Magazine article Psychology Today

Double Take

Magazine article Psychology Today

Double Take

Article excerpt

STANDING BEFORE A microphone in an ivy-cloaked courtyard, I took a gulp of champagne and prepared to toast my twin brother, Zack, and his new bride. For months, I'd worried about this moment. What if I started crying? What if I became overcome with jealousy? I looked at Zack-his thick dark hair and sloping eyebrows a match to my own-and remembered how much of our life we'd shared. Though ashamed to project anything but happiness for him at that moment, I privately reckoned with loss.

As fraternal twins, Zack and I came from two separate eggs. We each had our own amniotic sac and placenta. We shared no more DNA than single-birth siblings. Yet we had belonged together. We belonged together when we emerged from the womb, my first breath taken two minutes before his. We belonged together when we slept swaddled beside each other, reaching out when the other cried.

As small children, we belonged together when we hid under the table and traded licks of molasses off a spoon, and when we locked ourselves in the bathroom and dropped tissues into the toilet until it overflowed. As we grew, our sense of belonging manifested as protectiveness. Zack stood up to the boy in the sandbox who stole my shovel. When Zack threatened to run away from home, sitting on the front steps with a box of Legos on his lap, I begged him not to leave.

In high school, our belonging translated into teamwork. Together, we edited the school newspaper and studied for the SATs. Together, we lobbied our parents for a later curfew and went to our first real party. When I drank a little too much, it was Zack who knocked on the bathroom door to make sure I was OK.

We went our separate ways for college. I couldn't fathom how my new friends could understand me without knowing him. Living away from Zack, I experienced an unfamiliar sense of loneliness. A part of me felt missing.

For six years, I tried to find a stand-in twin. There was Miriam, my college best friend, and Jacob, my first love. With each new relationship, I sought the type of constant closeness and sharing that's normal for twins but not for others. The intensity of the twin bond was the type of connection I was conditioned to seek.

Thinking I'd be happier nearer to Zack, I moved to San Francisco, where he lived. On my first night there, he introduced me to his new girlfriend, Emily. As it turned out, she was also a twin, with an identical sister.

Naively, I expected the primacy of my bond with my brother to prevail. A few weeks after showing up in town, I made plans to meet Zack for coffee. He walked into the cafe with Emily. After the three of us spent an hour together, I went outside and unlocked my bike. Zack came out alone to say goodbye and found me crying.

"I'd wanted to talk only with you," I said.

"Emily's your friend now, too," he said.

"I'm glad to have Emily as my new friend," I said. "But I miss twin time-just you and me."

As I began to grasp that Zack and Emily now functioned as a unit, something happened that was unexpected, yet in a way not surprising. I developed an easy, tight bond with Emily's twin sister, Kate. With her warm and energetic demeanor, Kate taught me how to rock climb, providing guidance and encouragement as I fumbled my way up the wall. When I hatched a plan to chop off my long hair, she came along to the salon and documented it via photo montage. When we went on a double blind date and decided the guys were tossers, we took off to a dance club and ended the night at 2:00 in sweaty shirts.

Strangers marveled at the romantic comedy-like circumstances that gave rise to our friendship. …

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