TMI Thursday: I Literally Don’t Know Whether You Are Famous (a.k.a. My Weekend at the NINC Conference)

Before any of us ever knew Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey, he’d played in one of the most brilliantly-acted scenes in Rom Com history eleven years prior. In said scene (Notting Hill, 1999), he arrives to a dinner party and chats up a colossally-famous woman for several minutes, utterly unaware that she is one of the most famous actresses in the world.

This, my friends, is me. For reasons unexplained (because I’m a visual person), I have zero recall for faces, even faces that are relevant to my everyday personal and professional life. I’m even worse with names. I’m that person who blinks at you absently when you bring up a music artist who’s been topping the charts for six months, an actor who’s in the biggest movie of the year, or a business prodigy who’s just sold their mega-famous start-up for a zillion dollars (with a “z”).  

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is “no”. No, I’m not one of those evolved ::cough:: people who doesn’t have television or internet and is therefore ignorant to what’s happening around me. I don’t not pay attention to what’s going on in the industry or the world at large. But I am embarrassingly inept at integrating this information in social situations when meeting humans, face to face.

As a result, things happen. The kinds of things that happened to me last weekend at the 2019 NINC Conference, when both of the typical scenarios played out numerous times. Yes, I know when we’re talking about the NINC Conference we’re not talking Kim Kardashian fame. But I still had a good handful of very-Kilby moments of “Crap! I had no idea that was you!” and “I’m sorry…I still have no idea who you are even though every other person here does.” Examples? Okay:

  • The David Gaughran (Non-)Incident. I spent two days mustering the courage to approach the guy I kept seeing with the glorious silver beard who I assumed was a run-of-the-mill author attendee. I’ve recently been obsessed with beards, as Mr. Blades is three months into growing his first. Before I could compliment the man on his grooming, ask him for tips on behalf of Mr. Blades and try to resist touching it (Seriously. It’s that glorious.), I learned the owner of the beard was David Gaughran. Yes, that David Gaughran, the only book marketer whose every word I have categorically agreed with and admired.

  • The Spanish Jesus (Non-)Incident. Everywhere I went, people kept talking about Reedsy and its founder, Ricardo Fayet, who they for some reason call the Spanish Jesus—apart from the somewhat divine gravitas of his pensive energy, I’m guessing it’s the beard. I know, I know—beards were everywhere at that event. If he were anyone else, I would have chatted him up one of the five or more times I was in his vicinity (just because I’m a chatty person). But I was too embarrassed, because, even after days of people talking about Reedsy and whispering about how he was that Ricardo of that Reedsy, I still didn’t have the faintest idea what Reedsy was.  

I should probably stop here and tell you that I am not a starstruck person. I grew up near celebrities, then worked in the entertainment business around celebrities for much of my twenties, then went on to live in other places and hold other jobs that gave me much of the same. I’m convinced that part of this is my subconscious not focusing on status dynamics in a crowd because I’m desensitized and I’m so fundamentally repulsed by hero worship that I just don’t care.

I am also not neurotypical—I’m 2e and I think about neurodiversity a lot. I write neurodiverse characters and I’m aware of the cognitive skill related to facial recognition—a skill that some people (read: me) just don’t have. Even if I wanted to be more cognizant of this, I don’t think my brain will let me. I think I’ll always tune assigning importance to faces out.

Still, it’s embarrassing. I don’t exactly care, but I wish I didn’t seem so clueless. Yes, I’m bad at recalling everyone, but being in a room with noted people simply highlights my ineptitude. When everyone else is hyper-aware, and I’m super, super-oblivious, people notice. It’s happened to me a hundred times, and not just at NINC. #TMIThursdays