“Oh my God, are you guys twins?”
“What’s it like?
“Do you have twin telepathy?”
“When one of you gets hurt, can the other one feel it?”
To answer your questions, yes, we are twins. No, we don’t have twin telepathy. No, we can’t feel each other’s pain, and well, I don’t know, what’s it like not being a twin?
My sister Sarah and I were born five minutes apart and are identical twins. For the most part, it is an enjoyable lifestyle, not that I would know otherwise, but it can sometimes be rather exhausting. As a kid, I loved the attention. People would come up and practically interview us as if we were celebrities, bombarding us with questions about what it’s like being a twin. I’ve been given money, candy (twins are sacred in some cultures apparently), and even had my picture taken with. However, as I grew up, I started to get tired of all the whispers, stares, and questions. What was so amusing about looking similar to someone else?
I started to lose my sense of individuality once I got to high school. People never really got to know me as an individual, aside from close friends.
No one seemed to be able to overlook the fact that I was an identical twin, and being referred to as “just one of the twins” became far too common for my liking. Everyone tries to find their place in high school, or tries to set a reputation for themselves, and just like every other ninth grader, I was trying to do the same. I just felt that having a twin became more of a burden for me rather than a way of being different.
A common misconception about twins is that they share the same personality and interests. This is highly untrue for a majority of twins. I, being the more outgoing one of my sister and I, participate in sports and musical performances. Sarah, being the shyer one of us, also participates in music but definitely not sports. Due to the confusion, this has led to all pictures of me competing in track and field events in the high school yearbook being labelled as Sarah, and every picture of my sister playing guitar labelled as Stephanie. It made us try even harder to pursue different hobbies and accomplishments, just so we can be different from each other and be recognized for something other than being a genetic quirk.
Although we do share the same DNA, this seriously does NOT mean we are clones of each other. Contrary to popular belief, I can’t read her mind, and I definitely can’t feel what she’s feeling. When Sarah and I were in class one day, she had yawned. Our teacher noticed the yawn and said, “Wow, I guess the twins are tired today.” Wait, did he truly assume that I was also tired just because my twin sister had yawned? I was left speechless. Sarah and I exchanged a look and I knew exactly what she was thinking. (Okay, okay, I’ll admit we’re a little telepathic sometimes.) But it really is appalling to see that some people really cannot differentiate between two different individuals just because they look alike – or just don’t care to.
Although I have learned to forgive those who are unaware of the insensitivity they have towards twins, the whole twins are a package deal idea has been affecting me since childhood. Even my parents, although they try to argue differently, are guilty of not letting us grow as separate individuals. We were dressed the same until about the age of ten, got the same Christmas presents each year, and were both put into the same classes and activities whether we liked it or not. At such a young age, I would have never considered this “unfair” or felt that I was being weighed down; it was just what I was used to. We grew up so tightly bonded it was almost as if we were beginning to be brainwashed to think like each other. Whatever I wanted, Sarah had to want, and whatever I liked, Sarah had to like or it would most likely go unnoticed.
Due to this upbringing, Sarah and I got along pretty well – we were practically attached at the hip. Since I am the eldest twin, I was always more protective of her, and Sarah, being the more dependant one, would usually follow or emulate what I did. If one of us got in trouble, we would both accept the punishment because we couldn’t let the other one be in trouble without us of course. I remember one instance in third grade where Sarah forgot to do her homework. When it came time to hand it in, I realized that she hadn’t done it, so I quickly grabbed my fill-in-the-blank sheet and erased all the work that I had done and handed it in blank too. Looking back now, it seems so ridiculous to sacrifice my hard work for my sister, but at the time, it seemed unfair that I could possibly get a better grade than her. Just like everyone else, we had been subconsciously following the stereotype that twins do everything the same.
So when people ask me “Do you like being a twin?” I usually tell them yes and proceed to answer numerous other questions to satisfy their curiosity. I guess I don’t mind having to look up when I hear the name Sarah in case someone is trying to get my attention, or having to explain to people that no, we can’t just use each other as a mirror. Being a twin really is an incomparable experience and I am grateful for the bond my sister and I share. Although I wonder sometimes if being constantly compared to my twin can be a setback, I have realized that it has made me strive even harder to become more independent. I look forward to taking on challenges in life knowing that I will always have my best friend by my side, while still growing as an individual.