Posted by: dougery | March 9, 2011

Everybody Reminds Me of Everybody Else

Doppelgangers have been on my mind lately, which should not be a huge surprise to those who know me very well. I rarely go a week of my life without the sinister notion of exact doubles of myself or those I love skulking about the fringes of my world popping into my head. Is this some symptom of (increasingly dire) mental illness? Perhaps. Or maybe this is just how a/the human brain works.

Let me explain.

Since our big move east and subsequent settling in period, L and I have gotten to know quite a few people in these here hill country lands. Whether these be work folks, work folks of the spouse, or just townfolk one encounters regularly (neighbors, coffeehouse baristas, the dude who works the post office window and insists on calling them Netflickers) they all suffer from a distinct problem which none of them deserve.

The problem, of course, is that as much as I claim otherwise, my brain is a finite space and at this point in my life I’ve pretty much maxed out the number of files for distinct persons in my life. As such more and more people I interact with here get the ole “Gee, ‘X’ really reminds me of ‘Y’ so much” treatment.

For this I am sorry.

If I were to carefully consider the situation, really analyze the particulars, I would probably come to the conclusion that ‘X’ really isn’t like ‘Y’ at all, that this is my codger of a mind being lazy. But it does illustrate how our minds (or at least mine) use shorthand to categorize and file people in our lives.

It sounds simplistic and kind of rude, but yeah, people get typecast. We meet someone and just their name can set off a chain of associations. So often I have wanted to say “I’m sorry, I already know several people named Mufwene. You’ll have to choose a different name if you want to really stick out to me.”

It is entirely unfair to meet an otherwise genial young man who shares the name of the kid who used to fire spitballs at the back of my head in Social Studies class and who I repeatedly wished would die from a giant flaming fish-hook to the kidneys. Fate can be cruel.

Beyond the minefield of name association (which has already ruined plenty of solid baby-names for you, regardless if you have ever considered having children) one teases out occupation, favorite music, sports affinity, etc. These are all helpful organization tools to build associations that last a surprisingly long time. To this day if a certain band comes up in the news or casual conversation it will often trigger a recollection of a very specific friend who I hadn’t thought of in years.  Again, is this fair? Would said person enjoy knowing I have filed them away under They Might Be Giants guy? If they want to be awesome, then yes.

Digging deeper, personality quirks and character traits make for even further categorization. If I’ve known you long enough to have had many conversations with you (pretty much anyone reading this post), congratulations, chances are I have my own self-storage bin in my brain with your name on the door. You are one of several (hundred?) models I use to judge all new acquaintances. And when I meet someone new and they talk like you do, even just a little bit, the same pace, the same preference for a few odd words to say nothing of sartorial idiosyncrasies, well, sorry new person I just met, you are now the ‘new’ Mufwene (e.g.).

They say (ugh, I began a sentence with ‘they say’) that you only ever fall in love once and after that initial formation you will keep looking for the same idea over and over again. Freud would tell you this first love is your parent of the opposite sex. I’m not going to wade into those waters, but I’m sure parents and early loved ones play a huge role in who we find enjoyable, lovable, detestable, etc. This most likely happens much sooner than we realize. Undoubtedly by the time our bodies develop to the point where they can actually do something about what our minds have known for a long time we have a type. And yes even you, Contrarian Who Doesn’t Believe In This Sort of Thing, even you who are always consciously going against type, that is a kind of type.

The ironic thing is that the same way that our (again, sorry, read: my) mind works helps to ensure that “falling in love with the same person over and over” doesn’t actually happen. Because no matter how much the new person in our life fulfill certain immediate and shallow requirements (for example in my life, sorry blond girls) or remind us of our own particular soul-mate (blech) the more we get to know this new person the more unique details of said person will explode the framework. In other words you go in knowing exactly what you are doing and come out not having a clue. At least, one hopes this is the case. Otherwise you might actually be dating the same person over again.

So yeah, these days everybody reminds me of everybody else. And yes I’m a jerk for this. But old friends, you are also jerks for being so great and ruining everyone that was to come with your weird shit. New people? It’s not you, it’s me. Give me a few days (or conversations) and I’m sure I’ll set down the giant flaming fish-hook.

Watching: Breaking Bad S1



  1. I don’t think it makes you a jerk. I do it every time I move. Hell, I always do it when I meet new people. I actually have layers of these patterns, Midori reminds me of Erin who reminds me of Carol, etc, etc… and it’s funny how incredibly little the person on the bottom layer ends up resembling the person on top.

    Also, I really hope the “Netflickster” guy reminds you of me.

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