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Reflection: My life as a mirror twin

By Kaila AllisonJanuary 6, 2017

Mirror Image
Mirror Image Getty

My sister and I are identical twins. We are also mirror twins, which means that the egg from which we sprang split later in the embryonic stage than usual, leaving us with characteristics of reversed asymmetry. I am right-handed and she is left-handed. My organs may be on opposite sides from hers. We may have different brain hemisphere dominance. She is my reflection, and I am hers. 

We share the same genes, we share socks. We share food, sometimes. We share family, we share friends, and we share enemies. We have been all three to each other at the same time. 

When we were children, we both wanted to be brain scientists, then marine biologists, then teachers. We both had an obsession with Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, and cried together when we heard the news of his fatal sting. We played music together, we studied together (which also both ended in tears). We were the infant stars of our dad’s newspaper. I was always dressed in pinks and reds, she in greens and blues. We drew a series of cartoons about microscopic organisms. We created a fictional nonprofit called “Save the Cows.” We had the same ambitions, the same interests. But we weren’t the same.

My parents called me “Baby A” because I was 3 minutes older, and fit the personality type. I was born screaming; my sister, underweight and silent. Rumor has it that I sat on her ear in the womb, stunting its development. She was born breech, and had to gain weight at the hospital while I was sent home with my parents. 

As we grew up, I admired her patience, her selflessness, and her grace, while I dealt the blows: the Indian burns, the pinching, the yelling. I was enamoured by my dad’s camcorder and monopolized it. I was the one and only “director” and made her act in little skits we made up with our stuffed animals. When we would go on vacation, I picked out a souvenir in five seconds, and she in as many hours; she always ended up with the better gift. 

At first, I thought twinhood was a curse. I didn’t think being a twin was all that special. I found it annoying. I didn’t like the attention my sister and I would get when people would try to guess who was who. It made me feel like some kind of zoo animal being ogled and taunted. I would feel personally insulted when called my sister’s name by people that had known us for years, by even my own family. I competed with her over points on our math tests, boys, recitals. When we were teenagers, I thought I would kill her in her sleep when she went out with a boy I was in love with. Again, when she would practice her cello when I was trying to read. Each of her successes would pierce me, and each of her defeats build me up stronger. 

I was tired of being asked the same questions. No, we didn’t speak a secret language, but we used a certain argot sometimes. We never switched places. We couldn’t read each other’s minds, but we always knew when one of us was hungry or heartbroken. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my sister. I saw myself. 

I wasn’t her; she wasn’t me. 

We went to college and lived apart from each other. I didn’t miss her. I was enjoying life on my own, and didn’t even tell people that I was a twin. I wanted a new life, independent from her. I focused on academia and on building my social life, but could never feel fully myself. My sister and I tried to call each other, but more often than not played phone tag. She was preoccupied with her studies hundreds of miles away, and I started to miss her. I thought about her too-tiny ear, a reminder of my dominance, my guilt. 

I found I not only missed her, but I missed sharing. When I ran out of socks, I couldn’t borrow any from her. I didn’t have her around to encourage me to do better in my classes. I stopped playing music.

I remembered the victories and tragedies we shared. We won our library’s poster contest in elementary school. We mourned our young friend's sudden death. We were always in touch, even when we couldn’t call each other, even when we were in different countries. The farther away I got from my sister, the closer we became.

I imagine how we’ll be in ten years from now, in thirty. But no matter our age, I will always be Baby A, she will always have a tiny ear, and we will always both tear up at the finale of Swan Lake. We will always love sea creatures, guacamole, and travel shows. I couldn’t imagine not being a twin. It has become a part of my identity that I would never give up. Sharing with her is a privilege, a blessing. She is more than just my image, she is my sister.