Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Guess I'll Have To Be One Of A Kind

My niece and her wombmate
Everyone's fascinated by twins. We marvel at them. "Look!" we say. "You're exactly alike! How can you tell each other apart? Ha ha!" we say. And the twins rig up a tired little smile. But exactly the same tired little smile. They're fascinating.

I thought most people wanted to have a twin, because I do. Turns out most people have no interest. I think it would be handy, because then there'd be someone to finish my sentences for me, which has increasingly become a concern, although it's more likely my twin would get the same start on the sentence as I would, and then we'd both be stranded. But at least we wouldn't be alone.

If I had my own twin to observe, I might get some insight into what is annoying about me. Everyone I've ever lived with has told me I'm annoying, but I don't see it. I don't find myself annoying at all, but I do have a habit of living with other people who get all irritated over every little thing, and stomp and yell and tell me they've cleaned up after me for the last time and when am I going to shut up and let them get a word in edgewise and threaten to wrap me in duct-tape and lock me in the closet, and maybe if I had a twin I could gain some understanding about why my friends are so touchy.

There are a few ways of coming up with multiple births. Science calls identical twins "monozygotic," because they come from a single egg that splits, and fraternal twins are called "dizygotic," because they each start out with their own egg. The larger numbers of births, such as your standard litter of puppies, is "coyotic." It's the monozygotes with the adorable identical little outfits that interest us the most. The dizygotic twins are pretty much just roommates. They could be Oscar and Felix.

Multiple births are relatively rare among humans. Evolutionarily, this is sensible, because humans are a bitch to raise. Having twins gives you twice the number of humans but four times the trouble. In other animals, such as the possum, it's more set it and forget it. The nipples swell up when the baby possum attaches and then they're latched on for the duration, eventually falling off to go do whatever it is possums do, no college fund or play dates or fancy birthday parties required. It's no wonder they churn them out.

In humans, it's the female that determines whether a single or multiple eggs will be released. She just does that all on her own, probably even more often than she'd like to, and nothing the man does is going to make her step up production. So say the experts, but I believe that seeing Liam Neeson in a kilt, in my fifties, caused me to spend out all my eggs at once and zip right through menopause.

Women over 35 are more likely to produce twins than younger women. My mom was forty when I was born, so I might have had a shot at being a twin, but Mom was very thrifty. She wouldn't have had extra eggs stacked up. The only thing she did that with was toilet paper, and that was a WWII rationing-trauma thing. What happens when twins are formed is that the blastocyst essentially falls apart, probably from sperm-related stress. That could be the end of it, but then it thinks better of it and rallies, and eventually you get two whole persons, and they duke it out to see who shows up first, with the other following 13 minutes later, on average, and never being allowed to forget it.

There are some who believe in spookier twins, such as Doppelgängers, which are basically identical twins conjoined at the soul. According to this theory, everyone has a twin out there somewhere in the world, and it's often an evil twin. Which means half of us are the evil twin. I don't think any of this is true. But I am sort of drawn to the Norwegian myth of the vardøger. This is another double, one who precedes you and can be seen performing your own actions before you do. Could be because I'm of Norwegian extraction, but I think that I might have a vardøger of my own. I often have the feeling of being a little bit late. Of course, this could also be explained by the fact that I often am a little bit late. My roommates used to complain about that too.


Spookier twins

69 comments:

  1. my sister, 2 years older, was small for her age, and i was a big 'un. we could often pass ourselves off as fraternal twins when we were young. and we did. it was a blast... haven't tried it lately -- because i'm about 4" taller than she is.

    i always wanted a twin.

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    1. You could still try. My mother in laws fraternal twin is almost 6 inches taller than she is.

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    2. A girl from my high school and I went to the same college and we looked alike, so we tried to pass ourselves off as twins. It was tough explaining why she was a class ahead of me--I didn't come out well.

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  2. I have a couple of non-identical twin granddaughters. A delight and terror at the same time. They're visiting over the weekend. Check out my blog for photos.

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  3. "...humans are a bitch to raise." Damn straight. When Mom was carrying me the Dr. thought I was going to be twins but no just one big fat one. When I was carrying the daughter the Dr. thought the same thing but an Xray determined no just one big fat one. We are both oddballs. I have often wondered if we didn't absorb our twins.

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  4. Aw shit. I am so the evil twin.

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    1. Don't you want to meet the other one and rough her up a little?

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  5. I doubt the world could stand a twin you, or a twin me. In some cases, one is enough.

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    1. Who cares what the world thinks? It's our army.

