What It’s Really Like to Have a Twin Sister: The Good, the Bad, and the Shared Identity

Side by side we sat in our kindergarten classroom waiting for one of our names to be called and chosen as the recipient of the day’s advent calendar candy. To our surprise, both our names were called, and we were then asked to split the small delicate piece of chocolate. We did. This was when I began to slowly understand that my identity was at least partially being molded by others who just understood us to be an identical set of twins.

By this time, we had already been paraded in color-coded outfits, and understandably. We were identical, and my family was pretty creative in finding a color scheme that matched our personalities. My sister was clothed in the softer feminine colors as she was shy and a bit more timid; I was often given the boyish clothing colors as I was the complete opposite of her and therefore it only seemed fitting. Even as an adult, I still receive requests from folks asking us to dress alike.

 

Even as an adult, I still receive requests from folks asking us to dress alike.

 

My sister was and is to this day my best friend, my forever and always “built-in” best friend. You see, I have always referred to it as “built-in” because growing up we never felt much of a need to form strong attachments and friendships with other children. We had one another and that was enough. I suppose it was for this reason that our family decided to not allow us to be in the same class following entering first grade. We needed the opportunity to develop independence from one another. I despised that decision then, but in retrospect, it was probably one of the best things for us socially. We were able to begin learning about what we were capable of doing, not as a unit but as individuals.

Despite realizing our own skills as individuals, we gravitated towards one another, oftentimes making our decisions based on comfort or familiarity: what college to attend, what sports to play, or what table at which we’d sit. It wasn’t until the end of high school that we began to see a shift in independence; my sister began to flourish as a strong communicator and leader, as I found my strengths in learning and candidness.

 

It wasn’t until the end of high school that we began to see a shift in independence; my sister began to flourish as a strong communicator and leader, as I found my strengths in learning and candidness.

 

When folks think of twins they immediately drift towards the similarities. On the surface, they are astoundingly present, and oftentimes distracting to others (if I had a nickel for every stranger who approached us giddily asking us if we were twins, almost as if they had happened upon the prize to a treasure hunt, I would actually have a considerable amount of money). However, what always stood out to me were our differences, not in the sense of just being able to identify how we are different (like I’m taller, or my sister used to have a mole on her neck and that’s how folks used to tell us apart), but how some of our individual strengths were the complete opposite of one another’s.

If one of us was a good speaker, the other would be a good writer. If one of us was a good fielder, the other a strong hitter. We even once had a coach during a game tell us that if we were one person we would be the perfect athlete. It was a catch-22. We needed to develop our own personalities despite being told that together we were better.

 

…if I had a nickel for every stranger who approached us giddily asking us if we were twins, almost as if they had happened upon the prize to a treasure hunt, I would actually have a considerable amount of money.

 

 

At the beginning of our respective (and different) career paths, my sister was offered the job of a lifetime. Despite my desire to be near her, internally I was not at peace with the move and decided to stay behind. This was without a doubt one of the toughest decisions I (and we) have ever made. It was almost like the feeling that my heart had somehow leapt outside of my body and moved several states away.

We so desperately wanted to flourish as unique individuals and now found ourselves feeling the equivalent as if we had been thrown into a backyard pool without our life jackets; we would either falter or thrive. Our four years living away from one another were met with devastating heartache, mounting successes and happiness, and a seemingly strong sense of self that propelled our bond to even more meaningful heights. We had now arrived to the point where there were actually some people in and around our lives that knew us as just as our individual selves and not as an identical pair.

The constant tug-of-war for my sister and I has always been to choose to either lean on our union as an extremely capable and complimenting duo, versus continuing to work toward solidifying and finding strength in our own individuality and giftings. We have chosen to meet at a happy medium, a place where we may talk or text multiple times a day, but also one where we work in career paths and lifestyles unique to us.

 

For what some people fail to see or even value sometimes in our individuality, I choose to celebrate.

 

I’m fortunate to say that despite the outsider’s obvious and sometimes overt encouragement of us always being together, we recognize that our relationship is not dependent on our togetherness and likeness but is enhanced by our uniqueness. My sister is, after all, so much of what I lack. I no longer view it as a vice but as something that is endearing to our sisterhood. For what some people fail to see or even value sometimes in our individuality, I choose to celebrate. I don’t want to be like my twin — we have enough similarities, after all.

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