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Life ...as a Twin

by R. L. LASTER about a month ago in siblings

F.Y.I.

Being born with your doppelganger is a great thing and a little... not so good.

I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, and I once spent an entire week in Las Vegas without so much as pulling the lever of a slot machine. But maybe I should have given it a go, because I’ve been lucky since birth—make that since before birth. That’s because before I was anything, I was a twin. Sometimes I marvel at the numbers involved: Only 0.3 percent of pregnancies result in identical twins. I often think about how being a twin is one of the few amazing things you can literally just be born with. Some people are born with a natural talent for music, or a genius-level affinity for math, or supernatural good looks. I’d argue that being born with your best friend is even better—but then again, I’m biased.

When I tell people I have a twin brother, their first question is usually “Are you identical?” and the second is “Do you like it?” I don’t really know how to answer that, because I don’t know what it’s like to not have a twin. I’m also an Aquarius, so my initial urge is to respond by asking ‘Do you like having a head?' I usually give some clever, vaguely sarcastic response, like:

'Of course I like being a twin—I have two closets!'

What I don’t say is that Roderick completes me. He’s my other half. I know those phrases are typically reserved for couples, but Rod and I honestly deserve it more. We’re literally halves; split from the same egg. In a magazine’s coverage of 'Twins Days' last summer, I was struck by something a woman named Joan said about her brother, Jean.

“What I always wonder about: The one egg, one sperm, one zygote before it split, there might have been a consciousness. When did it become two consciousness’? That may be what identical twins experience. ...Something like the oneness that used to be, before it became twoness. Maybe that’s why we feel more whole together than when we’re separated.”

…Trippy, right? I’m a twin, and even I think it’s trippy. Rod and I aren’t telepathic (another question we get ALOT), but we are on the same wave-length. We can communicate a joke with a single look. We’ve had the same wacky dream on the same night in different cities. We’re also each other’s mirror image, so when a friend sees my reflection in the bathroom, she thinks I’m Rod. But being a twin means your life is full of paradoxes and contradictions. Joan said it first—they went from oneness to twoness. They feel more “whole” when they’re together, but they’re two different people. It’s a mind-bending riddle. Having an identical twin brother is most unique, unusual thing about you and the least. There’s another person whose DNA matches yours and whose face is shockingly similar? That’s actually the opposite of unique. It’s repetition. That was the biggest paradox for Rod and me growing up. We wanted to become our own people, but we were also incredibly close. Conventional wisdom suggests that the only way to become truly “different people” would have been to spend less time together, but that never would have worked. We couldn’t help being best friends. It wasn’t until high school that we started to notice the implications of what that really meant. High school was interesting. It turned out to be a little bit harder because a good portion of my classmates couldn’t distinguish my face from Rod’s. We shared a niggling fear that beyond our group of close friends, no one really cared to know us individually. On our 16th birthday, when it was customary for the students reading morning announcements to give clever birthday wishes like:

Happy birthday to Jenny ‘I Beat the School Mile Record’ Smith!”. We not only got a joint wish, but a shockingly unoriginal one. 

 “Happy birthday to Rob and Rod. Hey! We Look Exactly A like!”

“Happy birthday to Rob and Rod. Hey! We Look Exactly A like!”

Happy birthday to Rob and Rod. Hey! We Look Exactly A like!

By the way: I inadvertently think of this every time a relative sends us each our own birthday card or wedding invite (even though Rod and I live in the same apartment and stare at the same magnet-covered fridge). They don’t even do it on purpose, but I find it endlessly thoughtful.

While high school had its trials, I got through it with my best friend by my side. I never had to show up to the first day of school alone, or drive to a new church alone, or sneak out of my house alone *LOL. So how can I really complain? I know that there are twins out there who don’t share the same friends, sports, string instruments, and sense of humor, or share the same tastes in clothing, music, books, and food, but I can’t imagine it. (The one thing we don’t have the same taste in is women, and thank god.)

While high school had its trials, I got through it with my best friend by my side. I never had to show up to the first day of school alone, or drive to a new church alone, or sneak out of my house alone *LOL. So how can I really complain? I know that there are twins out there who don’t share the same friends, sports, string instruments, and sense of humor, or share the same tastes in clothing, music, books, and food, but I can’t imagine it. (The one thing we don’t have the same taste in is women, and thank god.)

