‘Are you <put name here>’s brother?’
Friends and acquaintances aren’t exempt from this behaviour – the question’s a little modified though.
‘Did I ever tell you that you look a hell of a lot like this person I knew?’
If everyone’s had this happen to them, and if the beholder beholds what the beholder beholds, why all the pondering then? Because I’m convinced that this happens to me more often than other people, and it does not make sense.
There’s no palatable (to me) way to put this but: I have a very prominent lower jaw, kind of a like a gibbon. (I maintain that it’s developmental, brought about by a thumb sucking habit that refused to go away, rather than an inherited trait, but well.) My lengthened jaw might not look out of place at all in a congregation of Africans, but here, it’s rather exotic. Therein lies the paradox.
If something’s different, why do more people find it familiar? I think I know why. If there’s a feature that’s overwhelmingly conspicuous, a feature that’s the first thing people notice about a face, the face will come to be defined by it. Think large, curved noses. Different kinds of faces may possess them: fat faces, thin faces, white faces, brown faces, pimply faces, bearded faces , it doesn’t matter. The moment you see a face with a large, curved nose you think of the last face you saw with a similarly large, curved nose and you go to the owner of the face and say:
‘You look a bit like this karate instructor I used to have. Are you a relative?’
That’s not so bad then.