Except She Totally Isn’t
Since it’s been happening for over forty years, you’d think I’d be used to it now, or at least I’d be able to figure out the why it’s happening. But no.
When I was four it made some sense for people to mistake Sheryl and me for sisters, twins, or each other. We were both chubby-cheeked, strawberry blond little girls with pig tails. We played together a lot, which meant we naturally ended up acting and talking a bit like each other.
But then our baby fat melted away. My hair lost any trace of strawberry and settled into plain old dishwater blond (Sheryl kept her strawberry). People still thought we looked alike. Maybe it was the pigtails. We still wore those. At least, we did in elementary school.
The worst case of identity mix-up was around that time. I was in second grade when I started taking dance lessons at a new place. The studio picked you up for class in a van and dropped you off afterward. Now that I’m a mom, I can guess that pick-up service was likely the primary factor in choosing the studio.
I went to my first dance class the day before, and now my sister had hers. The van pulled up just as Sheryl crossed my lawn to come play. The driver assumed she had to be my sister. After all, she looked like me.
When he tried dragging her to the van, saying, “Come on. You don’t want to be late for class,” poor Sheryl thought she was being abducted.
The look-alike thing continued all through high school. When people saw our prom picture, they’d say, “How neat! Twins taking twins to prom!” Not quite. Twins taking a pair of childhood besties to prom.
On Sheryl’s birthday our senior year, I passed out dozens of suckers to the student body with instructions to give them to Sheryl when they saw her and wish her a happy birthday. If they didn’t know who she was, I’d say, “She looks like me,” and immediately I’d get, “Oh, yeah. I know who she is.”
By the time we went to college, we were adults with different hairstyles, fashion tastes, heights, shoe sizes, and majors. But I still got high school alumni yelling across the university quad, “Hey, Sheryl! How ya doin?” I’d wave back and make a mental note to tell Sheryl that so-and-so says hi.
Years after college graduation, marriage, and into motherhood, Sheryl and I have lived several states apart and saw each other maybe once a year. We moved to a new city. I walked my kids to school and saw a woman who had grown up a street away from me. Our sisters and mothers were both great friends.
Her face lit up and she said, “You’re a Stringham!”
I laughed and shrugged. “Close. Two doors down.”
We keep finding new variations of the old theme, like my sister, who has always insisted she could never see the resemblance. Then one week at church, she reached down into her bag for something and saw a woman across the room — upside down from her vantage point.
Wow, she thought, She looks like Annette. When she righted herself, she realized that the woman was — you guessed it — Sheryl, who was visiting for the day.
Then there was the time Sheryl’s son saw my picture in the back of one of my books and declared, “Mom, she looks like you.”
One of the more unexpected variations happened one spring when a writer friend came to speak to my neighborhood book club after we read his book. His wife, Jen, came along.
I’d known Jen for years, and never once have we ever gotten asked what we were that night: “Are you two sisters?”
We looked at each other and with a laugh, shook our heads.
I took another look at her and thought, “Wow. I never noticed that Jen looks a lot like Sheryl.”
Which means . . . Oh.
Sheryl and I used to joke that some day we’d end up in the same nursing home as old ladies and be able to play tricks on the nurses.
Ha. Like we’d still look alike when we’re that old. What are the chances of that?
Then again, with forty-one years down so far, the chances are looking better all the time. We might as well start planning how to switch places and confuse the nursing home staff. Now that would be fun.
So long as they don’t mix up our medications or give me her enema.