Ask Me Why Being a Twin is Not Cute!
That's me on the right. On the left, is my sister Donna.
And incidentally, we never dress alike, but when in Ann Arbor … Go Blue!
"Oh my God - you guys are identical!"
But really, the fact that we look alike doesn't mean we are identical.
Everyone's first question upon finding out my sister and I are twins is, "Are you identical or fraternal?" For most twins, this is a one-word answer. But, we've never been typical! The doctor who delivered us said we were fraternal because there were two placentas. That was the standard wisdom at the time we were born, although we now know it's more complicated than that. Having been in the genetics field for many years, it was easy to ask a research friend of mine to run our DNA and determine whether we're identical or fraternal. Based on the markers he tested, as well as our common blood type, he estimated that there is a 95% chance that we are identical. This was quite the paradigm shift after 20-odd years of thinking we were fraternal. This was strange to know after all the years of hearing people say "oh, you are so identical," and having to respond "it's not up to you and your opinion. It's a biological fact, and no we're not!"
Take-home message:just because two people look alike does not make them identical. Just think about some of the friends or family you have. You probably know siblings who look a tremendous amount alike, or they would if they were the same age at the same time.
Another favorite question - "Can your mother tell you apart?"* Can you even imagine being the mother of two children and not knowing who was who? This is a particularly irritating question to be asked. And while we're discussing irritating questions, how about this one: "How do you remember which one you are?"Really? Whether or not you can tell us apart does not change the fact that we are individual people, with separate brains, separate bodies, individual personalities, different likes and dislikes, different taste in music, friends, professions, and just about everything else. My twin sister is my very best friend in the world, and always has been. But despite this, we are very different in many ways.
Many different factors, including injury or illness, may influence physical traits. So identical is never really identical beyond the DNA. Don't forget all the little things: differences in weight, posture, choice of hair color or style, or make-up preferences.Janice Berliner, 2019
* Similarly irritating questions …
● Just to add insult to the injury of being asked if your mother can tell you apart, try being a mother and having people ask if your kids can tell you apart. Yup - I'm the one who nursed them! And Aunt Donna doesn't answer when you call, "MOMMY!!!!!"
● I have a second cousin who has boy/girl twins. I once asked him if people question whether they're identical. His answer to them - "from the waist up!" I love this because it is both sarcastic and makes the person think about what it means to be identical.
● And my personal favorite, "When your sister hurts herself, do you feel pain?" Ask Donna, she'll say, "Yup, and those three C-sections without the epidural were a bitch!" Sarcasm - works every time!!