My friend Kaela is cool, so it sucks that I accidentally offended her a few weekends ago. We were chillin’ in a bar, cracking jokes, when something about her struck me. “You know who you remind me of?” I asked her. “You remind me of Jan Brady.”
She smiled and laughed. “Thanks, but I’ve never been hit in the nose with a football.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s Marsha Brady. I mean the other one, Jan, the middle sister.”
Kaela frowned. “You mean the crazy one? The one with earlocks that goes ‘Marsha Marsha Marsha!’?”
“Yes!” I said, happy that she understood. “That one! Come on, Kaela! Say ‘Marsha Marsha Marsha!’”
“I’m not saying that.”
“How about just ‘Marsha Marsha!’? You don’t have to say the third one.”
“Not gonna happen.”
After this conversation, I realized something important: It’s risky telling a person that he or she looks like a celebrity. Especially when the celebrity in question is a Brady other than Marsha. For the youngsters who aren’t familiar with Jan Brady, imagine if Khloe Kardashian was the middle sister and was a bit quieter. That’s sort of a similar dynamic. Only the Brady’s weren’t rich, and all of them were rather flat-butted.
Personally, I’ve been told I look like a whole bunch of different people. On rare occasions, a nice person will tell me I look like Topher Grace or, better yet, Tobe McGuire. That’s cool. But the bulk of the time, I’m told I either look like Steve Buscemi or DJ Qualls. People typically don’t know DJ Qualls’ name, though, so I get “the guy from Road Trip,” “the New Guy,” or “the DJ from Hustle and Flow.” They’re all the same dude, and they’re all ugly. I’ve also been compared to Rush frontman Geddy Lee and comic icon Mr. Bean. Hopefully my voice will stay the same as it is now, because if it goes up or disappears completely, I run the risk of actually becoming one of those guys.
So since I’ve been both the offender and the offended when it comes to bad celebrity comparisons, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to create a few handy rules for everyone. Follow these simple rules and you won’t be the jerk whose fun pop culture reference ruins the party. I’m not being shallow…I’m looking out for you.
Rule #1: Just Because the Person Seriously Does Look Like Someone, It Doesn’t Mean You Have to Point That Out
Okay, so let’s say your new coworker happens to look like she was cloned from the cells of Rosie O’Donnell. Being a human, you are anxious to share this observation. Don’t do it! Have you seen angry Rosie O’Donnell on The View? Is that what you want? Of course not. Let it go and try to refer to her by her actual name. Similarly, never, ever cross gender lines. If some girl you know gets a new pixie hairdo and comes out looking like Justin Beiber, tell her she looks like, I don’t know, Isabella Rossellini. It’s all about being nice, man! Our bodies are engineered for us to be nice anyways…that’s why we have to go through the hassle of verbally saying something in order to communicate, as opposed to just thinking it.
Rule #2: It’s Okay to Lie to Family Members as Long as it isn’t Embarrassing
When I was in high school, my Grandfather would rant and rave about how much I looked like Leonardo DiCaprio. At that time in my life, I was setting a new standard for unpopularity at school and my interactions with girls were pretty much confined to group work in Spanish class. I appreciated that Grandpa was being nice, but it made me uncomfortable. Things got even more uncomfortable when, on Christmas, one of my presents was a Leonardo DiCaprio picture book. There weren’t even any words in it, just page after page of dreamy Leo pics. Why my Grandfather thought I would want that, I have no idea. I tried giving it to my sister. “Take it, please,” I begged. “What am I going to do, gaze at Leo all day?” Unfortunately, my sister was going through a big time Marilyn Manson phase, and DiCaprio wasn’t what she was into. My Grandfather nodded proudly as I sat there with my Leo picture book. If I needed a confidence boost, this wasn’t it. All that is to say, if you have kids, sure, build them up. But don’t embarrass them. And, by the way, if your kids dig Leo DiCaprio, I’ve got a book they might like up on Ebay.
Rule #3: If You’ve Already Put Your Foot in Your Mouth and the Person Disagrees, Don’t Agrue
“Yes, you DO look like Carrot Top! Look at yourself! Where are your props, Carrot Top??!”
Just let it go, man. And see our final rule.
Rule #4: Stick to Safe Celebs
Bradd Pitt. Megan Fox. Johnny Depp. Beyonce. Madonna circa 1985. These are safe people. They won’t elicit any response other than happiness and celebration. People try to look like them. On purpose. Stick to them, or someone of their ilk, and everything will be fine. Conversely, I advise against comparing somebody to any of the following: Whoopi Goldberg, Newman from Seinfeld, John Goodman, Donatella Versace, Clint Howard, Lyle Lovett, Mo’Nique, Jerri Blank, Ron Jeremy, or current Madonna. Add to both lists as you see fit.
Billions of years ago, we were all cave people and we all looked the same. Hairy with poor posture. As we evolved, new things were created, like the wheel and, eventually, notions of beauty. Today we have a catalogue of images in our heads that help us draw connections, a context for others to fit into. Underneath it all, though, we’re all the same, as if our cave-person-oneness has been sucked inside. We all want to be told we look nice, that in our human family, we are Marsha.
This guy, this DJ Qualls look-alike, feels Jan’s pain. Poor Jan. Why does Marsha get all the socks, she asked?
Natural selection, I guess.