#1174: “I guess I have some doppelgängers. How do I be polite about it when someone insists they recognize me but I know they don’t?”

Hi Captain!

I live in a largish city and participate in fairly distinct professional and hobbyist circles. Every so often – maybe once a month or so – I meet a new person in one of them, who will swear up and down that they have seen me before, or that they have met me before, or that they know me from somewhere. But I’m pretty sure that they haven’t met me! I have a good memory for faces, and I’m quite sure that I have never met this person in my life. I know I’m not infallible, but I’m really, really sure.

It’s kind of weird and I’ve started using it as a way of knowing when I need a haircut – if I maintain my usual style well, it’s a little more distinctive.

My usual response to this is to politely but firmly insist that I don’t know them, because I don’t want to play that game of ‘where do I know you from’, where the other person lists all kinds of possibilities, knowing that it will never lead to a satisfying answer. I usually say “I think I just have that kind of face”, which is my actual current working theory about this. This seems to be sad and off-putting for the other person though, who is some perfectly reasonable stranger who shares at least some common interest with me, who I probably would like to get to know better, and here I am doing a thing that sort of shuts the social situation down and doesn’t leave the other person a way to get to know me. (I realize that sometimes folks will use this as a pickup line, but this doesn’t seem like that kind of situation.)

How can I politely disabuse someone of the notion that they know me from somewhere, without coming off as totally unfriendly? It’s awkward and I want to take the awkward away without pretending that it is possible that I may have shown up to a stamp-collecting meetup two years ago or something.

Also, if any of my doppelgängers are reading: perhaps this is good advice for you too, and I’m very sorry for any inconvenience I may be causing you.

Thanks,
Generic-looking white lady in her late thirties I guess
pronouns: she / her / hers

Hi there!

I have One Of Those Faces, too, as does Mr. Awkward, and over the years him trying to find me at a Women & Children First author event or me trying to find him after a Kids In The Hall reunion show has involved a lot of unintentional comedy re:

  1. Oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood (accidentally hug the wrong person, ask them to hold my heavy bag while I go to the rest room, use a “you really had to be there” nickname).
  2. Whoa, I totally *am* a Type, and here we ALL are!
  3. Whoa, I totally I *have* a Type, and if things don’t work out for some reason, guess I know where to find the rest of the hot GenX-beardy-fellas-with-cool-shoes.

The mistakes in recognizing somebody don’t have to be the end of the world. If you’re at a social gathering or hobby event and think you recognize a fellow attendee, the universe can survive many passing “Oh, crap, I waved at you because I thought you were my friend, but now that I’m up close I can see that you’re not my friend, but hi, I’m Josh!”  or “You seem really familiar to me, have we met?” interactions without anyone being a jerk. It’s not inherently weird to think you recognize someone it’s not weird to want to try to place someone or figure out a common connection you might have! When you do have someone or something in common it’s delightful! Just try keep in mind:

  1.  Keep it light & appropriate to the venue.
  2. Consider context & privacy.
  3. Respect consent & follow the other person’s lead about what to do next. 

Some potential pitfalls/peeves (a non-exhaustive list, to be sure) that come to mind:

a) “Wait…Who Do You Remind Me Of?” If you think someone you just met strongly resembles or reminds you of a celebrity, consider NOT mentioning that to them, even if you think that pointing out the resemblance is a compliment. Please, never assume they will take it in the way that you meant it, in my opinion this is one of those “you really have to know somebody” compliments. (i.e. I don’t look anything like Roseanne, Rosie O’Donnell, or the nice lady from This Is Us, I’M JUST FAT, which is fine with me, but also not a reason for you to just start naming all the fat people you’ve heard of when you see me. This happens way more than I would expect and it’s suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper weird every time.)

b) “Hey, Aren’t You The Guy Who Was In That Thing?” So, this is an outlier, but kindly consider that telling famous people that they look just like (who they actually are) or playing IMDB Improv: Live! From Hell! (where one suggests projects they might have been in until one happens upon a correct answer) are perhaps not the conversational gambits I would most recommend? Maybe it’s just decades of living in crowded cities, maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s working in and adjacent to media/performing arts and observing enough fans who can’t seem to let their idols pee or eat in peace or hearing about cringeworthy lengths people have gone to pitch their scripts in Hollywood (Trust, your show-running dental patient does not want to hear your log line when he’s in the chair with his mouth full of needles/blades)…whatever the source, I have developed both a strong desire to preserve the privacy buffer of others and a strong terror of being That One Weird Fan.

As a result, when I run into a famous person I admire in a context where they’re not explicitly Engaging With People In Their Public Work Persona (i.e. waiting in line for the restroom, being IN the restroom, relaxing in a quiet bar in a foreign city where they don’t expect to be recognized by fellow USians, charging their phone at the communal coffee shop table, being crammed into shared a taxi to Manhattan from LGA on a stormy night, or other routine human off-the-clock stuff), my preferred mode is to smile and say “hello,” reciprocate smiles and “hellos” as they are offered, and otherwise leave the person in peace unless they engage me.

I’ll maaaaaaaaaaaybe also say “Hey, hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I think you do beautiful work, please have a wonderful day” in passing, as I’m on my way OUT of the shared space, so there’s minimal interruption/or obligation, the same way I might tell a stranger on the subway with great shoes how much I like their shoes just as we pull into my stop. Here’s a free compliment, beautiful stranger! Bye!

Famous people are just people, hence I try to respect all the same “Please don’t talk to me”/”It’s okay to talk to me” signals other people use to make public spaces feel safer & less overwhelming. Is an artist I like wearing headphones, deeply absorbed in conversation with someone else, buried in a book or their phone, wearing sunglasses and hat indoors, never looking up or making eye contact with people, not smiling, giving monosyllabic answers to questions or greetings, in the middle of something that requires focus = Do not disturb! Are they out in public with their children or any children = DEFINITELY DO NOT DISTURB!

Also, since I don’t like it when even my favorite blood relations interrupt things I’m doing to get me to stop and pose for a photo, I am not keen to interrupt strangers, even really famous & photographically interesting strangers, to do the same, nor do I photograph them from afar without consent as if they are wildlife.

c) “Oh Hey, It’s Number 24601!” If you know someone from a professional setting where confidential stuff should stay confidential, like a medical office (financial, legal, government, other handler of confidential or sensitive info) please back off from trying to place them. Accidental eye contact? Go with the polite nod, at most. No return nod? They don’t approach you? LET THEM BE. Talk to the other people at the thing.

d) “Who Died and Made You Javert?” Seriously consider that where you might know somebody from is not a mystery for you to solve…or reveal. Especially if the context could be personal, vulnerable, and you don’t know for sure that you have consent to discuss/reveal whatever it is in another context.

You can be pretty sure this person dressed in men’s clothes to lead today’s business training seminar wore a dress and heels and had a different name the last time y’all crossed paths, you can be pretty sure the lady handling your parking ticket paperwork was the bachelorette singing the drunkest karaoke rendition of Waterfalls ever sung at the bar last weekend, your Sandwich Artist could have been leaving the hospital just as you were checking in, but you’re not a detective or contestant on a secret quiz show who needs to blurt out the answers to questions nobody asked! There’s literally no good reason to dead-name transgender people, say “Oh, wait, I know you, you’re that job applicant we didn’t hire!” or be the jerk who sought permission to “helpfully” go behind their cousin’s back to reveal the cousin’s strip club work to family. People contain multitudes, they don’t exist solely in the exact context & history you associate them with, so, please err on the side of giving people some space & privacy.

Plausible deniability.

Grace.

True story about that last point: When I was a teenager, some regular restaurant patrons where I worked decided that I must be related to them and they’d come in all the time, sometimes bringing members of their extended family to “get a look at me” or discuss “doesn’t she look just like _____?” because they had decided that I resembled someone in their family. The truth is I am adopted and I could actually be related, but a) that’s not any of their business b) the lunch shift in the smoking lounge of a combination Greek Diner/New England Seafood Haven was not the place I wanted to work all that out at age 17, also c) if I find out I am biologically related to those creeps someday it’s moot ’cause I don’t need any family who think it’s cool to harass teenage girls about private reproductive & family decisions, so byyyyyeeeeeeeee (& THANK YOU to good managers/hosts who shielded me from the weirdness).

For me as an adult, the source of the weirdness isn’t curiosity, the possibility of being recognized, even incorrectly, or with an imbalance of memory where they recognize me and I might not recognize them (after I’ve accumulated enough students and blog readers and lived in the same city for 19 years doing various public speaking stuff that last thing is actually pretty normal, and I am quite comfortable saying “I recognize you but your name escapes me right now, can you remind me?” because it’s the truth.)

The weirdness comes when a person I don’t know is investing an aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwful lot in speculating or making assumptions about me, and my actual signals/words/distress/well-being/wishes for correcting the situation are not deterring them from pursuing Their Idea Of Me at the expense of Actual Me, ooooooohhhhhh craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap, WHAT NOW.

What now is: We shut it down, because we don’t actually owe people either participation or patient endurance of futile guessing games about ourselves! And Letter Writer, I like your question a lot because it perfectly illuminates a common, manageable, not dire awkward problem with lots of room for mistakes and different styles, and reminds us of some things about manners & reasonable boundaries that can scale up or down or bet adapted as needed. For example:

  • It’s okay to be curious or make a mistake about recognizing someone, and people who do this probably mean well more than they don’t!
  • Even people who mean well can make you uncomfortable, and it is weird when people who just met you display incorrect assumptions or an overabundance of curiosity about you, and they won’t follow your lead to change the subject.
  • The weight of those assumptions – even if they are born from enthusiasm and good intentions!- can manufacture an uncomfortable sense of obligation, imbalance, pressure, and/ or anxiety.
  • You’re allowed to honor your own needs and comfort levels and set boundaries, even if the person overstepping means really well.
  • Sometimes you can try all the things you know about politely changing the subject or dodging the questions, and yet still feel the weirdness, and feel like there is no satisfying way to resolve it.
  • In that event, what does politeness require of you and what should you do about the awkward feelings (yours & other people’s)?

By naming and reviewing these dynamics and how they affect us, we get a chance to practice some things:

  • We can remind ourselves that we don’t have to match what people think we should be like. Their assumptions are theirs, all theirs!
  • We can remind ourselves that people can have feelings about us, and it can not really our job to do anything about those feelings. Letting other people, especially strangers, own and care for their own feelings is a learned skill for some of us, returning the responsibility for awkwardness to the sender or letting something be unsolvable (by us, right now) is a form of practice.
  • We don’t owe anyone congruence with their assumptions about us or a performance thereof! (For example, you don’t owe people a happy, functional family free of toxic interactions or estrangement, an economic or professional status that matches what they think someone like you should do for a living, you don’t owe it to anyone to match or define a race or ethnic identity people think you have, or match people’s expectations or labels about gender or sexual identity, disability/health, etc. etc. etc.)
  • We don’t owe people a correction of their assumptions, details about our lives, “The Truth,” etc. For example, it’s not always safe for marginalized people to confront or correct others about mistaken assumptions. Sometimes the safest thing is to say “cool, right on!” and smile while you move to safer ground.
  • If we’re making small talk/chitchat with a new person and we try to politely change the subject and the other person persists in their inquiries about a sensitive topic (or none of their business topic, or, “Hey, you’re just wrong about that, stop talking now” topic), they are the ones making it weird, not us!

Good news! I think there is one possible adjustment/correction that can rescue this kind of award conversation: If subject changes or hints or polite demurrals aren’t working to get the conversation back on track, before you write the person off, try adding a direct instruction for what you’d like them to do next. This way you don’t have to figure out whether someone is being oblivious, deliberately rude, or just drowning in an awkward enthusiasm/curiosity spiral that they can’t get out of now that they’ve started. Whatever their intentions, once you tell them HERE’S WHAT I’D LIKE TO HAPPEN NOW,” hopefully they’ll grab on and y’all can swim to less awkward waters. If they don’t, you tried, and it’s okay to walk away.

Letter Writer, in your case, issuing a direct instruction could work like this:

Awkward Stranger: “Hello, I’m [Name]. Wait, don’t know know you from somewhere?”

You: “I don’t think so! But I have one of those faces, so I get that a lot. I’m [Name], nice to meet you.” 

Awkward Stranger: “But I know I’ve seen you before. This is gonna drive me nuts until I remember. Was it at _____? Or ______? Or do you know _____?” 

You: “It’s a big city, so, entirely possible that you spotted me another time or we know somebody in common. Since I don’t remember you, let’s start fresh from right now! What brings you out tonight?” (End by asking them a question about themselves, which they can answer correctly!)

People have choices, and their choices can split the conversation into some Choose Your Own Adventure options, right?

A. Awkward Stranger Who Can Probably Hang: “Oops, sorry, maybe it will come to me. Anyway, I’m here to learn about (topic) or (do fun thing at event).” 

You:Yay, me too. Have you done [fun thing] before?”

:pleasant chitchat ensues, you have now met each other in the present tense!:

The alternative:

B. Awkward Stranger It’s Okay To Wander Away From Without Further Attempts To Engage: “No, I am sure I know you from somewhere. Could it be ____? Or _____? Or ______? Have you ever been to ____?” 

You: “Hate to interrupt, but none of that rings a bell! Nice meeting you, though!  (+ walk awaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy). 

That’s right, you don’t have to stand there and take the pop quiz that is happening between a stranger and that stranger’s brain! One power you have, especially after you’ve tried explicitly to redirect the conversation, is to stop rewarding behavior that makes you uncomfortable with further attention. It’s okay to gently interrupt, move seats, go to the rest room, grab a drink of water, visibly turn away, take/make an important phone call, or go find someone else to talk to. It’s okay to do these things even if you think it would upset this person a little if you stopped hanging out for their game of questions or if you think they Basically Mean Well. You can do it with a smile, with pleasant words, in a way that lets everyone save face if you want to – I try my best to stay pretty pleasant if the person is not being actually mean or otherwise inappropriate and save the flat “Wow” for when I think someone is being a jerk – but you can take evasive action and you don’t have to be perfect when you do it or explain yourself. And it’s okay to evade someone who is pushy about this even if they are right and it turns out they have seen or met you before!

You’re not being mean if you set a boundary or redirect a conversation and walk away if the other person won’t go with your flow. Think of giving someone a clear instruction about what you need as giving them a lifeline, and think of walking away as giving them the gift of some time to recover from a mistake and change course. That way, if Awkward Person B approaches you again later and resumes the awful BUT WAIT, SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS MY MEMORY OF YOU? pop quiz, you can evade them again, and be even clearer: “Hi, I get that it’s really bothering you that you can’t place me, but I really need you to find a new topic – I don’t want to play this game with you, and I’d like you to stop now.” Whereas if they approach you later and talk to you about regular stuff, maybe they just needed an extra nudge and a little time to pull out of the weird spiral.

Hopefully this will help you assert yourself, cut awkward interactions shorter, and separate the enthusiastic from the consent-ignorers.

Moderation/Comment Note: Hopefully I didn’t fatally hijack my own post by mentioning my personal celebrity-recognition preferences (which are my ways, they don’t have to be yours if you have some you’re comfortable with or especially if you have more experience with all that than me!), but it’s worth saying explicitly: Please don’t chronicle actual celebrity encounters you’ve had, awkward and otherwise, in the comments to this post, thanks! My whole deal is that I want the famous people I admire to have privacy, or whatever shreds or illusions of that remain possible for them, and I want to support them in drawing their own boundaries between Hello, Fans! Let’s Selfie The Shit Out Of This Con Appearance/Yes, I Am Wearing Tons of Designer Logos All At Once, Thanks For Noticing!-time and Look, I Just Needed Toilet Paper And Coffee/ Do You Really Have To Yell My Catch Phrase At Me Right Now, In The School Pickup Line?-time. I want all of us to have that, the Letter Writer, you, me, the people who made your favorite things, so that when we do connect, we can all relax and know it’s consensual, welcome, respectful, and sincere.

I would like to know about successful redirects, where you met someone new and asked them to change a subject and they actually did.

 

 

220 comments
  1. RedHen said:

    I get that a lot- white brunette ladies of indeterminate age with glasses abound in the Midwest. Even my mother gets it (and I check to be sure they don’t mean my mom when they say “do I know you?”). Favorite response- “Oh, I get that a lot. Must have a twin somewhere”, accompanied by dismissive hand gestures or eye rolls. Move along with my day. People around here are perceptive enough to get the hint and move along with their day as well.

    • Sarah said:

      So I have a combination of having one of those face (white brunette lady here, too) and having a doppelganger to the point where her own mother has gotten confused looking at pictures of us. She is the *very* visible face of an apartment complex around here, so I get a LOT of “Do I know you?” stares.

      For me it’s a combo of a big smile and a, “Nope! Definitely just have that kind of face, haha!” + conversation starter or gracefully making my escape. I find that it doesn’t shut things down too much if said lightly and with a smile, like, “Yep, happens all the time! Moving swiftly along…”

      And when they know my doppelganger (who is a good friend of mine), I just say, “Oh, you must know Twin! She’s the best, isn’t she?” and guide them towards different conversational waters.

    • CMart said:

      Fellow Midwestern white brunette with glasses checking in. Hello, twin! Perhaps you’re one of the friend’s cousins or granddaughter’s best friends from high school I’ve been taken for 😉 I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time so I got it A LOT due to coming into contact with so many strangers.

      I’ve also had a lot of success with cheerfully saying “I get that a lot!” followed by whatever appropriate banter. Typically I’d also then turn the conversation to ask about who they might have been thinking of. “Is she also awesome?/What college did you go to/what clubs were you in? Oh those sound great, I’m glad I resemble someone who would do something as cool as ___”. It’s also a good segue into a different topic of conversation beyond “are you sure you aren’t ___?”

    • Awesome Sauce said:

      Middle-aged white brunette lady with One Of Those Faces reporting in. My usual response is “Yeah, I get that a lot. I guess I just have one of those faces!” and if the other person insists on trying to place me/going on at great length about how I look JUST LIKE their sister’s friend’s cousin Karen, I will start cataloguing for them all the OTHER people on earth I apparently look like: “I also look just like someone who went to high school in Vancouver, someone who went to college in rural Saskatchewan, and a whole bunch of people in the Maritimes. I must have at least 14 identical twins. I should really talk to my mother and get to the bottom of this!” It’s usually enough to get the other person to either realize how boring a conversation this is and drop it, or be convinced that I am definitely not who they think I am and drop it.

      There can be endless (equally boring) variations on this theme, some of which actually lend themselves to a change of topic, like how I’d actually never been west of Sudbury till I was over 30, isn’t that weird, yes Toronto is very terrible, where are you from, have you ever been to [place I’ve actually lived], haha maybe I actually did bump into you in the mall there 25 years ago but who can remember something like that, did you get a chance to check out the [semi-famous tourist attraction], etc. etc. etc.

    • Megan said:

      I live in the Midwest and I’ve had conversations with my husband before where it’s like, “[Name] is coming over for a playdate, you remember meeting her at the thing? But not to be confused with [similar name] who we also met at that thing and who, oddly enough, is also about yea high with brown hair that she wears like so.”

  2. I don’t live on the same continent as you but I’m pretty damn sure that if I was standing next to you on the subway I would tell you that I loved your glasses in a frantic stage whisper, turn beet red and then flee into the night before the train had come to a complete halt. I’m guessing that probably happens a lot.

    • Chrystall said:

      Haha, add me to this club too

    • mountains-are-cool said:

      I think I actually saw Cap in the wild once. I did a double take, and decided even if it *was* her, being like “hey, do you run an internet advice blog? If so, it’s my favorite place on the internet” would probably be a bit too much and so I just tried to pretend to be as normal as other Chicagoans about their business instead.

      • RedHen said:

        @embertine, thanks to my Midwestern upbringing, I might have spent the day agonizing over not having the chance to thank you for the compliment and tell you where I got the glasses 😀

  3. dorrie6 said:

    A cautionary tale for those who can’t let it go when they are *sure* they know someone: I direct a program with teens every summer, and one year there was a student (girl) who was absolutely certain she knew another one of the students (trans boy) from somewhere. She kept bringing it up and bringing it up, and after weeks, when they’d gotten to know each other a bit better, he finally admitted that the way she knew him was that she had bullied him years before he had transitioned, when they played some kids’ sport together. She was mortified, apologized profusely, there was a lot of learning and growing going on for her right there, and he was really generous with her about it. But the reason he’d insisted up until then that there was no way they’d ever met was that he *genuinely did not feel safe with her*. I’m really glad that changed, and they became very close over the course of the program, so this had a happy ending. But my takeaways are: 1) LET IT GO. 2) Are you sure you really want to know?

    • Thistledown said:

      I never remember people I actually do know, so I generally don’t going around asking people where I know them from. But I’ve never considered the reasons people might have for not wanting to be recognized. Your story and the Captain’s list were really eye opening. Yikes! I’m officially warned off from ever doing this.

    • Anon said:

      I am a trans person this has happened to! As an adult, someone I recognized from high school came over to ask how they knew me. Happily, “I don’t recognize you, just one of those faces I guess” followed by a quick exit worked and was possible, but I was definitely spooked.

    • cavyherd said:

      Heh. I had kind of the inverse of that when I encountered a familiar-looking person on the bus, and only later realized they were a terrible former neighbor who’d made my life hell for six months. Yikes!

  4. sometimeswhy said:

    My redirect is usually, “I just have one of those faces! [then over the breath they’re taking to launch into quiztime] Seriously! I look like everyeone’s best friend from middle school’s kid sister! It’s so weird. Anyway… [subject change.]”

    It’s juuuuuuuuuuuuuuust weird and convoluted enough that it usually sort of shorts out the processing that it takes to assemble the quiz. And it’s also true. After going down fully 10,000 of those (sometimes fun!) figuring out where they know “me” from, it almost always turns out that I look like the adult version of someone they knew as a kid.

    • I apparently *do* have one of those faces, to the point that I resigned myself to answering to a name that wasn’t mine at not one but two positions I’ve held. (Two different names, thank goodness, or I would be concerned about either a doppelganger or having split into two people traveling through life at slightly different velocities.)

    • Chrystall said:

      Oh I like this!

    • I quite like an anecdote for these situations, for the same ‘short out the thought process’ reasons.

      ‘I just have one of those faces! In fact, my whole family has them, maybe because we’re mixed ethnicity? One time this guy followed me around a party for a whole hour insisting I was his cousin’s friend back in Kosovo, even though I am *not actually Kosovan* and have never been there…’

      this also has the advantage of positioning ‘continuing to bother me about this’ as a bad behaviour which is to be laughed at and not emulated.

    • Villanelle said:

      My script would be “Yeah, I hear that a lot – I have a doppelganger. Apparently she had tickets to the [major sports event] final one year, which seems very unfair. Who is she and why does she have my life?” *segue into discussing imaginary glamorous life of the doppelganger*

  5. SingHallelujah said:

    So it wouldn’t be cool to come up to you and start singing “Who am I? Who am I? 2460111111111111111111111111111!”? Musical theater nerds unite.

    Anyway, sometimes people mistake me for The Other Fat White Lady At This Meeting/Church/Event, but I usually just kinda roll with it or I embarrass them, whatever I feel like doing at the time. I know I’ve had that “where do I know you from?” conversation with people before but looking back I hope it’s always been mutual; it never occurred to me that it might be a sensitive subject for some people, so thanks for that info, it’s good to know.

    As far as celebrities go, the closest I’ve come is to nod or say hi to someone who looked vaguely familiar, before I realized they weren’t a passing acquaintance but actually someone I’ve seen on the TV.

  6. Weyrwoman said:

    LW, I too, have One Of Those Faces. I travel for cosplay, and I’m like 90% sure it’s because of that and all my cosplay pics on the internet. And I’ve been told I look like celebs every so often. I usually brush it off with “Oh, I apparently have That Face.” and if they keep going I usually say “Well, I’m pretty bad with matching names and faces, so maybe we have met before, but [segue to new topic]”. If they *still* keep going I sometimes share that I’ve been an extra in a couple movies/shows, or an amusing anecdote from college about “the time a close friend found a doppleganger of me and haha isn’t that funny maybe you met one of those?”.

    I’ve never had someone continue after one of those, but if they did I’d probably just stand there looking blank and extremely uninterested until they shut up, and then go “well, I need to [X that is a one-person thing], laters!” in a cheery voice and walk off.

  7. I’m actually an identical twin, and I’ve had this conversation before. MANY times. If you know us, there’s no problem telling us apart. But if we’ve only met in passing? Especially if you don’t KNOW she exists? You just think something’s a little off about me. Maybe I changed my hair?

    Once, as a teen, I worked at an amusement park, in a different section from my sister. I often had lunch with one of the nearby coworkers. One day, he went to my sister’s section for lunch (different menus) and ended up talking/eating with her. She’s friendly, but after about 5 minutes, she asked who he was. He was SO Embarrassed. He confronted me, (well, just a ‘you never told me!’ with a look of utter mortification) and didn’t speak to me for about a week.

    Ever since then, I’ve tried to make sure people know about her, especially if they’re likely to run into her. I switched jobs and moved closer to my sister last year. And especially with my sister works at the local library — we really confused a couple coworkers before I started my campaign to spread the news more forcefully.

    When I DO run into people in the wild that think they know me, I try to blame it on my sister. I’ve got a 50-50 chance of them deciding they know her, or them saying “No. I’ve known your sister since X, and I’ve met you on 3 occasions.” Then, I just have to look sheepish and be apologetic.

    But! Just because I’m a twin doesn’t mean I’m immune from the mistaken identity! Sometimes, I get a ‘you look just like my friend!’, which is Super Fun. Because, then I get to say “Oooh! That means there 3 of us.” And enjoy their really confused look.

    • I also have a pen name, so when people friend me on facebook, they get all 3 accounts (both of mine and sister’s) suggested at them. I’ve had SEVERAL friends tell me someone’s catfishing with my pictures. On the account that I crosslink to once a week. *facepalm*

    • blurft said:

      The nearby college campus has 2 sets of identical twins who are staff or faculty. There’s a lot of explaining it to students who thought that their professor gave them the cut direct on the quad.

      • There's Only One of Me But Two of Us said:

        I am also a twin who looks very much like my sister (to the point where I can unlock her phone with my own face…technology is wild and scary and she better not commit any crimes). We ended up at the same college, not entirely on purpose, but only overlapped on one or two courses throughout our time there. One day in class, a professor I really liked asked me if I had seen her waving to me outside the dining hall earlier that morning. I had to explain that oh gosh, I hadn’t been remotely near there, I hope you didn’t think I was being mean to you! After that my sister and I instituted a policy of waving/smiling back at anyone who appeared to be greeting us, with the result that I reciprocated many waves intended for someone behind me. Such is life.

        Incidentally there was another young woman with similar facial characteristics who was mistaken for one of us more than once on the same campus…luckily she took it as a compliment!

        These situations happen less frequently now that my sister and I lead more separate lives/move in different circles/industries, but on the odd occasion it does, it’s a good reminder of how absurd and funny the world can be. LW, maybe it would be fun to come up with a name for your fake twin, and give them a whole wild backstory you can pull out of your pocket, if you get bored with the more polite suggestions that have already been made.

        • This EXACT experience. when people ask me ‘how identical’ these days, I just say she can unlock my laptop with her face. I experimented with henna for a while and different hair lengths, but now we’re both back to just-past-the-shoulders brunette.

          And we DEFINITELY instituted the wave policy. Luckily, our interests and tastes overlap quite a lot, so people she’s friends with are good candidates for me.

      • TootsNYC said:

        my best friend’s brothers who are twins went to the same college and both got a job as a security guard. But they worked different shifts.
        That was confusing for people, who kept saying, “Don’t you ever go home?”

        • Marthooh said:

          I assume this is all a set-up for the big heist, right? I mean, they’re just waiting for the criminal kingpin to come through toting a great big suitcase stuffed with ill-gotten hamiltons, and they’ll roll out step one of the caper that depends on having identical twin security guards in the building…

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I (very briefly) dated an identical twin, who had dropped hints that their twin was fraternal and opposite-gender. We parted on friendly terms, but I cannot imagine the poor twin’s feelings when I ran into them and Tigger-bounced into a big ol’ hug. It’s part of the reason I don’t hug any more — consent matters!

