By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
Which one do you like? Craig Sanders asked his twin brother, Mark, on the plane home. They'd been to the Twin Days festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, and had just had lunch with a pair of 28-year-old legal secretaries from St. Louis.
I couldn't tell them apart, Mark said. But he thought the girl who sat across from him was the same girl who sat next to him in the car -- and he liked her.
"That's Darlene," Craig said. "Good." Because he liked Diane. He thought she was cuter.
"They look exactly the same," Mark said.
Of course, lots of people think that about Mark and Craig. They have the same sloping Nathan Lane eyebrows, the same wide nose, the same mouth, the same everything.
Well, almost: Craig has a lisp; Mark is a bit thinner. Craig's right-handed, Mark's a lefty. Craig's the leader, Mark's the follower; people call Mark Craig's shadow.
"Do you know which one you're talking to?" Craig asks, sitting in their living room. He thinks they're identical twins and constantly, considerately asks people whether they can tell them apart.
"Of course she knows," Mark says. "We don't look that much alike." He sounds irritated. Mark thinks they don't look much alike, and in his gut he thinks they're fraternal twins. They took a DNA test at Twin Days but haven't gotten the results.
Not that it matters, they say. "We don't look that much alike," Mark says again.
Their mom doesn't think they look any more alike than their five other brothers and sisters, and she didn't go out of her way to emphasize their twin-ness. She dressed Craig in blue and Mark in yellow so people could always tell them apart. "It's just like having a brother that's the same age," Mark says. Only he doesn't have nearly as much in common or spend nearly as much time with his other brothers.
Mark and Craig grew up in the Bronx playing stickball and sewer ball together or holing up in their rooms reading the same books, sometimes aloud. They were shorter than most of the people in their class because they skipped second grade. But no one really messed with them because, explains Mark, "there's safety in numbers."
"I got mugged in the bathroom in eighth grade," Craig says. "You weren't anywhere around."
They went to UCLA together, roomed together, worked together in the athletic department and then got internships together in Houston. They had one car and a one-bedroom apartment. In 1987 Craig got a job doing marketing for the Astros, and Mark started working in Rice University's sports PR department. They both worked long, late hours, going to night games and then going home.
A lot of times Craig wanted to go out and Mark wanted to stay in. Craig wanted to be with Mark, so he stayed in, too. They were like a happily married couple: best friends who lived together, who liked the same things, who thought the same way. But of course they weren't married; they were brothers, not lovers. And that, in a way, was the problem. Regular romantic relationships are hard enough. But if Craig and Mark were already a kind of couple, a girlfriend automatically became part of a triangle. Neither twin ever liked -- or even really knew -- the women his brother dated.
"I've kept secrets from Mark before," Craig admits.
"You have?" Mark asks. "Like what?"
"Relationships and feelings," Craig says. Mainly they just talked sports.
Five years after they graduated, Craig decided that Mark wasn't helping him grow socially. So in 1991 Craig struck out on his own, took a job with the Mets and moved to New York.
The twins handled the separation better than they'd expected; but still they talked on the phone every day. Mark found a new roommate: half of another pair of twins. When that roommate moved out, his twin moved in.
Four and a half years later, Craig got laid off during the baseball strike. He was sick of New York and wanted to move back to Houston, so he talked Mark into starting their own company. Twin Spin Design began building Web pages in 1996; the Astros are its biggest client.
Together again, Craig and Mark are as close as when they were kids, spending practically all of their time together. They share a home/office in West U. They have a dog named Shadow, after Mark's nickname. At the pound, they'd had a hard time deciding which animal to choose. But then they saw the sign saying that this particular Australian shepherd was found on Twin Oaks Lane.
Still, their dating life wasn't all that happening. Though Craig insists that, relatively speaking, his was better: "I've always dated more than Mark."
Sitting curled up with Shadow, Mark smirks. Craig's living in Never-Never Land.
"Mark, you know I have," Craig says. "You weren't there when I was in New York. You have to admit it."
"Okay," Mark says, grinning. Whatever Craig says.
They always thought that it would be cool to date another pair of twins, but they'd never managed to find an appropriate pair. In part, that's why they decided to go to the Twin Days festival last August. Twin Days, in case you've somehow missed it, is that big gathering that's in newspapers every year, the one where the genetically identical congregate in matching outfits and celebrate sameness.
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