People always ask me what it’s like to be an identical twin. Frankly, I have never given it much thought, simply because it is the only thing I have ever known. For the 9 whole minutes of my life in which I was not a twin, all of the focus and attention was on my still-to-be-born brother and not me. But lately it has become more obvious to me what the experience of being a twin is like.
Imagine walking into a room of 100 strangers and having all 200 eyes (assuming there aren’t any pirates in the room) turn and look at you. That’s what it is like to be a twin. The idea of blending into the background or standing in the shadows is a concept that is based more in fantasy than reality. As a twin, you can’t just blend into the crowd. You are the focus of attention. And you better darn well get used to it.
Wherever my brother and I would go, we would be the center of attention. It didn’t hurt that we were just the cutest kids (J); the fact that there were two of us exactly alike was intoxicating to people. We were freaks of nature; to some people it was as if we were mythical figures that had never before been viewed.
And the questions we would get asked were sometimes so asinine I don’t know how my brother and I kept straight faces; or how we refrained from making stupid comments in response. “Who’s smarter?” “Who’s better at baseball?” “If I hit him, will you feel it?” That one was always my favorite because I would tell them to try it and see what happened. My brother wasn’t such a fan of that, though.
Being a twin meant I was always on some sort of stage. I didn’t need to act out to get attention. I didn’t need to sing and dance and make a spectacle to get people to notice me. People noticed me just because of who I looked like. When I meet other people who have twin siblings, my first questions is to ask if they are identical. The majority of the time the answer is “no.” At that point, I usually don’t have much else to say—because unless you are an identical twin, you don’t know what this is like. Even fraternal twins are outside this club.
None of this truly occurred to me until recently. Last week my dad and brother and I went to Dodgers fantasy baseball camp. What better way to try to blend in, right? Everyone wearing the same uniform, only the names and numbers are different. Should be a piece of cake. Not a chance—from the minute Phil and I walked in the room, everyone knew us. In fact, our names were somewhat legendary already; we had new campers who said that they were already aware of us from a camp we had done 2 ½ years ago! Of course, it didn’t hurt that we are still pretty good ballplayers; but still, the fact that we were twins was the draw. But Phil and I, after 38 years, are so used to it, that it doesn’t faze us when people pay us attention.
That experience gave me pause to look back on the past 20 years since high school ended. All of the schooling up through high school was nothing more than popularity for being strange. But college and law school and beyond, I realize that I was never terribly uncomfortable in large crowds of people or making friends or standing out in a crowd. All of those years of people turning around and staring made it that much easier for me to go off and do it on my own. Sure, there were times when blending into the background was a wonderful respite, but in truth, I wasn’t made for the shadows. The fact that I am a twin and have always been the center of attention has made me better at so many things, such as making friends and even networking. I am less intimidated walking into a room of strangers than most people because I have so much experience doing it and knowing the feeling of everyone turning and looking. Performing in front of an audience, giving a speech or speaking in front of crowds was never as difficult for me as I know it can be for some. The idea of stage fright being debilitating is foreign to me, because the way I see it, Phil and I were always on stage. If a kid acts up, he can be taken out of the room. If a twin acts up, it is much more noticeable. And I think that Phil and I thrived on that attention.
So when I stand in front of a room and lead a networking group or walk into a new situation and find a way to get noticed, I truly think it is a function of my being an identical twin. When so many people are looking at you all the time, you kind of get used to it. At first, it seems like they expect you to do some sort of a trick; eventually you embrace the attention and get used to it.
What’s it like being an identical twin? It’s like always being on stage with the spotlight on you.
What’s it like being an identical twin? Beats the heck out of me! It’s the only thing I’ve ever known!