Perception

“Are you Kate’s sister?” a woman asks me.

“Who’s Kate?” I ask.

She points to a dancer about to perform. Kate is lanky with disheveled hair, a crooked tooth or two, and dressed in bright, appealing colors. I size her up then size myself up, which is, of course, impossible to do in any objective way. Kate appears friendly and interesting, but she’s too quirky looking. She’s a lot older. Her underwear peaks out as she dances (me? never) but she has the confidence to keep on dancing (I’m with her there). In other ways, I see myself, especially in her colorful presentation, unruly hair, and funky glasses. But then, she has the boldness to perform a creative work in front of a crowd (uh-uh) and she’s artsy and chaotic in a way that screams free-spirited artist (nope).

In high school, my friend can’t wait to tell me she met my twin who was playing in a visiting school band. In the auditorium, I see the band members file in and spot her immediately. Oh, God. Her? I am humiliated that this is how my friend perceives me. The girl is gangly and awkward, and while OK, I was gangly and awkward, I wasn’t ready to own it as a freshman.

I think of a summer writing workshop I took two years ago, all creativity and summer dresses, when a participant told me I looked and sounded like Teri Gross. I love Teri Gross but I wasn’t sure I wanted to look like her (she’s older, NY accent). Today, I would say Thank you and smile.

TerryGross

I turn back to watch Kate, graceful on the stage in a way that I am not, and start to embrace not only the qualities that we share but also some that I don’t care to share but have to admit are right on. I think about approaching her after the show to tell her about the comparison, but I don’t want to risk a shocked reaction or watch her scrutinize my face. But hey, she should be happy to be me; here I am sitting in the audience of her show–surely I have good taste–and not a smidge of my underwear is showing.

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