I don't normally forget I'm a twin, but since we live in different cities, I forget that other people notice we're twins. As often happens, we were wearing similarly colored shirts, but since our hairstyles differed, and I was several months pregnant, I didn't think the shirts mattered. However, the waitress freaked out as she looked from one side of the table to the other and, after lunch, everyone who stopped at the same ice cream stand as us commented on our similarities. These things happened when we were kids, but I didn't think that 30 years later, people would still be commenting on our likenesses.
People often ask what it's like to be twins and I imagine it's a little like being a small-town celebrity. Strangers used to stop us in the street and ask us a million questions; Were we twins? Who was older? Were we identical? Until we were 25, we didn't know if we were identical or not. This meant we had a lot of explaining to do or else people thought we were stupid. We looked a lot alike, but so did all four of my siblings and I. Pamela had allergies to everything starting at age 6 and I am still not allergic to anything. I'd been wearing glasses daily since I was 12, and Pamela didn't get them for another six years, and even then, she only wears them occasionally. Did that mean we were fraternal or identical? No one knew, though people always felt free to speculate.
That speculation was the downside of being twins, as people never hesitated to point--with their fingers in our faces-- our differences and flaws. "She has more moles than she does!" "She has a bigger gap between her teeth than the other one!" "You're the older twin? But she looks older!" As if one of us was visibly aging 11 minutes faster than the other. Toss in the fact that we were the only Hispanics in town, (Are you Mexican? Is Bolivia in Africa? Do you speak Bolivian?) and the questions seemed endless.
There were other frustrations too. We went to the same small school for 12 years, but most of our classmates never learned who was who. We always answered to both names if someone was calling us from a distance, because chances were they had the wrong name. Because we had similar interests, it was a struggle to figure out what we each wanted to do for ourselves and what we were doing to keep the other twin company. We deliberately decided to go to different universities because, we craved having our own, singular identity. For example, in high school, Pamela was, "the writer" and I was "the artist." Only after living apart were we able to pursue our passions without worrying about stepping on the other twin's toes. We've both done a lot of writing since then and Pamela has more of her own drawings hanging in her house than I do.
Despite the ups and downs of twinhood, the great joy in my life has always been my twin. Even though we argued more than people would guess, we were always each other's greatest defenders. With Pamela, I always had my dance partner at school dances. When our parents worked late, and our siblings living on their own, Pamela and I would make up dance routines and laugh until bedtime. When I was at my lowest, Pamela was there. When we both struggled with the news of our infertility, Pamela was the rock that kept us sane. At mile 23 at each of my marathons, Pamela was cheering louder than everyone combined. Even now, every time I write a blog post, Pamela has been my editor. She is my best friend, not just because we're twins, but because she is a good, generous, thoughtful person that I want in my life.
Now that Pamela has become a mother, the joy in her heart is joy in mine. She has awed me with her ability to manage two tiny girls without complaining once about her lack of sleep and sudden change in lifestyle. I enjoy our early morning chats on weekends about diapers and onesies. I cling to the phone as I hear her talk to her girls and I agree emphatically as she tells me, in her sweet motherly way, how cute and wonderful the girls are. Sharing this experience has been absolutely incredible and somehow, brought us even closer together.
In 2000, we found a website that did genetic testing for twins. After we each sent in our swabs--mine from New York City, hers from Michigan--we decided we didn't care if the results said we were identical or fraternal. Then we both laughed and said, "Actually, I hope we're identical!" It turns out that, despite our different college choices, different careers and different routes to motherhood, we are identical. We are of the same blood, same tissue, same heart. But then again, we already knew that, didn't we?