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Connections | Magazine

I look just like my husband’s ex-wife

We could be sisters, and we’ve had the same taste in partners. But I’m over it.

MARIE MAINGUY for the boston globe

My husband, Randy, has a type. I know because his first wife and I look like sisters. Brown eyes. Brown curly hair. Five feet eight and skinny. We’re the fraternal twins of wives.

Randy and I were fixed up by friends in California. He lived in New York. I lived in Chicago. We exchanged photos. The first time we met was when I picked him up at O’Hare Airport. Now I know why I was easy to recognize.

I was already in love with him when I saw a picture of the first Mrs. Randy. I was meeting his parents for the first time, and Randy’s mom was pointing out photographs on the living room wall. Randy in Cub Scouts. Randy in high school. Randy with a wife and two children. She didn’t comment on that one. We both took a quiet step to the left and continued the tour. But my mind rushed into hyper drive. Was he dating me because he wasn’t over her?

“I’m over! I’m over!” he later insisted. “This is one big crazy coincidence.”


When Randy was first introducing me to his friends, they didn’t say things like “Nice to meet you” or “What a pleasure.” They were too busy saying, “Oh, my goodness.” And “Wow — for a moment there . . .”

My friend Jim said: “Big deal. Guys have types. Mine’s long, leggy, beautiful blondes.”

“That’s not a type,” I said. “That’s a cliche.”

I pulled up First Wife Ellen’s photo on the website of the real estate firm where she works.

“Whoa — creepy,” Jim said.

I’m six months older than Ellen, so I couldn’t even enjoy the satisfaction of being the younger version of us. Randy claimed that he saw the differences, not the similarities.

It became the elephant in the room. The observation nobody voiced aloud. Except for me. “Why do we even need a wedding photographer? We can just reuse your first set of photos.”


Ellen was a dance major in college. I was the klutz who sat on the sidelines. I would eagerly have dodged my wedding dance with Randy if hiding in the bathroom had been an option. I swear I could hear all his relatives whispering, “He gave up that Ginger Rogers for this?”

Ellen has great legs. She can cook. Her chocolate chip banana loaf is sublime. I could marry her myself.

Saturday afternoons we’d watch her-son my-stepson Jeremy play soccer. Ellen was the snack mom. I was never asked to be step-snack mom. We’d sit at the games flanking Randy on the bleachers like a matched set. What other dad could boast that? She’s remarried — to a lovely man who doesn’t look at all like Randy.

In an alternate universe, we’d be good friends. Maybe even as close as the sisters we look like. We both enjoy bargain hunting, exploring big cities, and striking up conversations with strangers in elevators. At times we’ve had the same taste in husbands.

One day I finally asked Charlotte, the other stepfruit-of-my-loins,what she thought of the Doublemint Moms. “It’s odd,” she said. “But I like it. We look like a family.”

I stopped. And smiled. My heart felt as though it had been given a hug.

Over the years I couldn’t help but wonder how my Linda Jrs. would have come out. By the time I met Randy, that train had left the station. But thanks to my doppelganger predecessor, I can look at my stepkids and know what those little Randy-Lindas would have looked like.


In March, on Jeremy’s birthday, Ellen and I sat next to each other at an extended-family dinner. She complimented my eyeglasses.

“Want to try them on?” I said. “If they look good on me  . . .”

“ . . .  they’ll look good on me,” she finished. “We’re the same type.”

We shared a laugh. A nod of acknowledgment. The elephant in the room pulled up a chair and sat down.

Yes, we look alike.

What a coincidence.

Linda Yellin is a New York-based novelist. Send comments to

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