Wow, can you believe I have been writing this column for a year now? times flies. This ran in the Alameda Sun on Thursday, January 25, 2007 [http://verican.info/asun/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=976&Itemid=31].
“That Freaky Twin Thing”
My twins turned 12 last week. Specifically avoiding the direct correlation between their growing up and my growing older, I have been paying closer attention to their relationship. I am not sure if it’s just me taking note of their looming (and much dreaded) teenage years or if they really are changing, but I have noticed a shift in the state of their twin-ness.
My girls are fraternal twins. They look nothing alike and when they are together, without their younger sister around, you would think they were friends or neighbors, a year or two apart—certainly not sisters and certainly not twins. One is an average-sized, blue-eyed blonde who resembles her father and seems smaller because her twin is a taller-than-average, green-eyed brunette who looks kind of like me. Within seconds of meeting, they will inform you which one is the older by 45 seconds. I think that is a twin tradition.
We used to have fun playing the joke on every new person we met with the announcement that they are twins. The look of shock and suspicion on the unknowing elicited a lot of laughter and a cunning “Ha! We’ve pulled one over on you!” attitude from the girls. When they were in preschool, I once stopped by for a quick lunchtime visit. As I kissed them both goodbye, I told them I would pick them up at our usual time. After I left, a teacher’s aide who had been watching asked the blonde twin if I was her neighbor. With many giggles, my daughter told the aide exactly who I was. When I picked them up later that day, the woman apologized for having spent the afternoon trying to trip the two girls up with questions that would cause them to uncover the deception and reveal the truth that they just couldn’t have the same natural mother.
Today, with the edge of puberty spawning the sullen aloofness of teenagers, the girls have informed me that I am not allowed to mention that they are twins anymore. “It’s embarrassing,” they said. I reminded them that I am their mother, I carried the two of them for nine months, I can tell people what I want (within reason, of course).
There are more twins and multiple births than ever before as the result of many women choosing to start families later and the increased use of fertility solutions. Still, so little is really known about twins and the bond between them. I used to think that because my twins looked so opposite and chose completely different interests and had such distinctive personalities, that they were just like regular siblings—the only bond was that they were in the same family and had the same blood. Although I wanted to encourage their individuality, I was secretly disappointed. I also wanted them to revel in something they share that is truly uncommon and to build a relationship that will carry them through the highs and lows of their lives.
I think that because my twins are almost always together, I only see their differences, which they take great pains to emphasize. It must be hard for them to stand as individuals when they are always together. They are in the same class in the small school they attend. Until last summer, they shared a bedroom at home; they still do at their father’s house. I was becoming more accepting of their ordinary sibling-ness, when something strange started to happen. Lately, I see more of their similarities and witness something I call “that freaky twin thing.”
Although they don’t really have long conversations, their interactions with each other are very different than those with their younger sister. They speak in shorthand and rarely misinterpret communications. At Christmas, shopping separately, they each returned with an almost exact outfit. Spending time with them individually in the past few months has revealed verbatim conversations on random topics and, much to their dismay later on, the same response to questions about what to have for dinner or which movie to rent for the evening.
Standing in a Trader Joe’s check-out line during the holidays, I asked one twin to go get her sister, who likes to hang out near the sample station in the back of the store. At first she refused, and jokingly, I told her to use their twin-ness to call her sister remotely. She closed her eyes, and with her fingers rubbing her temples in small, slow circles, summoned her sister “in her mind.” She stopped and looked up and said, “There.” Immediately, her twin came running from the back of the store, shouting, “I’m here! I’m here!”
It made me smile to think that in years to come they will be there for each other with just a rub of the temples even when their mother is not nearby to embarrass them.