Over the Christmas break I sat down separately with my sixteen-year-old fraternal twin sons to ask them about their experiences growing up with each other. (You can read the first half of our conversation here.) While the beginning or our talk focused on their relationship and bond, this second installment focuses more on how others perceive their relationship and the challenges that sometimes result because they share a few classes and a few friends.
Do your friends and classmates ask you “stupid twin questions?”
Twin A: All the time. Different people ask the same questions or variations of such. The most often one you hear is, “Who’s older?” and when you tell them, they’re all like, “Yeh, I can see that.” Then they’ll make assumptions. “Oh, then you must be the smarter one.”
Twin B: It was more freshman year when people were just getting to know us. When I meet new people now, it still happens. But once you get to know them, they lose that stereotypical view of twins.
Twin A: Sometimes they ask if we have twin telepathy. That question has been asked so often that [Twin B] and I now have a system. One of us will say, “Oh, yeh, sure we do!” Then they’ll want us to show them. But we’ve already had this talk and we’ve decided our answers will be apple, motorcycle, baboon, in that order. So we set it up that one twin will whisper a word in someone’s ear and another person will say, “Ok, what is he thinking?” And the other twin will answer, “Apple.” And they freak out!
What’s the most popular question you get asked by classmates and friends?
Twin B: Who’s smarter? Who gets in trouble more? Who gets the girls?
How do you answer?
Twin A: It depends on the person. If it’s a girl, I want to humor her. But if it’s a guy and he’s being obnoxious, I just straight up tell him what a dumb question that was.
Twin B: It depends on the mood I’m in. If I’m in a good mood, I just laugh it off but if I’m in a bad mood I just blow them off.
Do you ever try to enlighten them about how silly their questions are?
Twin A: I’ll tell him he’s not going to get a straight answer. I’d say, of course I’m going to tell you I’m the smart twin! Or the more handsome twin! I’m not going to tell you I’m the dumb twin! So why even bother asking?
Twin B: I don’t. Because if you do it for one, you have to do it for everyone. So no, I never do it.
What do you want non-twins to know about being a twin?
Twin A: There is something special about our relationship but don’t ask us stupid-ass questions because you can’t measure intelligence or charm. It’s not that easy. You just can’t say, “Which of you is better…” at some immeasurable aspect of my life because I’m going to give you a stupid answer in return.
Twin B: (laughing) That we’re better than you! Sure, we’re pretty awesome being born on the same day but we’re two different people and you don’t always have to put us together. We’re not attached at the hip.
Looking back over your 16+ years of life in this house, tell me what I did right as a parent of twins?
Twin A: You always told us that we were two different people.
Twin B: You never dressed us alike or ever talked about us like one person.
The dressing thing. That would have bothered you if I had dressed you alike?
Twin B: Yeh, I think so. When you dress twins alike they look like one person.
Twin A: On the one hand, I look at twins dressed alike and think, “Hey, they must really be bonded. I bet they get to prank their friends a lot.” But on the other hand, it’s kinda weird. You should try to be your own person. It’s important to be an individual. When you dress alike, you’re contributing to people viewing you as a package. So you can’t exactly get mad at people when they try to compare you when you’re standing there in the same outfits.
What could I have done differently?
Twin A: Maybe split us up more. Maybe put us in different activities or sports.
I often think that I should have pushed you both more in different directions so you’d have different friends. Like this past summer when you went to summer camp alone. I wish I had done a lot more of that sooner.
Twin B: Yeh, I could see that.
When you went alone to summer camp, did you think this is what it must be like being a singleton? Did you think you were keeping this little secret being a twin?
Twin B: Both. You go to camp and no one knows about you. And I didn’t tell them that I was a twin. And it was kinda nice. It was freeing not having someone always watching you. I could do things that I’d never done before without him calling me out on it. For instance, when I’m at school, I wonder where he is. At summer camp I didn’t have to wonder. I didn’t have to worry where he was or if he was by himself.
When you have a great success or failure socially or academically, are you worried about your twin’s reaction?
Twin A: No, not really.
Twin B: I always wonder how he’ll perceive things but I don’t let it affect me. I never let it bother me.
Do you ever want his approval?
Twin A: No.
Twin B: No. I don’t need his approval.
What do you think of your relationship with your twin? What value do you place on it?
Twin A: I can’t quantify it. He is the closest person to me in my life though.
Twin B: I think it’s unique. I don’t think anyone else can quite understand what we have with each other. It’s probably the closest relationship I have with anyone.
How does your relationship with your twin differ from your relationship with your younger, single-born brother?
Twin A: He understands more than my single-born brother. I’m closer to him than my little brother. I spend more time with my twin.
Twin B: I always see my single-born sibling as my little brother but I see my twin as my equal and sometimes I see him as my older brother.
Really? That’s interesting! How come?
Twin B: Well, he always tells me that he was born first.
(Laughing) But it’s only by a few minutes!
Twin B: I sometimes just see him as the older brother. I guess it’s also since he’s a little more serious, a little more grown up than me. But sometimes I also see him as my younger brother because I have to look out for him. And that’s what you do with a younger brother.
(To Twin A) Do you ever feel like your twin’s older brother?
Twin A: Yes. Sometimes I’m the more level-headed one, the more responsible one. Sometimes he has stupid ideas.
Really? I think your twin is very responsible!
Twin A: That’s because he’s a people pleaser! That’s not being responsible. I’m the conscience, like the cricket in Pinocchio. [My twin] will make a suggestion and I’ll say, “Well, we could do that but then A, B, and C will happen. Do you really want to do that to happen?”
Where do you see your relationship ten years from now when you’re a few years out of college?
Twin A: I don’t see us breaking apart. I see us communicating regularly, living in the same area. I see us hanging out. I may go off on my own but there will always be interaction.
Twin B: I see us very much connected. I like how close we are now and I don’t want that to change. I’d like to see him a lot. He’s a cool guy.