Growing up, we were the best of friends.
Joy: Except for that time, in utero, when she sat on my head for nine months, and then made me wait four laborious minutes while she made her grand entrance into the world.
Jenelle: Or that time when we were 18 months old and she sunk her teeth into my arm after I stole her stuffed bunny.
Joy: Or that time when we were eight, and she poured a glass of milk over my head at the dinner table.
Jenelle: Or that time when we were nine, and she signed my dad’s Father’s Day card, “Love, Joy. p.s. not stinky Jenelle.”
Joy: Or all those times as teenagers when she chased me around the house trying to whip me with a wet bath towel, while I ran away, chanting “Violent lady! Violent lady!”
Yes, we played and fought hard like most siblings do growing up. We had a pretty typical suburban middle-class childhood. And we experienced the things that most identical twins describe. We learned to smile and answer politely when asked for the umpteenth time, “Wait, which one are you?” We delighted our classmates in 2nd grade when we switched classes for the last day of school. And we tricked boyfriends over the phone with our matching voices during high school.
Living 2,000 miles apart for the past 16 years, opportunities for trickery have lessened, though we have had fun watching our kids’ reactions to their “other mom.” Joy’s older daughter exclaimed, “Two mommies!” upon seeing Jenelle as a toddler, and most recently, we tried fooling Jenelle’s 2-year-old son, who is in the separation-anxiety stage, into giving his mommy a break. Though we occasionally succeeded, he seemed mostly creeped out, to the point of slapping Joy in the face!
In a quick, unofficial survey of “twin opinions” online, the general consensus among doubles seems to be that twins love having a built-in best friend as well as tricking people, and they hate being referred to as “the twins” and being constantly compared to each other. We can certainly relate to these sentiments.
Apart from being twins, we were just ordinary kids. Yet having a stunt double was not the only thing that set us apart from other kids. It was the elephant in the room that we tripped over on a daily basis, and yet we rarely talked about it. Our struggle with vision loss is amongst our earliest memories, right along with Sesame Street and learning to ride a bike.
Some might think that sharing this type of loss would have made us closer as a result, or perhaps made it easier. After all, most people with rare degenerative eye conditions don’t have the privilege of growing up with someone in their exact same shoes, or shades, not to mention someone with shared DNA.
But we didn’t quite see it this way.
All we could see was this other person, who looked just like us, doing the same seemingly dumb things we were trying to pretend we didn’t do:
Jenelle: like getting hit in the face with flying balls.
Joy: or pucks.
Jenelle: or not using her eyes.
Joy: or getting stuck in obstacle courses.
Now, at 37 years old, there are still mannerisms about each other that cause us to cringe: Why is she scrunching up her nose like that when she talks? Is that what I sound like when I tell a joke? I hope I don’t sound like such a know-it-all when I talk. But our vision loss is a characteristic that we share and are learning to accept and embrace about each other and ourselves. Sharing our stories in this blog over the past 4 years has helped us in our process.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller