Tall, Dark, and Mysterious



File under: Know Thyself, Welcome To The Occupation. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:21 pm.

On the buisiness trip:

  • Guy who tells me that it’s “nice seeing [me] again.” Again? I say. Not that I doubted that I’d run into him before; I remember having seen people far less often than they remember having seen me, and I often feel tremendouly guilty about this. However, the last time this guy supposedly saw me was “at the conference in Edmonton”, and I was never at the conference in Edmonton. But he swears he saw me, or at least, someone who looked just like me.

    People tell me this disturbingly often, and I can only assume that not all of them think that “I know I’ve seen you before” is a functional, if not especially clever, pick-up line. Apparently there are plenty of people who look just like me floating around, but I’ve never met any of them personally.

  • Speaker who looks exactly like a ten-to-fifteen-years-younger version of my father. Same height. Same build. Same colouring. Same gait. Same haircut. Same glasses. Same style of dress. This is slightly jarring.

    More jarring, though, is the fact that this dude could not possibly sound less like my father. No, whenever this guy opens his mouth, he speaks in a lispy, slightly breathless, gay-guy-from-crappy-sitcom tenor.

    And file under “just plain strange” (or “race is a social construct”, if you’re so inclined): though I’m a mutt and I can’t reliably enumerate all of the nationalities that feature in my bloodline, I am fairly certain that there is no genetic explanation for my parent looking like some guy named Sanchez.


  1. People never seem to mistake me for other people, except occasionally for Pierce Brosnan.

    - Zeno — 2/8/2006 @ 10:08 pm

  2. MS - absolutely there is a reason your father looks like someone named Sanchez. During the Spanish Inquisition, a lot of Jews moved up to Holland, which was technically under control of the Spanish crown, but which was much more tolerant of religious deviations - and did not tolerate the Inquisition. So an awful lot of Spanish Jews wound up in Holland.

    During the Nazi occupation, they picked out everyone with a Spanish last name as a suspected Jew. My first German teacher was a survivor of Auschwitz (she showed us the tattoo), and she was picked up because her last name was something like Rodriguez (iirc). Her married name was Casuto - same deal.

    - John — 2/9/2006 @ 5:25 am

  3. Also many Dutch Jews have (or sadly, had) Portugese surnames. See here:


    - John — 2/9/2006 @ 5:30 am

  4. I get the “have we met before?” or the “you look so familiar” kind of frequently as well. Apparently there are a lot of people that look “just like me” walking around. Someone once told me that my “twin” was living in a city not too far from where I went to HS.

    Sometimes it just so happens that the person they are thinking about has (1) dark eyes, (2) dark and long hair, (3) glasses, and (4) happens to also wear their hair in a ponytail… yes, these are the characteristics that make me the same as this other person. Forget that I have other physical traits and personality traits that make me unique…

    I also get the “your voice sounds exactly like “. Some of those have included Vanessa Redgrave, whom I never seen in a movie in my entire life.

    Could it be that these people have bad memories or just do not pay enough attention to one person to distinguish them from someone else?

    - Vanes63 — 2/9/2006 @ 7:27 am

  5. Sanchez is adopted would answer that question, as would some weirdness during immigration. (Not to suggest there is a relationship, just that it’s really easily imaginable.)

    No one looks like me, and I never recognise people. (Nor do I remember names or relationships.)

    - wolfangel — 2/9/2006 @ 9:04 am

  6. I sometimes get “you look familiar”, but usually it’s because the person has met either my mother or one of my sisters. Meanwhile, my mother and sisters get “you look just like my calculus teacher.”

    A friend of my husband’s had a joke theory that there are really only 50 people in the world and they keep on changing costume and reappearing in different roles on the world’s stage.

    Re Dutch, Jews, and the Portuguese, a little trivia: one of the original settlers of the Azores was Willem van der Hagen, who translated his name to Silveira and is the ancestor of most of the Silveiras who come from the Azores. It is also rumored (although not provable) that many of the crypto-Jews who had pretended to convert to Catholicism moved to the Azores to start a new life.

