The Truth About Twins


Ever wonder what it's like to be a twin? I can tell you that it's cool to grow up with someone who's the same age and has similar interests. I can tell you that we sometimes meet for breakfast wearing the same color and type of shirt, but insist on changing to avoid looking too twinny. I can tell you that we look alike but that you wouldn't notice the things about us that are most similar (we have cavities in the same teeth and matching moles on our arms). I can tell you that the most unusual thing about us is that we're called "mirror twins" because I am left-handed with supposedly right-brain tendancies and my sister is right-handed with supposedly left-brain tendancies. While I think all this is great, I'm pretty sure we won't be getting a call to audition as the next Doublemint Twins.

I watch the media with a slightly critical eye whenever the word twins crops up on tv or in the papers. My limited (and very unscientific research) has revealed that most sitcoms, movies, ads and news stories generally portray twins as one of four types.

Binary Opposites
A favorite plot twist on soap operas, the evil twin idea is especially fascinating to writers. Assuming the twins have grown up with the same parents and in the same environment, is it likely that one child is as evil as the devil while the other is an angel?

Example: Twins, sitcom on the WB (fall 2005).
I've only seen the ad for this new fall show but it reveals the rocky relationship between twin sisters about to inherit their family's lingerie business. One sister is The Brains and the other is The Beauty. Apparently these are mutually exclusive on the show.

Clones (sub-category: Identical Dressers)
For most of our lives, my sister and I have tried to be different and look different. It's not like she's country and I am rock 'n' roll -- infact we used to share a wardrobe -- but we never wore the same color on the same day. This is a direct result of constantly being called the wrong name. It gets old quick.

Example: Coors Light tv ad (2004)
Diane and Elaine Klimaszewki appear in a Coors Light ad as part of a rhyming list of "things" beer drinkers like. This ad is a disturbing portrayal of twins in that the women seem more physical with each other than regular twin sisters would be. They are a strong example of Clones and are dressed alike except that their shirts have different numbers on them: 01 and 02.

The number one most-asked question of twins is, "Did you ever swap boyfriends and not tell them?" Ummm. No. While it may look fun on tv, impersonating each other is really hard once you have to open your mouth and say something.

Example: The Parent Trap (1961)
This was my first media encounter with twins. I saw it on tv in the 1970s and was very confused when the credits revealed that Hayley Mills starred as both Sharon and Susan (my first introduction to the idea of fake twins.) Twin portrayal is good in that the girls have two distinct but not completely opposite personalities, however the movie's plot involves the characters impersonating each other in order to reunite their divorced parents.

This doesn't happen much any more, but when we were growing up, my sister and I were often accosted at the grocery store. Perfect strangers would come up to us, point, and yell, "Twins!" as they walked by. It was really embarrassing.

Examples: The Shining (1980)
Who knew twin girls could be so creepy! This is a prime example of the Freaks category. In addition, I just read an article about Twin Day at Coney Island, the home of the original sideshow freak. Astroland, the event's sponsor, invited twins from the New York area to participate in a twin-only talent show for cash prizes.

dawg, Jul 28 2005 5:44PM

You have the same cavities? I'm amazed.

sandie, Jul 28 2005 6:10PM

So was the old dentist! He called in all the other dentists to come look at our x-rays. Still not sure if it was a nature or nurture winning out. We ate the same food and had the same teeth brushing habits, but probably also chewed on the same sides of our mouths.

paul, Jul 29 2005 10:04AM

Wow Sandie your a twin!
I didn't even know that.
You know how Clowns freak out people Twins freak me out. And now hearing your a "Mirror" Twin, now I'm really freaked out.

Heather, Aug 1 2005 10:08AM

I always thought having a twin would be so cool. I do have an older sister (by 5 years) that I'm very close with. I think we would have been really good twins, if given the chance.

I have twin nephews now and they are absolutely adorable.

Matthew, Aug 1 2005 11:45AM

I've never really put much thought into being a twin, but I once thought that it would be cool to father twins. There are several sets of twins amoung my cousins children, and my grandfather is a twin. After going through birthing classes and witnessing the births of my two children recently (age 3yrs, and 6 months), I would never wish the birth of twins upon any mother.

Pete, Aug 2 2005 12:47AM

I frame the phenomenon as sibling+. Sibling+ states that your sister is your sister, just more than the average sister.

mark, Aug 2 2005 12:39PM

i guess that means there is no doubt whether or not you were adopted. as a kid i was convinced that i was not my parent's natural son. sure there were pictures and my grandparents acted convincingly enough, but that's just circumstantial.

oh wait, i guess you both could have been adopted.

sandie, Aug 2 2005 1:35PM

Matthew: After spending the weekend with my 2-yr-old nephew I don't know how my mom did it either... except that I don't think she left the house much once we started walking.

And as this was all before ultrasounds and birthing classes, she didn't know she was having twins. the doctor told her it was just a big baby... until her last appointment which was 8 hours before we were born (6 weeks early).

Paul: sorry to freak you out!

Sue, Aug 5 2005 11:35PM

thanks for telling like it is to all of the singletons out there! I continue to be plagued by esp questions to this day... i.e. Do you know it's her when she's calling? Do you feel pain when she is hurt....ummmmm no.