I’M A twin. I’ve been one for 21 years. I’m an identical twin. I have experienced all those years with my sister by my side.
My twin’s name is Aoife. We went to the same playschool, primary school and we were even in the same classes in secondary school (which was never easy for our subject teachers). We are identical and when we were dressed in uniform with our hair tied the same way it was sometimes near impossible to tell which one of us was which.
Between friends, teachers and parents, we mastered the act of swapping places. We share absolutely everything. We technically share our whole life, which evidently makes it more special. We can answer the questions that are frequently asked to us on autopilot. Are you identical? (Maternal, so yes, we are, and we can switch places.) Who’s older? (Aoife, by a whole eight minutes, but it still counts.) Do your parents ever mix you up? (Yes, a lot of the time – this can be a good thing and a bad thing.) Who knows, could I really be Aoife and could she really be Rebecca? These are not even half of the questions that we get asked on a daily basis.
“What’s it like to be a twin?” and “I’d love to be a twin!” are two common comments said to twins.
“What’s it like?” is a question that has numerous answers and can also be quite difficult to answer. Being a twin has extreme advantages, but it also has its disadvantages. You have a best friend forever, a secret keeper, a human diary, but most of all someone who is continually there for you no matter what. You live your life with your best friend there with you every day. You never have to be alone. You experience life together. Every milestone is achieved with your best friend.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
I asked Dean (24) from Wexford, who has an identical twin called Jason, about the negative things about being a twin. He said: “The one question that follows with unintended insult is, ‘what’s the difference between you?’.”
Twins are constantly being compared. “I often get told the difference is our weight or facial features. Which normally ends in one of use being offended,” said Dean.
Being a twin can be compared to having a male or female sibling. Yet when it comes to distinguishing the difference between siblings, especially weight and academic ability, it is not as extreme. Dean also said “our personalities are completely different. I’m not easily offended, although my twin is. So it obviously makes him extremely uncomfortable when people start pointing out our differences”. Being a twin is also permanently being called ‘the twins’. I asked Dean if he had ever experienced a situation where he was introduced as ‘the twins’.
“It actually happens at every family event. You would often hear ‘oh, there’s the twins’ or ‘here come the twins. I used to get angry about it but now I just try not let it bother me.”
Being categorised as a twin suddenly becomes your name. Dean added: “Negatives never outweigh the positive side of being a twin. Having a best friend since birth overpowers them all. There’s a power when it comes to two.”
Being a twin is not as rare as it used to be since studies have shown that the birth rate has risen 76% in recent years. Yet people are still fascinated by twins, whether you are identical or not identical, twin girls or boys, or male and female. I know this because I and my sister Aoife still get asked questions constantly.
ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING?
The one question that people are most captivated by relates to ‘twin telepathy’ (which is more common with identical twins but is possible with fraternal twins also). I asked Jason, Dean’s twin brother, questions about twin telepathy. I asked him whether he and his twin ever think the same. “We don’t necessarily think the same, but on the odd occasion we might,” he said. “Sometimes I could be thinking about going to the gym after work with my brother and he would already be packing his gym bag when I get home.”
He also told me a story about something I could relate to. “I know exactly when my brother is in a bad mood. He doesn’t even have to speak. I just get a feeling and I’m more than always right.”
According to academic studies, twins have an extreme connection that enables us to do this. Jason is an identical twin. Twins share so many qualities and similarities, which enables extraordinary telepathic qualities. “I could hurt my shoulder and suddenly his same shoulder will be hurting for no reason,” said Jason.
Twins have a connection that allows them to speak to one another, without even saying a word. I asked Jason if he can speak to his twin this way. He said: “We actually made up our own language when we were younger. We would constantly talk to each other with our own made-up words. Sometimes, we would use a few of these words just for old time’s sake.”
I asked Lucan-based student Ciara (22), an unidentical twin to her sister Kate, what is the one thing that people always presume. “People actually think that we must never fight,” she replied. “Twin closeness can be equated to an unbreakable, unshakeable love. We are sisters and we do fight but only occasionally and never for longer than 20 minutes. Yes, we did time it. It’s hard to fall out with her for longer than that. You can think about it like falling out with yourself sometimes because our personalities are that alike”.
Twins have such a bond that these disputes never last long. It is usually always forgotten about, and you are planning on what to do next together before you even realise that you had been fighting.
There is also the distribution of the unpleasant and everyday duties, which can be a perk and disagreeable at times. This involves the dividing of household chores, who hoovers and who polishes, who sets the alarms for the morning, who turns off the light at night. The most common issue for us when we were both in school was who starts and who finishes school projects or homework.
The amazing part of being a twin is that psychotherapy is pointless. Visualise having someone in your life that experienced every single event and milestone in your life – birthdays, college graduation, first job and so on. Every single moment is shared when that one question is asked, ‘well, how was your day?’ I could not even imagine another friend who would dissect all the information I tell her and still continually come back for more. Being a twin is honestly a true gift that should be cherished.
BEING AN IDENTICAL TWIN
Aoife, who is my twin, is a 21-year-old college student. She found it hilarious when she found out that she had been pointing at me in a family photograph for years, thinking it was her.
