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She never remembers a face

We love strange psychological disorders here at mental_floss. Refer to past blogs regarding Proprioception Deficit Disorder and extreme narcissism, among others. But this one may take the cake: a disorder known as prosopagnosia, otherwise known as face blindness.

Prosopagnosians find faces indistinguishable from one another, and even after talking to someone intimately for hours, likely will not remember them they next time they meet. It can be a very sad state of affairs: parents who are unable to pick out which Kindergartener is theirs; sufferers who, according to the New York Times, "become shut-ins, overwhelmed by a world of blank faces." (Nicely poetic, Times.) Also according to that paper of record, the disease is considerably more prevalent than we think: up to 2.5% of the population suffers from it to one degree or another. "Before their diagnosis, many people with prosopagnosia assume that they are just socially awkward. 'You have a perceptual problem, and you self-ascribe,' says Dr. Ken Nakayama, a prosopagnosia researcher. 'You say you are an introvert.'"

Unless this is another effort by Big Pharma to convince us that we suffer from some newly-described malady and then sell us its miracle cure in pill form, I find these statistics a little frightening. But they would explain a lot -- the absent-minded cousin who can never remember your name; the shy kid who never introduces himself for fear that he already has. Anyone out there in blog-world know a sufferer?

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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