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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-07-18 05:04
Subject: [cancer] On invisibility
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, conventions, funny, health, weird
Having come back from Readercon yesterday, I can confirm a phenomenon I first observed at the Locus Awards in late June. It is thus:

My hair loss from chemo has rendered me almost invisible. Or at least unrecognizable.

People I've known for years will walk right past me. Even if I wave or greet them, I often get the generic busy author nod with a clear lack of engagement. For a number of folks I had to either get within badge-reading distance, or state my name.

It's a very peculiar feeling. It's been a long time since I've been so anonymous. But without my hair, and especially without my beard, I simple don't look like myself. I'm sure the effect is magnified by my chemo fatigue body language, which isn't my usual energetic vibration state.

So far, I've for the most part found this amusing. At some point it will stop being funny and start being annoying.

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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2011-07-18 12:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Please don't be annoyed. Some of your friends may be like me. I suffer from a bit of faceblindness, and struggle to recognize people I've known for years if they change their hair and clothing. It is very embarrassing for me, but certainly not intentional.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-07-18 12:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, I don't feel dissed or persecuted. It's just frustrating.
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Rose Fox: embarrassed
User: rosefox
Date: 2011-07-19 05:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:embarrassed
I was actually going to note that I recognized Jay right away, because I'm sufficiently faceblind that I go by body language instead of facial recognition. Hair loss changes a face, but Jay is still Jay.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2011-07-18 13:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Paul didn't recognize me once when I dyed my hair black -- not until I opened my mouth and he recognized my voice. This was years ago. A few months ago he didn't recognize me as I came out of my yoga class because I was wearing a new, red sweatshirt instead of a black one.

So, yeah -- people can be like that.
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Ulrika
User: akirlu
Date: 2011-07-18 16:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't have any problems with face blindness, normally, but my old boyfriend surprised me for our Halloween party one year by shaving off the (horrible) beard and mustache I had never seen him without, getting a haircut, and showing up at our front door in a suit (again, something I'd never seen him in). He rang the door bell. When I answered it, I totally did not recognize him until he smiled. Facial hair can make a huge difference.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-07-18 16:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And in my case, it's been over 20 years since I was last beardless. I barely recognize *myself*...
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2011-07-18 14:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Would it be helpful if you sent out an e-mail message to friends you think will be at the next con with a link to a recent picture of you? Saying something like, I hope we can get together sometime during *insert name of con* or something like that and I have a new look so you might want to know what I look like now?
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2011-07-18 14:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Now's your chance to mess with people's heads!
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2011-07-18 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
About six or seven years ago, I shaved my head.

I went from looking like this to looking like this.

Then I went to the eastercon. People walked right past me! Who knew?

(All this means is that a distinctive hairstyle is a major recognition thing, especially among men.)
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-07-18 16:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You can save it up to use when writing about women over 50, maybe.
It's a very weird place to be.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2011-07-18 16:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had this when I cut my hair short. I had to remind people that I'd only had *very* long hair for five years.
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barbarienne
User: barbarienne
Date: 2011-07-18 21:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had no idea you would be at Readercon, so I had no reason to look for you.

(And honestly, I spent most of the con hiding. I was just not feeling the desire to socialize.)
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User: beth_bernobich
Date: 2011-07-24 11:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I missed both of you!

(And I'm sorry if I passed either of you and didn't pause for at least a wave and a hello.)
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2011-07-19 05:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I actually wasn't sure it was you when I saw you a while back at the Bournes'. To be fair, though, it had been years since I'd seen you, and I have trouble locating someone I know in a crowd, like in a cafeteria. I think I have a little face-blindness too.

You do present yourself in a very specific way when you're healthy. It's easy to look only for those trappings.

I'm thinking you should go to a bar at a con incognito and start smack-talking about Jay Lake. See what people say. :)
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That Which Fights Entropy: me with scarf
User: amberite
Date: 2011-07-19 08:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:me with scarf
It sounds like the opposite of being in China. (Which may sound like a non sequitur: I don't recall whether I mentioned to you, but I think I may have, that being in China had the effect of making me extraordinarily visible as a foreigner everywhere I went.)

... I suspect that fen are more prone to faceblindness than average, as others have said. Paradoxically, the current conspicuities of your appearance actually make me worry less that I'll miss recognizing you in public than I usually worry about recently-met-friends. It usually takes me several months of sightings to start recognizing people on sight.
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Eposia
User: eposia
Date: 2011-07-21 06:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been told by nearly everyone that I have a nicely-shaped head to be bald, some of them with a surprised tone. Hair is definitely a blog post of mine coming up, I had a much different reaction to it than I thought I would.
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User: brownkitty
Date: 2011-07-21 23:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are now NinJay?

Out of curiosity, does the lack of recognition change any if you're wearing a hat?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-07-22 13:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think it's because I've never been bald, so a hat gives the top of my head some definition.
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Julia: Cloudgazing
User: skogkatt
Date: 2011-07-22 20:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Cloudgazing
Hey there. I'm sorry I didn't have the time to stop when you caught me in the hall that once. I was being swept away in a tide of Kowal fans. It sort of felt like being trapped in a school of fish... And I had to say something to Mary at the time, which I didn't think could really wait. I hadn't ever seen you before and didn't get much of a look at you in that one brief moment, so I failed at recognizing you elsecon. :(
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