“Rebecca and I freakishly have the same taste,” she said. “That being the same taste in food, music and clothes. We could walk into clothes shops together, separate and then meet back up with the exact same items of clothing. We occasionally do dress the same sometimes – which can be unintentional. Our parents dressed us in the exact same outfits when we were younger. Even down to the colour of our socks. Now the only difference is our hair colours. Rebecca’s hair is now blonder and I’m a brunette, but other than that we are pretty much the same person.”
I asked Aoife to tell one story about when she took advantage of me being able to pass myself off as her. “I do take advantage of the fact that Rebecca could easily pass as me. Which I did before. Rebecca attended a class that I had no project done for and took the punishment for me. One of the many perks of being a twin. However, she still censured me on what I had missed out on.”
I also asked Aoife what it’s like to be a twin. “It’s the most amazing feeling having (you) Rebecca by my side. I couldn’t imagine living my life without you, and even worse not knowing you at all. We think, eat and dress the same – you’re my best friend.”
BEING A NON-IDENTICAL TWIN
I also asked questions of Rachel, who is a 24-year-old secondary school teacher. I asked her if she could ever think about what life would be like not being a twin. She replied: “I honestly could never think about what life would be like if I did not have my twin sister Siobhan”.
Rachel and Siobhan are fraternal unidentical twins. I also asked Rachel If they have similar interests. “We do have similar taste when it comes to films and television, but our preferences differ when it comes to music. The music I love, Siobhan hates. She honestly wouldn’t even dream about liking it”.
Although their appearance is not identical, their voices are. “It would be so hard to tell us apart on the phone. We use this to our advantage. It’s actually bad when even our mum sometimes gets mixed up”.
I asked her about one event that really stands out. “We actually got the same points in our leaving certificate. Don’t ask me how we manged it, but we did!”
They are travelling the same career path, but both excelled in different subjects. Her final comment was: “Even though we are twins, we look at each other as two completely different individuals that have a special connection, and that is what makes us the same.”
BEING A MALE AND FEMALE TWIN
I also asked Sarah from Naas, who is a 26-year-old sports enthusiast and student, what it is like to be a twin to brother John.
“I really enjoy being a twin,” she said. “I love when people ask me a question about my family so I can tell them. I just think it is so fascinating.”
People never presume that she and her brother are twins. “I find it funny because some people don’t even think we are related, let alone are twins. It is quite hard to be recognised as a twin when he’s a boy and I’m a girl.”
Yet she never fails to tell people that she has a twin brother. “Whenever I tell people that I am a twin, they are usually shocked and fascinated by it. Then they to begin to ask me loads of questions, which honestly I love answering.”
She is used to the frequently-asked questions, but acknowledges that she finds it interesting that people are so interested.
“Myself and my brother couldn’t be more like chalk and cheese. My brother is chattier and is less interested in sport. Yet he never fails to support me at my matches.” Sarah has a tremendous talent and is passionate about the sport she plays.
I asked Sarah who is the older twin. “John is 12 minutes older than me. He never fails to remind me that he’s the older twin, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I put another tricky question to Jason and my twin sister Aoife. I asked them whether their boyfriends or girlfriends ever mixed them up. Jason, who is also an identical twin, said that “my girlfriend has surprisingly only once mixed us up. Thinking about it, at the start of our relationship it must have been hard for her. I caught her walking towards my brother one day and then shockingly realising it was not me when his girlfriend walked out of the room. It was so funny for me, but she was mortified. She still gets on to me for bringing it back up”.
I asked Jason how he felt when this happened. “It’s just a part of being an identical twin. I just laugh about it. It’s surprising because it’s something that people who are not twins would get mad about. I think that’s what makes it funnier.”
I asked my twin sister the same question. Aoife said “my boyfriend often mixes us up, which annoys me so much. He actually texted Rebecca first and then realised that it wasn’t me when she responded, ‘wrong twin’. He walked into my sitting room and sat beside Rebecca while I was sitting at the other side of the room. He awkwardly got up and sat beside me when he finally realised it was Rebecca. I will never understand how he sometimes still mixes us up”.
I also asked Aoife how she felt when this happened. “It actually doesn’t bother me at all. It used to at the start, but Rebecca and I get so much amusement out of it now. I think at this stage he just does it to annoy me. It’s just one of the joys of being an identical twin, I suppose.”
Being a twin means that you will never know someone in as much detail as your twin, nor will anyone else know you. It’s an amazing gift that can be tiring, weird and rewarding all at the one time. Aoife and I make sacrifices to stay together, such as staying in the same town, or even country.
It is one of the most amazing feelings that there is always going to be one special person that will continually be there for you with no judgement and who will forever be your best friend. I could never imagine not being a twin; it is amazing to know that you will always have someone there to share your whole life with.
It is the most difficult yet rewarding gift that twins will forever be grateful for.
SOME THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT TWINS
- A central African country called Benin has the highest national average of twins – 27.9%
- Identical twins do not have identical fingerprints
- Mothers of twins are said to live longer
- An average of 25% of identical twins grow directly facing each other, meaning they become exact reflections of each other
- Identical twins are genetically inherited from the mother’s side
- Fraternal twins are normally unidentical
- Tall women are more likely to have twins
- Women who eat a lot of dairy are more inclined to conceive twins
- Twins interact with each other in the womb
- Some conjoined twins can feel and taste what the other one does
- 40% of twins invent their own languages.