'I Met My Doppelganger, Our Lives Have Eerie Similarities'

Folklore holds that every person on the planet somewhere has a twin. Some years back I met mine. Yes, another me. Just what the world needs, right? How would I manage this predicament?

His name is Allan Ripp. We met nearly 30 years ago through our respective jobs and hit it off right away. But we largely lost touch with each other until I was laid off from my job in the financial crisis of 2008 and he seriously considered hiring me—only for us once again to go in different directions.

Work brought us back together again about five years ago. And we've since become friends. Hardly a month goes by without an upbeat conversation via Zoom, email or phone. It was thanks only to our current go-round that I discovered our many common denominators.

Or that—as in the Beatles song "I Am The Walrus"— "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

Bob Brody
Bob Brody (pictured) and his friend Allan Ripp say they're doubles. Bob Brody

Our most prominent similarities are physical. Allan is five-foot-eleven, I'm five-ten. He weighs 140 lbs, I 165 lbs. We're each at least half bald. He's age 68, I'm 70. We could both pass as physicians, scientists, lawyers, professors, accountants, Hollywood agents or rabbis (though we are none of the above).

A million men around the globe might fit this description. But our resemblance extends to our professions as well. Allan started his career as a journalist and so did I. He has practiced full-time public relations for 36 years, I for 31. We both still freelance as writers.

But now the probability of having such a duplicate narrows considerably as other coincidences emerge. We both grew up in comfortable Northeastern communities, played pick-up playground basketball since childhood and lived most of our lives in New York City apartments. We both outgrew our boyhood asthma. We are both recovering liberals turned moderately conservative. We're both self-employed and exploring, albeit reluctantly, the concept of semi-retirement (or, the term I prefer, part-time employment).

Once we talk family, though, this whole mirror image business gets strange. Allan and his wife married 41 years ago. My wife and I married 43 years ago. They have a son and a daughter. We have a son and a daughter. We have a grandchild and they're blessed with two.

Even spookier, his daughter married a man born and raised in Italy. Our daughter married a man born and raised Italy. So my double and I both have an Italian son-in-law. With the world populated by more than seven billion people, the odds against this Italian connection must be astronomically high.

Naturally, this eerie serendipity unleashed my imagination. Is one of us a clone of the other? Possibly I've watched the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" once too often.

Allan Ripp
Allan Ripp (pictured) and Bob Brody, who look similar, became friends and discovered the resemblance went beyond physical similarities. Allan Ripp

Still, discovering a facsimile of myself should come as no surprise. Myths and legends throughout history are rife with tales of creatures such as doppelgangers, invisible spirits from beyond the pale who are just like us.

As it turns out, my carbon copy and I have priorities that are all but identical. We regularly rhapsodize about our offspring. We talk shop, advise each other on career moves, swap client referrals and share industry intel. We cheer for each other in our respective bids for literary immortality.

He treats me as if he cares about my success more than his own. He almost never wants to talk with me about anything except me. It's my deepest fantasy come true.

The universe might be sending me a message here – that my double is a model worth emulating. Maybe he is who I could be if only I could do just a little better.

Bob Brody, a consultant and essayist in Italy, is author of the memoir "Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age."

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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