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Sitting with her older sister and reminiscing on their childhood memories, a smile slowly spreads across sophomore Leenah Mustafa’s face as she looks at a picture of herself and her twin brother, Abdullah Mustafa.
After inspecting the photograph for some time, Leenah realized her older sister confused the twins when they were babies and put Abdullah in a dress and Leenah in her brother’s clothes.
Leenah described the incident as an innocent but common feature of a family with twins, especially as children.
“My sister confused us when we were babies,” Leenah said. “I never even noticed the picture until she pointed it out.”
But as they grew older, Leenah and her twin brother found that their similarities in physical features sparked their relationship to be closer than any of their seven other siblings.
They understand each other the best because they are at similar places in their lives and can relate to one another. But even though Leenah and her brother are close, they cannot escape the sibling rivalries that seem to pierce every relationship.
“When we were younger, we would always fight and make fun of one another,” Leenah said. “But at the same time, [having a twin is] that kind of relationship where we are the only ones who can make fun of one another. Now that we are older, we can tolerate each other.”
Though having a twin, as with having any other siblings, can pose difficulties, it also has benefits. The misconceptions about twins being able to read minds or telepathically sense each other’s feelings are obviously false, but that doesn’t mean they can’t understand one another. This understanding often stems from shared experiences. Junior Sumidha Katti shares more than just a home and a birthday with her twin brother, Nahush.
“It’s fun being a twin because you can relate to what the other person is going through at that point,” Nahush said, “because chances are you probably have gone through something similar at some point.”
This understanding doesn’t eliminate all traces of sibling rivalry, however. Natural emotions of jealousy and selfishness can often leak into every relationship, and twins are no exception.
“There’s just a lot of sharing involved. A lot of ‘he or she got that, I want it, too,’” Sumidha said. “We also get a lot of comparisons. People always compare us to each other.”
The Katti twins also find that they have to share more than just their belongings. Because of their shared age and interests, the Kattis have many common friends, which leads to tension between the two.
“It can be really annoying for your twin to know stuff about you that you don’t want her to know about,” Nahush said, “which happens if some of your friends are the same.”
This sharing is prevalent in almost every relationship; because of similar features and ages, twins can feel the sting of comparison even more than usual.
Sophomore identical twins Thomas and Patrick Preston face similar battles. People compare the two of them to each other on matters ranging from height to ability in playing sports. The Preston twins seem to face completely different conflicts than the Mustafas or Kattis, as they do not argue much and are not distinct opposites. Instead, it is the constant comparison that kindles the fire for competition between the two.
“The downsides [to being a twin] are when everything seems to be a competition with your twin. There seems to be no individualism between us, like we’re a package,” Thomas said. “Having a twin can bring the competition in you that doesn’t always compare with just having a friend. You get the urgency to be ‘the better one.’”
Despite the differences among various pairs of twins, there are still similarities underneath the surface. Beneath the seemingly identical noses and eyes lay even more similar personalities and the bonds that have forged because of them.
“The relationship between my brother and I is a bit stronger than my relationship with my sister. I can relate to Patrick more, and [my sister] seems to be on her own agenda,” Thomas said. “Patrick seems to always be with me, like when we hang out with friends or just chill at home.”
On the other hand, Leenah finds a hard time discovering significant similarities with her twin brother. She feels the two are very individual siblings and have different interests as well as personalities.
These differences have not gone unnoticed by the Mustafas’ parents. Rather, they have led to further comparisons between the two siblings.
“Mostly [our parents] compare us when it comes to grades or cleaning our rooms,” Leenah said. “I’m usually the one with the better grades, and I’m always doing my homework. So when my mom sees that, she tells my brother stuff like, ‘Look at your sister. I always see her doing her homework, but I never see you.’”
Sumidha can relate to Leenah, and agrees that her parents can make similar comparisons. But Sumidha may have uncovered the real reason behind all of these comparisons: age.
“Since we’re the same age, that makes a big difference [in the way parents compare Sumidha and Nahush] because they think we’re developing at the same rate. They think we’re supposed to be at the same place maturity-wise, and that we are supposed to develop and be the same,” Sumidha said. “I mean, my parents are pretty good at not comparing us, but sometimes they can’t help it. Sometimes they’re just like, ‘Why can’t you be more like your brother?’ and the other way around, too.”
With all the comparisons, disagreements and arguments of being a twin the Kattis, Mustafas and Prestons all share the similar feeling that having a twin is having a sibling that understands you better than anyone else. The bonds created between two siblings are incomparable to those between twins. These bonds come from the shared age, experiences and empathy, in addition to sharing a birthday.
“We hang out, fight, tell secrets, study together. I think [we’re closer] because we have so much more in common than my other siblings,” Leenah said.
Though they may have their differences, Leenah said she never resents having a twin.
“My brother and I have a silent understanding relationship,” Leenah said. “It’s not like a twin telepathic thing. It’s just that we have a special bonding connection and understand each other better.”