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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Think twice
Caroline and Kelly
Never lonely: Caroline and Kelly

What's it like when you're one of a pair? To mark World Twin Day, an identical twin, Caroline Briggs, tells of the fun to be had with your sibling doppelganger, but also how the path to adulthood is fraught with difficulties.

"What's it like being a twin?"

That is invariably the first question I'm asked when people find out I am one half of an identical pair. From there, I can write the script.

"Do you feel each other's pain? Do you share boyfriends? Which one of you is the 'evil' one? Are you telepathic?"

My twin, Kelly, says she can read me like a book. She can tell what I'm thinking by the look on my face or the tone of my voice. She's right, but there's nothing spooky about it.

Doppelganger

Kelly does not writhe in agony if I stub my toe, nor do I have an internal running commentary on her life. But when it comes to each other, there are many things we just know.

Our family cine films from the late 1970s testify to our closeness as young children. As I watch us kicking about in our wellies or spinning in our Wonder Woman outfits, I'm struck by the fact that we never speak to each other.

Kelly and Caroline
Caroline (right), her mum insists

We look like exactly the same person, split in two and living side by side. We play together spontaneously, cry when our brother steals our beach ball, and sit contentedly bathing our dolls in a mountain of soap suds. Even I cannot tell who is who.

We were painfully shy but starting school, and then taking up sport, slowly brought us out of our shells. It meant mischief was never far away.

At trampolining class we'd swap the leotards my mum had lovingly embroidered with a "K" and a "C" to help our confused coach, cheerfully undoing her good intentions in the process.

But while childhood brought unbridled fun and security, our teenage years got a whole lot more complicated. Adolescence is seldom easy even for non-twins, never mind trying to "find yourself" with your mirror image at your side.

Denial

Our water-tight bond suddenly began to loosen. Going through my "Goth" phase at school, Kelly practised denial: she didn't know me or my Doctor Marten boots.

If I wore trousers, Kelly wore a skirt. She wore her hair long, loose and fair while mine was dyed jet-black and cropped short. We started fighting - nothing too extreme, but Kelly still bears the scars of my talon-like nails which tore into her forearm.

LIKES/DISLIKES: KELLY
Kelly Briggs
If you take one book to a desert island: probably a dictionary
If you could live anywhere: somewhere with mountains, beaches, beautiful landscapes - New Zealand perhaps
Ideal holiday: in the mountains or investigating a cool and interesting city
What won't you eat: aubergines, bananas

They weren't lasting hostilities - each fight was quickly forgotten over a cup of tea.

And then came the final "split" at 18 - me to university, Kelly on a gap year, and we did not set eyes on each other for six months. The night she arrived home, it felt like she was a stranger.

Oddly enough, for the first time in years, we had exactly the same hairstyle.

Luckily, apart from a shared soft-spot for Marti Pellow during the 1980s, we have never shared the same taste in men. But it's the other halves I feel sorry for.

They have to contend with our regression to giggling 10-year-olds every time we meet, and the fact that we always side with each other in an argument. If they're the jealous type, they're going to have to get over it. Pronto.

Boyfriends have told me they are not attracted to my sister, well... maybe just a little. I'm sure Kelly hears the same thing. It poses an interesting question though: should we be offended by that?

Best friend

Now we are 30 and live 300 miles apart. We speak and e-mail most days. I call her the clone; she calls me the kidney donor; our school friends still call us "The Twins". Sometimes even my dad gets us mixed up.

As the years have passed, we have made separate friends who only know us as individuals, which is refreshing. Those who know us both would say we are as different as night and day.

LIKES/DISLIKES: CAROLINE
Caroline Briggs
If you take one book to a desert island: Crow Road by Iain Banks - and notebook
If you could live anywhere: Somewhere laid-back and beautiful - Canada or New Zealand perhaps
Ideal holiday: A beach and city break
What won't you eat: Aubergines, smoked salmon, horseradish

Kelly is kind, caring, trusting to a fault, and constantly losing things. My friends would be likely to say I'm more wary, cynical and confident. I've yet to lose a set of house keys.

