Subtitle: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned about Everyone’s Struggle to be Singular.
I happen to be one half of identical twins, and read this non-fiction earlier this summer, but for various reasons, had not got around to posting a review or thoughts about it. This book was a good combination of both personal experience (the author is an identical twin) and science research on twins and it was fascinating to read about some of the more recent studies in twin research.
However, Pogrebin seems to have had a much harder time of peeling off “being a twin” than my twin and I did, and becoming a “whole” person as she has become older. I’m an identical twin, and we were very close growing up. (We had an older brother, but generally, it was my twin and I who hung out together all the time.) We did the same sports, had mostly the same friends, went to the same school (and had the same classes quite a bit), came to college in the U.S. together, similar majors, and graduated together. In fact, we didn’t live in different area codes (but same town) until we both married and we were 30 when we were split up and she moved to a different state. (We weren’t “weirdo” close, but we were close.)
I was devastated when that happened. It was a combo of being “left behind” and “being separated” and it took me a while to move on. But I have, and I think our twin relationship has been strengthened by it. The move forced us (or perhaps just me) to forge ahead and to be individuals which can be pretty hard to do, surprisingly enough, when you’re a twin. I imagine it’s easier to know who you are as a singleton, but when you are identical twins and people can’t ever tell which one you are, it’s extremely easy to be “the twins” as a package instead of two people. (This is both good and bad.)
Side Note: I wonder if male twins have this issue. It’s not mentioned very much. Well, ever,
So -when you are a pair of female identical swimming* twins from England on a large college campus in West Texas who bike everywhere all the time when most people don’t bike – trust me – you get noticed. (One funny thing was that quite a few people didn’t realize that there were two of us and just thought we were one person who got all over the place all the time and never went home.)
(Another funny aside: being an identical twin usually means that you both sound identical on the phone to *everyone* so no one could tell us apart even in the middle of a phone call when we passed the phone back and forth between us for fun. This could be useful in your younger social days when you’re trying to avoid someone because you could pick up the phone when it rang, the caller asks for you, and you could say you’re “not in right now and can you take a message?” and no one can tell. Not that we actually did that or anything. Nope. All theory. )
And so although I was initially irked by Pogrebin (the author) getting annoyed by her sister wanting to separate both geographically and personally, I’m more sympathetic now. I imagine this split happens to most identical twins at some point in their adult life (if not before), and it’s a natural step to becoming a person, not just “one of the twins”. However, I think problems begin when the separation (for lack of a better word) happens to you both, but at different times so that you are both on different timetables, so to speak. (This is what seemed to be occurring to the author here.)
I’m glad I have the experience of being a twin – it’s a fun place to be, for the most part, as there is a tendency for others to view you (the twins) as a side show or a spectacle of some type and you do tend to get lots of positive attention together. (“Oh goodness gracious, how adorable… They look the same. They must be twins!”)
And I enjoy “being a twin” when I visit my sister or she visits me – we still look alike enough for strangers to comment (although we try not to dress the same which is quite hard as we like the same clothes and what looks good on her will look good on me, so shopping is easy.) In college, we lived in different rooms but the same dorm, and we ended up wearing the same clothes quite a bit accidentally (mostly because we tended to like the same things.) So – the rule was that the person who got up earlier could keep the clothes on and the other one who got up later had to go back to their room and change. Honesty system, but it worked.
Nowadays, I must admit that I do enjoy being “my own person” with my own friends and not being relegated to “one of the English twins”. Twinship is something that you don’t have any choice about – you are one or you’re not and they’re not going to go away for the most part – so you’re lucky when you have a twin you get on with. I’m quite fond of mine. 🙂
Strange but true: we went to a private girls’ school (loved it), and there were five and a half sets of twins in our school year. (The half was fraternal and so the boy went to another school.) Three sets were identical (all girls, bien sur) and then two fraternals (one set of fraternal girls and one boy/girl pair). This was way before the time of IVF so multiples were still quite rare in the general population. The teachers could NEVER get us all sorted out (apart from the fraternals). Fun and annoying in equal quantities at times.
* The “swimming” bit refers to the fact that my sister and I were both student athletes on the university swimming team. Thus, we usually had one or more of the following most of the time when we biked around: wet hair, hungry, big duffel bags full of gear, going to/from swimming practice, and/or wearing some item of swim team-related clothing (t-shirt etc.).