      • I find the act of offering a hug [or whatever] makes you more aware of who you’re preparing to hug [or whatever], and can keep you from accidentally groping not-your-bf’s-butt on the staircase.

      • When referring to twins, “identical” and “fraternal” are typically used to indicate if they came from the same egg — that split, vs two eggs that were fertilized at the same time.

        I’m really confused if your ex incorrectly insinuated the fraternal/opposite gender part, or if they brother/sister pair were simply very alike in appearance.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          They were, in fact, identical and same-gender, but ex had apparently had experienced traumatic microagressions and downright creepiness when people found out they were an identical twin, so they would put out social signals that they were fraternal, and we just never got to the stage in the relationship where they corrected this bit of misinformation.

          • Oh. Yes. The fetishization of twins can get old. Fast. Before you’re a legal adult.

            I’ve just always operated in overlapping social spheres with my sister, so denying it has never been an option. Otherwise, we get a lot of irate strangers, cause we ‘blew them off’…

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            Ugh. I am so sorry that happens. May I burn something down for you? Just a little?

          • Sunflower said:

            Once my sibling had a birthday celebration in a park that was momentarily crashed by a pair of four-year-old twins. One of the guests (he didn’t have the best social graces in general) was very intent on finding out whether they were identical or fraternal, especially after they’d given conflicting responses (because, y’know, FOUR). The first twin thought for a moment, then replied, “I’m identical,” pointed at brother across the circle, “he’s fraternal!”

            Take that, Chad.

      • A friend and their twin sibling have always claimed that despite looking very much alike they are fraternal twins. The friend told me that they don’t know really, but as they have always disliked each other, they prefer thinking of themselves as fraternal twins.

        • It’s possible for fraternal twins to look very similar, though, just as any set of siblings can, with the added bonus of being the same age. My mother and her fraternal twin are extremely similar in appearance except that my mom is six inches shorter.

          • May said:

            As a child I looked very, very similar to my half-cousin (the daughter of my dad’s half-sister). The weird thing is that my brother and I, who looked similar enough as babies that we have two near-identical photos of an infant and don’t know which is who, have cousins who are the sons of our mum’s twin sister, and we look much less like those cousins. I feel like this comment needs a diagram. My point is, genetics be weird, dawg!

    • I’m an identical twin and I routinely attempt to argue that the person knows my twin sister, not me. Or either of our doppelgangers which I think takes us up to four people.

      If that doesn’t work, I laugh, say that I have one of those faces, and excuse myself.

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      This happened to me indirectly when I worked at a theater one year. Our FOH manager had an identical twin sister who ran the theater that was literally next door! LOTS of double takes.

    • cavyherd said:

      One of my coworkers is a local elected official. Her twin is another local elected official. Fortunately, they’re dilligent about cutting their hair differently. Handily, the one with the longer hair works in the larger jurisdiction.

    • Maddie said:

      This could work for the LW though, even though she’s not a twin. If she has family in town who look similar, use them. If not, make up a “twin.” That answers the question for them, then it’s settled in their mind and they can move on. Maybe they’ll wonder to themselves later on where they’ve seen ‘the other one’, but will leave the LW out of the game.

      New Person: I swear I’ve met you before somewhere!

      LW: No, I’m sure I would remember you. I get this all the time, though. You must have met The Other Me in town – it’s crazy how much we look alike! I’ve only seen her a couple of times myself, but I completely understand why people get us mixed up. *Sigh* Oh well, I’m sure I’m the ghost that haunts all her introductions and she’s very tired of hearing about me, too. I hope she at least made a good impression on you?…

      And if New Person has any social grace at all, they’ll realize LW’s been through this a million times and it’s best to move to the next topic.

      • Paulina said:

        I do this. Where I live now isn’t that large, but my ethnic group is quite common. I still seem to look distinctive enough so that people are sure that there must only be one of me, so if I look familiar then they must have met me. I am commonly in some large groups (work, some of my social activities) so a lot of the time I’ll wave it off, but sometimes they’ll insist on something specific that isn’t me.

        I have seen someone around that looks superficially like me, though, so I’ve decided to respond as if they mean her.

        “No, but I get that a bit and I think I know who you mean. Even took the bus with her last month but I figured introducing myself as someone who gets mistaken for her would come across as creepy.” And… Subject Change.

    • Erin W said:

      OMG, I have done this. My now-husband then-boyfriend was on a trivia team which also included two women who are sisters, not twins and not identical, but resembling each other a lot (especially when they are new acquaintances to you). I sat through one trivia night with Sister the Elder, talking a lot about Sister the Younger’s upcoming wedding. A few months later we did another trivia night where I asked the woman sitting across from me, “Your sister’s wedding is next month, right?” and what turned out to be Sister the Younger stared at me blankly and said, “You mean *my* wedding?” We’d been talking for like 10 minutes. I was just like, “I am so sorry! That’s so dumb of me!” She really didn’t care at all, and they are both good friends of ours still.

  8. Clover said:

    I used to work in the corporate campus for Nike, and we were explicitly told as part of our training, “You’re going to see famous people here–sponsored athletes, celebrities here to shoot ads, etc. Please remember that they’re fellow employees and treat them accordingly. No requests for autographs or pictures, no approaching them when they’re going about their business, nothing but the kind of ‘hey’ or ‘good morning’ or head-nod you’d give to any other colleague.”

    My group, including me personally, had several occasions to offer tech support to Really Famous People, and there was no starstruck weirdness, just professionalism all around. Working there gave me a great model for dealing with public figures.

    • Same thing happens at Major Theme Park where I used to work: Celebrities come here and, unless they’re acting in a way that suggests they want attention, you will treat them exactly the same as you would any other guest.

      • Reenie said:

        Can confirm this is the case for Famous Fancy Hotel In Major City where I used to work.

        We were instructed that if the conversation went beyond general service into chatting a professional “I enjoy your work,” was alright, but otherwise, NO!

    • Mary said:

      Treat them accordingly… steal their lunch, figure out how to make them go away when they won’t stop talking, decide how much you can afford for the group birthday gift, buy their kids’ fundraising chocolates!!

  9. It also happens often to me – and I always believe them. (I’m active in many different circles and I’m also a dancer, so technically they might have indeed seen me on stage/youtube). I always say, ‘Sure, but I’ve no idea where!’ (optional: throw in one or two possibles) ‘Anyway, we might find out later on. Can you remind me of your name, though?’ (it also works if they have introduced themselves, but as the Captain says, just make it a question about them.
    I genuinely believe them, but ths might work as a method even if you’re sure you’ve never met.

  10. phoesha said:

    When I think I’ve met someone before, I will say so, but then follow up with a “Do I look familiar to you?” If I don’t look familiar to them, then I drop it entirely with a, “Oh, sorry — must have been a memory misfire or something.”

  11. birdmommy said:

    I once had a co-worker comment that it was cool that my brother works here. The problem? I’m an only child. Co-worker doubled down and was convinced this guy is my twin, and I was just ‘being weird about it’

    My response was “So is he strikingly beautiful, or am I devilishly handsome?”

    I never did see this mythical twin of mine…

  12. Hi I'm New Here said:

    Them: But I know I’ve met you before!
    You: What did we talk about when you met me?
    Them: Sports team/kittens/books/alien abductions/whatever
    You: Oh, I saw the game last night/Ooo, I love kittens/Right now I’m reading…/What’s it like on Planet Sfxzergboid?/whatever. Just launch into the topic and start a conversation (if you want).

  13. Marcy M said:

    You can also say “oh gosh I just hate these guessing games! Let’s skip it this time. [question about them or their interests that changes the subject].

    Say it lightly and nicely and no one will get offended!

    I once had a literal twin with a different name than me and everyone would think I was her. I actually knew her name just from all these random encounters. It didn’t bother me, but I ended up having the same conversation a lot and it went like this: “you know, it’s so weird because I get that a lot; I’m pretty sure I have a twin running around the city but her name is [not your name]. Isn’t that weird?” This was followed by a lot of wows and strange right?s from both me and the other person until the topic was changed. They never continued to insist they had actually met me. Not sure if that’s helpful but ::shrug::

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Same. My twin’s name was Magda, and she had the most interesting love life… men would come up to me and grovel at my feet insisting “I must see you again!” I thought it was a bizarre pick-up gimmick until one of my college dorm mates met her.

  14. erika said:

    I am often told that I remind people of Cathy Bates. Which, I’m sure that Cathy Bates is a lovely lady and all, but I really only think of her in Misery, and people, THIS IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. It’s just not. I’m a fat, smiley person who my friends have assured me looks nothing like Cathy Bates, but acquaintances keep bringing it up and it’s so awkward for me. /rant

    • Jane said:

      Kathy Bates was also in Titanic and is a great actress in general. I also think she was rather pretty when she was young (not that she’s ugly now or anything, just more dignified than “pretty” comes across).

    • Anne Elliott said:

      A family acquaintance once told my mom how much she looked like Madeleine Albright and we never could decide whether said acquaintance was being intentionally snotty or thought that was a compliment.

      • threejane said:

        I am a cis female and when I was younger, constant comparisons to Christian Slater did not improve my mood. However, in looking back at old pictures, I did look *quite a bit* like Christian Slater. I’ve also been compared to Laura Prepon and Katheryn Winnick, so I’ve given up on people comparing me to actresses/actors. 😛

    • MJF said:

      I feel like this is a good demonstration of how broad a person’s idea of “the same” can be. Someone sees red hair and their brain throws up an image of the next-closest redhead. It’s an attention to detail thing, maybe?

      • eee said:

        like how my mom thinks every redhead in a movie is julianne moore! even an extra with no lines.

        • Sunflower said:

          My working hypothesis for this is that prosopagnosia (colloquially faceblindness) occurs on a spectrum and many people have mild enough forms of it/are unaware enough of the phenomenon that they can go their entire lives not realizing that others perceive faces differently.

  15. Scribbles said:

    There was a young woman who cashiered at the local gas station I go to every weekend. When I went to pay for gas, she would tell me I looked familiar and ask where she knew me from. The first week I told her I didn’t recognize her and asked if she went to X high school or Y college because maybe we’d crossed paths there, but she hadn’t attended my schools. The second week I asked her where she thought knew me from but she didn’t know. This went on for a few more weeks, and then I didn’t see her again. It was uncomfortable to have a stranger keep insisting they knew me and expect me to tell them where they knew me from. I would have started going to a different gas station if it had continued.

    • cavyherd said:

      When I see someone I feel like I might know locally, I mentally try out “works at [store] I frequent” and often get a click. Saves a lot of time, because I know they won’t know me.

  16. Sabina said:

    Yeah, I’m generic looking too and get the “don’t I know you?” when I’m sure I DON’T know the person a lot. My standard response is “well, I apparently look like about 200 other people in this town, weird, huh?” That usually shuts it down. I stopped doing the “where do I know you from?” thing after working at a government office connected to a corrections facility. Once asked someone why they looked familiar and they reminded me they had been the trustee who cleaned my office. Ugh, cringe…

    • Hi I'm New Here said:

      Maybe look both wise and sorrowful and ask, “Do we ever truly *know* a person?”

      • emmelemm said:

        Ha, I could totally see myself doing that.

  17. Magpie said:

    The weirdest time this ever happened to me was in Grants, New Mexico where I apparently looked EXACTLY like the third grade teacher (it’s a very small town)

    Of course I was hiking so I was all dirty and dishevelled and wearing a torn oversize men’s shirt to keep the sun off. People kept following me in their cars asking if I was okay or needed a ride! It was really freaky until someone was like “oh you’re NOT Janet!” I dealt with this by hiding in a hotel room and making my buddy go out and get the pizza so … I wish I had a better strategy for you

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I would dearly love to think you reached out to her on social media afterwards, if only to help alibi her.

  18. C said:

    I have the exact opposite of this problem — I apparently have one of those faces that are unique and unforgettable for whatever reason, so people *actually* recognize me and I don’t know who they are. Work/synagogue acquaintances of my parents…teachers and professors who I didn’t have, but met a few times…even the staff at the pizza joint near my old apartment started trying to anticipate my order from about my third visit on (First of all, I like to switch it up and not order the same thing every time. Second of all, you have hundreds of customers every day, and you could not possibly remember them all, so why me?! I used to think to myself, “either I’m remarkably ugly, or I did something truly egregious and that’s why they remember me.”) That’s an extreme case, but similar things end up happening at places I wouldn’t have thought I went to frequently enough to be considered a regular.

    I used to think maybe I had mild prosopagnosia, because I was always being correctly recognized by people I couldn’t identify. But that’s not it: I’m really good at recognizing actors between shows, for instance. (“That guy in the green hoodie — I think he played the country squire in 18th-Century Powdered Wig Show!” “That dark-haired woman with that accent — she was in that other show with blonde hair, doing a different accent!”) I seem to just have “one of those faces”, but in the other direction.

    • isabeausuro said:

      “I apparently have one of those faces that are unique and unforgettable for whatever reason, so people *actually* recognize me and I don’t know who they are”

      Fistbump of solidarity! For me it’s not my face per se — wheelchair plus not-turning-head plus service dog means everyone remembers me. (Back in college, if I missed class because sick or broken wheelchair or whatever, the professor always noticed, even in the giant lecture classes.) But I’m kind of bad with faces and quite bad with names, so I can’t always reciprocate.

    • Colette said:

      “…always being correctly recognized by people I couldn’t identify.” Hey, that’s me too! Ugh. I’m somehow very recognizable and memorable to a lot of people, despite thinking I look pretty ordinary. I also have a unique – and short, easy-to-remember – name. And I work for a public agency in a mid-size city, where I have encountered hundreds or thousands of my fellow citizens over time, and belong to a huge synagogue, AND my kid goes to public school and plays in local youth sports leagues, so I’ve met hundreds of parents. Long story short, I run into people who either really do know me or think they do ALL THE TIME, everywhere.