It is almost as if our characteristics developed to balance each other out. But scratch below the surface and you see we are we are incredibly similar.

We both "rescue" flies from drowning in glasses of water, recoil at the texture of velvet, hate bullying, laugh at the absurd, love photography, writing and ballet, and whinge about our hair. I marvel at how we seem to be at opposite ends of the same personality spectrum.

If Kelly is blue, I'm red, whereas had we grown up as "singletons", perhaps we would have been a shade of purple. It would be interesting, but impossible, to know. Being a twin means having a best-friend, a confidante I trust implicitly, and never knowing what it feels to be lonely.

But I can never answer the question of what it is like to be a twin. I have never known anything else.


I am one half of non-identical twins. My sister and I are very different and are extremely close. She is my best friend, but growing up we experienced the same swings between being best friends and not liking each other much! We did have the same taste in boys, having shared at least two boyfriends. I too cannot answer the question of what it's like to be a twin - but I wouldn't want to be anything else
Sue Khan, Burnley, UK

My twin and I are 32 now, but until 5 years ago we considered ourselves non-identical twins (that's what they told our mum). Because we look almost identical I had a DNA test done and we matched all 12 'markers'. It's difficult to explain what it's like being a twin, but I know that you forge a stronger bond between you than other siblings, probably because the first 15 years of your life you can't get away from each other.
Steve Hill, Bristol, England

This is really interesting. I love the comment, 'never knowing what it's like to be lonely'. I have identical twin girls and I am just so excited to see how their lives and relationship with each other develops. I almost feel envious!
Tracey, London

I found this article of interest to me as I too am a twin. I often wonder what other twins experience throughout their lives and if it may be similar to my (or our) experiences. We are twin brothers, 40 years old in July 2006 and enjoying life. We are both single, and share everything. We have similar interests and pass time. Here in Germany, I very very rare to even see a twin. Me and my brother stand out even more as we are of Afro-caribean descent and somewhat identical in looks (from a distance anyway). Cheers Andy
Andy, Nürnberg, Germany

My wife has identical twins, who are now adults. For complicated reasons, they went to different secondary schools, and they managed to get away with changing places for a day without anyone knowing. And it occurred to me that, because the twins are genetically identical, their sons are actually half-brothers!
John Whapshott, Newbury, England

As a fraternal (non-identical) twin, I can report that in early childhood each brother learns exactly how to relate to the other but has no idea how to relate to other children. Parents of twins should do everything possible to ensure they learn how to socialise well before they even start school.
Jim Walker, Wesley Chapel, Florida

I am a 55 year-old identical twin. My brother now lives in Australia, but we still look similar, share many common interests and are very close to each other. I would echo almost all of the experiences in Caroline's thoughful article. When you are very similar, it is quite difficult not being treated as an individual as you grow up. Also, the ready availability of your own close companion can make one less out-going to others. Nowadays, it's just a pleasure to to have a best mate I've known all my life.
Ron Smith, Farnborough UK

Some years ago, after not having seen my twin for months, we met to find that our clothes and hair were the same. This NEVER happened as children. We are not identical but people thought we were! We too love each other deeply, but there is not always understanding. Even after all these years I still feel the pain of separation (different classes from age 11)and delight in such accidental 'togetherness'.
Katharine, Nottingham

I'm a non-identical twin (DEFINITELY the evil one) but a lot of this also rings true for me. The questions we get asked are exactly the same. We were often treated as two parts of a single being until our teens, when it became clear that we were very different. However our core values and beliefs appear to be more or less the same, even if we have totally different ways of expressing them.
Tom Viney, Birmingham

Lovely article - my brother and I had the same nickname growing up, played the same tricks at school, had the same patch in our teens and face the same questions from curious enquirers.
Christopher, Brussels

