Mistaken Eye-dentity

This time, it happened as I was exiting my car and walking towards an office building for a meeting.

“How many trucks do you have, Leonard?,” this 40-ish looking man, standing in front of the office doors, shouted at me enthusiastically.

I didn’t recognize him.  I turned around to see if he was talking to someone behind me.  No one.  When I approached the doors, he ovaled his arms to give me a hug, but when I stepped back, he stopped short, his hands suspended in the air like he was dancing with an invisible partner.

“Oh I’m sorry,” he said.  His hands deflated to his sides.  “You looked like an Asian guy I know.”

The time before this, I was changing in the locker room, when a man came up to me and buddy punched me.

“Hey man, long time no see!”

“I’m sorry, but I think you got the wrong guy.”

“No way, you don’t remember me?  I’m your massage therapist.”

“I’m sorry, but I think you got the wrong guy.”

“No way man.  I remember you.  You need to book another appointment!”

His insistence made me wonder, for a slight second, if he indeed was my massage therapist, but I knew I never met the man.

“I’m sorry, but I think you got the wrong guy.”

“You’re sure it wasn’t you?  It was an Asian guy,” he told me assuredly, almost as if I needed reminding.  I finished dressing and walked out.

Millions of Asians worldwide and I just happen to look like every one of them.  People see my eyes, my hair, my skin color and instantly I’m the Asian they’ve seen on TV, the Asian they work with or the Asian they went to school with.  I never knew I had the universal Asian face.  This must be the reason why I’m the subject of so many cases of mistaken eye-dentity.  Because if it wasn’t for my eyes, how would they link me to an entire race?

Recently, I was at my company’s Christmas dinner and while I was sitting at the table, one of my co-workers mistook me for Bohn, the other Asian in the office.

“Hey Bohn,” she said to me.

Everybody at the table looked at her, then at me.  No one corrected her.  Perhaps she just confused our names, but then she continued.

“Bohn, who’s that guy sitting next to Mary Ann?”

The guy she was referring to was actually Bohn’s co-worker.

“That’s Sean,” I said.  “He works with Bohn.”

She glared at me.  The confusion switch flipped on.  At first, I wasn’t sure if she thought I was the type of person who referred to myself in the third person.

When Bohn talks, Bohn likes to address himself as Bohn.

But then it dawned on her, that perhaps I wasn’t Bohn.

Bohn and I are roughly the same height, but that’s where the similarity ends.  His hair is almost shaven, while mine is spiky with a punk silhouette.  His skin tone is darker.  He’s more rotund.  He’s Cambodian.

In my opinion, we look nothing alike, but the fact that we are both Asians made us indistinguishable.  When I left the table, still unconvinced, my confused co-worker turned to the table and asked, “That’s not Bohn?”

I know people have cases of mistaken identities all the time, but the frequency of it happening to me is quite high.  Is this just an Asian phenomenon?  After all, Asians have amassed a worldwide population of almost four billion.  I’m bound to remind someone of an Asian they know.  But the curious fact is that not one Asian has confused me for another.  Do Asians see the differences that are obvious to us, but are subtle, if not invisible, to non-Asians?  Perhaps it’s the same way specialists discern stripe or spot patterns in tigers and leopards.

When other co-workers approached me a couple of days after the Christmas party, they were still tee-heeing about the incident.  “At least she got the Asian part right,” I told them.  If she had confused me with Sheldon, my black co-worker, then perhaps then I might be slightly worried.

Worried not for me, but for Sheldon.

After all, can he handle being the poster boy for the Asian community?


 

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2 Comments

  1. Ha! Having lived in Singapore eye can tell you that eye don’t have this problem. However, my ex’s grandmother could not tell any of the foreigners apart. So eye guess it works both ways. We all look like Colonel Sanders apparently.

  2. You are one unlike any other in my book. Nice article. It goes to show racism isn’t just black and white. No, in America – the land of the brave and free – it runs amok and much deeper than that. And, while all three instances were friendly exchanges, they were all wrought with stereotyped stupidity. People need to OPEN their EYES, or shut the eff up!

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