Jules and Julian were born seven minutes apart and had the same mother and father, but they were adopted into different families and lived most of their lives thousands of miles from each other. They learned different languages. They wore different clothes and became part of different cultures. Then with the help of their adoptive parents, they finally came together at the age of 33.

I didn’t know what to make of either of them. My husband Julian whom I’d thought I knew so well became a different person. Although his brother Jules looked exactly like him, he was, in so many ways, a different kind of man, the kind of man, I immediately realized, that I wished I’d married.

My best friend Beth was fascinated by the twins. She was even more intrigued, however, by my reaction to having an exact facsimile of my husband visiting us and living under the same roof. “How do you tell them apart?” she asked me.

“They’re entirely different,” I answered. “Julian is as American…” and I hunted for a simile “as apple pie…or better yet, as Silicon Valley.”

“And Jules?”

“Well, he moved to France as a teenager with his adoptive parents. In many ways he’s what you might call continental, European. He uses his hands a lot. He points with his nose instead of a finger. He eats with both hands on the table and with his fork in his left hand. He has this kind of sophisticated haircut. His jeans are real tight. He never wears a tie, just an open-necked dress shirt, even when he’s trying to impress someone. So you see, they are absolutely nothing alike.”

“So you never confuse them?”

“Of course not. I’ve been married to Julian for 10 years. How could I confuse him with a man I just met for the first time?”

“Well, what about just physically, their bodies? Without looking at haircuts and clothes or hearing them talk? Aren’t they the same? After all, they are identical twins.”

“Not identical, no, the same but not the same, if you follow me. Sure, a lot alike. But there are differences that a wife knows. Trust me. A wife always knows. For example, Julian has a scar on this upper arm. It’s not where you’d ordinarily notice it, but it’s big and, to tell the truth, kind of ugly.”

“How’d he get it? Is it a birthmark?”

“No. He was in a car crash when he was a kid.”

“So Jules doesn’t have any scars?”


“How do you know?”

“Simple. I asked him. He actually seemed rather proud that he didn’t have any scars. I think he liked the fact that there was this small physical distinction between him and Jules. It was as if not being exactly the same made him more of a real person. Maybe he needs that degree of separation.”

“I know what you mean,” Beth said. “My sister is only a year younger than I am and our mom insisted on dressing us in the same clothes. I hated it and couldn’t wait until I could start making my own decisions. Of course, we looked nothing alike, and that helped a lot. I can’t imagine how much I would’ve resented Sis if she’d been the spitting image of me.”

We were both silent, reflecting on our ambivalent feelings about siblings. Finally I said, “I have to admit that both Julian and Jules are good-looking men, handsome, sexy men. Any woman would be proud to have one, let alone two such men on her arm walking down a street, or sitting between them at a restaurant table or….” An image of the three of us roughhousing nearly naked in a swimming pool invaded my brain. “How could I not be proud of my two men?”

“So you really don’t notice significant differences?”

I thought carefully before answering. After all, there’s only so much you want to confess, even to your best friend—for that matter, even to yourself. “Well there is one big difference. It’s in their behavior more than their appearance. Like most husbands, I guess, Julian ignores me a lot of the time. He doesn’t seem to really look at me. And when he does, he doesn’t say much of anything. But Jules is always responding to me, to the way I look, the way I dress. ‘I like your hair like that,’ he says. Or, ‘Is that a new blouse?’ Or when I was wearing shorts, ‘You’ve got nice legs.’ If it didn’t make me feel so good, it’d be embarrassing.”

“If you weren’t so happily married, I’d say he was flirting with you. And you like it.”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. But in spite of myself, I was blushing.