Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mistaken Identity

(Now I'm really embarrassed. I started writing this about a year ago, then I took a long, long vacation from blogging. So I'm now finishing a year-old post about an event that happened a year before that. Yep. Elusive Onions. Your place for up-to-date, two-year-old news.)

I am embarrassed to admit that this story is over a year old. Still, I would be more embarrassed if the people mentioned stumbled upon my blog and recognized themselves. I'm assuming that after all these months I am safe. And in a small town it's always better to be safe than to be sorry!

I was at the grocery store after a morning yoga class. The combination of the early hour and the vigorous class had left me dishevelled, befuddled and somewhat zoned out. I figured it wouldn't matter. I rarely saw anyone, let alone anyone I recognized, when I shopped before 9 am. 

On the morning in question, I was roused from my contemplation of nutritional labels by an enthusiastic greeting. I blearily looked up from lists of daily values to see a smiling, well groomed woman. It was someone I knew slightly, as I had worked with her daughter, and she was an occasional customer at work. Looking back, I realize the greeting was too enthusiastic for our level of acquaintance, but as I said, it was early and I was rather out of it. 

She followed her happy greeting by telling me she had seen my picture in a supplement of our local paper. I was surprised. I didn't realize I was in the paper, and I told her so, but even this didn't alert me to the fact that the conversation was off kilter. Photographers from the paper often cover events at my workplace. On more than one occasion I've found myself in the background of one of their pictures in spite of my best attempts to hide from the lens. I assumed this was one of those pictures, and our conversation continued.

She then asked about the progress of the construction at our house. This one puzzled me. We had recently had our deck replaced, but I didn't know how she knew this. Still, the work hadn't gone well, and I hadn't hesitated to bad-mouth the company we hired to anyone who would listen.  I figured she had either overheard my complaints, or knew someone who had. 

It wasn't until late in our brief conversation that I realized she had mistaken me for someone else. At this point I probably should have told her, but we were so far into our visit that I didn't know how to do it gracefully. I awkwardly excused myself and got the hell out. I prayed she wouldn't arrive at  my workplace later in the day and realize her mistake.

When I got home I scrabbled through the recycling to find the section of the paper she had found "me" in. I breezed by the unremarkable woman on the cover, lingered briefly, and somewhat wishfully, on the leggy model in the hosiery ad, and flipped through to the last page. That was it. Unremarkable cover girl or leggy model. Damn. Even if I stretched my imagination to the utmost I knew she hadn't mistaken me for the model. 

That left the woman on the cover as my local look-alike. This shouldn't have surprised me. If I was remarkable the woman at the grocery store wouldn't have mistaken me for someone else. Still, it was a bit depressing. Don't get me wrong, the woman in the paper wasn't hideous or ill-groomed or deformed.  She looked fine. Maybe a bit tired. Maybe a bit washed out. But overall fine. And unremarkable. And apparently just like me. 

You know, even months later, this incident still aches deep in my core. I can't quite put my finger on the reason. I'd like to think it's more than vanity, though I will admit I would have preferred to be mistaken for the leggy model, or at least a minor celebrity. As long as it's not  Gilbert Gottfried, or Meat Loaf, or... well you get the picture. 

Whatever the reason, this ache has helped to lead me to new places. It's part of what prompted me to take part in Meghan's Living the Creed Contest, it was there when I filled in my Sketchbook,  and it's in the back of my mind every time I take part in Patti's Visible Monday. For good or for bad I don't want to be mistaken for someone else. I want you to see me as me, though I'm still not sure who that is yet. 

Wow. When I look at where that case of mistaken identity has led me, I think I owe that confused, early-morning shopper a great big thank you! 

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