    - Wacky Hermit — 2/9/2006 @ 9:42 am

  7. I (might) stand corrected, John; however, I don’t think there’s any Holland in me either, or Portugal; but who knows? And even if so, that’s a lot of degrees removed my father is from this Sanchez fellow, and the resemblance is uncanny. (Mind you, the way these things work is curious; for instance, folks (mostly of my parents’ generation) say that I look like my mom, and folks say that my mom looks like this one second cousin of hers. I never thought my mom and I looked that similar, and while Mom vaguely resemblances the cousin, it’s the cousin and I who are very obviously related.)

    Vanes63 - oh yes, the “folks with the same hair, colouring, and glasses look the same” bit. I’m sure that’s at play here; I think I am quite distinctive looking, but if I share just one distinctive feature with another person, that might be enough to trigger a “I’m sure I’ve seen you before” from someone. Who knows? Mind you, I am personally terrible with faces, and am particularly hopeless at distinguishing one blonde female celebrity from another. It took me, what, three months to tell Donna from Kelly on 90210, not that I ever watched that show.

    - Moebius Stripper — 2/9/2006 @ 9:46 am

  8. MS, it took me almost 4 *years* to distinguish two of the blondes in my grade (41-45 people, depending). In my defense, I don’t think I was ever in their homeroom, and it didn’t take me quite as long to be able to know who was who when I was looking at them both (under 3 years!), but still.

    - wolfangel — 2/9/2006 @ 10:15 am

  9. All four of my grandparents came from one of the islands in the Azores, but they weren’t Silveiras. Most of my family is busily practicing Catholicism (I’m not), but I wonder if maybe we used to be Jewish. Hmmm…

    - Zeno — 2/9/2006 @ 2:51 pm

  10. No one ever tells me that they’ve met someone who looks just like me. This, coupled with the fact that it seems to happen to other people a lot, seems to me to be proof that it is indeed a pickup line.

    “Wow you’re hot, but how do I know you’re not a tranny?”

    - djfatsostupid — 2/9/2006 @ 8:44 pm

  11. I also am terrible at faces, and one reason I don’t especially like movies is that the range of movie-suitable faces is narrower than the range of general population faces. By the time I’ve managed to find distinguishing features, the movie is halfway over, and I am still not sure whether it is blonde A or blonde B who was responsible for the critical event at the beginning. Many years ago I temped as a receptionist. The most difficult part of the job was learning to recognize (in order to hand messages to) half a dozen white brown-haired slender 5′10″-ish 35-ish men in business attire.

    - al_art — 2/10/2006 @ 4:34 pm

  12. Djfatsostupid, that is a reasonable explanation, except for a few facts:

    * NO self-respecting MTF wouldn’t have bigger boobs than mine.

    * A goodly portion of the folks who claim to have seen me before are married men. Now, I know that it’s still possible that they’re hitting on me, but if you’re a married man looking for some action, I’d think you’re going to be a bit more forward than that. Like, if you say, “Have I seen you before?” and I respond, “I dunno, maybe” then you might want to follow up with something more akin to “WHAT I AM SAYING IS THAT I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU” than “No, I swear I’ve seen you before”.

    - Moebius Stripper — 2/10/2006 @ 7:00 pm

  13. I have had the unusual experience of meeting my doppleganger. We went to the same small college of less than 2000 students, and she was a year behind me so she got mistaken for me a lot more than the reverse. We even dated the same guy (not at the same time). I’d love to say that she looked nothing like me, but that would be a lie.

    Another friend of mine swears he’s met an even closer doppleganger halfway across the country from me. I didn’t realize so many people look like me.

    - KimJ — 2/10/2006 @ 7:41 pm

  14. One of my cousins and one of my great grandmothers are doppelgangers. Given that there is actual blood involved here, this is a little less surprising than it might otherwise be, but the resemblence truly is uncanny. I learned this at Grandma’s funeral, where there was a picture of her at age 20 or so (she was 93 when she died) that looked so much like the cousin that I literally asked my mom “What’s that picture of doing here?” I’m still completely floored by it.

    - Math TA — 2/11/2006 @ 1:20 am

  15. “It took me, what, three months to tell Donna from Kelly on 90210, not that I ever watched that show.”

    That’s funny, the fact that my mom watched pretty much the entire series without ever learning to tell those two apart is one of the anecdotes I relate to explain how I came by my inability to recognize faces.

    Wolfangel (comment #5) sounds like something I could have written about myself - although I’m not bad with names (a fairly useless skill when you can’t remember faces).

