I didn’t experience first day of school jitters until I got to college. For as long as I can remember, I have been a twin. I am the youngest of the family (and my generation of the family) by two minutes, having swiftly revoked the “Baby of the Family” title from my brother shortly after his first cry on December 31st, 1983.
I am told that being a twin is special. I am told that being born on New Year’s Eve is special. These traits combined make for a predictable lineup of doubly “special” Frequently Asked Questions. I am probably asked any combination or variation of the following list two to three times a month.
Wow, you’re a twin? Cool! So – What’s it like being a twin? I don’t know. What’s it like being boring and uninteresting? (Haha, I kid!)
Omigod, do you guys have, like, psychic powers? Like, can you read each others’ thoughts? First of all, I know what “psychic” means. I’m a twin, not an imbecile. But to answer your question, no. Or at least, if we do have psychic powers, we’ve never had to use them.
Then they learn that we’re born on New Year’s Eve.
Whoa, born on New Year’s Eve? Why didn’t your mom wait until January 1st? Gee, I don’t know! But now that you bring it up, it’s so apparent that she was just being selfish, you know, carrying two new human beings in her belly and deciding to go with the doctor’s advice of a cesarean section at that specific time. Geez, Mom, you could have made me, us, so much cooler if you had waited until New Year’s Day. I mean, who gets born on New Year’s Eve? That’s such a copout.
Have you ever seen Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion? You should. As much as I was totally rooting for R&M, I often like to draw upon that scene where the duo is facing their high school nemesis Christie. Michelle’s like, “What are you picking on us for any way? We are not the ones who got fat.”
Christie, clearly with child, snaps back, “We’re pregnant, you half-wit.”
That’s basically it. My mom did not wait until January 1st to pop us out because she was pregnant. I’m pretty sure the last thing any mother wants to do when they’re pregnant is wait.
Hands-down, the most standout question, and I cannot say that it’s a stupid one that accidentally escapes the interviewer’s mouth – It’s just a stupid question – is:
So, you have a twin brother? Are you identical? No. I am female. I have a twin brother. We are not identical.
Fraternal same-sex twins have asked me this. Identical twins have asked me this. No, we’re not fucking identical.
One girl out of a boy-girl (FRATERNAL) pair of twins shared her showstopping response to this particular question with me: “I just tell them, ‘No, his penis is bigger than mine.’ And that just stops them dead in their tracks.” I believe it. That’s an absolutely amazing retort, one that I could never adopt because you really have to commit to it. But all the power to her and her small(er) penis for pointing out how utterly stupid people are sometimes. Or at least, how we could all do the world a favor if we just think before we speak.
Even in the extremely rare cases where this might be true, even if I gave the interviewer the benefit of the doubt when they feebly try to cover up with “Well, no, I mean, like, isn’t that possible? Like, sometimes?,” I would basically be dignifying an underlying question inspired by the stuff of Discovery Channel specials: “So, are you two freaks among the greater instances of nature?”
Well, that’s mighty unimposing of you. What sort of abnormalities of the mind, body, and spirit do you possess? Your predictable line of questioning and lack of alacrity in small talk seem to be evidence of a painfully mediocre existence. Is it true that people like you, with mediocre lives, have to make up stories to make yourselves sound interesting? I mean, that’s just what I’ve heard. Like, somewhere.
In the end, these questions are, at the worst, annoying, and it’s always an amusing new episode when I hear one. Mentally I just chalk another one on the “Are you identical?” board. I can understand the curiosity, of course.
It’s interesting from my perspective, as well, that people sometimes seem disappointed that my twin and I are as independent in nature as any random two people you might meet. We’re as dizygotic as they come. We are rather unique, though, in that we shared an amniotic sack. Usually dizygotic twins have their own placentas and amniotic sacks. I don’t always share this with the new people I meet because I just don’t like saying “amniotic sack.”
Male-female twins are also regarded as special in Chinese folklore, represented by dragon-phoenix imagery. It’s probably just me, but I think that’s fucking dope. It almost resulted in me being named “Phoenix.” What girl doesn’t want to be a fire-bird? That is SO COOL. My mom alleges that when she first realized she was pregnant, she had a dream about two babies laughing and playing on top of a giant carp. One baby was a little boy. One baby was a little girl. She insists that those babies were us. Other Asian, Buddhist-based traditions claim that twins are born when best friends in life die. The gods take pity on them, and grant them special access to be reincarnated together.
Half of the experience of being a twin is being reminded that you are a twin, and typically by people asking you any one of the above FAQ. It’s a similar fate to what Conan O’Brien imparted onto the Harvard graduating class of 2000, “You see, you’re in for a lifetime of ‘And you went to Harvard?'” As much as my twin status reveals a lot of ill-founded questions, I do feel grateful that the attention prevents me from taking how I came into this world for granted. Not everyone arrives with someone else. I cannot imagine life without my twin. I don’t know life any other way.