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  6. I kind of agree with Rob-bear. I was thinking as I read along that we are fortunate that Murr is a unique being. Two of you? It boggles the mind. I never wanted to be a twin because I was always an attention hog. I would have hated it. :-)

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    1. So THAT'S why you jump out of airplanes!

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  7. But Murr there is the very rare occasion when twins can be created by two fathers and one woman. That's when you get one twin that looks like Danny Devito and the other like Arnold Schwatzenegger. I bet Arnold was more fun to create...

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    1. Arnold would probably be willing to make a donation.

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  8. Fun thoughts.. especially your egg-spending theory. Men in kilts may well be a factor. ;)

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  9. My mother was often asked if my sister and I were twins. We were born 19 months apart, so I doubt it. And although we look similar, we simply don't look like twins.

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    1. I was often asked if my mother was my grandmother. She hated that.

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  10. I am a dizygotic twin. I wish I had a dollar for every time people have asked if my twin and I are identical. No, even in our matching Davey Crocket outfits, you could still tell who was the girl and who was the boy. No,we did not have that mystical "twin bond." We had rivalry with knobs on it. I could show you the scars.

    I think that if you were a monozygotic twin, it would be worth a doctoral dissertation for some psychologist.

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    1. I've got to learn to swallow before reading your comments.

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    2. Storks bring babies, swallows prevent them

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  11. Twins run in my family, but I didn't have any. My mother had twin brothers -- died in infancy. Her sister had twin boys. Her brother's granddaughter has twin girls. None identical as far as I know.

    I don't think you're the evil twin. I think you have some unfortunate choices in friends. ;)

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    1. Nuh-uh. Friends are great. I probably shouldn't live with anybody.

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  12. My yoga mate Amy is half of a set of identical twins. Can't decide which one of them is scarier...

    Pearl

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    1. What, in particular, would make a yoga mate scary? Is downward dog problematic?

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  13. I have two comments:
    1. Mark Twain said that he was one of two twins, but that one had died at birth and his parents didn't know which one.
    2. Have you ever seen the show on Discovery Channel (as I recall) about people who are their own twin? They are called chimeras. Something happens in the womb that causes one fetus to absorb the DNA of another, and the person carries two different sets of DNA in their body. It has caused problems in custody cases, when it appears that the mother is not biologically the mother of a child. I believe the show was called "I Am My Own Twin."
    Truth is stranger than fiction for sure.

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    1. 1. Saint Mark. (Ooo he'd hate that.)
      2. I had a whole paragraph in here about chimeras and their patchwork of unrelated tissues, but it veered into the Republican presidential candidates and got out of control and I edited it out.

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    2. The whole chimera thing is so weird....and yet fascinating. Would love to have read what you were going to say about it.

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  14. So, your mom hoarded toilet paper, too? Maybe our mothers were twins!

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    1. It was toilet paper as far as the eye could reach. Taller than I was. Wartime hones your priorities.

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  15. I keep getting told if we keep having babies I will have twins. My great grandfather was a twin, as is my mother in law. Cursed on both sides. I think if my first had been twins that would be awesome, but know that I know what one newborn is like, I don't think I would like two at once.

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    1. "...if we keep having babies..." I blacked out there for a second. I know some really really large families that came about because somebody kept trying for a girl, or something. It's like, what are we? Gumball machines?

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  16. i'll just keep leading my double life. ;)

    thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! :)

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    1. Oh, now, a double life is a whole different thing. And probably you're not allowed to talk about it.

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  17. I always wanted to be a twin too. By the time I was old enough to articulate it to my parents, I didn't, because I realized it was a titch too late, and anyhow, it's not just something you order up.

    Having twins on both parents' sides, I was then looking forward to having my own little set. After our first child, I realized how crazy THAT wish was. One at a time was more than enough :)

    Great post!

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    1. It just occurred to me that I never asked my mom for a baby sister or brother, let alone a twin. I think I knew when I had it good, as the baby. Just the place where your siblings have knocked the stuffing out of your parents already so you don't have to, and you can get away with stuff.

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  18. Sharon and I once were out to dinner in SF when those 2 older twins in your essay showed up. It wasn't the only time I ran into them. Q-u-i-t-e the pair.

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    1. Aren't they the Doublemint twins? Whoever they are, they're definitely doubling their fun.

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    2. Local icons: Marion & Vivian Brown.

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    3. Whoever they are, I am totally stealing their eyebrows.

