“But it’s very natural to us,” says his identical twin, Ed, halfway through his Jimmy John’s country club sandwich.
The brothers lean back on opposite ends of the couch, each with an arm draped on an armrest.
From the age of 19, when they mowed lawns at the same golf course in their native Paxton, the 31-year-olds have led identical careers. Not just one job in a narrow field — like tennis’s Bryan twins or NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly — but a smorgasbord of them.
They were 10 when their parents gave them separate bedrooms, and they took lots of different high school classes, but they played on the same soccer, basketball, and track teams, as well as in the same concert band, pit orchestra, and jazz combo. They did homework together every night at the kitchen table. Both majored in English at Boston College. Both spent their junior year at Oxford, where they both enjoyed taking photos of gargoyles and architecture. Both wrote their senior theses on Victorian and Romantic poets and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2007.
“Some of it’s by design,” says Ed, sporting frameless rectangular specs that look a lot like Rich’s. “Part of it’s happenstance.”
While they earned their master’s in teaching at Fordham together, the brothers were placed by chance in the same high school in the Bronx, where they both taught ninth- and 10th-grade English. They both volunteered on the same US Senate campaign in 2009, and both earned a master’s in public affairs in a joint program with Columbia at the London School of Economics, where they took more photos of gargoyles.
“Part of it’s the benefit of not having to look for a roommate,” says Rich, wearing the same black track pants as Ed. But Rich is wearing a red Cambridge T-shirt and running shoes, Ed a gray Beanpot T-shirt and white socks. They’ve come down from the North End apartment they share to meet me in the posh billiards lounge of their building not far from TD Garden.
After stints as research fellows at an education policy think tank in Seattle, they hopped in 2014 to a Web analytics company, where they both consulted for Google. In March 2015, they started at State Street. Each time they were hired and began work within days of each other. But coordinating careers isn't easy.
Ed: “It takes a lot of patience.”
Rich: “And a lot of failure along the way.”
For each step, says Ed, they have “a plan B, and then a plan C, and maybe a plan D.”
Several times now, a recruiter has stopped midway through a phone interview and, thinking she had talked to Rich earlier in the day when it was in fact Ed, asked, “Am I going crazy?”
So how? I ask. How have you been hired for the same hard-to-get job at the same time every time?
For one, they narrow their search to large companies, where there’s a higher likelihood of multiple openings. Rich says they also take “pretty extreme measures” to differentiate their resumes. Rich’s features navy blue banners, with his employment years on the right. Ed’s is black and white, with years on the left.
“The greatest benefit by far” of being a twin, says Ed, is “you’re always bouncing ideas off each other.” They prep each other for interviews and constantly Ping-Pong thoughts on how to develop what they call a “future-proof” range of skills. Through constant discussion, “your ideas become very nuanced.” So much so, says Ed, it often feels “like shoving a double brain into your head.”
“So we’re also probably talking a lot more than the average person in the day,” says Ed.
Rich admits that talking to the two of them can be “overpowering.” They often deliberately split up at social gatherings. “Otherwise," he says, "you might be stuck talking with us the entire night.” Still, Ed says that if one of them follows a certain line of questioning with someone, when the other talks to that person later, he will ask the same questions in the same order 95 percent of the time.
Throughout our conversation, they finish each other’s sentences half a dozen times, once even as they rebut the assertion that they finish each other’s sentences:
Ed: People assume you have the same upbringing . . .
Rich: The same exact ideas, the same train of thought . . .
Ed: That you’re of one mind.
Almost everything one says to me over a couple of hours directly extends from where the other ends. Even with your closest friends, it’s rare your conversational partner will have such “hypersensitivity,” as Ed calls it, to your thoughts; there are bound to be tangents. But Ed and Rich’s words combine into cogent paragraphs.
Even in a brief meeting, though, it’s easy to see their differences. Ed is lefthanded, taller, laughs more readily at his own and other’s jokes — an infectious ha-ha-ha — and makes more pop-culture references (e.g., “We’re not storm troopers; there is a brain inside”). Rich is righthanded and prefaces his statements more frequently (“I don’t want to say we tag-team, but . . . ”). Both sport haircuts parted to the left, but Rich keeps his do slightly more tousled. Ed played trumpet, Rich clarinet. Ed played midfield in high school soccer and ran the 400 and 800; Rich was a defender, ran the 1500, and threw javelin. And even though their parents (their mother teaches at a community college, their father’s a lawyer) still can’t tell them apart on the phone, I swear Ed’s voice is 4 percent gruffer, as if he’s had one more bourbon in his life than his brother.
Being a twin can have its own challenges. Rich says that for as much as society has progressed on diversity, it's increasingly difficult “getting people to see the uniqueness” between them. “You’re always trying to provide concrete, clear evidence that no, I’m not just jumping on the [brother] bandwagon,” says Rich.
So why remain in lock step into your 30s?
“Part of it’s human nature,” says Ed. Many twin studies confirm the power of genes. Take Jim Springer and Jim Lewis, identical twins adopted by separate families in Ohio weeks after they were born. When they finally met each other 39 years later, they learned they both chain-smoked Salems, worked as deputy sheriffs, and had each divorced women named Linda and were married to women named Betty.
It’s also abundantly obvious how much Rich and Ed enjoy each other’s company. They wake up at the same time and share busy night lives that are as varied their careers — seeing comedian Joe Rogan one night and political philosopher Michael Sandel the next, pottery class and online courses on supply-chain logistics, the Harlem Globetrotters at the Garden and David McCullough at the Athenaeum.
Though they both work for State Street, they have separate roles, in separate buildings. Ed works as a fund administrator in the alternative investment solutions department on Summer Street. Rich works in structured trust and analytics at the company’s Channel Center office in the Seaport, one mile away.
“We get to be in our own little worlds and develop our own circles,” says Ed.
“Most of my colleagues now have never met Ed,” says Rich. “They don’t even know I have a twin.”
Both admit they’d like to branch out a bit in their careers and social lives. “But I think we’ll always be interested in and driven by similar things,” says Ed.
Further out on the horizon, they’ve talked about starting a business together. Both eventually want to settle in the suburbs and have their own gardens.
In the same town?
“Most likely,” says Ed.
On the same street?
They laugh. “That’s a definite possibility,” Rich says.Zachary Jason is a writer in Brookline. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.