      I’ve learned to say blithely, “I’m sorry – I’m just terrible at recognizing people out of a familiar context. I’m [my name] – what’s your name again?” Even if they’ve just said my name, to make it feel more like a first conversation. If they persist in guessing why I look familiar, I say, “gosh, I don’t know – in this town, it could be anything!” which gives me an excuse to switch the conversation to some endlessly-interesting or controversial or pride-inducing aspect of local life and boom, we’re out of the guessing game.

    • Kit-Kat said:

      Haha, me too! For me it’s that I’m really short. More people have always remembered/recognised me than those I’m actually acquainted with. I try to be gracious about it as a lot of times they do catch on that it’s this type of scenario and I don’t actually know them in return.

      • Kit-Kat said:

        ETA: Also, if they don’t, my reply is usually to make a joke about how everyone remembers me because I’m so short, and I’m terrible with names so I’m sorry, but what is your name? Self-depricating and lighthearted.

        • EditAnd EditOr said:

          Same!! For me I use the hair – I have short, bright red (from a bottle) hair, and a name with an apparently memorable cadence and level of alliteration, and I’m pretty sure I *do* have mild prosopagnosia… so it seems I’m always being recognised by people I don’t remember!

          (Side note – until last year I didn’t know that prosopagnosia was an actual thing and I always thought I was just, like… an unintentional asshole because clearly I didn’t pit the effort into remembering people…)

          But anyway, yeah – I use the hair.

          “Haha I think this *gestures* makes me easy to spot… remind me where we met?/nice to see you, gotta run though, sorry/sorry for spacing. How are you?”

        • Sorrel said:

          I actually do the same thing in the opposite direction – any vaguely tall, broad-shouldered white woman is Definitely Me, for some reason, but it’s easy enough to make a joke about it. “Nah, I’m not actually that familiar, I’m just tall,” and that always seems to get just enough of a polite chuckle that I can smoothly change the subject.

    • DesertRose said:

      Same here. I will grant that I’m somewhat unusual-looking (tall and large-of-build as cis women go, fat, fairly long hair, and distinctive facial features), but it messes with me when people recognize me and I draw a blank on how the hell they know me.

  19. blurft said:

    So I’ve been through one version of this: I am from a pretty homogenous home region and we all have Those Faces. Plus I don’t wear makeup very often, so usually I just get mistaken for whoever else they know whose family is from the same area and doesn’t wear much makeup.

    I’ve also been through a second version, called “someone mistakes me and my wife for some other gay couple they know who have shortish hair”. I once let one of these ride for 45 minutes because I just wanted to get through the transaction without making a fuss. It was weird! … It was weird.

    And I’ve been witness to a third version that does not apply to me, because I am white, called “don’t you look just like that actress who is the only other person I know of of a similar ethnicity?”. I’m going to be frank, I was being a big white person about it when my friend was like “I’m sick of this happening nonstop” and at first I assumed that it happened about as often as 1) and 2) do to me, which is “a couple of times a year”. No. In a bar, it happens 3 or 4 times in a night. People cannot contain how much she sort of resembles an actress whose parents are from the same country her parents are from. People hipcheck their way through a crowd to point this out.

  20. Alli525 said:

    I also have A Familiar Face and my go-to line is just what the Captain suggested: “Oh, I get that a lot, I look familiar to a lot of people. Nice to meet you! ”

    Related question – I will occasionally wave at someone who looks familiar, but at second glance is not the person I knew. Now, when this happens with a person of color, I often feel uneasy saying “oh, you look like someone I know, sorry!” because I’m aware that face-blindness among members of different races (especially Caucasians toward people of Afro/Caribbean descent) is a thing and I don’t want to make them feel like there’s a microaggression when it’s just me being bad with faces/names.

    Usually in those cases I just don’t say anything, and let the awkwardness be (hopefully) totally mine – but then I’m treating them differently from someone of my own race. Should I be doing something different?

    • JenniferP said:

      I think you’re good, most awkward mistakes don’t come from erring on the side of being quiet when you’re unsure if something would be welcome!

      • Alli525 said:

        Thank you! I really appreciate your feedback, Captain 🙂

  21. Fantasia said:

    I spent one summer in New York having strangers continually stop me thinking I was Jennifer Tilly. There were “Bound” posters everywhere and besides the resemblance, my haircut was exactly like hers. Which was very nice, as she was one of the stars. And generally considered not unattractive. I’d say that’s the rule for telling people they look like celebrities. Ie, comparing people to Howard Wolowitz or Amy Farrah Fowler is not going to go down brilliantly.

    • Maddie said:

      My husband looks like a cross between Bruce Willis and Lance Armstrong. It used to annoy him to no end when people would figure out why his face looks familiar (especially because he and Bruce have similar hairlines, and he did NOT like being reminded of this). Finally, I said, “Honey, have you not realized that it is always a woman who makes this comparison? Do you know why these particular men would be closer to the forefront of a woman’s mind? Hmmm? It is because women find these men to be very handsome. It is a compliment, dear, I promise.” After that day, he started paying a bit more attention to the way the parallel was being drawn, and realized that I was right.

      But, like the Kathy Bates example above (who I think is a stunner on top of being a lovely person, so that would be a definite compliment from me), you can’t always assume that your definition of “attractive celebrity” will translate to “flattery” for the recipient.

      I mean, when I was younger, guys used to tell me All. The. Time. that I looked like either Punky Brewster or That Girl From The Wonder Years (whose name I can never remember), and it was literal decades later before it dawned on me that they weren’t being mean or making fun of me – these were girls they had deep crushes on and adored from afar, and my resemblance was a Good Thing in their mind. They were flirting with me! Talk about coming late to the realization. Whoops!

      • Ari Flynn said:

        “That girl from The Wonder Years” is Danica McKellar, who went on to get her undergrad degree in mathematics at UCLA. In addition to having her name on a theorem, she’s written several books aimed at giving young women a proper opportunity to dive into math. Totally off-topic, but she’s cool.

  22. FiercePassions said:

    Wait! There’s been a Kids In The Hall reunion show? Was it recorded? Where can I find it?
    #QTNA

    • JenniferP said:

      It was a stage show that traveled in 2013, not sure if it was ever televised.

  23. scrapworks said:

    An odd aside story (but proof that we all look like other people out there, it’s a big world after all): twice in my life I have had people come up to me, really friendly, then say “Oh sorry, I thought you were someone I knew! You look just like her! Do you have a sister who lives in San Diego?” (I don’t have any sisters at all. And I live on the east coast. But apparently there’s a lady in San Diego who could be my twin).

  24. I am a short, female-assigned brunette with glasses who’s into geek and fannish stuff. There are…a lot of me, to put it mildly. More excitingly, there’s a (non-related) cis-woman in the local sci-fi scenes who at this point I just call my twin. Neither of us think we look particularly alike, but we both wear our super-long hair up in a bun full time, we’re of relatively similar heights, and our fashion style is not totally off from each other.

    She makes and wears exquisite ballgowns (with LEDs and game-playing panels and circuitry!). She’s also a superb visual artist, and sells prints and paintings at a lot of sci-fi cons. I have gotten _very good_ at saying some variation of “I’m glad you love [twin]’s work, I’ll be sure to tell her next time I see her.” which is probably the most gracious way to deal with it.

    (The second-funniest twin story was the time I went to my dentist’s office and the aide excitedly escorted me to one of the rooms saying “and you get to be in the exam room with your art in it!” Given that our dentist is *also* in the fannish scene, and friends with both of us, it wasn’t quite as confidentiality-breaking as it could’ve been, but it was definitely weird.)

    ((The funniest twin story was the party where someone came up behind me and nestled against me (which was not bothersome, I’m a cuddly person and it was a crowd I felt safe in), and when I turned around, I got to say the beautiful line “Oh hey –your wife is over there, actually.” Neither me nor my twin have stopped giving her husband shit for this one, but I think that was the turning point where we both said “okay, fine, maybe we *do* look kindof alike.”))

    • DV said:

      Similar thing happened once when my ex and his brother were wearing very similar polo shirts. BIL’s wife leans over from behind seated guy, slips her hands down the front of the shirt and fondles his chest – then looks across the room and locks eyes with her husband. Retreats, mortified. Highly amusing for the rest of us.

  25. azurelunatic said:

    The “where do we know each other from” thing is only fun if both parties are into it! I only get this occasionally (fat dark-haired very pale witchy goth types with long hair are Definitely A Type) and I don’t always want to engage. Mostly when my name isn’t actually Amber they realize the error.

    One memorable time was about 2am and I was shopping at The Bad Place, and I spotted my friend D—, who had a very specific body shape and long, distinctive, bright red curly hair. She was with someone I had known back home in Alaska. I waved. She waved back. We started approaching each other at a good clip … and slowed, because … we … didn’t … know each other, actually. She was very much not D—. It turns out there are two people with that build and hair who exist in the world and the same city. For her part, she had thought I was someone she knew, and the guy also erroneously recognized me. The “do I know you from” was quick, and accidentally turned into a “hi, I’m Azz from Alaska; I like writing and duct tape swords and I’m witchy and geeky and fannish.” “Hi, I’m S— from Texas; I like so many of the same things!” type exchange. And we had enough in common that we came to the conclusion that a) we did not in fact know each other, but b) we could change that and in fact wanted to, by c) exchanging livejournal names.

    I think it worked out so well because we almost immediately dropped our expectations upon realizing what was happening, and were open to actually getting to know the real other person standing in front of us instead of trying to force them to be the person we thought they were at first.

    • So much this!

      When I don’t want to play, I give a couple chances and then snap something like “generic-looking queer fat white lady, there are a lot of us.”

      On the other hand, I once had a delightful experience much like yours, with a person I’m still convinced I never knew but who is equally convinced that we met in the goth scene in the early 2000s, who has now become a good friend. Because even if we had never met, how many people are there out there who are totally into horses (we met at a horse conference), and also into industrial music? Lots in common to talk about, so we talked and talked and talked, and became friends based on who we are now, regardless of whether we had in fact ever known one another before.

    • AnnaS said:

      I’ve had something like this happen. Met a woman in the Asian city I was living at the time, she was young and foreign like me, and although I didn’t remember how I knew her, I was sure I did. She was equally sure she had met me before but didn’t remember from where either. We spent quite some time doing the guessing game back and forth (I guess it’s a lot more enjoyable if you’re both into it and doing it with someone who seems cool) but never did figure it out.

  26. Jessica B said:

    I also have doppelgangers in my city and others–my cousin once texted me asking if I was in Boston unexpectedly because she thought she saw me on the train (I was not).

    One comment on there be A Look for a Group of People– I now walk through my city’s convention center every day, and see a lot of different events happening. Almost every single group has A LOOK that makes it very easy to spot them later while they are walking around the city. Large equipment/farmers? Jeans, button down, possibly a vest and/or a statement belt buckle. Teachers? Sensible shoes, fun prints, jeans or a skirt with a specific type of bag. Right now it’s a motorcycle/boat show, and everyone is wearing branded snow gear. I could not tell one person apart from another if my life depended upon it.

  27. FiercePassions said:

    My freshman year was spent at a small Jewish university that had like maybe 5 other Black women. I would get these “hey [not my name] from these hot white upperclassmen all the time & then be like “sorry, I’m not her.”, including one memorable time when someone gave me quite the long intimate hug from behind at a party on campus. Eventually her & I actually met and guess what? We looked nothing alike (I mean we were both Black women with an undercut but that was really it: different skin color, different face shape, different facial structure).

    When I lived in Boston, I would get Random White Strangers telling me I looked like this or that Black Female Celebrity. None of these women looked like each other or like me (What do Scary Spice, Kellis, Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, & Oprah have in common?). At one point I literally responded “No I don’t look like Oprah. I’m sorry you don’t know the names of any other Famous Black Women with curly/natural hair.”

    • FiercePassions said:

      I meant different *body* shape, different facial structure)

  28. RiverSongTam said:

    So I was actually on the reverse end of this once: I went to a rather large costume party thrown by a group of friends of mine in a Cruella de Vil costume, complete with a wig and very cartoonish makeup that made me pretty unrecognizable. There was another person at same party with similar hair and haircut to mine, and she was approached throughout the entire night by people thinking she was me. Eventually I was dragged out to meet her. I blame it on the dimness and the booze because there was very little actual resemblance there, other than the hair, and she was a full head shorter than me. She looked a little pissed, though, by that point, so I attempted to laugh the whole thing off and change the subject as soon as I could.

  29. I get this a lot as well because I have red hair. I guess since it’s somewhat uncommon, people will see me and think I’m some other redhead they’ve met before. It does get old. In general my conversations go something like this:

    Them: I’ve totally met you before!
    Me: I’m sorry, I don’t remember meeting you before, but hi, it’s nice to see you.
    Them: Was it at that club? Or were you in that pickup volleyball game this summer? Jury duty?
    Me: Sorry no. Are you sure you’re not just thinking of another redhead? Anyway, I’m excited about this event we’re about to do.

    In general they back off when I suggest why they might think they know me and if they insist on doing the where-do-I-know-you Bingo, I keep repeating, “I think you’re confusing me with another redhead” and they eventually back off. Still annoying.

    • Mimi Me said:

      Interesting…I’m a redhead too and get his a lot – as in once a week for the last 20 years. I’ve tried your approach but I get a lot of push back. Now I tell people who are super insistent that I do porn and that’s where they know me from. The approach shuts down further conversation, but it’s interesting to watch their expressions. Some times there’s shock, but more often there’s that moment where you can see them wondering “is that it?” Then they realize I’m joking and we laugh. But it stops the “I know you” conversation. LOL!

      • Rae said:

        I’m stealing this!!!

      • Mori said:

        Had a friend who was an artist’s model for several years. She had the sense of humor to prefer “Am I usually wearing less clothing?” to “Ever taken art class?”

    • olivia0330 said:

      I went to school with another redhead. We were similar redheads, too, both with the new-copper-penny sort of red. We had similar names as well. And THAT is where the similarities stopped. Totally different builds, facial structures, height, eye color, and I had freckles while she did not. But we were confused with each other all through high school. I figured it came from gossip, like, “You know, that redheaded girl!”, “Oh, her!”

      Once, though, a girl got really, really angry at me insisting that I wasn’t Other Redhead. She thought that I was playing a prank on her, and nothing I said would convince her. I actually thought she was going to hit me. That was the weirdest one for sure.

