Almost Famous

Adventures in not being recognized.

Being only mildly famous means lots of confused looks. When I am recognized, it usually happens at the most inopportune times — a TSA line, right before an invasive medical procedure, at my grandmother’s funeral reception — but most of the time, people just stare. If someone is looking at me for a long period of time, I never think they’re checking me out, just that they saw my face on a DVD case at Blockbuster fifteen years ago and are trying to place it.

It can also lead to some strange conclusions. A waitress at Bloomingdales’ Forty Carrots once stared at me thoughtfully for about thirty seconds before saying, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like…”

“Yes?” I said, expectantly.

“…Zooey Deschanel?” She said.

“Oh,” I said. “No. No, they haven’t.”

But probably my most favorite almost-recognized moment happened recently, when I was on vacation with my family. I went into a store with one of my niblings, and they saw a necklace they wanted to buy. There was no one there but the cashier, a woman in her fifties with a strong “fun aunt” vibe — which I have to respect, as a “fun aunt” myself — trying on scarves, and the two of us.

They brought the necklace up to the counter to pay, but as they were pulling out their allowance, the fun aunt turned around and said, “You’re paying for this? What are you, a child star?”

I burst out laughing. “You don't know how funny that is.”

Or did she? The mix of pride and apprehension I get when I’m recognized suddenly hit me. I searched her face.

No. It was very clear that she did not know how funny it was.

“You know what,” I said, turning to the cashier, “I’ll pay for the necklace.”