The Stuntman

Today, my girlfriend committed the ultimate sin. I stopped by the gym to surprise her with a latte, and I discovered her giggling and squeezing another gentís arms. When she saw me seeing her she pleaded innocent or ignorant or both, but she knew the damage had already been done. My entire self esteem dynamic has become unhinged. Iím the shadow of a joke that used to be a man.

Whatís the big deal, you say? Why all the finger wringing over some harmless flirting? As is often the case, itís not the what, itís the who. You see, she was flirting with my stuntman.

Iím not a Hollywood action hero, and not every stuntman is a California stud driving flaming cars over cliffs. In the real world, a stuntman is a lesser version of yourself, someone who makes you feel better about your own shortcomings. Allow me to illustrate with my own stuntman story.

A few months ago I was in the gym after work when a pal mentioned that he had seen my twin during a morning workout. Intrigued and hopeful, I made an early stop on my next day off in search of this anonymous doppelganger. I quickly spotted my target. Was he my twin? No. How about a similarly featured brother from another mother? Nope. A distant cousin who had fallen out of the ugly tree? You bet. He was the perfect stuntman.

A stuntman needs two qualities.

First: The stuntman has to resemble you. This is strictly a superficial requirement. You need this shallow visual facet to create a foothold for the seed of self aggrandizement.

Second: Pay close attention because this is the loadstone of the recruitment process. Your stuntman must be an aesthetic Mr. Potato Head compared to you, even if you arenít exactly Paul Newman.

Imagine it this way, when you go to the optometrist and he puts those two lenses in front of your eyes and asks you which one looks better. Youíre the crisp image. The stuntman is the blurry lens that makes the ďEĒ on the eye chart look like the gear guide on the knob of a carís stick shift.

Taking these criteria into account, I closely examined my subject. Iím on the chubby side. Heís fat. My ears stick out. His are taxi cab doors. My hairís a bit thin. The top of his head looks like itís been pillaged by a brush fire. He passed the test and graduated to full stuntman status.

Iíve never spoken with my stuntman, nor do I plan to speak with him. I know he exists and that simple fact is the essence of his job. My perception of him improves my self image. Life can be tough sometimes, and itís nice to have a personal trogladite to cushion your ego.

Case in point: Last week my boss demoted me and cut my pay (he referred to it as ďrole responsibility realignmentĒ). My first thoughts were to hide in a dark room for two days and wallow in some vintage Billy Joel. Then I thought of my stuntman (whom I refer to as Thing #2). If it had been him, the boss would have set his desk on fire and made sure he never worked in this town again. How do I know that? I donít and who cares. It makes me feel better.

The stuntman isnít a revolution. Using him is no different than watching a reality show whose characters are so misanthropic that you feel stellar by comparison. Your stuntman is a bit more personal, but equally anonymous. We all can use a hand sometimes, and a strangerís, however unwittingly, can be just as helpful as a friendís.

By the way, my girlfriend decided to break up with me. I hear her new boyfriend looks like me, except heís taller and has better teeth.