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The truth about twins

| Thursday, October 10, 2019

I read Allison Thornton’s column with great interest yesterday. I sympathized deeply with her plight. But take it from me, Allison — when you’re an actual, real-life twin, the questions are a whole lot dumber.

I consider myself somewhat of a twin expert. Not only because my sister, Sarah, followed me out of the womb, but also because my initials are TWN and my first name, “Thomas,” is the biblical word for “the twin.” Here’s some twin wisdom. Take notes, world.

Right off the bat, there is one point from Allison’s column I’d like to clarify. Twins — gasp — don’t have to look alike. There are two types of twins in the world: fraternal and identical. Fraternal twins arise when two separate eggs are fertilized and are far more common. Identical twins come about when a fertilized egg splits one more time before developing. Accordingly, fraternal twins aren’t genetically any different from “normal” siblings, and, as a result, don’t necessarily look any more alike than you and your little brother. Identical twins look exactly alike, but that’s because they have basically the same body due to the fact that they are genetic clones.

A related point: Boy/girl twins cannot, under any circumstances, be identical. I’ll let you read the last sentence of the previous paragraph and work out the biological reasons for this impossibility. Nevertheless, people — up to and including a nurse, purportedly an expert on the human body, who was processing paperwork at a doctor’s office — excitedly ask Sarah and I, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU GUYS IDENTICAL?” and then protest, “But you kind of look alike!” when we respond in the negative. If you have to ask, the answer is probably “no” anyway, but once you consider X and Y chromosomes the question takes on a farcical quality.

Next, there is no cosmic force uniting me to my sister. You may have just laughed at that sentence, but the only people I’m laughing at are those who earnestly ask me, “If I pinch you, will she feel it?” Answer — nope. We’re twins, not each other’s Horcrux. It’s not like when one of us trips and falls the other develops the exact same wound I-must-not-tell-lies style. Therefore, unlike me, she does not have a lightning bolt scar above her eye because she was a much less clumsy toddler than I was, and she never ran smack into a bookshelf.

(Too many “Harry Potter” references?)

Finally, I am not a psychic, and neither is Sarah. The next time you ask me, “Quick! What’s your twin thinking right now?” I’m going to judge you really hard. Because I don’t know what Sarah is thinking right now. I would have no way of knowing what Sarah is thinking right now. I don’t know why I would. If I had to guess, she’s probably thinking about dinner — because this sentence hit the page at 5:52 p.m. — or perhaps a midterm, because ‘tis the season at virtually every American college.

I could write a multi-volume book of twin misconceptions. Twins really are an understudied issue. You’d think a world that built the pyramids and put a man on the moon would have learned by now that men and women cannot be physically identical or that there is no logical reason someone would be able to physically experience someone else’s pain. Then again, we also live in a world without South Dining Hall grilled cheese. Existence is confusing.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

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