Monday, April 21, 2014

Answers From the Kids 2.0: My Doppelganger

“We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are...I’m no different.”
- Memento

You know how when you see someone for the first time in years? Well, I would venture to guess with about 95.2% sureness that one of you will say "you've changed" or "you look so different!" When you consider why, the answer is pretty simple:  a good amount of time has passed between encounters.  Ironically, we can then look at ourselves on a daily basis and not think anything of change due to the context of time. 
There was also scientific report that I read over once that basically said that we only know and see ourselves in pictures and reflections, that if we actually saw ourselves in the flesh, we wouldn't recognize our own being because our perception of ourselves is so different from our actual physical appearance. We spend our whole lives looking at the save visage every day, yet we wouldn't be able to identify ourselves in the real world.

Over the years, people say I've changed a lot:  
“Oh, you've gotten thinner!”
"You look like you’re in great shape!"
"Your hair looks longer/shorter!"
"My, you look older!"
"Boy...I can still remember when you were fat in high school!"
I usually didn't know what to say, because I see the same thing every day:  that same smug turd that gawks back at me creepily in the morning.  I would imagine that if pressed, most of us would probably struggle to describe ourselves to someone in a realistic fashion.  We know our basic features, like blue eyes or brown hair; but would be be able to truly describe what we look like? Would it be accurate? My second year of teaching gave me a revelation, as I "discovered" my true form...

As usual, I began the year with my annual interest inventory, and included most of the same questions, namely the final one:
“Mr. W looks like a ______________________________.”
Now the general responses varied, as they did in the previous year, however, this year was different...very different.  A trend began.  The responses weren't so random anymore.  It’s as if the students synced together, or had some kind of a cerebral merging.  Mind you they had no time to discuss their responses, as not only was this the first day, but many of these students were brand new and, therefore, didn't really know anyone.

Here are some of the responses, according to category:
a young man (x2), a teenager (x2), a 19 year old...
Ok, I’ll buy that.  I was still in my early 20’s at the time. No shame in youth.
a doctor, a football player, an actor, a movie star (x2), a person off Leverage(?), a country singer (x2), a rock star (x3), an idol singer, a man model...
Aw, shucks you guys.  You really think so?
a monkey, a short person
Alright, let's pump the breaks a bit there, wise-ass...

Naturally, a good portion responses ranged from basic things like “teacher” and “a nice person.”  There were even some flattering responses, too.  They thought I looked like an actor/football-player/rock-star/model?!  Well that’s pretty cool...
But there was one single answer that vaulted itself above the rest, beginning that year.  A response that still hangs over me with every successive class:
Zac Efron.
Mind you, this was several years ago, so I Googled him, unsure of what it would unleash....
Oh, shit…


As I paged through all the responses, about 1 out of every 3 had the same response:  
“Zak Efron” 
“Zach Efron”
“Zach Effron”
“That one guy from High School Musical.” 
I didn't really look like him, did I?  Was it the eyes?  The hair?  That was probably it.  Probably because I have blue eyes and shaggy hair.  Well at least that was out of the way.  The students answered the questions, and we can move on. I will probably never hear about this again from anyone ever....

It was like that scene from Groundhog Day where “Ned Ryerson” bumps into Phil Connors every day with the same excitement as they walk toward the ceremony to see Punxsutawney Phil....

...only, instead of “do you remember me?” it was, “do you know who you look like?”  And every time, it was as if they were the FIRST PERSON EVER to make the discovery that I resembled a gentleman from a shitty Disney teenage musical.  
Worst of it was, they would always phrase it that *I* looked like *him*.  I am nearly two years older (4 days short, to be exact) than Zac Efron.  If anything *he* looks like *me*.  But they're middle schoolers: they didn't give a shit.  Much like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, I eventually gave up questioning the fact. I can never escape.

Fast forward to October of this year:
Parent: "(Student) really enjoys your class!  This is the first time I think she has ever had a science teacher she likes!"
Mr. W: "Well that's great...I'm glad she's enjoying science."
Parent: "Ok.  I have to tell you, since you seem like such a laid-back guy..."
Mr. W: "Ok..."
Parent: "She and I were talking after back-to-school night...has anyone ever told you that you look like Zac Efron?"
Mr. W: "Why no!  I believe that's the first time I've ever heard that one! (forced laugh)"

Or, I shit you not, this LAST THURSDAY:
Student walks into class...
Student: "Mr. W....has anyone ever told you that you look like Zac Efron?"
Mr. W: "No, Student, never."
Student: "Well I think you do!"

This guy? I don't think so.  But this guy?

Wait...I think I kinda see it now...

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