  30. rdyer207 said:

    In the smallish place I live, I have had the initial part of that encounter that encounter (you look familiar) lots of times, only to realize that the person looks only semi familiar because we know each other from the pool at the Y. There’s nothing like realizing “you, person whose name I don’t know, look a lot different with your clothes on” to forestall 20 Questions.

  31. LW 1174 said:

    Captain! Thank you so much for this generous response! I like that it leaves room for me to be wrong about knowing the other person from somewhere- I am definitely wrong a lot in my life. I also like that even if I *am* wrong, I don’t have to play the guessing game. I’m also glad that my doppelgangers and I are not the only people who experience this.

    Like the Captain, and a few commenters, I do end up on stage in public pretty regularly, so maybe some folks are just recognizing me from that. I hadn’t really considered that possibility, but it makes a lot of sense.

    I had to explain the Javert references to my partner, and I dug up relevant scenes from the Les Miserables movie to do so, so I’ll leave you with these. I’m no Jean Valjean, but I suppose we *do* have that one thing in common.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Awesome clip reference section! I will now have Les Miserables stuck in my head for the rest of the day. As someone with a really pretty bad memory, I often just tell people that right out….”Maybe, I have a terrible memory though and you’re not going to jog it…how about this hummus-flavored subject change?”

      There’s a funny story in which I met a guy two times in different contexts maybe six months apart and thought it was new each time, then saw him a third time in which I recognized him from the first instance and he recognized me from the second instance and was a bit upset because he doesn’t mix work and fun and I was trying to tell him he suggested I do this and there was confusion until we connected all the dots. It was hilarious. We’ve been friends ever since.

  32. Just over a decade ago, I was on “Jeopardy!”, winning one game, so I played twice. After it aired, I did get asked a couple of times (at restaurants) “Were you just on ‘Jeopardy!’?” So, that was fine. It faded quickly.

    A lot of us in my family look alike, and after the homicide death of one of my sisters (in 1991), I got a lot of “ohmygod!” looks from people who knew her, but hadn’t yet met me. Easily, if sadly, resolved, “Yes, I’m her oldest sister.”

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Ooph that’s rough. Then again, a good reason to not draw attention to the connection to dredge up terrible memories. Jedi hugs if you want them!

      • Thanks. Again, 1991, so it hasn’t happened it a long time. Even a few years afterward, someone said “You remind of a girl I used to work with, she was killed, [Sister’s name].” I told him, “She was my sister.” He said very nice things about her, and apologized if he upset me, which he didn’t. Clearly, he liked her. He emphasized a different syllable of her name than is customary – think “MAH-rie” instead of “Ma-RIE”, and it sounded nice.

        When I share pictures of that sister on social media, I get a lot of “Wow, y’all looked alike.”

  33. Cascadian said:

    I was lucky enough to spend a few decades hanging out with some famous musician types in Seattle. While they were always polite to fans who greeted them in public places, it was always an unpreferred interruption. In private settings most enjoyed/welcomed relevant chat about the event/host/weather but usually not anything related to the music industry or scene, unless you were familiar to them already. Being able to just be chill when you cross paths with someone famous may not earn you a new BFF or autographed swag, but at least you won’t get an eyeroll behind your back and a nod to security.

  34. Bert's Knees said:

    So I have an actual doppleganger. She’s around my age, and is from the same hometown, but went to a different high school than me. I found this out because a stranger at an icecream shop told me I looked just like his niece, and pulled out a picture to show me, and I swear to God, I thought this dude had a photo of me for a second! And it suddenly made sense why so many people I’d never met before thought they knew me kind of sort of (before I’d always assumed I just had one of those faces). But I found that saying super cheerfully ” I actually have a doppleganger, people think I’m her all the time!” is a non awkward way to quickly defuse the tension, sometimes I tell the backstory, sometimes I don’t. But switching it to your case to “Oh I think I must have a doppleganger who lives around here, this happens to me all the time” makes the person feel not at all awkward because you’ve made it not their fault, and it’s breezy and definitely brushes past the lets figure out how we know each other game.

  35. Heaven said:

    I do not generally have one of those faces, but there was one wonderful incident a couple of years ago where I walked into an alternative clothing store and was pounced upon by what I thought was an incredibly friendly lady who worked there. Turned out I looked almost exactly like a close friend of hers – she realised the mistake when I was blank-faced at the sheer intensity of her enthusiasm – and we had a giggle over it and let it go.

    (It turned out, though, that to a large extent she really was *just* that friendly… and an incredibly good saleswoman. Lady had me in a steel-boned corset before I could blink. The male friend I walked in with just sort of stood there shocked for the entire exchange and subsequent lacing.)

    So I guess my point here is that, if you do mistake a stranger for someone you know, er, sell them a high-quality and reasonably-priced piece of vintage underclothing?

    • Sam Sepiol said:

      This is possibly my fave story I’ve ever read here.

  36. arkadyrose said:

    On one occasion, not only was I mistaken for someone else – but *I* mistook the *questioner* for someone I knew as well! Apparently I have a doppelganger who is fascinated by archaeology, and he has a doppelganger who does volunteer work with disabled kids. In both our cases, we hadn’t seen our friend in several years. He offered me a lift, I accepted, and it was about 20 minutes into the ride that we finally worked out we actually didn’t know each other at all. There was a very awkward silence, which he broke by saying, “Well… you don’t *look* like a secret axe murderer….”

    We laughed, exchanged names and numbers, and 15 years on we’re still friendly acquaintances though we keep in touch through Facebook. We still laugh about what a really bizarre coincidence it was that we both had doppelgangers like that.

    • cavyherd said:

      I’ve had that happen over the phone a couple of times, with wrong numbers. Incredibly disorienting until you work out that you’re talking about different things, to people who are not who you were calling. ::woggle::

  37. TootsNYC said:

    Letting other people, especially strangers, own and care for their own feelings is a learned skill for some of us,

    I would like to argue that it is in fact respectful to let other people own and care for their feelings.

    I’ve been “a type” form time to time, and fortunately most people will let it go once I say that.

    I have a friend who is a super-recognizer. If she says, “Oh, I’ve seen you before,” she HAS. And she can usually tell you exactly where–you waited on her at Macy’s last April, or something. But once she got a little older and figured out that not everyone has this ability, she doesn’t drop that on people often, and of course she’s not trying to figure it out, because she knows.

    My only experience with the “quiz someone is doing in their brain” was actually mutual. I totally felt familiar with my waitress, in a part of my city I’ve never been to. Not just looks, but the way she spoke. I mentioned that she seemed so familiar, and she’d had the same feeling. So we started the “do you work in X industry? lived in X state or college? live in X neighborhood?”
    It took a chance remark like, “if you lived in my neighborhood, I’d say maybe we frequently see each other int he subway stop” for us to figure out that we’d spent two hours taking a crosstown bus in the rain, and had a long and fun conversation, about four months earlier.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      I had a friend with that ability. We called it “I remember you! You drove past my house once in 2nd grade!”

  38. EllenS said:

    I have actually met and worked with one of my doppelgangers in real life – we became friends and hung out together with our spouses (which led to some hilarious/potentially not hilarious incidents like the time Doppelganger’s spouse’s friends saw me with my spouse, and thought Doppelganger was cheating).

    I don’t usually mind talking about the generic face situation *a little bit,* and I have a terrible memory myself, so sometimes the person really does know me from somewhere that I forgot.

    But if the connection doesn’t turn up quickly, or if I just don’t feel like playing that today, my preferred redirect is to get out ahead of it and control the conversation. I have a couple of canned Amusing Stories of Mistaken Identity that I can trot out with minimal effort. I’ll hit the mental “play” button on one, and by the time it’s over the other person is tired of the topic and wants to talk about themselves.

  39. Mythea said:

    For many years I worked at a Renaissance Festival and apparently had a voice twin, with a similar body/hair type who lived in another state and worked at the festival there. I would regularly have to have the conversation with people that I didn’t know them. I developed two main responses. If they came up and asked me “why/when/what was I doing at this Fair instead of the other” – I would smile and tell them that hometown fair is my favorite, which fair had they met twin me at? and if I got the “no, I am sure it was you” – I would say that it is totally possible (I once had a high school acquaintance/friend recognize me while I was working and start doing the “I know you” routine, and I told him that it was totally plausible, but I don’t recall – which caused him to remember where it was we knew each other and caused his wife to laugh hysterically because “it’s plausible” was a strange response)

  40. I get this so much because apparently everyone knows or has known a pleasant fat girl with straight hair and a wicked sense of humor. And we allll look alike, I guess? There’s even another woman in my large, extended hobby-appreciation circle who is also fat with straight hair who otherwise looks NOTHING like me and people will call me her name, and her by my name. It’s pretty much like being told that they only have room in their heads for ONE FAT FRIEND DOSSIER and that’s it! Insulting AND hilarious!

    • Jadis said:

      Totally seconding the phenomenon of the ONE FAT FRIEND DOSSIER. I can’t count how many times people have called me by the wrong name of another fat woman they know who, barring our fatness, actually looks absolutely nothing like me.

      Also, my father had, at various points throughout my life, told me I looked like Roseanne Barre, Rosie O’Donnell, Camryn Manheim, and Melissa McCarthy. I suspect, had a gotten a deep enough tan, he’d have told me I resembled Queen Latifah. Jesus wept.

      • I don’t know if this will make anyone feel better, but apparently all short women look alike too.

        Or maybe I just look like everyone’s other short acquaintance.

  41. I get every.single. celebrity with short brown hair, no matter how different our faces look. Carrie Ann Moss (1999 was tough), Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Rachel Leigh Cook when it was slightly longer & flippy, etc. These are all tempered with the “sorta” that definitely implies “like a less attractive version of”.

    I do have a slight Winona-circa-Reality Bites resemblance that comes up A LOT, which is honestly the best compliment one could give a slightly weird Older Millenial. Still, though, keep it to yourself!!

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Yes. Fun side dose when they go down the Natalie Portman Zoe Deschenele (sp?) sweet quirky brunette actress line…sometimes it is a line…and sometimes they’re actually just looking for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl…so definitely not a compliment.

      Shaved head got me Sinead O’Conor and Natalie Portman from V for Vendetta so I’m not complaining on that front.

  42. Anon said:

    One of my sisters was an actress, and in our 20s we looked enough alike that I was often mistaken for her. I just smiled and thanked them for liking my work, and signed autographs. I always figured they’d rather have met actress than actress’s sister.

  43. Reenie said:

    Oof, I feel this one. My favorite version is people insisting they know me from high school. This seems to be a thing that dudes especially insist on, and I assure them that I DID NOT go to their high school, as I went to a small all girls school and knew LITERALLY everyone in my class and many of the other classes as well, also, you are a DUDE, so you were NOT THERE.

    I also had someone come up to me while I was on vacation thinking I was one of my cousins. That one was actually pretty fun.

  44. Hermione Stranger said:

    I had a variation on this awkward encounter that only because awkward in retrospect.

    The scene: a sunny summer day downtown. Some enthusiastic people are handing out flyers for the “Because I Am A Girl” campaign. Most of them are girls, but there are a few young men.

    A young man hands me a flyer, and I recognize him! And he recognizes me! I say “Oh gosh hi, how are you?” He replies “Oh my god, I am so great! How’s everything with you?”

    We have a pleasant catch-up conversation and I hear all about the nice man he’s dating and I tell him how school is driving me crazy. I take the flyer and head merrily on my way.

    About twenty seconds later it occurs to me that he was not the acquaintance I thought he was. I do not know him. He does not know me. But darn if he wasn’t pleasant.

  45. So….I’m Chinese, and I live in a majority white country in the capital city. Insert your own (many many) stories of my being mistaken for other Asian people – some of whom were apparently *not even Chinese* – by strangers I had just met. I also run a lot of events, so I meet a lot of people whom I have no chance of remembering.

    I’ve gotten very good at the “Do remind me where we met?” and if they can’t, then I will say “well in that case, hi! Nice to meet you!”

  46. Katie said:

    I’ve recently realized I have a huge tendency to want to control the narrative, and this stems mostly from being a childfree woman, and someone who is generally easygoing and cooperative… up to a point. This particularly happens with dudes online, as well as some well-meaning but oblivious mom types who seem to have this idea of me, but don’t know the actual me, as the Captain said. What do you do? The issue here isn’t being recognized (it’s a chat program I’m thinking of), it’s more l mostly) like approaching “how do we get to know each other” without it spiraling into an interrogation or just becoming one-sided.

  47. Nicole said:

    This might be cheating, but I have an identical twin who lives in the same city as me, and has some of the same hobby. I get this a lot, and usually just say “I have a sister- this happens a lot” and move on. I wonder if you could try using “This happens a lot- I think I have a doppelganger, but I’m (Name), nice to meet you.”? I feel like by telling the person that there might be somewhere out there who looks like you, you might make them stop racking their brain to figure out if they had really met you or not. It also makes it more plausible to the other person that you haven’t met – sometimes if I just tell people I haven’t met them before, they assume I’ve forgotten and keep trying to remind me of where we might have met. (Not saying you are doing anything wrong, but it gives them an easy excuse for why they think they’ve met you, and often that is enough).

  48. Aunt Vixen said:

    One of my best friends and I were routinely confused for each other as undergraduates by people who didn’t know either of us very well. Roughly the same height (though it turns out I’m actually pretty short and she just slouches a lot), similar build, we wore our hair similarly – if you’d only met one of us for a few minutes and then met the other for the first time it was not completely out of line that you might think you’d met her before. People who knew us at all never confused us, although her parents did say I reminded them of her a good deal.

    Later, a good friend in a local hobby group and I were routinely confused for each other at close range by people who didn’t know either of us very well and from across rooms by people who did. In fact both of our respective partners admitted on at least one occasion to wondering what each of us was doing there when they’d have sworn we were somewhere else – because they’d seen the one they weren’t partnered with from a sufficient distance to believe it was the other.

    Of course neither of those situations requires a ton of social dexterity to resolve. “Oh, you must have been talking to ____. We actually get that a lot.” But a couple of years ago now I was walking from my house to the metro station, and as I crossed a street a woman waiting for her light at the adjacent crosswalk literally did a double take and recoiled when she saw me. It’s not that common in my life for a complete stranger to be physically startled at the sight of me, so I expect I reacted in some way, and she said “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, it’s just that you look so much like my daughter, it was such a shock for a moment to see you here.”

