Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I suffer from periodic bouts of conversation deficiency, particularly as a retiree without an office full of coworkers. I recognize that I’m in the midst of such an episode when I allow small exchanges at the grocery store with fellow-shoppers to blossom into more than an “excuse me,” as I side swipe their carts.
For example, a few weeks ago, the purslane in another shopper’s basket prompted a conversation about its beauty, hardiness, and whether she was going to eat the leaves, which I’ve heard is a big thing. After exhausting purslane, we branched out to other topics, including her feeling that I looked very familiar. Had we met at a certain workshop she’d attended recently? No, I hadn’t been there, so we exchanged other potential meeting places, to no avail. We ended up concluding that I had a twin somewhere.
I was glad to finalize the conversation there since I couldn’t help but remember my brush with celebrity about three decades ago that began when a department store clerk, looking over my check and driver’s license, told me, “If we were in New York, I would just assume you were Nikki on the Young & the Restless. Of course, I can see here that you aren’t.” I had never seen the show and didn’t know who Nikki was, but I was having a good hair day, so I assumed I should take her comment as a compliment. I thanked her good-naturedly and left the store thinking the poor young woman needed glasses. While I was blond, skinnier, and made an effort to look nice most days, I didn’t see television material in my mirror.
But strangely enough, not too long after my encounter at the department store, a couple of employees in my office copy center mentioned the resemblance and began greeting me as Nikki, even yelling “Hey, Nikki,” down the hallway to tease me. Other employees would ask me what was going on. When I explained, an extraordinary number of them would say, “Now that you mention it, you do look like Nikki!”
What bamboozled me the most about all this was how so many 8-to-5 working people were so knowledgeable about a daytime soap opera. These were the days before ubiquitous VCRs and streaming was a next generation phenomenon. I had to wait for a work holiday to get an opportunity to watch the soap opera and see my “twin.”
And as you’ve probably been thinking to yourself, I looked nothing like Nikki! Not that I wasn’t very flattered, but aside from my hair and the fact we are both Caucasian women, I couldn’t see any resemblance. Just one of the many differences I noticed was that Melody Thomas Scott (a.k.a. Nikki) has a cute uplifted nose – mine just sits on my face waiting for a nose job. Don’t take my word for it:
Even so, my Nikki-ness seemed to grow like a cancer. At restaurants, waitresses would regularly note my resemblance and launch into the particulars of her character, her love life with Victor, etc. Sometimes, other diners would stop by my table, interrupt any conversation, and ask me whether I knew of the resemblance. Fast food counter people would ask me, “Do you watch the Young & the Restless? You look just like Nikki!”
Some encounters would begin with “You look so much like someone . . . ” as they struggled to remember who. If I were in a good mood, I’d helpfully provide, “Nikki on Y&R?” “Yesss!! That’s it!” If I were lucky I wouldn’t have to hear about the latest Y&R plot twist and could get on with whatever business I had with that person. When I didn’t have time for a potentially long Nikki chat, I’d try to prevent any exploration of the subject with something innocuous like, “They say we all have a twin somewhere!”
Dealing with my Nikki-ness had already become an annoyance when I finally had my fill of being a celebrity. On that particular day I was transporting a large un-crated German Shorthaired Pointer in the back seat of my new car while trying to find a kennel that was supposed to be on Brodie Lane (virtually uninhabited back then). Did I mention the dog drooled profusely? When I spied a convenience store on the corner, I stopped to ask the clerk for help. (No google maps or cell phones back then.)
Here’s the short version of our conversation:
Me: I’m lost and looking for a dog kennel. Do you know of one nearby?
Her: Don’t I know you from somewhere?
Me: I don’t think so. Do you….
Her: Do you live around here? Where do you work? I recognize you from somewhere.
Me: No, I don’t live near. I work downtown. I don’t know you. I need to find….
Her: (pensively) But I’m sure I’ve seen you . . . someplace.
This went on for a little longer, but I was determined not to mention Nikki, all the while imagining the saliva I’d be cleaning off my new back seat. I wanted to scream, “Lady, where’s the f…. dog kennel??!!!” But I controlled myself. And she finally said she didn’t know of any kennel, anyway. I eventually found it, fuming, frustrated, and understanding why Sean Penn would blow up at the paparazzi.
Fortunately, my life as a Nikki lookalike, seemed to die soon thereafter, mainly because I left my job, started law school, and didn’t get out as much. None of my fellow law students and new friends ever mentioned a word about Nikki. It was nice to put that behind me, but after two years in school, I started to worry that the Nikki thing might flare up again once I left the rarefied world of legal studies. I could imagine juries or court personnel seeing me and thinking about the soap opera instead of listening to my words. Dying my hair could work, but it seemed a bit drastic. After two Nikki-less years, I almost convinced myself that I shouldn’t worry about it.
But, one day while chatting about our hair with a classmate who had new highlights, I mentioned I was considering a change. Red heads, I theorized, seem to get more respect than blondes and that might serve me better as a lawyer. Expecting to share a good laugh over something quite ludicrous, I added, “You see, there’s this soap opera actress . . . ”
She didn’t even let me finish. “Nikki? Oh, I’ve always thought you looked like her!” I couldn’t believe what I heard! Had she and how many others been holding back all this time? After all, it’s not like we only talked about Marbury v. Madison during our many days together. Shortly thereafter, I threw out the peroxide and didn’t look back — I went red.
Since then, I’m happy to say that no one has mentioned Nikki to me. In fact, I would caution against anyone wanting to do something just to be famous. Anonymity is normal — it’s the way most of us are most comfortable (except for our current president and other narcissists). In this celebrity-obsessed culture, being famous is a major inconvenience, an artificial construct that we must work around in order to do what we want to do and be ourselves.
In the movie Notting Hill, I hear Julia Roberts channeling herself a bit as she was playing a famous actress trying to explain to Hugh Grant, a non-famous book seller, why he should overlook her celebrity and its attendant difficulties and be her beau. She says plaintively: “The fame thing isn’t really real you know? . . . and don’t forget, that I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
So, I didn’t tell the purslane lady at the grocery store anything about my brush with fame as Melody Scott Thomas’s twin. First, she would have looked me over and thought me insane; second, the Young & the Restless will have to pay me some of those big diva bucks to promote their show this time around. And the biggest reason of all: I prefer to remain mostly anonymous.
Best wishes to Melody. We were sisters for a while.