Michael,
perspective distortion (the one you are talking about) is a matter of the point of view. The viewing perspective is *only* dependent on the point of view, not on focal lengths or format sizes. But certain points of view can only be handled with certain focals. A cropped WA-shot shows exactly the same view as a tele-shot as long as both are taken from the same point of view. A certain focal length can be seen as a more or less magnified crop of the same overall view.

The closer your point of view is to the subject, the larger are the size differences between nearer and farer objects. This is why WA-lenses do emphasize the foreground.

If you take a close look at people, their faces actually look "distorted" in the same way. This is nothing strange that happens inside the lens. But since this is not the normal way we look at people, portraitures taken from close distances feel "unnatural".

BTW: the normal "talking distance" between two people is a little shorter than the classical portrait distance - not only in photography.