    I think I said “Well – I hope if I’d turned out to be her, it would have been a happy surprise?” and went on my way.

  49. Ann Larimer said:

    Successful deflection technique:
    My boss: Hey, is this [name of relative I have a super uncomfortable relationship with who shares my surname] in the picture in the paper related to you?
    Me: Does he have the same face like a canned ham, and the big googly eyes?
    Boss: I…don’t know how to answer that.
    Me: He probably is.
    Boss: I think my phone’s ringing.
    Me: Righty-ho.

    • EllenS said:

      *golf clap* Well played.

  50. Emma said:

    FYI, “do I know you from somewhere?” was a go-to chat-up line when I was at university a few years ago. The idea being that it’s an excuse to start a conversation with a stranger, and they’ll then start talking about themselves (“maybe from my motorcycle maintenance class? Or I do swing dancing, perhaps you’ve seen me there?”) so you can get to know them better. If you’re someone who’s hearing this a lot, that might be the reason.

  51. Lemming On Caffeine said:

    I’m not usually on the receiving end of this, except that when I was still living at my parents’ place, every time I answered the phone people were 100% sure I was my mom and I eventually started just putting the phone down on the cabinet/window sill while I went to fetch my mom so she could deal with it (this was in a time before cordless phones, btw).

    Anyway, I am, unfortunately, on the giving side of this pretty often. I’m horrible at remembering facial details of people, so if you have roughly the same general shape of face and nose and the same eye and hair color as someone I know, I will probably mistake you for them upon first meeting you (once I know the name, my brain essentially files the information away by association: “choir: Angela, 7/11: Katie”). What usually happens when the other person goes “um, I don’t know you, who are you?” is that I freeze up like hognose playing dead and my brain starts going “oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit what now they must think you are such an idiot aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”*

    So as someone on team “where do I know you from?”, I encourage you, LW, to take the initiative, as suggested by the Captain, and go “Actually, I’m certain we’ve never met before, but nice to meet you. [topic change/walking away]”, because without that last part, we’ll just both be left standing there feeling absolutely awkward. And to be clear: walking away and deciding not to engange is a perfectly reasonable option, because it clearly signals that the conversation is over and you don’t expect anything in return.

    After that, if you happen to have been unfortunate enough to encounter someone with zero shame or regard for your boundaries, and they keep on trying to bring the conversation back to what you just made clear is a dead end… well, at that point, you’d not be rude to be really direct with them: “You keep on bringing up my supposed similarity to someone you know even though I already told you I just met you and it’s really weirding me out. Please stop.”

    * Anecdote time: I spent one semester studying abroad in a country whose official language really wasn’t my strong suit (I did manage to get by, but any fast/fancy conversations went right over my head). One of my anchors in this entire thing was a self-defense class I was taking. One day I got on a bus and I could have sworn, on my life, that the woman sitting in the last row was one of my instructors. Well, she wasn’t. Which I only found out after I cheerfully greeted her and she replied along the lines of “um, I don’t even know you” and /nothing else/, which left me standing there, absolutely mortified, waiting for my stop while trying not to think about how much of a dork I must have seemed to be, what with my broken language and clumsy cheer, and not knowing what the fuck to do now without making the situation any more awkward than it already was. I would have greatly appreciated /any/ reaction other than just blank confusion from her, even if it was just “You must confuse me with someone else. Hope you have a nice day though”, which would have granted my brain the opportunity to go “ok, conversation officially over, she wants you to back off, you can go now”.

    • DJ said:

      I so relate to what you say to the point that I tend not to greet people in the street or out of context situations that I think I know. I wait for them to greet me. Then I fear I seem unfriendly.
      So agree with the same capt awaward answer you do

      • This is a problem in my life as well! If I’m meeting up with someone I’ve only met a few times before, I try not to make eye contact with passerby until they find me because I’m afraid I won’t recognize them :flushed:

        • Elenna said:

          Oh god, I have absolutely done the whole “Is that them? I think it’s them? Probably?” *awkwardly walks near person in the hope that they’ll greet me* thing. It is awkward. Do not recommend.

  52. DJ said:

    I have some facial blindness so either don’t always recognise the person or think I know the person/the person is someone I do know. I’ve been in heaps of embarrassing situations over that so don’t say do I know you from somewhere. I don’t mind someone saying it to me but worry I should know them.
    Anyhow if we can’t quickly find out where I say something like let’s chat about something else and during that chat it may come to us. I’ve akways found the person is more than happy to drop the topic and simply chat.

    • DJ said:

      Or I’ll say I’m terrible at recognising people out of context

      • azurelunatic said:

        I will tell the anecdote about the time I literally did not recognize the sister I had grown up with, on an airplane heading to a family reunion. It was only when she greeted me with the nickname of my deadname that only family uses, that I realized that she must know me, and since it wasn’t plausible that my aunt had introduced me yet, she had to be a relative, and the only missing relative was– “Hi, sis!”

        That tends to baffle people enough to de-awkward the fact that I just confused them for someone who likely looks nothing like them except they share a similar build and hairstyle.

        • olivia0330 said:

          Once, my favorite aunt stomped up to me in Walmart and said, “AREN’T YOU GOING TO SAY HELLO TO ME?!” She is hard to miss, with bright red hair kept in a beautiful bouffant style, gorgeous bright fashion sense, always dressed to the 9s, with a personality just as lovely and bright. She has a PRESENCE. I absolutely ADORE her. But, I wasn’t expecting to see her, so I looked right at her and didn’t.

          • azurelunatic said:

            That is a fantastic anecdote!

  53. jess said:

    I always figure if you see someone famous in public, and they AREN’T being famous as part of their job (i.e. promoting something, making an appearance at a convention, appearing in the media), that approaching them to ask for a signature or selfie or something would be as weird as someone rocking up to me in the street and asking me to format their document for them.

    Like – being famous is their JOB and there is a time and a place when they are “on”. Otherwise, let them live and buy toilet paper in peace.

  54. I was with my brother at a convention and someone running a booth suddenly said, “Oh you’re back!” When we told him we had never spoken to him before he said, “That’s weird, I was just talking to two people who looked exactly like you.”

    We looked at each other and said, in perfect unison: “We have to find our doppelgangers!” and that creeped him out enough to end the conversation immediately, lol

  55. Megan_NJ said:

    30 Helens Agree!

  56. Elizabeth said:

    I moved from a large northeastern metropolitan city to a small southern city and I didn’t realize how very small it was until people really did start to recognize me and I had no idea who they were at all. It felt unsettling and there was a Reddit thread about me with pictures because I apparently really stood out in my city. It was pretty awkward and uncomfortable to just try and get coffee and people would be like I know you and I really wouldn’t know them, but they had seen me. It led to the exact conversations the letter writer describes and I really sympathize because it starts to feel kind of violating and very awkward. Captain Awkward is right on as always with the scripts, I came up with fairly similar ones, “I have a pretty distinct look!” Or “I walk a lot so maybe you’ve seen me” or “maybe” then rapid subject change to the surroundings around me ie nice party isn’t it or I love the coffee here or if they were very insistent/creepy “hmmm” followed by a quick exit

    • "Yes and"ing my way through life said:

      there was a reddit thread with pictures about you?! Oh my goodness, I can’t even imagine how weird that must have been.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      There was a Reddit thread about you in your new city? [jaw on the floor] wtf? What, are you 8 feet tall with tentacles, or do people in that town just need to get out more?

    • Amy said:

      Oh my god, creating a Reddit thread with pictures of you without your knowledge or permission is super invasive and weird.

      • Elizabeth said:

        It was really pretty awful, there was also a moralizing rhyming poem about how if I dressed that way I was setting myself up for assault, I learned very quickly it was a fairly sexist and conservative city and that a woman walking by herself meant she was of less than reputable morals? I was very confused/angry as this is was 2017 not 1890?? Like I just wanted to walk and make art. I learned a lot about cultural differences and still walk and make art despite the ridiculous archaic attitudes

        • Amy said:

          How dare you be a woman wearing clothes in public without a male escort??? Clearly you’re…being a person with a normal life that involves leaving the house, I dunno, this is such an absurd attitude.

  57. Pam said:

    I tend to think of the ‘You look like Famous Person X’ as being in the same category as joking about an acquaintances name or hair color. They have already heard this more than enough times- you don’t need to add to it.

    I admit, I find the people who misname me as Pamela ANDERSON, rather than ADAMS, kind of funny, but it’s clearly more of a mental hiccup than anyone really thinking I was on Baywatch.

  58. lowbudgetcyborg said:

    Years ago at a former job I had similar height, build, and hair color to the HR person, and also we both wore glasses. This was a place with high turnover, so there were a lot of newbies who would flag me down for HR/payroll questions and I’d have to be like “I’m not HR Lady, her office is over there, go look for her in her office.”

    The funny part was when one of the management staff, who was legally blind, mistook me for HR Lady I got to tell her “No, I’m myrealname, but you are not the only person to make that mistake.”

  59. "Yes and"ing my way through life said:

    Someone I admire very much but don’t know that well called me by someone else’s name once. (I also am Average Middle-aged White Lady) I laughed it off as “Oh, that’s ok, I look like everyone’s second cousin.”

    She responded very seriously, “No, you look like you. I made a mistake.”

    It totally threw me, honestly. I had no idea how to respond to that! Of course, my mental response was “obviously NOT”, but still. Fortunately, it was one of those quick chats that happen as you pass each other in a hallway, so minimal awkwardness on all sides, I suppose.

  60. AndyL said:

    I’d probably try “I get that a lot, must have that kind of face. It’s only weird when they spend the next 5 minutes trying to figure out where they know me from, ’cause it never actually ends up being me they’re remembering.”

    That preemptively nips the tedious part in the bud, because now they can’t do the interrogation bit since you’ve already pointed out how annoying that is.

    • Ha! That is genius!

  61. Kitty said:

    Yeah people are pretty oblivious about details of appearances and will latch onto one feature. I used to get mistaken for my retail colleague all the time by customers, and we looked noooooothing alike. The only slightly similar thing was sightly red/auburn hair. And that’s what people latched onto and in their brain it meant “same person”.

  62. Miaz said:

    This happens to me at roughly the same frequency…every few weeks or so. I find it amusing. They always think I have a boring mid-60’s name like Linda, Barbara, Lisa, Sue, or something. It’s astounding how many short middle aged women with curly brown hair, glasses and an apple-shaped figure there are on the Eastern seaboard.

    I just saw the funniest NSW thing to say when someone says that I look familiar…”I do porn.” Not helpful advice for the letter writer, but it cracked me up.

    • winter said:

      Some people do porn so I don’t really get it.

      • TootsNYC said:

        yes, but most people who WATCH porn don’t really want to admit it

  63. Wendy Darling said:

    So I have a doppelganger. I know I have a doppelganger because she apparently goes to most of the same cafes as me but I order my lattes plain and she orders hers with vanilla and I could never figure out why baristas kept asking me if I wanted vanilla until one said “Oh, you’re back!” and I was like “?????” and she said I’d been in earlier that day. I had not been in that cafe for 2 weeks. We worked out that I apparently have a local look-alike. I’m pretty nondescript other than being fat and having big ol curly hair, so it’s eminently plausible that there’s another one of me around here.

    I kinda love my doppelganger because whenever someone thinks they know me and I genuinely have no idea who they are I just say, cheerily, “Oh, you must have met my doppelganger! I’ve never met her but she apparently likes vanilla lattes.” People are so distracted by my doppelganger story that they don’t even get awkward about it or argue with me.

  64. Miss Fryface McGee said:

    I’m awkward as all get out and if I can make a joke about myself to ease awkward approaches for me and whomever has approached me, I will.

    That is, if the approacher and situation is safe and I’d like to continue the interaction. My responses are essentially just a remix of CA’s, though.

    Stranger: “Hey! Haven’t I met you before?”
    Me: “Hiya! I dunno, but you sure have met me right now! I’m [name], what’s yours?” + question about mutual obvious hobby/interests/event/conference we are located at.

    Sometimes it’s less introductory and not actually a question from the other party.

    Stranger: “Hey, I know you! Remember [thing that happened] at [place/event I absolutely didn’t go to/know about]?!”

    Me: “Oh, [dude/friendly generic term of choosing], I have trouble remembering [how doors work/my own name/how gravity is a thing/basic task I frequently oops over]! But that [thing/event] sounds interesting. What happened?”

    After hearing the story if it’s not awful then we have usually bonded enough conversationally for me to say that I wasn’t there and am [name] + segue the conversation into the here and now.

    I guess it’s just a method of bringing the focus on the conversation being had in the now, rather than the potential conversations or actions of doppelgängers of yore.

  65. Auntie Cipation said:

    I am fairly unusual looking, in a sort of awkward-Barbra-Streisand way. And yet I still have this happen to me sometimes. I mean, one time an older couple stopped me as I was walking across a grocery store parking lot because they thought I was THEIR DAUGHTER. And once we were face to face they saw I wasn’t her, but was still impressed with how much alike we looked. Another time someone said they had a friend who could have been my twin except with red hair — they sent me her photo and even *I* thought we looked exactly alike if not for the hair color. Way weird! I’ve just accepted that we really all do have dopplegangers.

  66. boskage said:

    I used to get this a lot myself; I always used the joking response of “oh, I don’t think so; I just have a familiar face, so people are always thinking they recognize me from somewhere!” I have no idea why but I’ve never had anyone try to respond to this with a “no, really” or any awkwardness.

    I have two guesses on why this works for me specifically:
    (1) since no one’s ever harassed me beyond the initial mistake, I don’t really have any baggage around this issue amd thus it’s super easy for my jokey response to sound sincerely light-hearted.
    (2) I always express that a lot of people make this mistake, thus immediately reassuring the other person that this is a normal oops and thus they don’t need to prove that no, they really do know me.

