this app also needs to recognize the back of peoples heads too. A friend of mine saw her friend from behind once and ran up and jokingly bit her friend on the arm.

      But it, er, wasn't her friend after all.

      Now THAT'S awkward.

    19. NO way. No way!!! Oh that is too too horribly funny.

    20. Oh yes! Endless applications, although my hubby would love it even more than me. He's a doctor and when he's at his desk he's got his  notes open so he can ask  patients  lots of personal questions, comment on their kids etc.  However, when he sees them in the street/soccer/out to dinner it's always..'Oh f..k there's one of my patients but I can't remember who they are and what their name is. Let's hide!'

      By the way I am Benison, you know me via Twitter and I attended your book launch.

    21. Sign me up now ... I just Googled January Jones Love Actually to find out just which bit-part she played.

    22. I'm sorry, but I couldn't read the post after seeing WINDOWS inside an IPHONE picture. Was it funny? :P

    23. Laugh! You got me going...what a great idea.
      Hey, could there be a convo rewind too, for when someone courteously replied "very well thanks" when all you say is "hello"
      Oh I cringe then, and I've been on both side.
      I LOVE the fact that even tho' WE, your loyal fans know you are VERY FAMOUS AUTHOR...you need help to know your own GP, friends and more.
      Thank you for such a great word picture!! XX

    24. I could see myself buying a Whozaam and then disagreeing with it.  "Are you sure?"  "It really doesn't look like them".   "Oh go on, your making it up." 

      It might be like that face recognition thing on Picasa.  "Oh that so isn't so and so".   "Yeah, it looks a bit like them but come on."

      Then I would ask the person and they would say, "Yes I am so and so", and I would be like, "Nooooo, my memory really is shite".

    25. Sarah MacFarlaneJune 6, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      Oh how I empathise with this post, in fact I wrote a similar one once but I never thought of a face recognition app, now that's inspired!!!!  I spent 6 months waving good morning to my best friend as we passed on our opposite ways to work only to suddenly realise one day that he was the spit of an actor on a soap.

    26. There was the woman who was looking at me with such interest at the school fair recently, (where I was on the showbag stand and therefore live bait). I smiled at her, thinking she was a mother of a friend of my kids'. Then I realised she was my ex-husband's latest girlfriend. I would like a Whozaam please ...

    27. I feel so much better now about being socially spastic in your face at the launch.

      And I love you even more. Well I would if I knew who you were?

    28. I blame children. (Why not?) No, really. I can pinpoint the exact moment I realised that my usually very good Name/Face/Context Faculty had left me. I was pregnant with my first child and did not recognise my Across-the-Road Neighbour because she wasn't standing in front of her own house! I haven't been the same since.

      I used to think people who failed to recognise others were just rude, now I know they're just brain-damaged, like me. Put me down for one of those apps, please!

    29. Put me down for one.
      I'm confident as, until mid conversation my face takes on a panic stricken stupor as I second, third & fourth guess the initial recognition. Then I talk faster and furiouser to cover my idiocy and dig that hole deeper and deeper. Hubby knows he's supposed to step in and save me - but he rarely does.
      Whozaam sounds awesome.
      Especially for nosey cows like moi.
      Mum on the Run :-)

    30. This post really made me laugh.
      I'm a teacher (a short one at that) and our school issued staff with school coats for playground duty- the amout of times I have been run at, jumped on or tagged!!!! I need a slogan on the back of my coat saying... 'I am an ADULT!' Erin Xx

    31. Yes. I need this. I am hopeless with names, and faces, hell I'm just hopeless.

    32. Oooh I did something similar once - ran up behind what I thought was my friend and jumped on for a piggy back......awkward....!!

    33. I so just went and Googled that - Love Actually is my favourite movie ever and I couldn't figure out which character was JJ!  Being as famous as you are these days, I'm sure you'll have to get used to crazy people thinking they know you when they've really just seen your face on the Number One bestsellers list. :)

    34. Yep I need this too. I randomly smile & say hello to complete strangers almost daily.  I get confused between people I've met through work or perhaps I've seen them on TV or who knows ... I have no freaking idea!  Who are you again? Have we met? x

    35. Oh yes, I did it to Benita from Playschool... remember her? I gave her the big 'Oh Hiiiii" I reserve for people I haven't seen for ages. 

      Well I hadn't seen her for twenty years and we did spend a lot of time together... penny dropped as I walked away....

    36. I've bumped into Benita too!! But it was 10 years ago, when I was still young and vital. I thanked her for all the joy she had brought to my kids. Poor thing just smiled....


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