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The unexpected beauties of twin comparisons

How living alongside a twin opens doors to more vivid life experiences

While our older years may not include quite as many trampoline quarrels, Henry’s sneaky pleasure with pushing my buttons proved to be timeless.
While our older years may not include quite as many trampoline quarrels, Henry’s sneaky pleasure with pushing my buttons proved to be timeless.

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Recently, I struck up a conversation with a twin brother and sister who both go to the University — I’m also a twin, but my brother Henry goes to the University of Texas at Austin. There is a unique shared experience to which only fellow twins can relate, so it became impossible not to fall rapidly into an impassioned exchange of stories. The parallels in our experiences were uncanny, and I couldn’t help but wish my brother had been there to share his side of the memories. 

When I returned to my apartment that evening, I asked my mom to send me some childhood videos that exhibited some of the moments I had recollected. I was immediately overcome by a bellied laughter when hit with the realization that, while so many years had passed, so little had changed. 

The video that I received starred my brother and me at age four, bouncing giddily on a mini trampoline in my grandparents’ backyard in Medford, Ore. Shortly after our jumping had commenced, Henry stealthily shot his hips in my direction, sending me flying off the side of the small surface. Without hesitation, I hopped back on the trampoline, carrying on with that incomparable joy that only kids seem to exude. Henry, also unphased, proceeded to knock me off the edge twice more, and my merry oversight of his teasing only fed Henry’s cheeky determination to turn my sweetness into sass. Nevertheless, on his fourth attempt, Henry’s hopes were realized. After stumbling to catch my footing, I stomped the grass and an irritated frown swept across my face. In my abnormally raspy voice, I bellowed, “See, I never wanna have a brother, that’s why!” Sass overcame sweetness, after all. 

While our older years may not include quite as many trampoline quarrels, Henry’s sneaky pleasure with pushing my buttons proved to be timeless. Because of moments like the one above, I have acquired an unfortunate, inescapable nickname — when my twin and I tiff, my parents are unable to withstand the urge to compare me to Jennifer Grey. For those who are unfamiliar with the 1986 comedy classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Grey is the actress who plays Ferris Bueller’s infamously obnoxious little sister — Jeanie Bueller. She is shamelessly and outwardly envious of her crafty older brother’s cunning schemes.

Despite their quarrels throughout the movie, Ferris and Jeannie repair their frustrations as humorous understanding squashes all beef. Like this sibling pair, Henry and I are almost always able to see eye-to-eye in the end, and smirks of truce always wipe away my displeased frown and his wily grin. Like Ferris, Henry has and will always know the right buttons to push. We somehow manage to reconcile our differences every time, even if the road to understanding is rocky.

Aside from more typical sibling rivalries like those of Ferris and Jeanie, Henry and I have battled with the specific complexities of having a twin — namely, always having a direct point of comparison. Growing up with a sibling the same age invites parallels to be drawn by our parents, peers and, most unavoidably, ourselves. For many sets of twins, there is a pressure to be perceived as distinct and independent from your counterpart, but Henry and I have never struggled to solidify our separate identities. 

In fact, we have made active strides to maintain this distinction, and any resentment that resulted only reflects our mutual admiration for the things that our twin is but we are not. Although we were not referred to as “the twins” growing up, our acute awareness of an invisible bond fostered the fear of similarity, or worse, the disappointment that comes with comparison. Time, however, has marked this fear as unfounded, and the tensions of expectation have evolved to encourage celebration for the other’s accomplishments rather than competition. 

As we continue to more concretely understand who we are as individuals, we begin to find out more about each other — age has brought with it a priceless recognition that in seeing things through each other’s eyes we are able to learn more about ourselves. I have grown to view Henry’s triumphs as triumphs of my own, and this sentiment is shared. The comparisons that used to feel inherently bitter have become rewarding. 

As twins, we were given the gift of living separate lives that enable us to grasp the world through our respective experiences, and these experiences have proven to be wonderfully different. Through Henry, I have learned that cold cuts are not as scary as I once imagined, that designating time to spend camping, skiing or surfing is unarguably fulfilling, that Chinese history — his course of study at school — is more captivating when he tells it and that chuckling when my buttons are pushed makes life all the more pleasant. While seeing twins at the University often fills me with envy, I am ultimately grateful for the dissimilarities of our paths — it is in the dissimilarities that I connect with my twin and with the world. 

Willa Hancock is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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