    In a similar vein to #2, I sometimes immediately launch into the only anecdote I have of someone being obnoxious (“I switched schools as a kid and this one guy in my new school insisted for years that we had both been from the same place. [hearty laugh]”) I’ve always intentionally used this just as a way of forming an emotional connection and introducing some conversational seeds, but in retrospect, it also heavily telegraphs that only a particularly dumb elementary school kid would continue to insist that we had previously met after being contradicted once.

  67. Allya said:

    Additional scripts:

    “Oh gosh, this happens to me all the time and I never manage to figure out where I know people from. So what brings you here today?”

    “No, I’ve never been involved in burlesque waterskiing, so that’s not where we know each other, but it sounds fascinating! How did you get into it?”

  68. Pit Bull said:

    Since you are in mutually interesting places and don’t want to be a conversation ender, *do* move right in to possibly mutually interesting chat right after your wasn’t me sentence. *Don’t* even take a breath. A person who follows new topic is likely a good bidirectional conversationalist. I like to keep my wasnt me sentences light . . . “oh, I’m everywhere! [add eye contact] Did you see the MurryFlin exhibit? I loved it” (breathe) Person A “no I was at the Picklevent then”=continuechat. Person B “Were you in Zimbabwe in 1993″=nope, gotta go!

  69. Raptor said:

    When I have long hair, I get that all the time.

    If I’m not trying to shut someone down:

    To avoid the damper of “no, just my common face,” I usually say “Oh wow, I get that all the time, it’s so wild! Last week someone thought I managed (X) deli down the street!” with the same excited tone as “Oh wow, you’re also at yoga at 7 am on Pine Street?”

    Even though you’re disagreeing with them, it gives you an almost “yes, and” feeling rather than a shutdown feeling, and indicates you take the whole thing really lightly but don’t want to dig into your possible associations.

    And yes, a couple seriously grilled me about me working at a deli for like 5 minutes and I wasn’t able to leave.

  70. Amy said:

    I am a fairly distinctive person (I’m a very tall and also rather large woman, I stand out in pretty much any crowd), and I also have a fairly bad memory for people I’ve only met in passing. The result is a problem that kind of overlaps with OP’s–people tend to remember they’ve met me, even when I have no memory of meeting them.

    At this point, when people pull the “I think we’ve met before?” question, I just say “It’s possible! I’m Amy, and you are…?” This actually seems to circumvent all the guesswork that commonly follows “Do I know you?” type questions. I think me agreeing that it’s possible validates them enough that they no longer feel like they need to justify thinking they recognized me? Even though I haven’t confirmed that we’ve met, and I haven’t recognized them or referenced any kind of shared experience. They just tell me their name and we proceed to have a nice normal people-who-have-just-met conversation.

    Every so often someone insists on trying to ‘remind’ me of where we’ve met. Sometimes they hit on an event I do actually go to regularly and I can say “That’s probably it, sorry I don’t remember.” Usually they don’t, and I ‘happen to’ spot a friend across the room after a minute or two.

  71. Shan said:

    So, I do actually look quite a bit like a particular celebrity. Not enough to be mistaken for her, and we’re a bit apart in age, but enough that it’s remarked upon frequently. And it sucks. Not the fact people think I look like her – that’s fine, it’s a flattering comparison – but, well, it’s often men who bring it up, and sometimes that comes with a big honking side order of hitting on me. No thanks!

    A couple years ago I was going through a passport check at the Vegas airport, and it was one huge line being screened by a single agent. Who announced – loudly – “you know who you look just like?” (I do, thanks, but I’m not going to say it). He went on to say the name, but then would not drop it. It was really aggressive and so uncomfortable, and it was holding up the queue, and you could tell that everyone within earshot was looking me up and down to evaluate his claims, and it was just an all round Bad Experience.

    Honestly, just don’t bring up those comparisons to strangers. If I think someone I know looks like someone famous (and I mean *really* looks like them, not just “is bald” or whatever), I’ll bring it up wayyyyy down the line, once I know how it will be received. No one needs their grocery shopping interrupted to be informed they look EXACTLY like Howard Stern.

  72. I have a doppelganger in my hometown, whom people INSIST I resemble so strongly it’s weird. I’ve met her and at one point considered her a low-level friend (we’ve lost touch) and I think we’re both just white ladies with dark hair and blue eyes. Nevertheless, I was once at a street market, admiring some jewelry, when the guy running the stall started squinting at me, and went, “Hey, aren’t you -”
    ” [Doppelganger]. No, and we’re not related either.”

  73. PlasterMaster said:

    I often find myself thinking I know the other person and having no idea ftom where that might be, because I have a terrible memory for faces. However, I don’t insist on finding out and I agree that it’s annoying when someone does!
    Also, this is slightly off-topic, but new people ALWAYS think I have an accent when speaking my native language. Add it to being somewhat of an outsider socially and not knowing all the slang, and you have very repetitive conversations of me trying to convince them that no, really, my whole family was born here, I don’t know why everyone thinks that. Maybe I should start saying “No, this is just the way I speak!” and then change the subject?

  74. cavyherd said:

    Heh. One thing that sort of forcibly gave me pause was when I realized that the people I was “recognizing” were actually the dopplegangers of acquaintances as the acquaintance had looked thirty years ago.

    “Hey, are you—oh wait, that was 1985. Uh, guess not. Nice weather today…?” Very disorienting.

  75. julezyme said:

    I am not face-blind, but if I’ve only met you once (or twice) my brain probably hasn’t written your features into the accessible part of its hard drive. I am a big city gal who sees literally thousands of random strangers most days, and until it has compelling evidence that logging you is useful, brain is not prepared to cede valuable real estate that could be storing Hamilton lyrics.
    So I live in fear of being recognised by friendly “strangers”!
    Fun story, though. I was at a party many years ago and got to chatting with a woman around my age by the drinks table. We were *both* like, You look so familiar, where have we met before? Unusually for the area/demographic of the party, we couldn’t find any point of possible contact. I later told my boyfriend about this (he’d seen us chatting but wasn’t in the conversation) and started cracking up: “You two look enough alike to be sisters!”
    So I guess we recognised one another from … the mirror?
    This was well before Orphan Black, or I’d have gotten very suspicious. 🙂

    • Funnyletter Who Hates Jokes said:

      I am face-nearsighted. I’m definitely not face-blind but I am way crappier than average at remembering faces. I’m not sure to what degree if at all this is due to an actual problem with my ability to recognize faces, versus the fact that I grew up in a culture where eye contact is considered very forward so I tend not to look at the faces of newly-met people, but I do nooooot remember faces well. I make up for it by being ace at voices, though. Speak to me two times and I’ll have you forever.

  76. Mami21 said:

    I live in a small state and have a large, sprawling family tree. It’s seemingly a requirement of living in my state that you possess zero tact, so quite often I will get strangers approaching me and greeting me with ‘… yer don’t remember me, do you?’
    Er, no, I don’t, random third cousin who I met once when I was 8 and you were 30. Thanks for making this casual encounter as awkward as possible!
    See also: my dad, who will introduce these random relatives with ‘do you remember so-and-so?’ – again forcing me to admit that I have zero memory of the person in question.

  77. Ariaflame said:

    One of my best friends had encountered my sister and I in different situations (at a period where we looked a lot more alike than we do these days) and didn’t realise we were different people. Just thought I had a different personality in different situations I guess.

    I am told that I have a doppelganger somewhere around, I’ve heard tell of her in the general area of where I live, but another friend of mine swears he’s been in a car with her on the other coast. I haven’t heard about her in quite some time so maybe she moved away.

    My mother on the other hand has met her doppelganger, to me they don’t look that similar but I guess some similar features.

    • Funnyletter Who Hates Jokes said:

      My key features are that I am fat, wear funky glasses, and have enormous curly brown hair. I suspect my “doppelganger” is just another fat curly-haired brunette with good taste in eyewear.

  78. DeltaDelta said:

    If I get into one of those “I’m sure I know you” situations, I often stop it by saying sort of conspiratorially, “it’s because I’m famous.” and then I leave it at that. No, I’m not famous, and the other person knows I’m not famous, but it brings the conversation to an end.

  79. A few years ago I had just graduated from college but was still around the city and hanging out with some of my undergrad friends. One day, a guy who didn’t hang out with the group that much decided to go pop quiz vs himself about where he knew me from. He rejected every answer I suggested (including “I’ve been here for your entire tenure as an undergrad, we’ve likely seen each other in passing or in this friend group”) before he settled on a hyper-specific scenario involving a trip for a club that I had never been in. At that point the group had stopped talking and was staring at us, so I shrugged and said “Doesn’t sound familiar. This is a really weird line of conversation for you to keep insisting on, so I’m going to talk to [these other folks] instead.” And I did, and there was a little hiccup of awkwardness and then life went on.

  80. I never had this problem until I moved to Wisconsin, when people suddenly started mistaking me for a webcomic artist who also lives here and who, to be fair, I do kind of resemble. The weirdest thing about it was that people have also made this mistake while I was traveling outside of Wisconsin, but it never happened before I lived here? Maybe they can smell it on me.

    Anyway, I will also have to make use of this advice should it come up again, because I’ve never had any idea how to react in these situations and I always end up making it super awkward for everyone involved. But no more!

    • TootsNYC said:

      “Maybe they can smell it on me.”

      Or maybe you’ve picked up just enough of the Wisconsin accent to trigger the connection?
      I always picked up a little just from visiting cousins in Muscoda.

      • It’s usually people approaching me without my having said anything, so probably that isn’t why, but it’s possible I’ve picked up some of the accent anyway.

      • None of these people have heard me talk before they approach me, so probably not. It’s a mystery!

  81. LukeN said:

    I have had strangers on the El take my picture because I resemble someone they once saw. I understand the struggle!

    With people I’ve met who insist on knowing me, I sometimes redirect by telling a short, ridiculous story about how I have one of those faces: “One time the woman at the beer store called her cousin on FaceTime to show him that I look like him!” It obviously doesn’t work for every situation, but it can allow both of us to laugh at how silly THAT person was, and makes the person I’m talking to feel silly about pursuing the question any further.

  82. Jules the Third (I think) said:

    Love the advice – ‘let’s start fresh now!’

    But yeah, I really came here to tell my ‘being mistaken’ story. Because in my small-ish city (300K people), I have an actual doppelganger.

    I met her husband.

    As I approached the pedestrian exit in a parking deck, a man also approached. He stared, and as we got within 10 feet, shook his head, then said, “I’m sorry for staring, but you look a lot like my wife and I was trying to figure out why she would be here at my work.” I really should have gotten her name, but I was rushing to an appointment.

    I’ve met a couple of her co-workers since then, in a grocery store and a restaurant, and it’s been really useful to be able to pull out that story as PROOF that I look a lot like someone else. I keep forgetting to get her name tho. Hasn’t happened in a few years – either she left town or she didn’t gain weight and that’s differentiated us. I do get a giggle out of her side of it, tho – I hung out at gay bars and drag bingo and goth / industrial concerts and geek conventions, so people mistaking her for me… heh. Probably followed the ‘do not out people in professional settings’, though she may have gotten some unexpected winks.

  83. Katie said:

    I work in a popular bar. Multiple times a day I get the same “where do I know you from?” quiz. One thing I really hate is when people ask me to list every job I’ve had prior to this one, in their quest to determine where they must know me from. It feels creepy, and I have stopped participating in that. Instead I say, “you know, I’ve worked all over the place, but I can say for sure this is the best job I’ve had in this city. We get health insurance, paid time off, it’s really great.” Usually that’s enough to redirect the conversation. If they insist on getting back to the quiz, I just give a wry smile and suggest, “You know, occasionally I leave my house and go to other places that aren’t work, like the grocery store, or a coffee shop. Sometimes I even walk or take the bus there! Have you ever been Outside? Maybe that’s where you know me from.” The absurdity of a statement like that is almost always enough to get them to laugh and, crucially, back the hell off. The LW is looking for a way to shut down these conversations without seeming unfriendly. I literally do not get paid if I come off as unfriendly in the slightest. Making a joke out of this determined search for where a stranger knows me from has worked pretty well for me.

    • JenniferP said:

      This is so smart and easy to put into action!

    • DeltaDelta said:

      I love “have you ever been Outside?” I’m going to steal that!

  84. Dee said:

    Once I was at an event and stared at a really familiar…. back of somebody’s head. I realized, I know the back of that head! I thought I recognized it from synagogue, when I sit in the back pews and stare at heads in front of me. I approached Said Head and asked if Said Head went to my synagogue and… yes! I actually don’t think I’d have recognized the face.

    I don’t think this is the story I was supposed to put here but I like it anyway.

  85. DesertRose said:

    On the topic of doppelgangers, here is a truly hilarious saga written by a person who had an Evil Twin. Content note for mention of racism and misogynist slurs.

    • FarmerStina said:

      This might be the best story I’ve read all week! Thanks for sharing.

  86. I am in a male-dominated profession and there are also very few women on one side of my family. So I’m used to being called by the name of some other woman who looks nothing like me (work) and of someone a generation ahead of me (my family). I have a heck of a hard time remembering people’s names unless I am in consistent contact with them though, so I don’t really call anyone on it.

    • Tia said:

      Oh, man, I get this A LOT. My friend and I work in the same company. We used to work in the same department. We’re both short, heavy-set, have short hair and glasses. People mix us up all the time. Apparently no one has told them that female-presenting engineers are not like Highlander. There does not have to be only one. I mean, I have twelve visible piercings, including one on the middle of my face, to her two. You’d think that would be a tip-off, but no. The ones who don’t mix us up assume we’re sisters. We just roll our eyes now.

  87. Turquoise Dragon said:

    “Drat! The spell is working too well! I am supposed to be vaguely familiar, not someone you actually know!”

  88. Tia said:

    I get semi-recognized ALL. THE. TIME. This is partly because I legitimately have an identical twin who lives in the area, but also happens with people who are definitely not her. My preferred method for handling the “Do I know you from somewhere?” question when I’m SURE I don’t know the person is “I don’t think so, but I have a twin in the area and we apparently have at least one doppleganger around here (seriously, I’ve been approached with “[not my sister’s name]?” and that was NOT the name I was expecting) so I get this a lot. I’m _____.” and carry on with the conversation. I feel like handing them a reason they might think they know me but definitely don’t helps derail the Q&A but not the conversation. And projecting that I think it’s funny. If you think it’s funny, they are allowed to laugh, too and that’s easier all around. You could also finish with “Does this ever happen to you? I wonder why it happens to some people more than others,” and now you’re on a “how humans recognize each other” conversation instead of a “where do I know you from?” conversation.

