We’ve all sat fidgeting after being asked to share something interesting about ourselves with a group of strangers: whether it was the first day of camp, or the first day at school. In a circle you’d rack your memory for something, anything, that fit the definition of fascinating but didn’t cross over into weird. Fortunately, I’ve always had an answer tucked away in my back pocket: “I have a twin sister.”
For the past 21 years of my life I’ve had a fraternal twin sister by my side.
But having a twin comes with an inevitable reality, exposed to my mother during a teacher-parent interview when we were in the first grade. “Let’s not pretend that we aren’t going to compare them, because we are,” said our teacher.
This ended up being a healthy way to approach a truth that would follow us throughout the years.
It’s incredibly easy to compare twins. We share parents, opportunities, wins, loses, clothes and parties. But that doesn’t mean we share personalities or looks. She has more freckles dotting her paler face, accented by deeper blue eyes and darker hair. My mother has always said she could tell us apart with her eyes closed. My skin is smooth and soft in comparison to my sister’s rough touch – perhaps an indication of our contrasting personalities. Arguably, I’m the calmer of the two, while my sister is a bit wilder. We aren’t the same. The world seems to forget this sometimes.
Then there are the odd questions:
“Have you ever switched places?” No. We doubt it would work.
“Can you read each other’s minds?” No. We’re twins. Not psychics.
“Are you jealous of each other?” No. Well…
My sister was blessed with beautiful, straighter, less-frizzy hair. Most of the time she styles it perfectly to fall around her heart-shaped face, other times she lets loose, air-dried waves form instead.
Darn her and her perfect hair.
My sister’s far more athletic than I am. Growing up, we’d play any sport with the same amount of practice and, still, she was the significantly better one.
In seventh grade, we both tried out for our basketball team. After tryouts, knowing she had already made the cut, I mustered up the courage to walk up to the list of names to see if I too would be on the team. I pushed passed whispering girls to read that yes, my sister had made it and I hadn’t.
This would be followed by—perhaps a misguided attempt on my part—a try-out for the select soccer team when I was in ninth grade. I didn’t make it past the first cut, while my sister became captain of the team.
You thought not making your school team was hard? Ha.
Now I could have used this as fuel and worked harder to prove everyone wrong. But instead I cut my losses and never tried out for a team again.
In first grade a girl who was friends with both of us only invited me to her birthday party. My parents were astonished and faced with a challenge most parents don’t meet. They believed the parents of the girl influenced this decision, possibly because as a child my sister could be difficult. My parents ultimately let me go alone, but my father made sure that when I was picked up, my sister came along with him. This was to remind the parents that yes, there were two of us, and, yes, we both had feelings.
Three years later, another mutual friend would tell me she didn’t like my sister. I’d never been told this before and it made me uncomfortable. Obviously, I sided with my sister.
In time this girl became a bully, and on one of our walks home from school she made faces behind our backs and threw paper, while we took every step together.
In the end, having a twin is a little like having a built-in best friend. And so when our university lives diverged, it was hard. We would no longer go to school in the same city, and be friends with all the same people. But four years later, only geographical distance is between us.
I think we’re finally being recognized as distinctive individuals. While my undergrad is quickly coming to a close, my sister will be staying back to do another year at her school.
This means I’ll be reaching a milestone on my own.
I’ll graduate in June, and just like all my other graduations I’ll take the victorious walk across the stage. But this time, I won’t hear my sister’s name called out after mine.