Confessions of an identical twin

7 min readOct 23, 2020
Kristi & Me (March 2019)

A few months ago during a visit home, my mom insisted that I sit down and watch a program she had recorded about twins. I must admit, as an identical twin, I was not feeling that eager to watch it. I predicted it would be another one of those programs that highlights all the sets of twins who are inseparable: the ones who dress alike until their 90s, wearing purple hats as they walk their identical poodles in the neighborhood they both live in; the ones who each divorced twice, marrying husbands with the same name each time; the ones swearing they feel every headache or hangnail of the other, and can’t stand going on vacation without the other.

I secretly hoped for a program that might actually show some nuances about life as a twin, or talk about the twins who are not attached at the hip, and maybe even reveal a Cain and Abel variety of twins. But alas, I was disappointed. It was yet another program highlighting the twins that fit the cliché — everybody’s twin fantasy: best friends, attached at the hip till death do we part.

Ok, maybe I have a little ax to grind. Perhaps even a little guilt to expunge. I always felt like my sister and I were the “big disappointment,” or somehow a failure. We were the set of twins that couldn’t live up to the myth and common assumption that twinhood means that you are born with your best friend for life.

Well into adulthood, I was left wondering where my sister and I had gone wrong? Why didn’t we have that let’s-walk-our-poodles-together-every-day-for the rest-of-our-lives kind of relationship? Allergy to dogs aside, why was our relationship fraught with conflict? Why was it a love-hate relationship instead of one characterized by unwavering allegiance?

Already I feel like I need a disclaimer: I love my sister VERY much. We do have a deep bond, which I am very grateful for. Especially since we were given up for adoption during our first year, and thus she was my only blood kin. (Until 10 months ago when I discovered our biological father.) But I always found it slightly irritating that our brand of twindom was not the one touted in the media — not the relationship we were “supposed” to have. And I hated the pressure I felt to live up to everybody’s expectations of being a twin.

Like many mothers of twins, my mom had so much fun dressing us alike when we were young. But I remember arriving at that moment when I no longer wanted to wear the same thing as my sister. I remember feeling bad because it hurt her feelings; she took it personally — as something against her — rather than for what it was: a desire to be recognized as my own unique self.

It gets old really fast to always be referred to as “the twins”.

I still recall the mother of a childhood friend who lived down the block. She delighted in referring to us as a unit. “How are The Twins today?” she’d ask, with a grin and mischievous twinkle in her eye when we came over to play with her daughter, Stephanie. When I would show up on her doorstep alone, she’d ask, “Where’s the Other Half?” I used to respond by saying, “We each have a name, you know,” as I tried unsuccessfully to choke down my irritation. Yet the next time, she wouldn’t miss a beat in repeating the same question with her amused smirk.

I remember frustration arising in me when people would direct questions our way that would not typically get asked of “normal” siblings. It seemed as if the rules were different for twins — as if we were public domain in a societal biology experiment. “Which one of you is smarter? Which one of you is better at math, or sports, or. . . fill in the blank. “Which one of you gets better grades?” And each of us would point a finger and say, “She does,” fully convinced of the truth of it.

And the million-dollar question?

Yes, you guessed it: “Who’s the evil twin?”

And how often people would deliver pronouncements, such as: “Kristi is prettier, but you’re cute.” REALLY people? What leads people to dismiss all rules of tact and propriety in the presence of twins? Are regular siblings recipients of such careless comparisons?

And then there was always the question: “What’s it like being twins?” It seemed that what most people expected to hear was: “We’re BEST friends. We feel each other’s every pain and know each other’s every thought.” But that’s not the answer they received. What they got was, “I don’t know. What’s it like to have a regular sister or a brother?” I just had no context for comparison, since I had no other siblings. Would it be any different?

What I did know was that I wanted to be seen as a unique individual, and not just as a unit. It wasn’t until I went to Athens as an exchange student at age 16 that I really got to experience what it was like to be seen just as Marci, and not as a twin. It was a game-changer for me. I woke up to the fact that I could be known and loved — all by myself. Maybe my experience was akin to any sibling who has lived in the shadow of a very successful and/or popular older sibling. For the first time in my life, there was no “other half” to be compared to. My identity didn’t exist in reference to someone else. It seems banal to say it now, but at the time, it rocked my world.

Now that I’ve ground my axe, let me indulge you just a bit. (For those of you who can’t help wondering.) While we were not each other’s best friend most of our lives, we did experience a LOT of those twin things that people talk about. I remember one of the first times our mom took us out to buy each other Christmas presents, age 4 or 5. Without having revealed what we wanted, we each bought each other a toy china tea set. And the next year, the same doll and the next year the same necklace, then in junior high, the same argyle sweater, and on it went, year after year.

When I was ten and waiting to be wheeled into the surgical room to get my appendix out, my sister sat out in corridor, howling. The nurse, thinking that it was my sister about to be operated on, consoled her by telling her the surgery would be brief and she’d soon be eating ice cream.

And when I was writing letters home to my mom from Athens, complaining of both a stomach rash and an eye infection, my mom was receiving letters from my sister (in Japan) detailing the same ailments. And one of our more recent fights was about a childhood incident in which I broke my big toe because we had the brilliant idea of playing our own version of ping-pong at the baby-sitter’s house. It involved sliding 30 lb weights across the ping pong table to each other. Well, one of those weights ended up on my toe. Kristi, however, insisted, and almost bet her only son on the fact that it was her toe that got broken. (But since my version is now in print, it makes me officially right.)

At the age of 51 the relationship is still a work in progress, but I think I can safely say there’s much more love than hate! Although close mutual friends still have their doubts when they hang out with the both of us. But in our defense, let it be known, that no one knows better than a twin where to find your Achilles heel.

And just to clear up any lingering curiosity: We didn’t marry men with the same name or the same profession. I’m divorced, and she’s not. She had a child, I did not. I returned to the States in 2016 after living nearly 20 years on the other side of the Atlantic, during which time my sister dedicated herself toward working on behalf of economic justice in the S.F. Bay Area, where she lives in a co-housing community.

At some point if you see two women who look alike, walking out of Market Hall, in Oakland, eating Brazilian cheese rolls, arguing at a loud volume, yes, that is most likely us. But will you find us on vacation together? Not likely. We’re still recovering from our fight in Sienna when she visited me in Italy in 2007.

And now, for the record, I have to say that I would be devastated if my sister were no longer in my life. And not just because there IS this inexplicably deep bond, whether we like it or not, but because my sister has become one of my heroes. While I’ve always respected the work my sister has done as a community organizer on behalf of so many social and economic justice issues over the last 25 years, my respect for her has grown exponentially during this time of Covid-19. She has been one of those working tirelessly behind the scenes, building coalitions and lobbying local city councils and Boards of Supervisors to enact tenant protections and bringing a halt to evictions during the shelter-in-place regulations. She’s been averaging 14 hour days in her fight to prevent more families from being made homeless during such precarious times.

So, my dear sister, I can say with utter pride and certitude for all the world to hear that you are NOT the evil twin after all.




Globe-trotter, coach, master of deep conversation. Loves coffee & correctly using the subjunctive in Turkish & Italian. Happiest when opening minds & hearts.