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  19. Elvis had a twin who died at birth. Some of the people who are born twins never get over the loss of their twin. When a friend lost her twin brother (they were in their early 20's), she was inconsolable. She said that he had literally kicked her out into the world, and she had no idea how to continue without him. Finally, I found a group called "Twinless Twins" which gave her some peace; she could actually discuss how she felt with people who truly understood. Elaine M.

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    1. I could see not getting over losing your twin, but not if he died at birth. Elvis musta gotten the blues somewhere else.

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  20. I have cousins who are fraternal twins. When they were kids, one of them was found to have a tumor that contained the cells (skin, hair, bone, you name it) of a third. Imagine if that third had been identical to him. Imagine what the other kid would have thought of life: to be one of triplets, but the other two are identical? I could keep going, but it makes my tiny brain hurt.

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    1. There is a way of having identical triplets. I would feel a lot better about having a tumor if I thought about it being my sister. Or not...

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  21. I heard a story about a set of twins that were so close to one another, if one twin took a bath, the other twin was suddenly clean! I'm still researching that one.

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    1. Maybe if one twin TOOK a bath, the other one would COME clean, and then they'd both have to return the bath.

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  22. "2. I had a whole paragraph in here about chimeras and their patchwork of unrelated tissues, but it veered into the Republican presidential candidates and got out of control and I edited it out."

    Please sent out the edited material...I think I speak for everyone of your blogger-friends.

    Soon?

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    1. Naw, once I decided it wasn't funny enough, I was ruthless with the delete button. Yer outa here. Besides, I like to have one or two posts a year that Republicans don't traipse through.

      Pretty sure it had something to do with having patches of unrelated tissue and holding contradictory views at the same time...oh fine. Now you made me do it.

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  23. I never wanted to be a twin but I ended up having them. It gets weirder: I was 3 weeks pregnant with one when I ovulated again and conceived the second. It's called superfetation. I felt like the barn cat. The first was almost full term, the second was slightly preemie, needing incubation for a day or so. As for the twin bond thing, maybe with identical twins but not with these dizygotes: nothing like a twin for knowing where all your buttons are. To me they are simply energy efficient brothers: I didn't have to bear and deliver twice.

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    1. So when that happens, does the second one ever come out three weeks later? Or is there some pushing and shoving going on?

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    2. Everybody off the boat, as far as I know. It's a pretty forceful event.

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  24. I also had a twin in college, at least that's what someone said. When I finally met her I didn't think she looked a bit like me. I think she as relieved.

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    1. My "twin" is now a well-regarded poet. I'm sticking with the story.

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  25. Threatening to wrap you in duct tape a lock you in a closet??!! Wow! I think they are too rough on you. But maybe I am too easy going and can put up with a lot.
    I think you are creative enough for 2 people!

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    1. I'm easy-going too. I'm always sure they'll be right back to get me out of the closet.

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  26. I am not certain that the world is ready for two of you. Just the same I would like to see it.

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    1. I actually did wonder: if I had an identical twin who was a writer, would our writing be similar? I'm thinking we would have gone in different directions.

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  27. Damn you Liam Neeson! I abide you filling a large portion of my wife's fantasy locker and also her blogs, however, be forewarned, if I ever catch you on our porch I will kick you right in the skirt. My apologies to you and your readers Murr. Had to be said.

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    1. Okay. Really it was just the one movie, but I'm making it last.

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  28. I have identical twin granddaughters. Until they were about 5 I couldn't tell them apart. Then one of them got e coli and was sick for a couple of months and the other one kept growing. Now they have just about identical faces but one is four inches taller.

    On the other hand, I have a sister who was born on my 7th birthday. When we talk about our birthdays coming up, people always ask us if we're twins.

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    1. That's got to be better for you than for her.

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  29. I'm not a twin, but I have a set of identical twins somewhere among my batch of children. They're odd. Definitely odd.

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  30. Interesting. I'm a big Twins fan myself, living in Minnesota as a fact...

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    1. Hey, that was my home team when I was a kid. We had to send them to Minnesota to polish them up.

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  31. I would think that one of the benefits of having a twin would be that you could see how you really look in that outfit, or with that hairdo. So how to explain that last duo? They looked at themselves and agreed "we look mahvelous!" and went out in public like that?? Maybe twinning affects vision.

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    1. You KNOW they know they look marvelous. And in a way that prevents people from looking away from them, they do.

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  32. As a twin I can tell you that it is no big deal, unless you are one of the parents, in which case, I feel for you.

    My daughter is now three weeks old. I can tell you now, as God as my witness, if she had had a twin, I would have asked the doctor if you can abort just one of them.

    Of course, I would not have done it, but just asking would have helped settle my need for vengeance.

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