What to do when the stranger who walks past you has your face? What constitutes good manners when making your double’s acquaintance?
When face-to-identical-face with your doppelganger, there are several things you must determine before you can interact without causing offence.
Does your doppelganger look a bit grizzled? Do they wear an eye patch? Are they strapped head to toe in ammo? Maybe they’re carrying a portable IBM computer? In which case, you might be dealing with you but from the future. Resist the temptation to pester them for lottery numbers — a major faux pas. Not to mention, their answer of "Sustainability pods 19 through 84 thousand" is probably not the answer you were seeking.
If Future-You has flouted the laws of Hawking’s Chronology Protection Conjecture, they’ve likely got bigger fish to fry. Politely avert your eyes, move out of their way, and let them get on with saving the universe.
Does your doppelganger look the same as you but fresher somehow? They might be a clone. Think carefully, have you rejected any mad scientists lately? (I bet you regret acquiescing to give ‘but a lock of your hair’ to Dr Octavian now, ay?)
Does your doppel-self have a large, unsightly bruise on their ankle? If so, this could point to their having tripped on their way out of the cloning chamber. If they are drenched in vat fluids, this is another clue. Lastly, if they are stark naked and stark raving mad:
‘There were others… malformed, grotesque… they begged me to put them out of their misery. The horror. The horror.’
Again, most likely a clone.
The etiquette for encountering your clone is to hand them a one-way ticket out of town. It’s acceptable to strongly hint to them that they might like to dye their hair or don a wig. Perhaps start wearing the sort of Hawaiian shirts you wouldn’t be caught dead in.
Approach the subject of having to murder them in cold blood should they attempt to assume your identity euphemistically and with delicacy.
After you’ve dealt with your clone, feel free to contact Dr Octavian to let them know that cloning someone in response to being jilted is ‘toxic ex behaviour’ and that they need to learn how to handle rejection in a healthy manner. Be polite, but assertive.
Does your doppelganger have tentacles or additional appendages of any sort? In this case, you might be dealing with a version of yourself from an alternate reality.
Politely shake their proffered tentacle and resist the urge to wipe slime from your hand until they’re well out of sight. When they inquire as to the date of the next “Sun Sacrifice”, politely respond with, ‘Next Wednesday’. They are a stranger to our lands, unaccustomed to our ways; be patient with them.
If you’re approached by a doppelganger who says, ‘Take me to your leader’ while wearing a waxy version of your visage, do not alert them to their error. They merely copied your appearance to blend in with the populace, they can tell two humans apart about as well as you can two ravens.
Point them in the direction of parliament as though you’ve noticed nothing amiss. Likewise, politely ignore the flying saucer shrouded by shrubbery behind them.
Does this docile and perfectly coiffed carbon copy get stuck in a loop? Do they give off the occasional spark? If so, unblock Dr Octavian on your phone and give them a piece of your mind concerning roboethics. Although it is tempting, resist the urge to use profanity.
You might encounter a doppelganger who is the spitting image of yourself as a child. The urge to shake them and tearfully beg them to ‘Not waste your life as I did’ while their parents look on in horror is understandable. However, social convention—and quite probably the law—dictates that this is to be avoided.
A changeling that has taken the place of your friend’s baby requires the same amount of tact as when dealing with their actual, unfortunate-looking progeny. You are to say, ‘How cute. I’m sure they’ll grow into those ears. I thought this event was just for the grown-ups..?’
A doll with a striking resemblance to you with a pin stuck through its heart… what… OCTAVIAAAAN!!!
While we’re on the subject of cursed objects bearing your image — perhaps you’ve noticed that lately the portrait in the attic is looking particularly aged and blemished to reflect the corruption of your immortal soul?
The proper etiquette is to keep this to yourself, your friends are quite tired of receiving text messages the likes of, ‘Hey guys, the painting’s grown a new wart, here’s a pic.’ There’s nothing more gauche than oversharing.
Doppel Gang Gang
Should you encounter a doppelganger of your nearest and dearest, feel free to show them a photo (discreetly taken, of course). However, if they take offence don’t press the issue. Clarifications such as, ‘I mean, their nose is smaller, and they’re better looking, but otherwise…’ will not help your cause.
Likewise, resist the temptation to drunkenly slur the likes of, ‘I’m telling you, that hobgoblin under the bridge looked just like you. Come on!’ We are not all blessed with the gift of self-awareness; allowances must be made for the less perceptive and radically honest among us.
Lastly, if you’re somebody’s doppelganger, obediently heading to the airport to start your new life, and their spouse runs into you (‘Sweetie, I didn’t know you liked Aloha shirts…’) your only recourse is to politely accompany them home.
You like it here in the living room, with the dog curled at your feet, surrounded by framed family photos. It’s so much cosier than the dungeon lab. You like it here.
You like it here a lot.
If you enjoyed this, all I ask is that you subscribe to Knowledge is Power, France is Bacon for more humour, science & literary fun.