My sister will be visiting this week. Although we are very close, we only get to see each other about twice a year, so I am very, very excited.
Rachel and I are identical twins. When I moved to Los Angeles nearly twenty years ago, Rachel had lived here for six years and thus already had a wide array of friends and acquaintances. And almost as soon as I arrived, they started mistaking me for her.
As I walked to shul on Shabbos morning, people on the opposite side of Pico Boulevard called out, “Rachel!” and waved. I resorted to waving back and shouting, “Not Rachel!”
People looked at me strangely at the bank, in the grocery store. A couple times, Rachel got indignant voicemails from friends. “Why did you ignore me at Pizza Station last Saturday night?”
“It wasn’t me,” she explained. “You saw my twin sister.” Occasionally, they demanded photographic evidence.
My sister attended the UJ (now part of AJU) and affiliates Conservative, so when I started dressing more modestly and then married and covered my hair, these moments of mistaken identity became yet funnier. People who attended synagogue with my sister saw me in the line at Schwartz Bakery and did double-takes when they spotted my beret and long sleeves in July. A former professor of my sister’s lives in our neighborhood, and when he stumbled across me walking on Shabbos, I could see the concern on his face plain as day: Is Rachel frumming out!?!
Eventually, nearly all of Rachel’s friends and acquaintances learned of my existence. Instead of generating confusion, I found myself swept up suddenly by strangers in local grocery stores, libraries, and synagogues. “You must be Rachel’s sister!” they gushed. And after she moved away, I began to be plied for the latest “Rachel news” in Westside Pavilion, the Beverly Hills Library, and the aisles of Walgreens.
Now that I’ve lived here longer than she did, Rachel gets mistaken for me around L.A. more than I get mistaken for her.
When I was seven months pregnant with my fourth kid, and she was five months pregnant with her first, we went together to Kaiser for my ultrasound appointment. When the technician collected us from the waiting room, she asked, “Which one of you is the patient?”
Another time, a friend of mine bumped into Rachel in Glatt Market. She knew exactly who Rachel was, so she marched over to introduce herself and be friendly. “Jessica says, ‘Hi,’” Rachel said when she walked into my apartment. “I bumped into her in Glatt Market.”
“Which Jessica?” I replied, and began to list all the Jessicas I know in Pico-Robertson.
Rachel shrugged. “She’s expecting.”
Two of “my” Jessicas were expecting, and to this day, I’m not sure which one she was referring to.
And then a couple years back, Rachel almost caused a car accident when one of the neighbors saw her crossing the street with my children. Her pants and lack of any haircovering freaked them out so much, they nearly ran the red light at Pico and Glenville. I wish I’d photographed the look of relief on their face when they spotted me a moment later.
As amusing as it was, I’m hoping Rachel never crosses paths with my kids’ teachers. An explanation might require photographic evidence.