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, principal of Ripp Media/Public Relations, founded in 1986.
We met nearly 30 years ago through our respective jobs – I was at Rubenstein Associates and he was building his practice and handling the Zagat Survey -- and hit it off right away. But we largely lost touch with each other until about I was laid off from my job at Ogilvy in the financial crisis of 2008 and he seriously considered hiring me -- only for us once again to go in different directions.
But 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."
Our most prominent similarities are physical. Allan is five-foot-eleven, I’m five-ten. He weighs 140, I 165. 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).
|Bob Brody (L) and Allan Ripp
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, logging early stints at People and Time magazines, and so did I, at a weekly community newspaper and a monthly pharmacy trade magazine. He has maintained a boutique press relations shop for 36 years, while I've practiced PR for 31, both of us specializing in media relations and editorial strategy. We both still freelance as writers, contributing regularly to the Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
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).
But once we talk family, this whole mirror image business gets strange. Allan and his wife married 41 years ago. My wife and I married 44 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 three.
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.
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 about public relations and writing, 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.
Allan 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 is a public relations consultant, a veteran of Weber Shandwick and Ogilvy, and an essayist who contributes to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post. He is the author of the memoir “Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.” This piece was adapted from a recent "My Turn" column in Newsweek.