Maybe you’ve seen that coo-inducing video going around Facebook of the newborn French twins who are locked in an embrace as they float in a bathtub, in mutual denial that they’ve been sprung from the womb where they cuddled similarly nine months long. We’ll wait for you to watch it one more time. …
The intimate bond between twins has long piqued the curiosity of singletons the world over. In Western culture, which puts such enormous emphasis on individuality and selfhood, twins who look either identical or strikingly similar, and who perhaps behave in copycat ways, as many twins do—displaying like-minded views or shared talents or even patterns of speaking—turn heads. Now and then they may raise eyebrows (how old is too old for lookalike clothing?).
Were you ever envious of certain twins’ ability to know what the other’s thinking, not necessarily in a truly psychic sense, but due to sheer closeness and heightened communication? Remember those twins in middle school who’d trade classrooms—and trade their very identities—for an entire school day without getting caught? These clever girls or boys might have struck you as best friends, or they might have struck you as magical halves of the same mysterious whole. (They struck this writer as sooo lucky.)
Some twins remain unusually close their entire lives. Take the identical Singh twins, Amrit and Rabindra, a pair of British Indian sisters born in 1966 who today make paintings together, often at the same time, employing different technical skills to one canvas, unified by an entirely copacetic aesthetic. Their work has been shown worldwide.
Maybe you’ve seen Linda and Terry Jamison—born in Pennsylvania in 1965 —identical sisters who call themselves the Psychic Twins. These brunette look-alikes are credited with putting their heads together and correctly predicting everything from terrorist threats to the untimely fatal plane crash of John Kennedy Jr. to the breakup of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. (It should be noted: They also in unison get certain predictions very wrong. And you’re right—maybe we could have predicted JLo’s break on our own.)
Even literature rejoices over an uncanny or eerie doubling; think back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s spine-tingling Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, maddening Tweedledee and Tweedledum from “Through the Looking-Glass,” the crime-solving Bobbsey Twins, or key supporting players in “Harry Potter,” Fred and George Weasley.
But if we’ve always been intrigued by the twinning phenomenon, in ages past described as an exciting “accident of nature,” we’re now much more universally aware of its traits and challenges. That’s because the rate of twin births has, well, doubled since 1980, when one in 60 births resulted in two babies—now, thanks to assisted reproductive technology, or ART, it’s one in 30, according to professor Nancy Segal, director of twin studies at California State University Fullerton.
Because so many twins are being born, certain U.S. colleges have begun offering generous tuition discounts to twin applicants. (Scholarships for multiples of three or more are also available around the country, in case that applies to your brood.) There are twin magazines, twin fan clubs—even a town called Twinsburg, Ohio, that hosts the world’s largest twin festival every summer.
Certainly, the occasional twins, both fraternal and identical, likely don’t relate any better than two estranged second cousins. Many adult twins make their homes far apart and, like lots of brothers and sisters, rarely chat. But the more familiar concept of twins who grow up happily together—finishing each other’s sentences and forming a friendship that endures beyond childhood—codes our culture.
Professor Segal attributes this harmonic cohabitation to more than just proximity and shared experience—in a BBC World Radio interview recorded last year, she theorizes that genes are the glue that
creates the seemingly surreal connection some of us single-born may secretly crave.
In fact, Segal cites a long-running University of Minnesota study, looking at twins born between 1982 and 1991 and separated at birth, in which numerous duos split and raised in different cultures, different countries even, prove to hold stunningly similar views on politics, to share mirror-image social behaviors and, in some cases, quite matching personalities or temperaments. Segal herself has been studying two female twins separated early and raised apart in North America and Europe. She describes the little girls’ reunion at an airport, when she was blown away by “how well they got along so quickly; looking at each other…then falling into an embrace.” Swoon.
We are without a doubt as twin-curious as you—that’s why we invited some of our favorite local pairs to appear in this issue and answer a few personal questions we’ve wanted to ask them only our entire lonely lives.