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Being a twin is hard

| Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Being a twin is hard.

I am so grateful for the “Aww, twins!” reactions that I have received over the years, but that visibility comes with the weight of comparison.

I have spent minutes standing side to side with my sister, feeling a sinking feeling in my stomach as another person stood with their hands on their knees, eyes searching, pointing out the smallest differences in our faces. To this day, I know my face is more oval-shaped than hers, I know I used to be a little bit shorter and I know even how we breathe differently. Furthermore, due to spending 14 years of my life dancing in tights and a leotard, I can’t help but compare my body to hers. Even as a 10-year-old, I took pride in a comment made by the ballet shop owner that my “shoulders sloped more” and I was “smaller” than my sister when I stepped out of the dressing room in a leotard. It sucks to not only hate the way your body looks in the mirror every day based on ballet body standards, but to take back the smallest shred of self-confidence on the horrible hope that you could be the “prettier” twin. 

Every now and then, I wear makeup, knowing my twin doesn’t. Sometimes I think that my personal image is the only thing that will provide me power over how people see me, and it hurts my heart. Why can’t other people just try harder to get to know me? I should be clear that getting to know me does not mean verbally listing all the visible differences between us. I can see the difference in someone’s eyes when they are looking at me to compare me to my sister, versus when they are looking at me to really know me

There is also a lot of invisibility that comes from being a twin. You constantly don’t know if the people around you know who you are, and hope that if you are mistaken for your twin, you at least give other people a good impression.

One of the hardest things for me was hearing my dance teacher, who I had known for 14 years, not know whether I was Emma or Claire, and it was really heartbreaking. I thought that I had made an impact, not only as a dancer, but as a leader in bringing the community together as a family. The worst thing to realize is that perhaps no one ever really is sure who I am, so every interaction they have with me is one marked by uncertainty. And it feels like neither of us individually exist. It is kind of like floating in a world where your identity isn’t yours, but just some mesh of everyone’s experiences with “the twins.” 

I always feel a lot of guilt around complaining about being a twin, because then I feel that people will be even more scared to get us “wrong,” and would then rather avoid us than saying hello. I even heard one person say to my face that “I was scared because I didn’t know which one you were, but I would have said hi if I knew.” I would much rather you try and fail at my name, or just ask, rather than give up and call me “Clemma” like one of my high school teachers who completely threw out any respect for us. Even if you know me pretty well, it can be hard, especially with masks, and it makes sense to get confused. I also get other twins mixed up sometimes, it’s only human. 

We are both 5-foot-5, double majoring in English and VCD, play the violin, dance ballet and are in all the same clubs. That’s a ton of similarities. But, if you really got to know us, you would see that Claire loves baseball caps, playing the guitar, doesn’t like spontaneity or change, drinks black coffee and has a calmer energy, like a sea of lilac flowers. In eldest-child fashion, she is way more level-headed than me, and always does scary things first, like getting shots at the doctor’s office.

Meanwhile, I am incredibly inspired by musical theater despite my singular theater experience, and hype up my latest obsessions of artists and movies too high, until my sister has to say “that really wasn’t that good.” I like to play pretty melodies on the piano, sip lavender tea and radiate a gently energetic personality, like when the sky turns a pinkish blue at sunset, not ready to give up on the possibilities of the day. In middle-child fashion, I sing “One Hand One Heart” with my younger brother despite Claire’s annoyance, haphazardly twirl around the kitchen while doing the dishes, and once listened to Greta Gerwig’s podcasts for a week instead of listening to music, because I was (and still am) obsessed with the idea of creating something beautiful for an audience through screenplay writing or design. We both love giving really good hugs, and I hope to never go a day without one from my sister.

Hopefully, now that you have dug a little bit deeper into what it means to share a smile with another person, you can see that being a twin is harder than it looks. However, the biggest struggle of being a twin is also the biggest gift. I get to share my life with someone who is always there for me, and who will always know who I am. 

You can contact Emma at [email protected]

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About Emma Kirner

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