Everyone’s struggle?

155.444 One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular, by Abigail Pogrebin (2009).

I’m a twin.  When I was growing up, that fact sometimes made me feel different, and therefore special, and sometimes annoyed.  The annoyances were small things, like knowing that if my brother was assigned to a favorite teacher for fourth grade, I’d automatically be put in the other class with a different teacher.  I also got asked, a lot, what it was like to be a twin. I remember being baffled at the question; it just meant that one of my brothers was my age.

At first, we had joint birthday parties and shared a cake, decorated by my dad.  My brother and I each chose what we wanted and then my dad combined them together.  One memorable cake combined Snoopy (both of us) on a bulldozer (him) with a rainbow (me) (or was there one with a unicorn and a tank?).   In about second or third grade, we started to have our own cakes, separate parties, and different friends.  We had different interests and different strengths, too.  We were in some high school classes together, but honestly don’t remember it as either positive or negative; that’s just how things were.  And as we got older, our paths diverged in more obvious ways; we moved away to different colleges and then he hit a lot of life landmarks (a job, marriage, kids) while I stayed in school for a very long time.  Eventually, I got a job, too, and bought a house and we’ve settled into a comfortable relationship of adult siblings.

I explain all of this not because it’s terribly insightful or even necessarily interesting, but because I’m still a bit baffled at the disconnect between my own experiences and those dissected in this book.  The gist of the matter is that the author, Abigail Pogrebin, has been struggling all of her life to make sense of herself as one (an individual) and the same (half of the Pogrebin twins).  She proposes that identical twins provide an intense, and therefore insightful, example of how children gain a sense of self and grow to understand their place in the broader group.

Pogrebin writes about many sets of twins, with examples from elderly twins who never married and rely on each other for comfort and companionship to middle-aged twins who fight to establish their own lives independent of each other.  She also writes, in a fair bit of detail, about the pain and confusion caused when she and her sister did not want the same level of closeness as adults.  In doing so, she describes twins whose twinship is universally the center point of their lives.  In fact, she readily implies that ALL twins are fundamentally forged by their twinship in ways that, for better or worse, drive and determine every other aspect of their lives and senses of self.

When I read this book, I felt somewhat sorry for Pogrebin and her sister, who seem to feel their twinship deeply and to have some trouble navigating that bond in adulthood.  That sounds quite uncomfortable, and I can see why Abigail would write a book like this as a way of trying to understand her relationship with her sister.  The problem is that I, as a twin, simply don’t see myself reflected in these pages.  I felt like I was told a lot, but shown very little.

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