Unless you are one part of a set of identical twins, you’ve probably read or heard about identical twins and find some sort of odd fascination with them. Who are these people who on the outside share so many strikingly similar characteristics that they are often mistaken for being their sibling? Just how identical are identical twins? What must it be like to share a face with another human being?
When I grew up, there were six sets of identical twins and two sets of fraternal twins in my one small junior high school. This truly was a statistical anomaly, so much so that our yearbook dedicated an entire page to the twins at our school. Perhaps it was this or perhaps it was just natural curiosity that has always made me fascinated by twins.
So today, so many years away from junior high school, I find myself in love with an identical twin. You would not believe the questions I get about this, or the looks that ‘the boys’ as they are often called get when we all three go out together.
People are not rude, exactly, but they are obviously fascinated, perplexed, and intrigued by these two men who look so much like each other. We laughed each time someone would come up and ask, “Are you guys twins?”
Of course, their usual answer is to look at each other, look back at the asker, and then say in unison, “No, why? Do we look alike?”
The expression of confusion on the faces of the questioner is priceless. At least, I find it amusing.
These two siblings are closer than any ‘just’ brothers I’ve ever know. They are truly each other’s best friend, and share many similarities in likes and dislikes. I have come to accept that while they are each individuals, there is an added element with twins, and they both do come ‘as a package’ to an extent.
It does sometimes seem they can often read each other’s thoughts and body language and innuendo better than the average sibling or person. Many times, I will watch them both move the same way, at the same time, in reaction to the same thing, and it truly is like seeing double. To watch them watch a football game together, when persona is thrown out the window, and to see them react to the game when they are both cheering for the same team – well, it’s like seeing double vision, both moving their hands, heads, and body the same, the same facial expressions, everything.
Yet, as alike as these twins are, even though they are identical twins, there are distinct differences that make these twins, and other identical twins, uniquely individual and less than identical in many ways.
One thing I learned when reading about twins and the twin dynamic, is that even identical twins will have slightly different fingerprints and footprints (such as taken from babies in the hospital). The differences are subtle, but they are clearly present. This surprised me to discover, and it surprised them even more when I said, “Hey, let me see your fingers!”
While it is virtually impossible through the current DNA testing procedures to differentiate between identical twins, scientists have concluded that identical twins’ DNA is not a 100% match. While the percentage is very close to 100%, with extremely expensive and hardly cost effective testing, it is said that science can determine that each twin in a set of identical twins has ever so slightly different DNA.
Due to environment and lifestyle, identical twins can have other differences too. For example, with the twins I know and love, one of them is slightly heavier than the other, and one is more muscular. Why? Because one of them likes to run for sport and lift weights and eat right, while the other likes to play guitar, drink beer, and his sports are on the television. Still, both are fit and slender and lanky, and it’s obvious the foundation of their bodies is similar.
Now, these other things may sound silly, but perhaps will show that even identical twins are not 100% identical. One twin has more hair on his chest than the other. One twin has slightly curlier hair. One twin has a consistently higher blood pressure than the other. One of them smokes, and the other does not. One of them cusses and talks like a southern boy; the other speaks more professionally with less twang.
Environment, diet, and believe it or not, sexual activity or lack thereof, can affect certain aspects of body development, particularly true during the teen years. Because of this, identical twins who eat differently, participate in different activities, engage in different amounts of sexual activity, etc, can develop certain physical characteristics that are different than their genetically identical twin. The theory is, of course, that if the other twin had experienced the exact same things, he would have developed the exact same way. Therefore, the conclusion most scientists have made is that, though similar, environment is critical in determining how identical twins develop.
Personality is another way these identical twins differ, and perhaps it’s where they differ the most. Both of them will tell you that as children, they loved being twins. Everyone always thought they were cute, paid attention to them, thought it was funny when they both did or said the same thing at the same time. However, by junior high school, they were ready to each become their own person, and they both ended up with their own bedrooms for the first time, instead of sharing everything like before.
There was much sibling rivalry for the twins during their middle school years, and as such, the twins went their separate ways as far as friends and activities. One turned toward an interest in science and sports, while the other became interested in music and fast cars. They were both still friends with each other as much as siblings can be at that age, but their lives took different turns. One became sexually active at an early age and liked to drink and party; the other abstained and mostly studied and worked out. These differences in lifestyle at these formative years have indeed made a difference in the twins’ appearance and their personalities.
One twin is definitely more laid back and relaxed, enjoying life, full of laughter and fun; the other is more serious, hard working, but perhaps a bit anal retentive in personality. Yet, they both have the same sharp wit and sense of humor, though one is louder and more boisterous about it and the other is more sarcastic and subdued.
Believe it or not, one even has a slightly higher pitched speaking voice than the other!
This is not to say that either is good or bad or right or wrong, but the differences are distinct and the personalities unique, with subtle differences in their appearance that are enough that anyone who knows them both well has no problem telling the two apart, even when dressed the same. However, people who don’t know them well, work colleagues, casual acquaintances, or strangers frequently mistake them for each other, or cannot see the differences initially when they first ‘see double’.
They are different. They are the same.
Both statements would invariably be true, and you really would have to know identical twins personally to understand why this is so. Even loving and spending my life with identical twins, I still find the ‘twinness’ of it fascinating. Each time they both move the same way, or say the same thing at the same time, or I turn my head and it takes a moment to know for sure who is standing near me… I am intrigued by twins.