I am an identical Twin, and I wouldn't change it for the world! My Sister and I are best friends! Having a boyfriend that we both get on with is very imprortant. My sister had a boyfriend that was so jelous of our relationship, he wouldn't let us speak to each other when she was with him! I however, chose a boyfriend who's mum is also a twin, so he has taken to us both like a duck to water!
Michelle H, Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire

What a lovely story. Being an identical twin myself, it sounds familiar, although the shared taste in men became more of an issue. What really irritates me though is that there are actually twins around who believe in all this telepathic rubbish - when we took part in a twin study the visitors' book was full of twins who claimed to have known when the other broke her leg/went into labour/was depressed etc. Fiddlesticks.
Freya, London

As an identical twin in his 30's I can identify with most of what was written, although with my brother now living in Paris I don't feel the need to keep in contact beyond the odd phonecall once a month or so. The "are you telepathic?" questions can get a bit tedious - ask any long-term married couple and they will know a surprising amount about each other as well. When you spend 18 years sharing a bedroom, growing-up, school, experiences etc. of course you are going to "know" what the other one is thinking. But feel his pain when he stubs a toe - I don't think so!
Mark, Cambridge

I am a 30 year old identical twin. Finding our own identity in our teenage years proved interesting when people continually call you 'twin' and assume you must be the same person, have the same interested and like/dislike the same things!! We are very different as people and in our choice of careers and the direction in which our lives have taken us, but our personalities and sense of humour continue to compliment each other and we are the very best of friends. Its great to be able to laugh or cry with someone you know understands every aspect of you and will always give the complete honest truth - whether you like it or not!
Jane Thompson, Manchester

I have read this article with interest. I'm the daughter of an identical twin. I feel closer to her children than any of my other cousins. I'm godmother to her daughter's eldest boy. I was very close to my Aunt who unfortunately died too young.
Anne, Peterborough

I am an identical twin too and my sister is called Kelly. We are both 21 and have been living apart for over a year now. We still speak every day and are still the best of friends! I wouldn't want to be anything else, I feel lucky being a twin and growing up with someone who I can really trust. Strangest twin question.. Who is the most tickleish???
Amy Carte, Maidstone

I am not a twin myself, but my two oldest brothers are identical twins. I think non-twins can have a lot of difficulty knowing how to relate to twins - I don't have the kind of relationship with my twin brothers that I do with the other two brothers in the family. Some of it might be down to age - the twins are 10 years older than me - but they've always seemed to be so 'self-sufficient' within the 'twinship' that they haven't really allowed the rest of us in. I've also noticed that this seems to be even more pronounced with non-family people that they both know. Are they telepathic? - no, but they know each other so well that they can pick up the minute signals that give a clue to thoughts and feelings almost instantly. This is very similar to the interaction between couples who've been together a long time - you learn the signs, but you don't suddenly become a mind-reader.
Helen, Lincolnshire

I love the closeness of being a twin...it is like having a best friend and soul mate all in rolled into one.. We participated in a twin study a few years ago which measured our responses to sound and visual stimuli and even though we were in different rooms being shown different stimuli, our brain wave length outputs were almost identical... how weird is that... Happy twin day!
Sally, Hatfield, UK

My mother has a twin brother, but I'm not sure I could honestly say they were alike, or even share much in common. I rarely even consider my mother to be a twin, as we don't see my uncle as much other than at major family gatherings, on fesitvals and occasionally at the mosque. I'm not quite sure why this is, possibly because of our cultural background when boys and girls are often brought up separately (well they certainly did in my parents' generation) and the fact that families were huge. My mother was one of 12 children. She is no doubt closer her sisters, though she does appear to have a soft spot for her twin brother. But I doubt anything more.
Mohammed, London, UK

Glad to see somebody else who hates Aubergines. And I'm an only child.
Des, London, UK

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