Sunday, January 25, 2015

Doppelgangers

Dear Teachers,

It happened again yesterday.

At yoga class. I walked up to the desk to sign in, and the person there greeted me with a warm smile and said very enthusiastically, "Hi! I haven't seen you in so long!"

Which is kind of weird, because yesterday was only my third class at this particular yoga studio, and I'm 100% positive I had never met the friendly person before.

This happens to me more often than I can count: I meet a new person and they know someone who looks just like me. Almost everyone seems to have a cousin or a friend from high school that is my double. I am frequently mistaken for people's sister or dentist or former roommate. My brother swears my twin works at a diner near his home (to be clear: he knows I do not have a twin).

Are my face and demeanor really so common?

Often I will stop to consider what these look-alikes of mine do and what their lives might be like. I imagine one is fabulously wealthy and spends her time golfing and volunteering at adult literacy centers. Another one is an actress; one is a horsewoman. Several live in interesting cities abroad and speak more than one language fluently. Most are physically fit and have way better hair than mine.

That's the way it goes for most of us: the alternate lives we imagine for ourselves are significantly more interesting, glamorous, and (most of all) trouble-free than our actual lives.

Statistically, though, if there are people out there who resemble me, some of them have to have lives I wouldn't eagerly trade for. Maybe somewhere a twin of mine is working three jobs to support a family after escaping an abusive partner. Perhaps one holds a cardboard sign on a street corner, hoping someone will give her enough money for dinner, or a couple of drinks. Maybe one is trying to remember her life before she got involved in human trafficking; one is embroiled in petty jealousies and gossips endlessly and is mired in self-loathing; another struggles with addictions; one just got a terrifying health diagnosis. Chances are no one's going to say to me, "You look exactly like a client at the homeless shelter where I volunteer" - even though it's possible that's exactly what they're thinking.

The next time someone tells me I remind them of someone they know (and my history suggests that the next time will be soon), I will probably smile politely like I always do and say some version of "Yeah, I get that a lot."  I will hope that my doppelgangers everywhere will have, far more than fame or fortune or good hair, a spirit of compassion; a life that builds up and encourages others; extravagant kindness; and at least some experience of the redemptive power of love. If I happen to remind someone of a person with those qualities, I'd be okay with that.

Fondly,
Nancy








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