There are a few things that I do feel entitled to complain about, though. I could do without the people staring at us in restaurants, or the random people calling out to us on the street:

"Hey! Are you two twins?”'

They get their answer and move on—or, worse, laugh. But I would never dream of saying that being a twin is an inconvenience, or even anything negative about it. I have this irrational fear that saying a single bad word about my unbelievable good fortune would result in some irreversible cosmic shift. It’s akin to a really beautiful person saying she wished she wasn’t so pretty, or a really wealthy person saying they wish they’d been a little bit more middle-class, or a really brilliant person saying that they wish they’d been a little dumber, so that they could have avoided all the hassles that came with their good fortune. It may be true, but how could you wish away something so many other people would do so much to have?

There are certain things that being a twin makes me more aware of: In a society that’s becoming ever more “woke,” the general impression is that men are under less pressure to look perfect all the time. In fashion, at least, vanity isn’t cool; most of the men I know aim for a natural, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, but also says 'I’m too intelligent to stress about my appearance'. Meanwhile, I’m over here wondering if all of my friends are as vain as me, or if it’s just a product of being a twin. A friend recently showed me a photo of identical twin females he knew, and instantly pointed out the “cuter one”—to which I said,

“Wow, I hope people don’t say this about me and Rod.”

But of course they do. It`s human nature to make comparisons, and sassing out the differences between a pair of identical twins is practically a sport. (Consider the decade’s society has spent comparing the Kardashian brothers’ faces and bodies, and they’re not even all full brothers.) As a little boy, and even as an adult now, I can say that having your face and body scrutinized and compared to someone else’s every day breeds a near-obsessive concern with your appearance. When people struggled to discern subtle discrepancies between us (and stared for far longer than could ever be considered polite), I perceived my “weakest characteristics” and a tiny pimple above my lip. I grew conscious of not just my differences, but all my flaws. I’ve gotten over that, but I still find myself (neurotically) wondering if everyone thinks Rod is sexier than me, or if Rod’s chest is a centimeter manlier than mine. He’s my living, breathing mirror. Sometimes it’s incredibly convenient. Last weekend, he tried on a pair of miraculous-looking jeans, and I offered to pay for half on the spot because I knew they’d fit me perfectly, too. I didn’t even have to take off my shoes! Other times, I feel like there’s a running commentary in my head that I can’t turn off.

There are other parts of my life that would probably be easier if I wasn’t so close with Rod. For instance, when I was 19 and left for serving the U.S. Army, I was a nervous, tearful wreck. It wasn’t just because I was in a foreign city with a cadre of cadets I didn’t know, but because Rod wasn’t there. I didn’t really know how to exist without him. It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did, because eventually I would have to move to Fort Campbell, Kentucky by myself and do things on my own. At the end of that summer, when I’d traveled around a bit with a brand-new group of friends who knew me for me, not just “one of the twins”, I still felt like they didn’t really know me. It’s impossible to fully know me without knowing Rod, too.

That’s perhaps the trickiest thing. It goes back to the idea of sharing a consciousness, even for a split second. As we’ve grown up, lived in different cities, and chosen similar career paths—he’s in law enforcement, which is about as close to soldiering as you can get—we’ve certainly become our own people. Our two consciousness’s have taken on increasingly unique shapes. Friends insist our personalities have always been completely different, but they’re just more pronounced now. I’ve at least matured, and feel more comfortable in my skin. I’m okay with the fact that we won’t live in the same apartment (or in the same city) forever, and once we’re married; we won’t have the luxury of splitting our time between our girlfriends with each other. But I’m enjoying it while I can. And no matter how radically our lives diverge—even if we’re living thousands of miles apart—I’ll always feel more like me when I’m with him.

Before You Date Me Or My Brother

Before You Date Me Or My Brother

  • We've heard every twin line in the book. Can you use the other one as a mirror? How do you know you're really you? It's so not the way to our hearts. Try flattery, or good banter.

2.) Don't ask us a gazillion questions about what it's like to be a twin. Yeah, the Olsen twins were pretty cool and so was The Parent Trap but to her it's all we know and honestly, we've had this conversation more times than we can count.

