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Originally published Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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They look alike, they dress alike: Mothers and daughters savor their similarities

To generations raised on books such as Nancy Friday's "My Mother / My Self: The Daughter's Search for Identity," the annual mother-daughter look-alike contest in Fort Myers, Fla., may be the stuff of nightmares. But not for everybody. As many as 80 united pairs of estrogen enter every year, hoping to win the grand-prize cruise to the Bahamas or a $100 shopping spree.

The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

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To generations raised on books such as Nancy Friday's "My Mother / My Self: The Daughter's Search for Identity," the annual mother-daughter look-alike contest in Fort Myers, Fla., may be the stuff of nightmares.

But not for everybody.

As many as 80 united pairs of estrogen enter every year, hoping to win the grand-prize cruise to the Bahamas or a $100 shopping spree.

Connie Salamone and Gina Kane entered the contest for the first time in 2006, but didn't place.

They tried again last year. "We decided after the first time to step up our game," says Salamone, 65, of Estero, Fla.

Last May they wore denim shirts, khaki skirts and "silly straw hats," Kane says.

They came back to their homes — three miles from each other — empty-handed again. But as often as people comment, they know they could have been contenders.

"When we're out, people always say we look alike. Of course I'm thrilled. I don't know if she's thrilled about it," Salamone says, laughing.

Well?

"People say we sound alike, too," says Kane, 46. "That's annoying, actually."

Like any teen or young adult, Kane tried to look and be different from her mother for years.

"When I was a teenager, I don't think I realized I looked so much like her," she says.

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"When she was younger and I was younger, everyone thought she was the hottest thing around. Which wasn't too bad, except when my boyfriends tried to hit on her.

"She thought that was funny."

Maybe it's the insight born of becoming a psychotherapist that caused Kane to realize that no matter how hard she tried, there's no fighting mother's nature.

"We still look alike and sound alike and dress alike," she says.

The similarities are often more than superficial.

"We might be sitting somewhere and someone will say something funny, and we both laugh and we laugh alike — we both sound like seals — so then we laugh even louder just hearing each other," Kane says.

Fran Sobon and Lucy Bonsanto-Wilson of Cape Coral, Fla., finished second in the 2006 contest.

"One of the judges told us the only reason we lost was because we didn't have matching shoes on," says Sobon, 62.

"We'll go out shopping and people will say, 'Is that your sister?' I love it. I'll say, 'How much (money) do you need?' "

Of Sobon's two sons and daughter, it's Bonsanto-Wilson, 38, who's most like her.

"I tell you, she's like a mold of her mother. She was always like my shadow," Sobon says. "If I get my hair cut, she does the same."

Sobon and Bonsanto-Wilson mostly shop for clothes together, but if they don't, they buy most things in twos.

Like Salamone and Kane, the similarities go beyond their sense of style.

"I could finish her sentences for her," Bonsanto-Wilson says. "It's funny, when you grow up you think, 'God, I don't want to grow up and be like my mother, and then you do!'

"We gesture the same. The way we walk is the same, the way we speak. We're both very friendly and have outgoing personalities. ...

"It's weird. We even go up and down in our weight the same. When I'm thinner, she's thinner. When I'm fatter, she's fatter. And it's not from dieting or anything, it just happens."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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