For one minute on the 31st December 1990, my brother Richard and I were separated by the barrier that is the womb. He arrived into the world just before me, almost double my weight. We were three weeks premature, and I always liked that our birth year was 1990 rather than 1991 because it made me feel older than the 1991 kids, even if days separated our birthdays. Siblings three and four, of an eventual total of five, and our life as twins began.
It’s difficult to explain how being a twin feels. I can’t properly imagine what it would be like not to be a twin, just as non-twins can’t really grasp the idea of being one. We have always been the kind of twins who are very close; over the years we’ve met twins who don’t get on and can’t stand each other, and I think we’ve always felt very lucky to have the opposite. Every set has a different experience, so it’s maybe so much not “twinness” but our twinness that has resulted in our bond and closeness. We pretty much never argue.
I grew up having a ready made best friend. We shared mostly everything (often a curse more than a blessing), including a room. Even now, we still share a room, partially because we’re back living with Mum & Dad and there’s not space and partially because we don’t mind. (Although nowadays we have nowhere near enough space to handle all the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years, and my snoring/his breathing/his staying up half the night with the light on to read books when I need to be up early for work mean that the set-up really doesn’t work as well as it used to.) We shared a friends group at school, had similar intelligence levels, both attended speech therapy (thought to be because of our habit of ‘twin language’, but I don’t really know), had the same hobbies.
As we grew older, the friends groups changed slightly, the hobbies became ‘same but different’, and intelligence levels sort of grew apart from each other. Richard was always the brainbox, straight As, go-to for academic help, and I settled into average grades. I did resent him for it somewhere in my head theoretically, but not personally or really; I just accepted that was the way it was, and hey, it came in handy when I needed help to study for exams! As an aside: other twins out there, is it an established experience that rumors of “twincest” will go round school? I read that the twins in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl had the same experience, and I was very amused at the idea that we weren’t the only ones it happened to!
In 2005 when we were 14, the family became ill with a bug over Christmas, which Richard didn’t really recover from. Months of feeling under the weather became muscle and joint pain, excessive exhaustion and tiredness. It led to struggles for diagnoses, and more and more symptoms being thrown onto the pile. It led to ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) flooring him for 1-2 years which meant 8 hour days, lots of time off school, me dressing, feeding, and helping him. Eventually (17 January 2013), lupus was finally diagnosed. It’s been tough, but the journey has strengthened our bond in ways I never thought were possible.
We had to move away from home to attend university in 2008, and we decided to try living apart. It didn’t work out very well! I phoned him almost every night crying that I missed him, and more often than not one would sleep over at the other’s. When his flatmates became unbearable (a whole ‘nother story) he moved in with me permanently. I think we were trying to prove to people we didn’t need each other, didn’t rely on each other, that we could be independent, but it took us a while to realize that always living together doesn’t mean we’re not independent people.
Now, our friends groups are pretty much separate. We love the same things yet don’t: we love learning, but tend to embrace different areas of expertise (he studied anatomy, I did classics) although there is a lot of overlap which makes it fun; we love reading, but also different interests in genres; we love the same music (we actually have the same library of songs and take turns playing music; if he likes something new he’ll put it in, and so will I, and if the other doesn’t like it, better get used to it, haha). I think I like where we’re at with the ‘same but different’ stage now.
We don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. We can be as dependent or independent of each other as we like. We spend most of our time together, and any potential partners of mine have to understand he comes first. I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone I could be closer to, and I don’t mind in the least; I don’t want someone to overtake him in my estimation, and I despise the idea that platonic/sibling love can’t be transcendent over romantic love. Yes, our life plans have to lead us to the same place geographically so as not to separate us, but we’re not sacrificing anything. And who knows? Maybe in the future we will go off in different directions. But if we never want to, we won’t ever do it.
Okay, so this has ended up a cheesy post. But I wouldn’t change being a twin. I would be curious to see how I would turn out as a single child; what would I become without his influences? I have to wonder that. But I’d never switch him for the world.
Links of interest:
Richard’s blog about being disabled and having lupus: http://lifeofalupie.wordpress.com/
His fundraising page for a motorized wheelchair: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-a-lupus-warrior-fund-motorized-wheelchair/250477