  • We will try and trick you into mixing us. It's all part of the fun. #TwinPrivileges.

4.) We'll probably gang up on you with our true other half, and you'll lose. Right or wrong, you might as well stop trying to win arguments now. We've always got back up because our twin will totally take our side.

  • You have no choice but to be friends with our twin. Awks if you don't like her.

6.) And our twin's opinion is almost as important as our Dad's. If you don't pass the twin test then basically your relationship is doomed (sorry about that, it's just life).

  • That threesome fantasy you have? Yeah, not going to happen. Unless you're comfortable thinking about getting it on with your own siblings, don't even start the conversation.

8.) People will ask you if you fancy our twin. The answer is ALWAYS. NO.

  • Please don't refer to us as 'the twins' when we're together. Babe, hun, our actual name; all viable options. Just ANYTHING that doesn't group us in with our twin?

10.) You'll always have to share us. Twin dates are a thing and they're great. You'll just have to make sure the ones you take us on are even better.

  • And there's definitely no such thing as third wheeling. We've spent so much of our lives together that the meaning of boundaries is kind of blurred.

12.) Joint birthday presents are not okay, even if you are trying to get on our twin's good side. Sharing a birthday can be bad enough so unless it's a holiday or a kitten focus on spoiling US. …Extra brownie points for buying a separate present for our twin, though.

  • Getting our name wrong is never good, but mistaking it for our twins name? Catastrophic

14.) You’ll witness us arguing with each other. One minute we like each other, the next we hate each other. Just stand back and wait until we start hugging again. Our heated debates never last longer than several minutes.

  • At the end of the day though, dating an identical twin is pretty great. DOUBLE THE FUN.

7 INTERESTING STUDIES ABOUT IDENTICAL TWINS

The chances of having ‘identical twins’ is around 3 or 4 out of every 1,000 births (relatively rare). And while it may be obvious, identical twins are always the same sexes. They’re either both boys, or they’re both girls at birth. Why? Well, they don't just look alike, they also share the exact same DNA.

If you yourself were a dizygotic twin then your chance having another set of dizygotic twins depends mainly on your ethnicity and then it's likely a little higher. For the average person it would increase probably from 1 in 85 to 1 in 50 pregnancies. Monozygotic twins are also known as identical twins.

Only few remarkable peculiarities of the twin’s development are known for sure, such as delayed intellectual development, language retardation with frequent cryptophasia, difficulties and fragility of self-consciousness, reduced sociability.

In ancient times, the Yoruba viewed twins with suspicion, and sometimes sacrificed them. But now twins are considered lucky. ... According to psychologist Peter Whitmer, such surviving twins go to great lengths to assert their uniqueness, yet often feel as if they're living for two people.

Twins not only have a bestie from birth—they also live longer than singletons. And those two factors may be related, according to new University of Washington research. Analysis shows that twins have lower mortality rates for both sexes throughout their lifetimes.

Twins are always the same age, and they usually share a similar environment, both in the womb and while growing up. Identical twins share 100% of their genes, while fraternal twins share only about half their genes (just like regular siblings).

Studies indicate the reason twins live longer may be because of the social support they provide each other, and the psychological and health benefits that come with that social connection. Apparently: its beneficial to have someone who is socially close to you—who is constantly looking out for you.

My Conclusion

I wanna' say having a twin is similar to anyone who has known their bestie for 20+ years, but it really is different. It has its ups and creates its downs. But all in all, it's a unique situation that we forget we're in until someone smiles at us. Me and my bro' look at each other and smile back. We already know what the stranger is thinking.

Truth is, any best friend (20 years +) should be appreciated as a life-long partnership. Any bond that has been bonding for more than 2 decades can 'kinda' relate to what it is to have an identical twin. Appreciate your B.F.F. Life is not long enough to create & build several B.F.F. types of bonds. LIVE WELL, LAUGH OUT LOUD and LOVE the ones who do it with you.

siblings
R. L. LASTER
R. L. LASTER
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R. L. LASTER

At the age of 25, I discovered my love of research and the divinity within us. If knowledge precedes empowerment, knowing thyself should be everyone's first priority. Understanding the nature man, woman & their dynamic is gratifying.

See all posts by R. L. LASTER

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