My doppelganger has followed me for almost twenty years, through sickness and health, good and bad hair, and pregnancy pounds. For the past two decades, an acquaintance (and just as often a stranger) has remarked on my resemblance to an actress named Sarah Paulson.

It’s gotten so I know what they’re going to ask almost before they do:

“Hey, does anyone ever tell you . . .?” or “Wow, this might sound weird, but you look just like . . .?” or even sometimes “Um, I’m sorry to bother you but are you . . . ?”

It started in 1998 when I was pregnant with my first child and living in Maine. Our real estate agent, a salty woman in her sixties, urged me to watch Jack and Jill, a television sitcom.

“Oh ma GAWD, theyah’s an actress who looks wicked like ya!” she said fervently. “I turned on the television, and I said, ‘Theyah’s Helen Townes, on TV!’”

I took a look, and yes, I saw the resemblance—curly blond hair, brown eyes, a certain expression—and then forgot all about it. . . . until a few weeks later, when my husband was speaking at a conference in Chicago, miles away from Maine and our real estate agent. We joined friends and their adorable baby for dinner at our hotel, whom I thought must be responsible for the overt goggling and whispering and neck-craning from the group at the next table. We made an early exit (pregnancy fatigue).

“You’ll never guess what happened after you left last night,” laughed my friend the next morning. “That table next to us? They all came over and said ‘Was that an actress you were sitting with? That actress that’s on that TV show on the WB channel? Jill, from Jack and Jill?’”

And so it began, the years passed, and Sarah Paulson became better known (although not quite super famous). My mother-in-law sent me a page torn from the TV Guide with a photo of Sarah Paulson, which I magneted to the refrigerator as a joke. We had some carpet installed, the guy finished up, hemmed and hawed a little bit, and then said tentatively, “So . . . is that you in that picture on your fridge? Are you that actress?”

Someone followed my newborn and me around at the grocery until finally asking, “Excuse me, I saw you and just had to say: such a cute baby! Are you taking a break from Jack and Jill?”

(And why would Sarah Paulson be in a Maine grocery? With a muffin-top and a baby? Your guess is as good as mine.)

Even after we moved from one coast to the other, shopping at a vintage clothing store in Portland, Oregon, the tattooed, nose-be-ringed clerk said “Wow, have you watched American Horror Story? There’s this actress, you look JUST LIKE HER.” A text from a friend: “So weird. Looking at People at my salon—did you know your twin is this actress named Sarah Paulson?” 


Last week a parent at the school where I work remarked, “You look just like Marcia Clark!” (Whaa? Oh, yeah, Sarah Paulson is in that mini-series about O.J. Simpson!)

And although I may never meet her, I feel a kinship with Sarah. I follow her in entertainment news, and was sad when she and Cherry Jones, another actress, broke up. I’m happy she’s found a new love. And I’m quite proud of her acting chops, even if I’ve mostly only read about them. She was Jill, and now she’s Marcia Clark; I was a new wife and mother, and now I’m a wife (still), a relatively seasoned parent of three, and working at a job I love.

Naturally, I’m dreaming of the day when Sarah Paulson’s agent will discover me. I could do those boring scenes where she doesn’t have to talk! I could stand in for her when she has a cold!

And, you know, when my bestselling novel comes out someday, people might start asking Sarah Paulson, “Do you know that you look just like that famous author, Helen Townes?”

Helen Townes

Helen Townes is a mother of three, wife of a busy doctor, and director of communications at a French immersion school in Portland, Oregon. She holds a master's in journalism and communications from the University of Oregon, and has been a freelance writer and editor for many years. In her spare time (!!??), Helen loves to read (Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, John Irving, and David Sedaris, among others), run really fast (a 10:30 minute-mile, that is), and watch Portland's MLS soccer team, the Timbers.