I declare myself to be the greatest, or maybe the absolute worst, customer for any cosmetologist. When individuals walk into a salon what is the first question asked? “How would you like your hair cut?” My answer is the same nearly every time. “Any way you would like to cut it. My requirements are simple. I need to be able to wash and go most of the time, yet it needs to be able to be styled to look nice for occasional meetings. Oh yeah, and I will only use a hairdryer and a flat iron. With curling irons, I am too fearful I will burn myself. And most importantly, I won’t complain about what you do. Hair can always grow. I will inevitably love it and say thank you for whatever you come up with!”
That is what I tell the hair stylist. Here is what I will tell you. I like to go in for a haircut. I like to feel pretty, but really feeling pretty and looking nice are only passing experiences. This attitude of not being too concerned with how I look does not stem from prosopagnosia. Rather, this apathy is derived from my lack of visual memory. Beyond the words I can use to describe my current hairstyle, I cannot remember what my hair looks like once I am turned away from a mirror. I can leave a salon and not realize I look any different from when I went in for the cut. Even if it is a bad cut, it won’t bother me too much. I cannot recall a mental picture of how bad I look.
The picture above is my newest style. The cosmologist was great to work with. She followed my requirements. It is a great cut allowing me to wake up and start my day. I was able to recently use a flat iron to look professional for a meeting. Leah did a great job. I told her it looked so much better. You see, I have come to the realization that it is sometimes okay to say things that make people proud of the job they work hard to accomplish. In the forty-five minutes of sitting in her chair, I was not going to burden her with the struggles I undertake. After all, I have lived with this condition for eight years now and I still struggle to grasp the reality. How do I describe to her that I cannot remember what my hair looked like when I brushed it that morning? Why would I try to get her to understand I could not remember if my hair was touching my shoulders, above them or maybe even just below when she started cutting? There are too many things, all these pictures I used to be able to bring to my mind, that are no longer accessible to me. Having been left with acquired prosopagnosia after my stroke causes me not be able to find myself in pictures. The complete lack of my visual memory takes away my ability to recall the cut, shape or shade of my hair. Details such as these are far too difficult to grasp for someone who has created a successful career out of these very important, specific mental images. Besides, I was proud of how nice the style looked. I will hold onto the happiness even if the images will only last in my mind for a moment or until the chair is spun so I can go and pay my bill.