Being born an identical twin is a unique and at times exasperating experience. Twinhood means that you are constantly on display: to be pointed at, smiled at and asked a barrage of questions from those who normally would just offer a simple good morning. One lives daily with the “Who’s older? Which one of you is smarter? Your face is rounder, she’s taller, you do this better or she does that better. As if you weren’t already well aware of your differences. Out of all the constant questions the hardest question for me to answer was always, “What’s it like being a twin?”
I have been asked this question hundreds of times and I have always struggled with how to answer it. Sometimes I will ask what it is like not to be a twin, but I just use that as a way to dodge the question. “What is it really like being a twin?”
Growing up being a twin means you are never alone. I never had the stress of walking into a birthday party alone or having a sleepover without the comfort of her being there. I never was lectured by my parents alone or was punished and grounded without a compatriot to spend the slow time together with. It went so far that I was even grounded when she did something wrong if I didn’t tell on her; consequently all of our groundings were together. My parents made some efforts to break us up by requesting different teachers in elementary school, but at recess we were always together and certainly after school. When we were able to choose our own classes they were always with one another.
As time passed and we went off to college we went to the same school, shared a room and had all of our classes together which meant we spent are days and evenings helping one another study. I had a realization my freshmen year that I needed to find “me” and lose the “we”. To do this I knew I needed to leave my sisters side. I tried to put as much space as possible between us, so I went away to school in Vienna, Austria. At first the separation was very lonely. Who was “I” if I wasn’t a twin? I wondered what my new found friends thought of me now that I wasn’t a packaged unit. I was stunned to realize that these new friends liked me. They didn’t know my sister and they still liked me. It was completely freeing and gave me the courage to find my own way in life, to declare my own major at school, to travel the world without her and most importantly to make my own future with her being a smaller part of it. We are still inseparable when brought together and completely at ease with one another, but we are not the same person and I can now separate me from her.
On that October day many years ago my parents were shocked that they had just given birth to twins and the doctor tried to explain the occurrence by telling them that our hearts were beating in unison and there was no way for him to determine that my mother would give birth to twins. So, I’ve come to realize that this is the answer to that most dreaded of questions: What’s it like to be a twin? I believe it is two hearts beating as one.
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