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Kate: Why you should never tell someone who they look like

Kate Langbroek, Sunday Style

Last week I presented unto you the first two pillars of Langbroek’s Laws. If you missed them, and simply can’t be bothered googling, it is hard to imagine that you need any kind of help in life; for you are as straight and true as an arrow. However, for those seeking guidance, looking to kill time on the bus, or simply finding themselves without wi-fi, this happened: I explained 1) how you may be guaranteed to cross paths with an ex-lover, and 2) why you must never ask a laydee if she is pregnant.

These two rules, as immutable as gravity, garner nothing but a resolute silence from the scientific community. Nonetheless, they form the cornerstone of my ideology. I am also aware, however, that all good things come in threes – the witches in Macbeth; the Blind Mice; the judges on MasterChef – so I must complete my trinity of Life Laws.

The third rule, then, is this: Never tell someone they look like someone else. Even if they’re one of the indistinguishable Olsen twins. Even if you’re playing Guess Who? and your sole purpose is to match pairs of identical faces. DO NOT tell someone they resemble someone else, even though you may be convinced the likeness is so remarkable, everyone involved will marvel at your doppelgänger-spotting prowess.

This advice is hard to follow, I know, because the look-alike game is a siren call. It is fun. It is irresistible. But it also leads to social shipwreck. Why? Because the basic and inalienable truth is that in a game of “You know who you look like...?” it is IMPOSSIBLE for both parties to be equally happy with the comparison. 

Allow me to illustrate. A few years ago, my funny, funny friend, Hughesy, and I were doing a breakfast radio show. We had a largely happy and harmonious team, even though part of that team was a rather eccentric newsreader, Patty. Patty was pale and an unusual cross between demure and dishevelled. She was also, to put it kindly, extremely feisty. She was funny, but also snappy and sharp, and super-quick to anger. Once, she picked up a chair and threw it at another girl in the newsroom. Anyway, perhaps because of that, it was easy to think she was more robust than she actually was.

So there we were one morn, enjoying some spirited on-air banter. We were discussing which famous actors would play us in the movie version of our own lives, and we were all laughing and expectantly waiting to hear which superstar we most resembled, when Patty demanded: “What about me, Hughesy? Who would play me?” 

And Hughesy looked at Patty and said, “Kathy Bates”.

There was a pause. A big pause. In fact, we all sat in stunned silence. Then, seeing the strange look on Patty’s face, and misinterpreting it as confusion, Hughesy thought he’d better make it clearer.

“Kathy Bates,” he said. “In Misery.”

Patty, I recall, started crying. Then she cried and cried and just couldn’t stop. She actually had to go home. And Hughesy apologised many times, and gave her flowers, and kept saying, “But she asked me…” in a confused manner.

And I ended up taking Patty to a glamour photography studio, and we both got made up and posed for weird, faux-flirty photos, which was very odd.

Partly because I was six months pregnant at the time.

But also because I suspect that – wherever she was, on the other side of the world – Kathy Bates would have been quite pleased with the comparison.

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