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Hubby and I visited a large grocery store in the Twin Cities metro area last Friday. I made a bee-line for the bathroom when we got there; Hubby waited for me near the check-out counters. When I came out of the bathroom, I spotted Hubby. Passing by him was a woman whose face was familiar. I was sure I had met her before somewhere and I could feel my synapses trying to work out how I knew her. Then recognition clicked. It was Esme Murphy, a reporter for WCCO News.

I asked Hubby in order to be sure that my powers of recognition were working correctly and he confirmed that they were. He said that she had passed him a bit earlier and given him a look that he interpreted as “please don’t bother me”. Hubby said that maybe he was projecting that interpretation on her because that’s how he would feel if he was well-known and wanted to get his shopping done.

Needless to say, neither one of us went up to her or acknowledged her in any way. We both figured she wanted her privacy, but there was more to our not bothering her than that. For as uncomfortable as celebrities must feel about being constantly approached out in public, there are those of us in the public who will not approach a celebrity because we are feeling our own form of discomfort. It’s odd to have a flash of recognition, but then have no further shared background with a person to follow up that recognition. Worse yet is the knowledge that the person you so readily recognize has no clue as to who you are. The potential relationship is off balance before it even gets started.

What do either of you say in such a situation? At least upon meeting strangers, you can begin with small talk, but when there’s a celebrity involved, about all there is to resort to is a compliment on the person’s achievements or an acknowledgment that you recognize him or her. There typically isn’t time to go any deeper than that, which, in my experience, merely enhances the discomfort. Best to experience the recognition, quietly nod and smile if within each others’ space bubbles, and keep on walking.

If you’ve ever met a celebrity, or recognized a celebrity in a public space, how did you feel about the situation? How did you react? Did you try to talk to the celebrity, or purposely try to give him/her space?