I must have a lot of look-alikes walking around out there. Everyone seems to think I look like…someone. I’ve gotten celebrity comparisons from Whoopi Goldberg, to Halle Berry, to Tracey Chapman, to Sanaa Lathan. Please note that none of these people look alike. Evidently I have some kind of shape shifting quality that makes me different things to different people. This morning on the train, a man slipped into the seat beside me. It was a seat I had chosen, to stay away from Frank, my former seatmate, who was also on the train. I wanted to spare myself from another pitch on running my own energy company.
“Excuse me," the man said, "but is your last name Harris?”
Upon hearing the first part of the second syllable of the last name, I shook my head quickly, hoping he would retreat back to the seat he vacated.
“I’m not hitting on you, I see your rings…”
(well, that’s a load off…and besides, what an odd pick up line. “Oh, we’re not related in any way? Excellent! What are you doing this Friday at 8?”)
“...I see you on the train all the time and you look just like my aunt. She’s from California but she has a lot of relatives from here. And I don’t know them. But I know her.”
I nodded again. I failed to offer any personal information, which might seem kind of rude, but he’s not really my relative. That’s like classified information—you can access it, but it’s on a need to know basis. If I don’t think I need to know you, then you don’t need to know.
We sat there in awkward silence before he gave me permission to return to my iPhone. Permission that was now pretty much useless as we had just entered a tunnel and I was going to lose coverage anyway. I picked up my newspaper and read. Apparently he was going to sit next to me. In my efforts to avoid Frank, I had inadvertently met someone else.
This made me think of the other times when people thought I looked familiar.
Most random? On 270 north during rush hour, a guy in an SUV beckoned for me to roll down the window.
“Have you ever served over in Turkey?” he shouted.
I shook my head no. I guess the DoD military decal was a big hint that I served at some point.
“You look like someone I know!”
Unlike the guy who thought I was related to his aunt, this one turned into a pick up attempt. Hit on at 50 MPH?! I flashed my rings at him and drove on.
The other time I reminded someone of a relative was just…hmm…uncomfortable. Let me ‘splain.
This was at a job fair. I was dressed in my suit with a stack of resumes under my arm. I always hate these things because you feel like an orphan choosing new parents. The companies have the luxury of picking through hundreds of candidates, but the jobseekers are just hoping, hoping, hoping that someone (anyone!) chooses them. It’s very unbalanced. As I was in line to register, someone approached me.
“Oh hello, I just had to come speak to you.” He said, “You look just like my sister.”
I nodded and smiled. “Oh well—“
“Yeah,” the guy continued, “she passed away last year—“
“Oh.” I said, adding “I’m sorry to hear that.”
What was I supposed to say? "Remember that psychotic boyfriend? Yeah, well he was a murderer and I ratted him out and now I’m under the witness protection program. What’s that? No, I’m not really dead. Oh, there, there, it’s okay, don't cry. I know, but I couldn’t tell anyone, don’t you see…?”
The thing that surprises me is that people approach me with the small chance that they knew me or are related to me and they share this. I tend to be the opposite. If you look familiar and I think I know you, I won’t approach. There’s too much risk of embarrassment there. I have a weird talent for seeing someone familiar, thinking it’s someone I know, and then being dead wrong. I’ve done it to my own classmates. At my ten year reunion, I greeted someone with “Hi Dave,” and got “Well, no, actually it’s Leo.” Apparently a lot of people did that to the poor guy. He reminded them more of Dave than Leo, even though he was in fact, Leo. So to spare myself the embarrassment, I will likely pass you by if I’m not sure it’s you. Just a few weeks ago, I ignored my husband’s friend. I did think “Is that…?” but I didn’t stop because if it was indeed a stranger, I didn’t want that moment of "Oh, oops, okay then." He even called out my name and somehow I still walked on by.
If I’ve done this to you, I apologize. It’s not you. It’s me. Or my evil twin.
(Look! Even the president has a brother from another mother)