Twice now I’ve been mistaken for my lovely niece, at least twenty-five years younger than myself. I know! Why would I even worry about that? It seems extremely odd though. Somehow, people I know very well and see often enough should not make these mistakes. We may have some similar family traits but my niece is a trim, slim dressy young woman and I am traditionally built… (ahem)… and wear black yoga pants daily ( they are slimming and oh, so comfortable.) We have the same hair colour, hazel eyes, fair complexion and sense of humour but that’s about it. Side by side, we look very much like ourselves (allowing for the fact I am very significantly older and very, very, very significantly plumper). Apart, we look very different, as we should. On both occasions, it was older fellows who made the error . I didn’t correct them. Would you?
Years ago, the mistaken identity thing happened to me but in reverse. I had recently moved back into the rural village close to our family roots. Very early one morning there was a light knock at the front door and I could see through the peephole that it was an elderly lady that I knew from the community when I was a young girl. Although I greeted her by name she in turn handed me some wild weeds she had picked in the yard and called me by my aunt’s name, Dorothy. She told me she was glad I was back home again after all these years. My aunt had moved away years ago and had died far from home. I never knew her. Oddly enough, my aunt and I apparently were alike in many ways according to what my parents told me. When the old and very confused soul had welcomed me home as Dorothy I didn’t correct her. I watched her leave through the back garden, picking catnip mint….wandering barefoot despite her advanced age with her wispy long white hair, long cotton dress and singing mysteriously to herself. Literally stunned by this Ophelia-like encounter, it took me a few moments to figure out her visit. She had it almost right. I was back home again, single again…. with my young son. I guess I could have been Dorothy except for the age difference of fifty odd years.
As a university student in the 1970’s, when typists worked on faculty papers I was mistakenly presented in the coffee shop with a huge folder to be typed up for a professor . I was a first year student barely able to find my way around the huge campus and a vile typist of my own work. A girl in the secretarial pool apparently had the same Farrah Fawcett hairdo and platform shoes that I had and the mistake was pointed out to the rather confused fellow wanting his dissertation typed as soon as possible. He seemed to think I was kidding because apparently one Farrah Fawcett hairdo looked like another.
Getting out of my car in the school parking lot where I worked (almost) my entire career as a Kindergarten teacher, I was approached by a harried looking woman bent on discussing her son’s progress. I had taught her two younger boys in Kindergarten but they were now in the junior grades. Bizarrely, she started in on how upset she was with her son’s progress so far and wanted to discuss it in detail with me. I told her to make an appointment with the teacher. Looking at me with intense stress she left in a huff. She hadn’t realized I wasn’t her older son’s teacher at all. She had mistaken me for the Grade Eight teacher. Granted we are both about the same age, fair, hazel eyes and traditionally built but…come on, how can you not know your own son’s teacher? The difference in nine grade levels should have been her first clue. ( I have to add the detail that this woman was a nurse at a mental hospital, so…..)
The best observation of all time wasn’t really a mistaken identity but rather a wonderful compliment, ( much like being confused with my lovely young niece!). In the middle of one of my more dramatic lessons , outfitted with an array of props ,puppets and costumes I was storytelling my Kindergarten teacher heart out. A student, four years of age asked me point blank at the end of my performance…”Are you a real grownup ?” That was a wonderful moment in time, a treasured confused moment!