"Emma Gray lives alone on a rural farm in Northumberland with only her animals for company," reads the subhead of an article in the Daily Mail. I came across this particular piece a couple weeks ago and immediately burst out laughing. My name is also Emma Gray, though the article certainly wasn't about me.
The Emma Gray that the Daily Mail profiled is a 26-year-old shepherdess who lives by herself on a farm that she owns in Northumberland, England. She has no centralized gas or electricity, she's a half-hour drive from her closest friend, and she owns 13 dogs and 150 sheep. I, on the other hand, am almost 25, live in a city where the biggest electrical challenge is remembering your iPhone charger, and am within walking distance of pretty much everything (including some of my good friends). I own zero dogs (or farms) and have primarily encountered sheep via petting zoos.
I realize that the vast majority of us share a name with (potentially thousands) of other people in the world; I by no means think I'm unique in this. But how often is your name doppelganger profiled as the world's most eligible shepherdess?
After emailing out the article to a bunch of my co-workers and having a good laugh about the whole thing, I couldn't get her out of my mind. Why is the Daily Mail profiling shepherdesses? Is Emma Gray really "seeking a soulmate"? What would it be like to own your own remote farm and live and work there? Where did she get the blue gown she was wearing in the photos on her book's Facebook page -- surrounded by sheep?
I decided to get in touch with Emma and interview her, one E. Gray to another. She may live a 45-minute drive from the nearest pub, but she does have Internet access and an iPhone, and she recently published book, "One Girl and Her Dogs: Life, Love and Lambing in the Middle of Nowhere." So I called her. Here is a side-by-side comparison of two Emma Grays, one farmer, one editor.
The Phone Call
"Is this Emma?" Emma answered in her Scottish accent -- she grew up in Scotland near the Scottish-English border. She admitted that she had seen my byline on Google before when searching for herself. It was 8pm her time, and she had just gotten off work. While I'd been waking up, getting dressed, answering emails and writing my first article of the day, she had spent hours preparing to treat her lambs for worms. "[My work] isn't a set routine," she told me. "But it's always outside. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's rubbish. Depends what the weather's got in store for you."
I felt compelled to ask her about her supposedly nonexistent dating life since the Daily Mail's most recent piece about her focused on it. "The shepherdess is keen to start dating in the hope of finding Mr. Right," according to the Mail. But the article seems to have exaggerated her desire for a husband. She's in her 20s, and her primary focus at the moment is her career -- "I like working outside and doing an active job. Every part of it appeals to me," she told me. She also said that she does in fact date every so often. Where here in New York we tend to meet people at bars or online, Emma meets them at agricultural fairs where farmers gather to get their sheep shorn.
"My perception of New York is 'Sex and the City,'" she told me. "Single men all over the place. But I'm sure that's not the case." Sadly, I informed her that braving the NYC dating scene in your 20s while working long hours often doesn't yield much better results than you'd have living on a Northumberland farm. Emma told me the last date she had was "moderate" and that she doesn't think there'll be a followup. It sounds like we've both come across a whole lot of mediocrity. Turns out, dating is exhausting no matter where you live.
Here are a few other things my British farming alter ego and I have in common -- and don't:
• We're both enthusiastic readers. Emma is currently finishing up "One Day." She's also had to stop reading crime thrillers because "you start imagining stuff and getting no sleep at all."
• She -- to my dismay -- is not a diehard "Downton Abbey" fan. "I do watch the Simpsons," she said.
• We both love going to the movies or "the cinema," as Emma puts it. "It's just nice to sit down and relax with some popcorn," she said. Amen to that.
• Her life dream is to have 1,000 sheep on her farm. "At the minute I've only got 150. I'm making baby steps toward my goal," she said. (I can't even imagine what 1,000 sheep would look like.)
There's something oddly satisfying about reaching across the Internet to connect with your name twin, someone you'd never in your life interact with otherwise. I may not have found love like Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt, who married in 2009, but I did make a new sheep-loving, border collie-owning friend. And I can assure you that she's a lot more interesting than Little Bo Peep.
LOOK: A Tale Of Two Emma Grays