25 years ago today, my sister Joanna was born. And she had 60 glorious seconds to enjoy a birthday of her own, which she probably wouldn’t have screamed through if she knew that, a minute later, I would show up. And for the rest of her life she would never have a birthday she wasn’t forced to share.
Being a twin is a huge part of who I am. Most people would assume that after an entire childhood of sharing everything, and competing at everything, and drawing lines down the middle of our room so we could have our own space and everything, I would have a lot of complaints about being a twin. But I don’t.
Our parents taught us to work out our differences on our own (Cue scenes like, “Daaaad! Joanna is using all the blue Play-Doh!!” or “Mommmm Aileen won’t stop digging her fingernails into my arm!!!!” and our parents responding with, “Oh, that’s nice.”), so from a young age we learned that relationships are sometimes hard work, but they don’t go away, and you have to figure out a way to survive in them.
The first question we’re usually asked when people find out we’re twins is “Are you identical?” You’d seriously be surprised by the number of people who look straight at both of us and ask if we are identical to each other.
We’re fraternal. Two separate eggs. Mystery solved. The second question we usually get is about who’s older, and since I’ve already answered that, I’ll move onto the third question: “Do you have a lot in common?”
Short answer: Yes. And also no.
Had you asked us early on, we would have admitted to having few common interests or personality traits. Joanna is an extreme extrovert, and I lean towards introversion. She runs right for Splash Mountain at Disneyland, but if I get anywhere near that ride, I immediately start hyperventilating and peeing my pants. Joanna ran track and cross country in high school; I was in marching band and poetry club. She tans like she could maybe be Puerto Rican, and if I’m out in the sun for more than 20 minutes without sunscreen, I basically crumble into a fine powder. She drinks exclusively red wine, and I drink exclusively white. In so many ways, we’re opposites.
But through the years, we both discovered a love for writing. A love for theater. A love for yearbook. A love for pointing out misplaced apostrophes and hyphens (we get that from both of our parents). And, at one point in time, we even had the same glasses.
So even though Joanna is now a spinning instructor outside of her day job and all I’ve done of note lately is sweep the poetry category in Double Jeopardy, we’ve both ended up in the same city, at the same time, and we’re both saying goodbye to 24 later tonight at our birthday party, where we’re choosing to wear identical costumes and share the day with each other, even though we could have chosen to celebrate separately. And although I may not always be able to celebrate my birthday with Jonathan (in fact, Afghanistan and long distance have made sure that I’ve never celebrated my birthday with Jonathan), I’ll always have somebody to celebrate it with telepathically. Because twins can read each other’s minds. That’s the fourth most common question we’re asked.
Happy birthday, Joanna.