Thing 1 and Thing 2
Twinning takes a new turn once fourth-year leaves home
Whenever I play the classic “random fact” icebreaker game, I always manage to surprise people with one fact. I don’t have any rebellious tattoos across my lower back, and I’ve never eaten guinea pig in Latin America. I haven’t seriously broken the law, and I can’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. I don’t tell them that I’ve never eaten an egg, though that’s true — and it’s beyond me why more people don’t think eating scrambled chicken embryos sounds gross.
The one really surprising thing about myself, actually, involves an entirely different person. I’m a twin.
This might not be a life-altering revelation to you, but most people, especially those I’ve known the longest, react as if I’ve transformed before their eyes. No longer little old independent me, I become half-person, half-mystery.
“What! What do they look like? Who are they? What school do they go to? Why didn’t you ever tell me! Do you know what they’re thinking right now?” The questions continue — and continue — until I’m tempted to actually call up my brother as proof. When they find out he’s, well, a he, a few brave souls venture forth and ask if we’re identical twins. I sardonically respond, “Well, I hope not, considering, you know, I’m a girl.” They retreat, quickly deterred by my explanation of all things fraternal. Indeed, my fraternal twin fraternizes with his fraternity brothers at James Madison University’s Kappa Alpha fraternity house, Thursday through Fraturday.
Having a twin has shaped my identity from the womb — I call him my wombmate — through my senior year of high school. We went to the same elementary school, although thankfully we remained separated for classes. Still, I knew which girls’ decorated cereal boxes he chose to fill with Valentine’s Day cards and whether he’d gotten in trouble at recess. We rode the bus home together, ate the same afternoon snack and quarreled about whether we’d play catch now or later. For two different people, we certainly led similar lives.
Middle school altered the pattern more than ever, as we finally attended different schools — though this was more of a technicality than anything else, as we were never separated by more than a few feet of hallway. I’d still hear through the instant messaging grapevine about my brother’s antics — though I hope he never heard about mine. While forced to navigate separate hormonal jungles, we were still fundamentally together.
High school took away the minimal distance established in middle school and once more we were wholly twins. For the first time ever, we had the same teachers. This caused a bit of a strain, especially when Matt would try to trip me with fishing lines as I studiously completed my lab reports. Our teachers, our friends and the school attendance lady knew us as the Stonehills, individual entities still forced together by a single surname.
So, to my college friends who act incredulous when I mention I have a twin — you should. I might seem complete, but you’ll never fully understand who I am until you meet who I am not.
It’s a strange concept, especially considering how drastically different Matt and I can be. As the real world looms ever closer, however, I realize that our twin paths are also separating. Instead of, “What school does your twin go to?” with Matt only an hour away in Harrisonburg, it’ll now be, “What city does he live in?” with Matt situated halfway across the country.
No matter where we are though, I’m not the same without Matt, and I can bet he would say the same thing about me. That is, if he were to actually read my column.
E.P.’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com.