Seeing Double: What It’s Like To Have A Twin
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Growing up, I thought the most interesting thing about myself was the fact that I had a twin. Did it set me apart from the otherwise homogenous group of children in the Orange County suburb I called home? Yes. Did it completely disregard the fact that I have three other siblings? Also yes. And yet, every time anyone asked about me, I excitedly exclaimed, “I have a twin brother!”
This infatuation didn’t stop in adolescence, either. My first tattoo, a simple line drawing of two figures wrapping their arms around each other, was a present from my brother, gifted as a card on the inside cover of an Eames book (we really do get each other). In my mind, it was another subtle gesture that proved our lives to be intertwined. Twins are a phenomenon, identical or otherwise, and being a twin was a pillar upon which I built my personality.
Lately, I’ve found myself wondering: is being a twin all that makes me, me? And are we even as close as I make us out to be? We share roughly the same amount of DNA as other siblings with the same parents, yet there’s such an emphasis placed on the “twin bond” that it feels necessary to uphold. There are the home videos of us, 10 months old and chatting away in our own language, and we were always quick to share about our “twin-tuition,” whether believed by others or not. Truth be told, we never spent more than 10 days apart until we moved away to college.
It’s an incomprehensible intimacy, sharing life from conception through adulthood. My brother and I have always said that we are two halves of one person and that he knows what’s best for me and I for him. I relied heavily on my brother for socialization, comfort, and security most of my childhood. On the contrary, he relied on me academically, looking to me to challenge his world view and raise his awareness to certain truths of life.
As we’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed a shift in our relationship. He lives in San Francisco and my feet are firmly planted in Los Angeles. It’s now been nearly a decade since we’ve lived in the same place, and thus, our identities have shifted into their own respective entities. What was once a feeling of being half of something is no longer, and maybe hasn’t been for some time.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, that we really could live without each other, and that’s something I struggle to admit. We are no longer two halves of one person—the narrative we spun so tight as children—we are each unique individuals whose list of similarities seems to dwindle with every passing year. Maybe relationships are meant to support our identities, not become them. What does that mean for us when we’ve spent decades intertwined?
The sinking truth of this realization is certainly no stranger to me, though its presence feels more weighted than ever before. I regularly wonder how two people can have the same upbringing, same world exposure, know the same truths, and share the same interests, yet end up diverging into two beings whose values are so polar opposite. Grappling with the reality that we won’t always be one, despite the similarities, will never be handled with ease. Whether we’ll be able to meet in the middle again, well, the results are inconclusive. I suppose they’ll conclude themselves as time goes on.
I’ve never considered this with my other siblings. I put so much pressure on my relationship with my twin, never once applying the same amount to my bond with my sister and two other brothers; I should—it’s nobody’s fault but mine—but I am curious to know if other people feel this way.
The twin bond is special, there’s no doubt about that, but so are all our familial relationships. Does anyone else feel like their identity is tied to their relational roles? Let me know in the comments!
Alyssa Julian is the Social Media + Community Lead at The Good Trade. She enjoys a weekly flower arrangement, film photography, ditching the city for the weekend, and a good cappuccino. Say hi on Instagram!