In my freshman year of college, I joined one of the university's two all-female singing groups. Though we were there for the music, in some respects, it was also sort of like a sorority for girls who wouldn't ever pledge a sorority: we were each assigned a "big sister"; we would gather in small groups around campus; and many of us (not me) would semi-regularly get drunk together.
As a non-sorority sorority, we also had a "brother" organization: the all-male Glee Club. They functioned like any fraternity would, providing built-in dates for the members of our group (some pairings actually resulted in marriage), serving as an organization to co-sponsor co-ed events, rounding out the sound when we needed to sing something for mixed voices, and occasionally getting drunk with us (not me).
In my second week with the group, we new recruits found ourselves being inducted into the ritualistic post-rehearsal gathering at a semi-seedy pizza restaurant and bar just off campus. I was trying, shyly, to make small talk, and be as invisible as possible, when I realized that someone was trying to get my attention. Only they weren't calling my name.
"Katie," they were saying. "Katie?"
Katie was another new member of the group, a slight girl with a powerful, fabulous voice who had already found her pairing in the Glee Club: an equally small and talented male. She was on the fast track. The only similarity between us was our shoulder-length wavy brown hair, which, if you were looking even just a little bit closely, wasn't that similar at all.
Still, the call was insistent. "Katie. Katie!"
Now, others had joined in. They were all clearly shouting at me, trying to get me to turn around. Finally, I did. And spluttered, at the top of my lungs: "I'm NOT KATIE!"
The bar erupted into gales of laughter, and after a minute of feeling awkward and annoyed all at once, I had to laugh, too. To this day, one of the friends I met in those Glee Club days still calls me Katie (or "not-Katie"), and I occasionally sign my emails to him, simply, "k."
I've been thinking about this case of mistaken identity a lot lately, at my new place of employment. Where, it's pretty obvious, people worshiped at the feet of my predecessor. Or, at the very least, were very chummy. Sometimes it feels a little like they're measuring me, sizing me up. And then, they decide, frowning ever so slightly, perhaps: not Katie.
It's true, I think. I'm not Katie. I'm sorry that you're pining away for your lost lover, but she's gone. She made her choice. And you can't use the same yardstick for me.
I imagine (because this has never happened to me) it's sort of like being in bed with someone who suddenly calls out the wrong name in a passionate moment. Of course the speaker is embarrassed, but no one feels worse than the newly beloved, who can't help but wonder where she stands. Is the speaker still smitten with an old flame?
These things take time. People grieve love lost in their own ways, and I didn't expect to step too quickly into my predecessor's shoes, which are, admittedly, quite large. Still, I can't help but feel some days like I'm orbiting a well-established solar system, and I wonder when gravity will start to kick in.
Until then, maybe it's best to respond to whatever I'm called.
Have you ever been mistaken for someone else?