Regarding Harry: One Reporter’s Hellish Life as a Young Wizard Lookalike

The author (R) and Harry Potter.

Everyone tells me I look like Harry Potter. From young children to middle-aged women, they shout, “Harry Potter!” at me on the street. When I do not respond they say, “Harry! Hey, Harry!” They’ve done it for 10 years. The woman who works the cash register at the Chipotle around the corner from The Observer offices says, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Harry Potter?” She says it every time. I’ve taken to saying, “No, you’re the first one.” When a stranger smiles at me, it is typically followed by, “Did you know you look like Harry Potter?”

Yes, stranger. I know. I know, and I despise you.

I’ve never read any Harry Potter books. I’ve never seen the movies. I have no interest. I look like Harry Potter. This is my curse.

The final installment of the film series came out last Friday, and the week has been long and filled with drudgery. I have deliberately not shaved in the hope that people will leave me alone. Yesterday I walked past a group of school children on a field trip. I nearly walked in front of a taxi in my attempt to escape.

The first time someone told me I looked like Harry Potter was shortly after the first book came out, in 1999. They were judging it by its cover. I was walking to class in an otherwise empty hallway. I was late. There was another person in the hallway. We passed each other, and he did a double take. We both continued in opposite directions. He circled back around and stood in front of me. He blocked my path and stared at me with squinted eyes. He said, “You look like Harry Potter.” This did not make me so mad at the time. I did not then know that it was the beginning of a decade-long ordeal. I said, “I haven’t read it,” and went on with my life.

But I didn’t go on with my life. People still say I look like Harry Potter. No one ever says anything different. I would entertain an original comment on the matter. For instance: “Hey, Harry, get back under the stairs!” But it is always the same: obvious and inarticulate.

Looking like Harry Potter means people discard every convention of social interaction to inform you that you look like Harry Potter. Overweight bald men are the worst. They seem to think they have an original idea when they say, “Hey, it’s Harry Potter.” They tell their overweight bald companions of their discovery and then they all yell, “Hey, Harry!” They do not stop until I acknowledge that I am not Harry Potter. I just look like him. One time, in a bar in Philadelphia, an overweight bald man announced to the room, “Everybody, look! It’s Harry Potter! He looks like Harry Potter!” I said to him, “You look like a fat asshole.” It came to blows. I removed my glasses first. (Presumably, I looked less like Harry Potter as a result.)

People seem to really like Harry Potter. If I looked like Lisbeth Salander, I don’t believe they would say anything.

A few years ago, I went to a Borders in Detroit on the eve of the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I wore a cape and drew a scar on my forehead and defeated a group of children in a Harry Potter lookalike contest. The prize was $20 or a copy of the book. I took the cash. I did it because I knew I would win.

I have never been able to wear scarves or striped ties.

Daniel Radcliffe will be 22 soon. I am not much older than he is, and he seems like a nice guy. Once, for no reason, I defended his acting skills. I was empathizing with Mr. Radcliffe’s inability to escape the Potter scourge. Someone said to me, “He can’t be in Equus. No one wants to see Harry Potter’s wang.” This person really said wang. I said, “He’s not actually Harry Potter. He’s an actor, capable of playing any number of roles.” The person responded, “You probably just want to see his wang.” As far as I know, no one has ever desired to see my wang as a direct result of my looking like Harry Potter.

I am sure many people everyday shout “Harry Potter!” at Mr. Radcliffe. The difference between us is that he has made millions of dollars for looking like Harry Potter. I just get harassed.

My glasses have changed in the last 10 years. They have been round and wiry, and big and plastic and square. No matter. People are not that discerning. I still look like Harry Potter to them.

Now that there will be no more new books or films, I wonder if this will stop. I wonder if thin young men with brown hair and glasses will once again be safe from the chorus of strangers announcing their resemblance to Harry Potter.

Somehow I doubt it. A man in an expensive suit was walking down the street the other day, with his friend who was also wearing an expensive suit. They were talking to one another intensely until one of them said, “Hey, Harry!” Their conversation ceased. They rounded on me. The friend joined in.

They said: “Harry! Hey, Harry!”

Regarding Harry: One Reporter’s Hellish Life as a Young Wizard Lookalike