This isn't a statistical fact, but just a general perception: Twins seem a lot more "normal" today than when I was growing up, as a twin.
My identical twin sister and I were little girls in the '80s. I knew other twins and grew up close to another set of twins, but we still got lots of looks and questions, especially when we were little and truly cookie-cutter images of each other -- aside from the fact that my parents, thank God, never dressed us alike.
The most common question was always, "What's it like to grow up as a twin?"
My answer was, and has been, the same: "I don't know what it's like to not grow up as a twin."
However, as my life has gone on, I've realized just how lucky I am to be a twin. I have learned and experienced a lot from having this perspective that, as I age, I attribute directly to my sister and to our us.
Here are a few lessons:
1. Close relationships are the most meaningful things in life.
I'm guessing that I might get some who disagree, but, for me, my life is only full and thriving if I have people who genuinely know me inside and out, and love and accept me exactly as I am. I'm also guessing that not every twin is as lucky as I am, to have such an amazing sibling relationship -- but I did learn this directly from being a twin.
To this day, I feel thankful that my sister is the one person I don't have to filter any of my thoughts and feelings for; if I say something and it comes out wrong, she doesn't take it personally. If I share a dark thought with her, she knows I'm still a good person. I've learned, through her, to recognize that close relationships can only be forged through being vulnerable -- through letting someone in. This also relates directly to self-love.
2. Dressing alike is overrated.
We are identical, but we are extremely different people. I'm grateful that my parents wanted to encourage our individuality, thus refusing to dress us alike.
Yes, we wore the matching outfits others had gotten us when we visited with them. Yes, we sometimes chose the same thing at the store. Still, the point is that, as an adult twin, I can't help but cringe when I see cute matchy-matchy kid twin pictures. (I hope this is just for photos.)
3. Everyone is different.
Truly, no two people are alike. How cool is that?
It's a reminder to me as I move through life -- and, especially, as I parent two daughters -- that I can only understand someone else's feelings and thoughts if I try to experience their vantage point as much as possible. In other words, my feelings and experiences -- even when I'm with other girls and women -- are not always shared. Furthermore, imposing my thoughts and feelings onto others is not the same as empathy or understanding.
4. It really is fun to switch places.
We did get a few laughs switching classrooms. (Another prerequisite twin question.) Ah, good times.
5. Happiness is best when shared.
I will always be the sort of woman who celebrates success with other women. I will never fully comprehend those who want to compete with other women, or cattiness in general. Happiness and the joys of living really are best when shared with the people around us.
6. There is always enough love.
One thing I was told repeatedly when pregnant with my second child was not to worry, that I would love this second child as much as my first.
I'm aware that this was supposed to be comforting, but it always pissed me off. I never worried once about being able to love another child, and (see number 3) it's not true kindness or empathy to assume we know how others are feeling.
The reason I never thought twice about this (apparently) common concern is that, when I was growing up as a twin, my parents made it clear that we were both loved a lot.
Which leads me to...
7. There are different kinds of love, but they don't have to compete.
One of my best friends growing up -- who is still one of my best friends -- told me once, when she began hanging out with another girl in high school more than with me, that it was because she felt she would never be as close to me as my sister.
I appreciated her honesty, and, in retrospect, wondered how many other friends had felt this way. But here's the primary piece of wisdom I've learned from being a twin: There is room for multiple forms of love in our hearts. They might not be identical, like my sister and I are, but love is love is love is love.
Not to be cheesy, but it's true.
I love my sister. I love my friends. I love my husband. I love my daughters.
This word, "love," does not adequately describe -- because it's too sweeping to properly articulate -- how I feel, for example, about my husband or kids. That said, growing up as a twin taught me how to have close relationships and, equally, to appreciate the differences that exist rather than using them in competition (see also number 5).
I've gained so much from being a twin that I think I'll have to stop here for now, or my list would become another book. If you grew up as a twin and have something special you've learned, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.