On the 4th of January 1994 a pair of chubby armed, curly haired, rosy cheeked identical twins were thrown into this world. After 9 months of each other’s blissful company they entered (or I suppose the exited, depending on how you look at it) all red and cross, screaming and demanding attention, immediately conquering the scales as Lewisham Hospital’s fattest twins on record. They would be known as Ella and Olivia. (It’s really hard to stop talking in the third person. Screw it. I’m Ella.) And from the day they (we) were born, they (we) were inseparable.
To me babies pretty much all look the same. So my parents put some strategies into place to deal with having two very active identical ones.
Step 1: They had an E and O stamp for each of us, we were stamped in the mornings to avoid any confusion which may lead to one baby being fed – burped and bathed twice. Step 2: Handles were sewn onto the backs of our baby grows. Especially important when twins begin to crawl – when placed on the floor we would ZOOM in opposite directions. Step 3: Our kitchen walls were painted the same colour as Weetabix. Self explanatory. Step 4: When we reached the age of walking (or waddling, we were extremely chubby) and therefore leg ups, our cot mattress was placed on the floor and our cot turned upside down to avoid any escaping tots. Our nursery looked like a twin enclosure at the zoo.
I could talk forever about funny stuff me and Livi got up to but I won’t. I’ll try and keep this brief (ish). It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t got a twin just quite what it’s like. I suppose what’s lovely about having a twin is the constant companionship; you can never truly feel lonely. The closest comparison I can think of to demonstrate this, is the relationship between person and daemon in Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. You have a unique bond with someone that can never be eclipsed or replicated and the thought of that bond being broken is not only devastating but it’s physically painful. You are a piece of them and they are a piece of you. You only really feel complete when you are with them. Or at least that’s how I feel. My twin perhaps doesn’t feel quite the same. I am her limpet. Stuck to her forever. It would take a bloody big wave to get rid of me.
Of course a question we get asked a lot is whether we are telepathic. I’m sorry to have to shatter this misconception but, however much I have wished throughout my life to be telepathic, I’m not. But, fear not! There is still something pretty cool about being a twin. Although I can’t HEAR my twins thoughts I can in a sense read her expressions and moods with total ease. I can tell how she’ll react to something I say. I know how to push her buttons. I can predict her moods and responses to situations. I know her inside out because we have lived our lives in parallel. But this extends beyond just being able to ‘read’ her. There have even been a few occasions where I have felt that something was wrong. Just a little off. Like when you walk into a room and you can kind of feel the weight of a bad atmosphere. Once, when I had this sensation at school, I went to find Livi, only to discover her having a monumental nosebleed which continued for eight hours and resulted in a night’s hospital stay. On another occasion I was walking home in the dark and a car pulled up on the curb, a man opened the door and told me to get in. When I said no, he began to get out. I ran. Fast. And Livi called. She called to check whether I was okay because she thought something might be wrong. Weird stuff. I have no way to explain these events but hey ho. It’s pretty cool right?
The final aspect of twinship I want to share with you is the not so great part. My twin and I “twin out”. A lot. This is a semi-affectionate phrase that our friends have coined to describe when we argue in public. These aren’t just arguments, these can develop into full on physical fights. So our friends have begun to implement preventative methods to stop a “twin out” before it really starts (like that advert where the mum stops her child’s tantrum by having a tantrum of her own. You know the one). This involves methods of distraction (e.g. Hey! Look! A unicorn!), feigning chest pains (our friend once did this so convincingly that we stopped arguing immediately and united in our efforts to diagnose her) and desertion (just being left to it really). Although these twin outs are pretty regular we are usually back to our semi-sane selves within minutes.
So there you go. A small insight into being a twin. And Liv, if you’re reading this I really love you. You’re the best twin I’ve ever had.
Ella Prendergast is a student at Edinburgh University. She studies Psychology. Like most people her age, Ella is the kind of person who has presented on Channel 4 and can drop phrases such as ‘this one time I met Janet Jackson’ into everyday conversation. She also has her own campaign: Let’s Talk Disability. This is pretty cool.
If you’re interested in getting involved with PTL – drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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