In nearly every zombie movie there’s a point where non-zombies have to refuel, and that inevitably leads to entering dodgy, life-threatening post-apocalyptic supermarket situations. I realize that my life is not a zombie movie, but I have almost the exact same panic-stricken feeling every time my mom asks me to make a grocery run in my hometown over the holidays.

When it comes to being out in public in the place you grew up, you’ve got to be in defense mode in case things take a “HEY I REMEMBER YOU” turn. Let’s say that they do, unfortunately, head in that direction after you run into someone you mildly knew in high school. Before speaking, I want you to ask yourself the following question: am I Facebook friends with this person?

If you said “Yes,” then GODDAMMIT, you can’t invent any fun, non-provable details about your life. However, there is a simple solution to get out of the situation, which will play out as follows:

Them: Hey, aren’t you (insert your name here) from high school?

You: No. *PUSHES GROCERY CART IN OPPOSITE DIRECTION*

It sounds ridiculous, but if YOU say that you’re not who they think you are, there’s really not much they can do about it to prove you wrong. (I mean, DOPPELGANGERS, HELLO.) Granted, they COULD laugh and insist that it IS in fact you, but if you keep denying your identity in a monotone voice, eventually they’ll realize that they probably don’t want to catch up with you after all.

Now, if you said “No, we are NOT Facebook friends,” then (provided you don’t have a dumb profile with zero security settings) you can start to have a little more creative freedom in terms of how mentally unstable you decide to appear. Personally, I like to reference soap opera plot lines in reinventing my sanity on the spot. It’s good to have several of these in your back pocket in case of emergency, and you can obviously feel free to combine stories for maximum dramatic effect. Examples:

Them: Hey, aren’t you (insert your name here) from high school?

You:

  • I’m not sure. I’m told I was in a terrible hot air ballooning accident and suffered extensive amnesia.
  • Yes, but I found out I was switched at birth and after reuniting with my real family would prefer not to discuss the period during which I was  unknowingly living a lie.
  • Yes, but I am a time traveling version of myself from the future. I am here on a mission, and if you continue to press me for details you could alter history. So stop it.
  • No, that’s my twin. (***Only say this if you don’t really have a twin.)
  • You can see me?! The invisibility spell must have finally worn off!

You get the idea. The person who tried to engage you in conversation will likely have backed away slowly at this point, and you can continue your impossible mission to figure out where they keep the mother effing Q-Tips in the grocery store.

You can also go the parrot route, in which you repeat back everything the person says to you until he and/or she retreats. Highly effective in my personal experience.

Now, you may be tempted to begin bragging and/or exaggerating about your new life in the big city, but don’t do it. If Romy and Michele taught is anything, it was to not do that. Similarly, avoid any / all reunion-esque situations you may be invited to or stumble across. They will never be good. Instead, just enjoy quiet times with your couch, your pets, your forever-full refrigerator, and your insane relatives. God speed this Thanksgiving, amigos. God speed.

We originally ran this piece November 23, 2015.

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