Friday, December 21, 2007


Here is a story.

In my early-to-mid twenties, I became aware of another person with the same name as mine. I ordered a new pair of frames, and when I arrived to pick them up, the optometrist handed me the other girl's glasses. I'd call for a haircut appointment, and the receptionist at the salon would say, "Weren't you just here last week? No, wait, that must have been the other one." Once in a shi-shi stationery store, a saleswoman urged me to "sign the guest book"--and when I bent to comply, I saw that the name inked just above mine was, well, mine.

I got pretty paranoid about it. This was in Minnesota, where my family is from and where my parents had returned after a detour to the East that had taken up most of my kidhood. Minneapolis isn't a huge city, but it is funky and offbeat, and I thought of myself as funky and offbeat; and I'd just be there for a brief visit, seeing what there was to see, and not only was there someone running around with my name on, but we appeared to have similar tastes and habits. What if she's not as cool as I am and she's giving me a bad name? I worried. Or worse, what if she's way, way cooler than I am?

What our name is is not important. It could have been, it might have been you, you understand. Don't pretend you were any more secure back then. That's just not what those years were about.

Anyhow, time passed and Google was invented. If you type in our name today you get 5,910 hits. About 150 are for a real estate agent in Seattle, a chemist who works in the same general field as my brother, or a romance novelist. When th'usband and I first met, he dredged up maybe three or four that were about or by me; the other 5,756 or so are all Her. She's a well-known photographer with a show this week in the West Village. She's the type of artist that critics call a Beautiful Young Thing or a Glamour Puss when they're trying to be withering. Mostly they just can't stop talking about her.

I still get mistaken for her every once in awhile, because we are about the same age and both live in Brooklyn and although I'm no longer making art, I still really like the stuff. After I read--in an interview in my favorite magazine ever, naturally--that she suspects her "completely un-feminist" tendency to conflate the beautiful with the broken woman traces to the back brace she wore in junior high and high school, I knew I really wanted to meet her. "I think that that had a lot to do with the outside isn't what the inside looks like," she explained in the interview. "I didn't have the kind of brace you could see, it was under my clothes, but it was hard...." I nodded reflexively as I read. Me, too. That's how the one I wore was, that's the way I am, too.

I'd actually forgotten about the back brace thing when a package intended for her showed up at our apartment this week. It was full of DVDs about the 10th Mountain Division, soldiers who'd fought on skis in the Alps before coming home to found resorts like Aspen and Vail. The documentary makers shared our family name. "This is beyond coincidence," said th'usband, who is a aspiring documentary filmmaker and a World War II freak. He'd just been telling me about the 10th Mountain Division the other day.

I had to do a little bit of digging, but I found her number and gave her a call. The filmmakers were her parents, who live near my inlaws in Colorado. It turns out that she did live in Minneapolis for a little while, and that we live just a couple of neighborhoods away from each other now. "I know you're much cooler than I am," I told her, "but I'm OK with it." She laughed, protesting. Come to think of it, now I'm not even sure that's true--not because she didn't seem incredibly cool or because I'm still an insecure little wanna be, but because she seemed instantly familiar, like someone I've been friends with forever. In any case, we'll find out tomorrow, when we meet at last.


can o' beans said...

Sweeeet. :)

Ryan W. said...

huh. far out. well, I hope you at least look different. have you seen pictures of her before? any chance it's the girl from minnesota? guess you'll find out.

The Huisvrouw said...

that's a roger on the minneapolis part. maybe not every haircut, but she fessed up to the glasses and the stationery store. and she's just as excited as i am to have met my very own alter ego, so it looks like i'm going to get to keep her.

Ryan W. said...

huh. yikes. this is one of those things that isn't quite believable. and yet, I believe.

Jenny Gage said...

my thoughts exactly. I'm eager to see how our date goes.

The Huisvrouw said...

Update: Our paths have continued to criss and cross. We had baby girls within about 7 months of each other and go to the same pediatrician, who is sometimes confused about which one is coming in, and more recently it seems that she is doing some work with a friend of mine. I have written her several emails inviting her to thises and thats, but these might have been intercepted by her husband, who seemed to fear that I was an axe murderer. In any case, I've never seen her again.