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I can remember so vividly being about four or five years old and having a favorite cousin, Shaniqua (Yes, I have a cousin named Shaniqua). Oh, how I loved Shaniqua. I followed her everywhere! Everything that she did, I did. If she laughed a certain way, I laughed that certain way. When she came home from kindergarten learning to read, I was determined to learn how to read, too. I used to be thrilled on holidays like Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day when our grandmother would go out and buy us matching dresses for church. I mean, I wanted to be just like her when I “grew up,” which was ridiculously hilarious and ironic because we were only two years apart. As time progressed, I matured and developed my own identity.

While the whole copycat syndrome is very natural and normal among small children as they begin to develop their own identities, what I find disturbing is how prevalent it is among adults. There is a shockingly large amount of grown women who must have never properly transitioned from the whole copycat phase as children and are still walking around imitating one another to this day. Yes, they do exist and you probably know a few of them personally. You know the ones who you hate to go shopping with because the entire time that you are browsing the store they’re behind you picking up, examining, and purchasing everything you pick up in the store? Yeah, them. They have to get some kind of variation of what you picked up, don’t they? Or, how about the ones who have no shame and will show up to work with the same exact dress or shoes you wore last week?

Having a copycat can be flattering and even somewhat amusing, at first. However, after awhile, it becomes outright annoying. I mean honestly, what normally adjusted woman imitates another woman constantly? There has to be some sort of imbalance there. I used to think that the only real issue with having a copycat was the fact that it was annoying, however, I am beginning to feel a little differently about that. If you can’t even trust her enough to discuss future plans out of fear that she may run out and go do it first, you probably don’t need her around. What is the point in having a “friend” around who is constantly studying and looking to imitate you? After awhile you begin to question why. Is she looking to replace you? Does she want want your life? Something about that situation is plain old wrong and a bit creepy. While there is no way that she can replace you in the eyes of the people in your life because you are one of a kind, she can certainly try, which could potentially cause unnecessary heartache and grief for you if she is ruthless enough. But, then the question arises, how do you handle such a childish situation like an adult? You can’t deal with it as you would in preschool by pushing her and yelling “Stop doing everything that I do!” or you will look just as crazy as she does.

I remember my mom lecturing me about a copycat I once had, whom she’d nicknamed  “Single Black Female.” In the process she said to me, “If someone wants to try to emulate you, you can’t really stop them, but you’d be a fool to sit around and pass them the playbook.”  What she meant by that is you can’t control someone else’s actions, but you can control the access and insight that you grant them into your life. Feed her with a long-handled spoon. In simple terms, put some distance there. If you value this woman as a friend, don’t go starting a fight, just gracefully and gradually back off. If she’s someone new working your last nerve, keep her at an arm’s length or move on entirely. In due time you’ll turn around and she’ll be off imitating someone else.

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