    - Declan — 2/11/2006 @ 10:58 pm

  16. all of this talk of doppelgangers raises an interesting line of thought. the field of combinatorical genetics tells us one has to reproduce a certain number of times in order to have a relatively high chance of passing on 100% of one’s heredity; one has to have something like 8 or 9 children, i think (i don’t remember the exact number). suppose that some guy has something like 50 offspring, and passes on all of his genotype several times over. (it’s probably exceedingly rare for this to happen, but it’s not far-fetched; ghengis khan, for instance, is reputed to have had hundreds of children by his many concubines.) so now this one guy has gotten all of his genotype into the next generation, and then some. i wonder whether generations and generations and generations later all thos individual packets of heredity from that one initial progenitor could somehow rejoin again, forming the exact same person in history a second time. i suppose that the odds of this happening are infintesimal (if indeed it’s even possible at all) but it would be an interesting problem in combinatorics to work out in order to get the exact odds of it happening. who knows, maybe it even *has* happened once or twice in the history of our planet.

    - wes — 2/12/2006 @ 8:51 pm

  17. wes: Sperm donation, man.

    - plam — 2/12/2006 @ 10:32 pm

  18. There are people who are “types”. I learned this back in freshman year of college, when one of the other women on my dorm floor really bugged me. I knew, rationally, that I’d never seen her before… but something in the back of my mind said I had. I once mentioned this to a classmate who insisted there were some people who represented some archtype so well that many people felt they knew them. Later, I talked to the “familiar” woman, and she said that strangers were forever walking up to her and insisting that they knew her.

    In the 3 decades since that first observation, I’ve encountered this phenomenon — people that I “know” but don’t know — less than half a dozen times.

    - Karen — 2/12/2006 @ 10:42 pm

  19. It’s probaly because I have been a teacher and I’ve gotten hurt looks when I don’t recognize a student. I am on guard against not knowing them

    - Rich Peterson — 2/14/2006 @ 2:55 pm

  20. My father failed to realise that Galadriel and Arwen in the first Lord of the Rings movie were actually two separate characters. We pointed out that one was blonde and one was brunette, but he claimed a gentleman did not notice if a woman had dyed her hair or not.

    Plus he doesn’t wear glasses as often as he should.

    All these men chatting to you were not short, with brown eyes and grey hair, were they? It could just be my father, under the impression that you were Arwen/Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings.

    - Tracy W — 2/15/2006 @ 8:18 pm

  21. I like the idea of the combinatorics problem, but stick with the idea that some people attribute general characteristics to certain people, so anyone with the “dark hair, ponytail, glasses” combination becomes one person, in their mind.
    Notice how a lot of people on this thread have mentioned that they are bad with names and/or faces. Maybe a LOT of people are bad with names and/or faces and don’t want to admit it and just keep saying, instead of admiting they are wrong because it is embarrassing when you have mistaken the wrong person, “no, I swear I have seen you before”. What if they don’t want to be wrong? Also, it is a pretty good icebreaker, if I’m not mistaken. Think about the situation posed below:
    “Hi, have we met before?”
    “No, I don’t think so…”
    “No, I’m pretty sure we have. Ummmm… where did you go to college? Maybe we went to college together?”
    and it just keeps on going like that. You can extract a bunch of pieces of information from them by doing this.
    The combinatorics problem would be interesting to do, I think. Also, if you assume that Adam and Eve populated the Earth from the beginning then it wouldn’t be too far fetched, combined with this generic theory, that lots of people look alike.

    - Vanes63 — 2/16/2006 @ 9:56 am

  22. …today, I mentioned the second doppelganger to a coworker, who then suggested the very worst pickup line ever:

    You know, you look JUST like my father!

    - Moebius Stripper — 2/16/2006 @ 2:08 pm

  23. > You know, you look JUST like my father!

    There are probably gay bars where that line would work…

    - Anthony — 2/18/2006 @ 7:36 pm

  24. This talk of hair colour as a distinguishing feature reminds me of an aquaintance from Hong Kong, who can never remember what colour anyone’s hair is, and doesn’t *ever* use that information when describing people. The theory amongst mutual friends is that, coming from a culture where everyone’s hair is essentially identical, she never learned to notice this.

    - mvc — 2/22/2006 @ 11:36 am

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