I know the title of this blog might imply that I have a twin brother but I don’t…or do I? That’s kind of the joke/story behind this post.
When I was born, I was the youngest of 2 boys. My older brother was born 3 years before me and I was enough of a handful at an early enough age that my parents decided that I would be the last. Take that as you will but this meant that I grew up with only 1 sibling, my older brother.
Being that my brother and I were three years apart in age meant that we were close enough in age to play together and do some things together but at the same time there was enough years between us that we had our own friend groups and social circles. We were close enough in age that we shared teachers in school but not so close that we shared classes. We knew some of the same people because of our proximity to one another. I knew students that were older than my brother but he knew students that were younger than me.
We were distinctly different people with me being part jock and part nerd while he was the opposite of me, despite being infinitely smarter than me. I loved sports and school where he loved cars and rebelling against authority. I played sports and he partied. I spent my Friday nights at football games and he spent his drag racing, sometimes at a track and other times on the roads. We were very different in terms of activities, personalities, and engagement with others.
But having different passions isn’t what this article is about. This is about his not being twins but being twins-like apparently.
Physically, we thought we were different too. My brother was about two inches shorter than me and about ten to twenty pounds lighter. We both spent time working out growing up but neither of us were “swole”. When I graduated I tipped the scales at roughly 155 pounds and that was more than my brother weighed at his graduation. I had shaggy, straight brown hair with no facial hair. My brother had thick, short, wavy black hair with what I described for a long time as a 70s “porn ‘stache” that accessorized his upper lip. We both had very blue eyes but he had several freckles on his face while I had larger lips and bigger ears. Standing next to each other, we could spot many dramatic differences between our appearances.
While we were both in school, we never really had any issues other than pranking people over the phone who thought we sounded alike. We would each take turns planking friends and family members by making them think they were talking to the other one, or sometimes our dad, There were even times we managed to fool our own parents. But not long after my brother graduated and I started growing into my more mature form, we started noticing a growing trend where people often confused us for the other.
While it was rare that he was confused for me, it was becoming somewhat common that I would be confused for him. It might seem simple to explain that strangers familiar with him or our family might pick up on certain similarities and alllow them to think I’m him but the instances of the mix ups that stood out to us was when it was done by people who knew us. There were times that people who graduated with my brother would walk up to me and start talking to me like I was him for several minutes before realizing their mistake. How could someone who spent several days each week sitting in a classroom with him at our tiny school for years look at me and think I was him.
I had identical twins in my class and I could tell them apart but people who were friends with my older brother for years had trouble telling us apart?
After a while, it just became normal. We would laugh it off when it would happen. It almost became normal for me to just begin conversations with, “I’m Gary” or “Nope, I’m the younger one” just to save people the embarrassment. But it didn’t always happen. There were others like Matt Jenkins and Jason Bottoms who knew both of us and could tell us apart. I’m not sure if they looked at me and thought about my brother but recognized the differences enough to realize that I wasn’t him which meant that I had to be me instead but when I ran into those people around town they always called me by the right name at least.
But even now that we are both much older we continue to experience similar mix ups. My brother works for the post office and is always out in the community while I stay comfortably sitting in my office at my keyboard. His job means that he is always out meeting new people and interacting with the public but usually in a uniform with a hat and glasses on. He talked about running into people he interacts with through his job in random places who he recognizes but they can’t place him until he says something along the lines of, “I’m your mailman.”
This causes me some issues because on the occasions that I do leave my house, people see me and for whatever reason mistake me for him. Most recently, I attended a funeral for someone and as I paid my respects to the deceased, I thanked the preacher for his kind words and reached out to shake his hand. He grasped my hand and shook it while we exchanged glances. I was ready to walk away but he kept staring at me with a perplexed look on his fact. It took me a minute but I recognized that look.
I looked at him and smiled, waiting for the inevitable. After several seconds he finally asked, “are you Toby?” All I could do was chuckle at the oh so common question. “Nope, I’m Gary, the younger one,” was my reply. As usual, the conversation abruptly ended at the realization that I was not who they thought I was. He released the grip on my hand and I was free to carry on. I don’t know who he was other than the preacher presiding over the funeral nor do I know how he knows my brother. I’ve learned not to ask and just to move on as some of the conversations turn awkward when they realize they’ve made a mistake. Perhaps they think I’ll be upset by their error, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it has become something of a running joke among our family.
Oddly, our wives often have the same problem. No, they aren’t mistaken for me but they are often mistaken for each other. At least in their case, they are both short blondes with many similar characteristics when not viewed face on. Even their names share some similarities.
But what does this mean for my writing? Well, to say these cases of mistaken identity hasn’t influenced some of my storylines would be a lie. I won’t go into any spoilers here that might ruin any current or future books but for those sharpe-eyed readers, I’m sure you will find places where those experiences from my real life have invaded my writing. So no, I do not have a twin but I often get mistaken for my older brother, even now in my 40s.
It was never my intent for these influences to be in my writing but looking back at many of my stories, I can see where those interactions have made appearances in some form. Even if you choose to follow the mantra or “write what you know” or not, sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to have your own experiences and beliefs invade your writing. Some might be deliberate but then maybe there will be cases like this one where the similarities are only realized after the story is written.