    I rarely get the “where do I know you from” Q&A and I’m assuming this conversational tactic is why. Then again, I also don’t really mind it. If I’m not sure, I’ll list a place they might know me from, one or two they might know my sister from and another one for the random person if I have one, and if they say no, then “Oh, I guess not, then,” and carry on. If I’m asking where they think they know me from, it feels less invasive.

    On the other hand, being asked is WAY better than getting the side-eye from some rando who is trying to figure out whether or not they know you. No matter how subtle you think you’re being, I guarantee the person knows you’re staring at them.

  89. Iolanthe95 said:

    Because I use a wheelchair, people almost always remember me. Also, I’m a college instructor. Unfortunately, I’ve always been bad with names and faces, so I get a lot of “Hi, MyName!” and I have to respond, “Hi, are you a student? Could you remind me where we’ve met?” This is often super-awkward.

  90. CC said:

    I have to be honest, I don’t feel like this is much of a problem. Just kind of a mild curiosity that sometimes happens. Doesn’t seem to warrant this substantial of a response, but an interesting enough read nonetheless! I just think it shouldn’t be something you let take up too much mental real estate.

    • Lisa said:

      Fully agree

      • JenniferP said:

        Hi Lisa, I guess you and CC can enjoy digging through the 1173 other posts to find one of sufficient substance?

        I super do not appreciate people telling Letter Writers that their problems aren’t interesting or important enough.

        I decide if it’s interesting to me.

    • Rainy Rose said:

      Your comment can be turned around on you as well, though! As in: I have to be honest, I don’t feel like this is much of a response. It’s not helpful, it’s extremely dismissive of the fact that everyone is dealing with something, and you don’t get to the be the authority on what bothers them enough to seek advice. The fact that it got a response from the advice giver O Captain Our Captain, as well as the numerous replies in the comments, ought to be proof enough that it’s something which strikes a real chord with many people.

      I’m a lurker here, but I read all the posts and most of the comments, and I’ve been noticing a gradual increase in the number of “I don’t think this belongs here”-type comments. These comments can discourage people from writing in with their very real problems because they’re afraid they’re going to get told that their problems weren’t “valid enough” to warrant being published and advised on here. Could people please, PLEASE knock it off with judging people for writing in?

      I’m actually a member of another advice/business beware site where one of the rules is that members aren’t allowed to question the existence or validity of posts that the site owners allow to be published to the site. (All posts must be pre-approved by the owners, similar to how letters only show up here if the Captain posts them.) “I don’t think this should have been posted here” is not allowed because if the site owners approved the post to be published, then guess what, that means it DOES belong there because it’s the owners’ call, not yours. “You’re making too much out of this. I don’t think you should have made a post over a measly $5” isn’t allowed because it doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $5000, it’s still a valid problem either way; the poster didn’t get their money or their money’s worth. “I think this post is fake and shouldn’t be here” is not allowed because even fake posts can address real, valid problems others might actually be having, and it’s not helpful to imply that they’re ALL faking their relevant problems. (Sole exception being, if the post exists to falsely smear someone, then you can call it out, but only if you have substantial proof also posted in your comment–you can’t just say “I think this post is fake because people fake this stuff sometimes” and call it a day. Also, you’re reaaallly supposed to send your concerns directly to the admins first, not start an attack thread on the post, but it occasionally happens.)

      It’s not a rule on this site, but I feel like it would be much more productive, and just good freaking manners, if people pretended it WAS, and stopped scoffing at the people who write in or their posts. Asking for help through a large public website is a very brave thing to do!

    • DesertRose said:

      If it happened once in a while, it probably wouldn’t merit taking up a lot of mental bandwidth. But anything, no matter how trifling, can become A Thing (and a very annoying Thing at that) when it happens all the damn time. People are tying up the LW’s time, frequently, with this ridiculous guessing game and she wants it to stop. I don’t think auditing her reasons for writing to CA is particularly useful.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi CC: Let me suggest an edit!

      “I have to be honest, I don’t feel like this is much of a problem…FOR ME, CC.”

      “I just think it shouldn’t be something I, CC, would let take up too much mental real estate.”

      Much better.

      I don’t curate my inbox by “most serious problems” btw. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to dig into a “small” problem because the skills you use there scale up to bigger conflicts.

  91. smoke tree said:

    This question is interesting to me, because I think I have the opposite of whatever is going on with the LW. I think I’ve only ever once been told that I look like someone else, so obviously I’m either really weird looking or not at all memorable (or maybe all of my doppelgangers are deep undercover). There is something simultaneously invasive and really impersonal about the how-do-I-know-you quiz–I would guess that the majority of perpetrators are really absorbed in their own memory lapse and have no idea of how they’e coming across. Hopefully one of these redirects will help them remember that the LW is another person and not a walking memory game.

  92. Carlie said:

    The closest I came was once I had a student who didn’t *really* look like me, but all the signifiers did – height, hair color and style, weight, body shape, glasses, eye color, skin tone. Like a stunt double. Neither of us ever mentioned it, but she sat in the front row and lecturing felt… weird. I don’t know if she or any of the other students ever twigged to it or if I was the only one who noticed.

  93. Lizard lady said:

    I have at least one doppelganger and it turns out we have the same name. I know this because a lady on a bike called out my name and then was very confused when she realised I wasn’t who she thought I was but had responded to our name. I quite enjoy the fact that I share a face and name with the same person.

    • TootsNYC said:

      oh, rats, that’s going to mess me up one day. I like to use the “is that Janet? I might be, or maybe not. Call out her name from a little distance, and if she turns around, it’s her.”

  94. ioethe said:

    I get this a lot and have found, “No, I have a doppelgänger! One day I must meet her.” And then changing the subject, shuts it down pretty quickly. If it doesn’t that person is pretty rude and probably not worth losing sleep over.

  95. MAC228 said:

    I also get this a lot, but it IS me people feel like they know, but I don’t necessarily know THEM. I spent 4 years as an on-air anchor and reporter here in my moderately sized hometown and I’ve also done college and community theatre here for 30+ years. That, combined with a very unusual last name (less than two dozen of us in the U.S.), means I get recognized relatively often. The journalism gig ended more than 25 years ago, but I still get asked “remember when you interviewed me?” Dude, it was 1992, I was getting about 5 hours of sleep a night and doing about 300 stories a year, meeting dozens of people a week, so probably not … but for them it was A BIG DEAL, they were on TV, so sure, absolutely! I tell them all it was my favorite story I ever worked on (unless it was a murder case or something). And it’s always nice to hear that someone enjoyed the play you were in.

  96. Maybe, “you wouldn’t believe how often this happens, I must have one of those faces! Maybe I should have been a spy instead of [working in X mutual profession/ doing X mutual hobby/ shopping at X grocery store where you both are].” And of course the stuff in brackets is the subject change. Dive immediately into it. Or maybe follow up by asking them if this ever happens to them. If this comment thread is anything to go by, people enjoy telling their own tales of being semi-recognized.

    I don’t recall ever encountering “where do I know you from???” myself, so I must have one of those OTHER faces. But when I drew portraits in a public place for a job, middle aged people would constantly stop and joke, “can you make me look ten years younger/50 pounds lighter/like Tom Cruise, haha?” I mean, it was like clockwork. And my mind froze up every time, I’d just laugh nervously, until one day it occurred to me to say “oh, that comes standard, haha!” Not comedy gold, but people seemed to love it, and moved on happily to the donut stand next to me. I suck at chit-chat, but maybe you should approach someone you know who is great at it, funny, charming, etc., and ask them to help you brainstorm a stock response? Once I had mine it was a HUGE relief. But I still don’t know how on earth to respond to the other most common passing remark, “gee look at that, I wish I had a talent!” Like, firstly I appreciate it and I guarantee you they do have one talent at least, but also what do I do?! I don’t know how to close that passing little social circuit.

  97. CaitlinMac said:

    The brst redirect I have heard was used on me. I met a woman who looked very familiar at a brunch I go to, and eventually asked if we knew each other. Her reply was, “Maybe in a past life!” which baffled me but was very clearly shutting down the topic, so I said probably, and the discussion moved on from there.

    I realized how brilliant it was a minute or two later when I remembered that I *had* known her, pre-transition, and would have stuffed my foot in my mouth up to the knee if she hadn’t graciously steered me away from the subject. Past life had a double meaning in that situation, but doesn’t need to.

  98. Lucielle said:

    I am the oldest of 5 sisters (but I still get mistaken for the youngest. LOL) All 5 of us were born within 8 years and we look a lot alike. Any three of us got mistaken for triplets by kids and teachers on the playground.

    My mother liked to dress us alike, especially when we went out in public. She claimed that if any of us got lost, she wouldn’t have to tell the police what we were wearing. She could just point at whoever was still with her and tell them “She looks like that.”

  99. Seeking Second Childhood said:

    When I was active in BigClub, I’d say “I’m told I have BigClub Standard Face #63.”
    When my daughter was little, I would say “I work a lot of events, so I’m sure we’ve met when I was too tired to remember.”
    And when I first moved to this state, I got a lot of it along the coast….I would smile brightly and say “Well, there’s rumors that one of my great-grandfathers had a second family on this side of the [OverlyIdentifying BodyOfWater], so if you figure out who I look like, please introduce us.”

  100. GG said:

    I don’t get recognised so much as I get the “where is your accent from?” My top redirects:

    “Yep, I get this a lot.” (Thanks Captain)
    “Guess!” (Nobody guesses it right)
    “Cartoon Network”

    For the record I am a white lady in an English speaking country that is not English or American in nationality. Everyone wants to know how I ended up with an American accent. I once had some old lady praise me for “speaking so well”. I have yet to deploy the eyebrow raise and stony silence combo though. I’m lucky enough to be able to humour my way out of most of these.

  101. wp_sd said:

    I’m so glad you explained how you would compliment a stranger.

    I’ve been feeling a bit weird about a couple of times I couldn’t help but compliment some strangers (both times on things they chose about their physical appearance) – a hair colour/cut in one case, and a dress in another) – I kind of figured since I was on a bicycle and about to leave them immediately it was ok, I wasn’t putting any obligation on them to do more than smile back if they wanted, so I’m pleased to read that your approach is the same.

  102. Liz said:

    I love everyone’s suggestions!

    I read the link about the stripper-cousin and thought “No one is THAT big an asshole” only to find out I was wrong. Wow. And to be that lacking in self-awareness. That got me to wondering if the only way to be that big an asshole is to be that lacking in self-awareness.

  103. Cati said:

    This happens to me all the time! Once someone showed me a picture of the person I looked like and it was definitely a case of we’re both just fat. I usually go the “i have one of those faces” or “i worked at starbucks for a long time” route. It’s extra awkward when it turns out i actually know the person, which happened once but ill cringe about it forever.

  104. D said:

    I also have doppelgangers, and sometimes people DO need convincing that I am not the droid they’re looking for. Sometimes it’s interesting to learn all the languages the other people speak. Not too long ago, I had the person assume I was So-and-so and launch into a monologue about some event, interrupting the entire table’s conversation. I let the speaker take a breath, thrust out my hand, and said, “Hello! I am not So-and-so, I am Me. Pleased to meet you. I have a bunch of lookalikes all over the world, I’d love to meet this one.” It cut off the story and let them know I wasn’t angry about it. The person was embarrassed but genuinely shocked, and had me turn my head a few times. I stopped short of having my picture taken, but assured them the person they were seeking probably had the same thing happen.

  105. Persia said:

    That restaurant the Captain worked for as a teen sounds like Juan’s French-Mex Buffet from The Loud House, but even weirder!

  106. AsterRoc said:

    Captain, you talk about when the “Wait…Who Do You Remind Me Of?” game ends up being about fatness, but I was disappointed you didn’t mention when it’s about race, and even skimmed over race when replying to a commenter above who brought it up. Because this happens a lot for people of color moving through white spaces, and it’s really gross. It’s one of many microaggressions people of color face, that white people can’t tell our faces apart, and are constantly mixing us up.

    The other commenter is right to be concerned about this — and it’s nice that a white lady can absolve them of their worry here. I’ve put this in a separate comment bc my intent isn’t to criticize that one person individually, but the whole system that absolves white people of needing to be able to recognize the faces of POC. Each individual instance we can look at that white person and say “you meant well,” and it may even be true, but when you put them all together for those of us who aren’t white it’s a death by a thousand papercuts, it becomes a daily slog of microaggressions, it’s a case of intent vs. impact. Ignoring the racialized nature of the situation upholds it. Telling white people it’s okay if they mix up POC faces upholds this status quo.

    What can white people do to solve this? Start by being aware that this issue has a racialized component, and by working on learning the names and faces of POC in your life. Then move on to watching more media with POC so you’re exposed to more faces that don’t look like yours, and doing things in your life that contain non-white people. Most importantly, do NOT let other white people (nor yourself) off the hook for this, and talk with other white people when you see it happening. It’s a legit thing that happens, it’s not the white people’s *fault*, it’s caused by the racist society we’re all steeped in, but y’all have the power to either help solve this one tiny part of the racism, or to support it by dismissing and ignoring the issue.

    • solecism said:

      Excellent point. And here is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon:

      Samuel Jackson did not let the white reporter off the hook. It was glorious.

      • AsterRoc said:

        OMG I love how he just won’t let it go, and then just starts rattling off other Black guys that he isn’t! Seriously that’s amazing social talent there, that he manages to make his offense into a running gag, and thus even palatable to the tone police. I’m going to have to remember that one. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  107. Stazya said:

    I know a psych nurse who had this happen at the grocery store. She immediately recognized the person as a former patient, and the person was in a group with other people. She kept insisting she knew my friend and my friend finally commented that she works at XYZ hospital so most of her hangouts are in that area. It finally clicked and the woman commented that she doesn’t spend time there so it must have been a mistake. I thought it was an elegant way to give enough information for the questioner to realize she didn’t want to continue that line of questioning.

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