My Life As An Identical Twin – And Things You Should Never Ask Me
What is it really like to be an identical twin, with all its unique challenges… and please-don’t-ask-me-that questions?
When you’re five, being an identical twin seems like the best thing in the world. You’ve always had someone to play with – or fight with – and your first day of school never seems quite as scary, when you know at least one other person. Sometimes, the whole “are you twins?” conversation can even be a good icebreaker. But overall, I’d say being a twin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially as you get older, all the myths and misconceptions about being a twin start to get, frankly, a little annoying.
Identical twins occur when one egg divides into two, creating two different embryos. This normally happens very early into a pregnancy – about four to eight days. Dividing this early means that each embryo will have the same genetic information as the other. It’s basically nature’s own way of cloning. Non-identical twins on the other hand, occur when two completely separate eggs are fertilised at the same time. They share 50% of the same genetic coding – the same as any other sibling – meaning they can be different genders to each other.
It’s still unknown exactly why the egg splits into two to create a set of identical twins, in the first place. Some things about twins are just a mystery. I personally have never been too fussed about my ‘twin-ness’. I’ve known twins who thought they were some kind of special product of nature, or superior kind of human even. They’d say things like, “we’re so blessed to be twins”.
However, in many cultures, twins used to be feared to be a bad omen. They were often killed, and in some (hopefully very rare and increasingly so) cases the practice continues to this day.
Not to mention the amount of times creepy twins have been used in films like The Shining (1980), Sisters (1973), The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and Hellboy 2 (2008). Even the TV show American Horror Story has twins appear throughout several series.
I’ve lost count of how many times people have asked me, “what’s it like being a twin?”. I’ve gotten used to having random people I’ve never met before just come up and start a conversation with me because they don’t realise I’m ‘the other one’.
I’ve gotten used to being asked, “are you the nice twin or the evil one?”, as if there even is one. I’m used to always receiving the same presents (or the same presents just in different colours). Or being asked, “where’s your twin?”, as if we spend every second of our lives together. But please, don’t be one of those people to ask whether we’d ever have a threesome, or tell me you’ve got a “thing for twins” – this isn’t Game of Thrones.
In fact, I have a list of things not to say to identical twins, which you may find useful…
Things not to say to identical twins
Why is your twin not here? (We’re not conjoined)
Which is the good twin? (There isn’t one, but if there was it would be me)
Do you like being a twin? (I don’t know, do you like being alive?)
Do you have the same birthday? (Yes. Obviously)
Are you the same age as each other? (Seriously, do you know how being a twin works?)
Are you identical? Because you look different to me. (well we’re not EXACTLY the same, but yes, genetically speaking)
Do you have all the same friends? (No, we are different people)
I can understand why people get my twin and myself mixed up, especially when they don’t even realise I have a twin. Sometimes, I can’t even tell us apart in really old photos. Although, I do wonder what people actually see when they can’t see the difference. Do they just think we look the same, or see a kind of morph of both of us put together?
The worst part is when people see you together, and then comes the, “You’re really similar, except…” and then they go on to list every one of your defining features. You can feel their eyes scanning your face’s every last detail, as if we’ve been put in a tank for everyone to look and point at. “…Your face is a bit longer”.
Non identical twin Matt (18) told me:
“Me and my brother are quite different so we don’t get mixed up that much, which I think is a good thing. I wouldn’t want people thinking I was him all the time”.
Now this may seem a bit dramatic, but if I go my whole life with everyone thinking I’m someone else, it does make me wonder, what’s the point of me even existing? (I know, I know, but think about it). Even now, people I’ve known for years just refer to us as ‘the girls’, rather than our actual names. They don’t think it matters and just say, “well you must get that all the time”, or “you must be used to that by now”.
Well of course it matters. By just labelling me as ‘one of the twins’, what you’re doing is dismissing me as a person. That’s my whole identity, and you can’t even be bothered to acknowledge it because you think ‘it doesn’t matter’.
Everything I do, everything I achieve suddenly doesn’t seem so important, when people can’t even remember which one of us it was that did it. I remember parents’ evening at school was always quite amusing, as teachers would praise me for doing “brilliant work” that I’d never even seen before.
And my own twin, Juliet (19) agrees with this too. She explained to me:
“Being a twin is weird, because it means you end up having to take responsibility for the other one’s actions as well as your own.”
Although my twin sister and I are very similar – we look similar, talk similarly, like the same things, dislike mostly the same things – we have always valued our individuality. My parents (thank God) never dressed us in the same outfits when we were little. It’s always nice to know our parents treated us like real people rather than fashion accessories. Even now, sometimes we’ll accidently end up wearing similar outfits, and have to change. I even cut my hair short so we that look less alike.
Non identical twin, Charley (19) said:
“I like being a twin most of the time because even though we argue, I feel like we’re a lot closer than other siblings”.
We may be close, but there’s thing I need to get straight – we cannot read each other’s minds! Despite hearing endless stories about twins feeling each other’s emotions or pain, or knowing when the other is in trouble, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced twin telepathy, or ESP (extrasensory perception). There is no scientific evidence to prove that ESP is even a real thing. Just because my twin and I often say the same thing, and always seem to have the same song stuck in our head, doesn’t mean we can read each other’s mind. It just means that when you’re a genetic copy of someone, it’s inevitable that your minds are going work in almost the same way.
I remember reading an article in Ladybeard Magazine about two twins called Jim Lewis and Jim Springer, who were separated when they were four weeks old, but ended up with practically the same life as each other. Both drove Chevrolets, both had dogs when they were younger called Toy, both had jobs in law enforcement, and both married women called Linda, then Betty. Coincidence?
But actually, this isn’t as spooky as it sounds. Although twins aren’t actually the same person, being genetically similar means that they are bound to have similar thoughts, opinions, likes and dislikes. This means it’s quite likely that they’ll end up making similar life choices. (Although the Linda and Betty thing is pretty creepy).
Similarly, it wasn’t really a surprise when my twin and I both chose took the same degree course as each other. As annoying as this was, it’s almost unavoidable when you’re have all the same talents and are interested in the same subjects. Luckily this was the first time we’d ever actually been in the same class together.
And technically and genetically speaking, the only time in your life when you and your identical twin are exactly the same is just after the egg splits. After that, you are exposed to all kinds of external factors, from where you’re positioned in the womb, to what you eat, to where you live when you’re older. For example, despite being identical twins, my sister has type 1 diabetes and I don’t. This is because we both carry the gene for diabetes, but only my sister’s gene went on to develop into diabetes because of other factors.
I wouldn’t ever wish not to be a twin, but after all, I’ve never known any different. Though it can drive me wild, it does have its good moments; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy confusing people when they meet us for the first time. Although somewhere there is a person who looks like me, talks me, even thinks like me, she is not me. I am me. And she is she. And no matter how similar we are, my own individuality is just as valid as anyone else’s.