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Except that they're not. Just as their tennis games are markedly different, so too are their personalities. Macpherson, their coach, was on the job barely a week when he realized that he would need to treat Mike and Bob not only as a team but also as individuals. "They act differently," Macpherson says, "and they react differently."
Here's Bob on Mike: "He's more the math guy, the organized guy. He watches what he eats. He's gluten-free. He's the fitness trainer, traveling with these health bars and inversion machines. He'll spend 15 grand on this accelerated recovery program, this box with electrodes that helps you stretch or whatever. I'd spend that money on keyboards or a camcorder. He's more sensitive too. If I rip him on the court, his level of play will drop. With me it's the opposite."
Mike on Bob: "He's more creative. With our band, he does more of the songwriting, making the demos, setting up the equipment. He's developing a tennis app for the iPhone. We have one Twitter account, but he does it all. He's the hothead. I squirted him with a water bottle a few weeks ago. He snapped and threw his new iPhone at me. He missed, of course. It shattered in a million pieces. Then he goes over and finds the SIM card and figures out how to restore his contacts. That's Bob in a nutshell."
Yet asked if they ever feel an urge to dial back on the public twindom, they flash each other looks of confusion. How so?
You know, stress your differences a bit more, do things that say, "I'm a twin, but I'm also me."
Still, two blank looks. Finally Bob offers, "Maybe that's more something fraternal twins would think about doing."
Handsome, smart and personable as they are, the Bryans naturally have long track records of dating. Nevertheless, at a time when their friends, such as Fish and Andy Roddick, are "falling one by one" (the Bryans' words), Mike and Bob are unmarried. For many of their girlfriends, the "twin thing" has been insurmountable. As one former girlfriend put it, "It's hard to be in a relationship with someone when, no matter what happens, you know that you're not going to be the most important person in his life."
Chastened by history, the Bryans began putting their cards on the table at the beginning of relationships, giving new girlfriends a "here's the deal" talk. Bob's went something like this: "The travel can beat up this relationship. There will be times we'll see each other only on Skype. And there's the whole twin deal. I doubt it's like anything you've experienced, and it can be pretty intense. Just want you to know what you're getting into."
Since then each of the twins has found an intrepid soul willing to accept the challenge. Mike has been dating Lucille Williams, an event planner from Wales, for more than two years. And since early 2009 Bob has been seeing Michelle Alvarez, a Miami lawyer who once took tennis lessons from Kathy Bryan, the twins' mother. When the two couples are together at the twins' house in Camarillo, an hour north of Los Angeles, they can seem like participants in a reality show. Identical twins, two girlfriends, one kitchen. "In a perfect world, the girls are best friends," says Bob. "But we know that's not realistic and not fair to them."
Careful to stress that this is not a Yoko-breaking-up-the-Beatles situation but rather a natural progression, the Bryans are making plans to live apart for the first time in their lives. They'll keep the Camarillo house as a compound and buy comparably sized, comparably priced houses within a few miles of each other. Still, for brothers who slept on each other's floors when they were assigned different roommates at Stanford and haven't spent more than a few nights apart since birth, it will be a significant change. "It will be weird," says Mike. "But we'll deal with it, you know?" Then he jokingly suggests installing a zip line between the houses.