My Own Identity

I am a twin. I was born with my sister, my best friend, my soul mate. There’s something indescribable about twins. People are fascinated by them. The relationship between each other is insurmountable, and there is even an inherent bond between different sets of twins.

I have always loved being a twin. When we were younger we would sit in a crowded room and talk as if there was no one else there, like we didn’t spend every waking (and sleeping) moment together. Now, living 2,400 miles apart, every time we see each other it is as if no time has passed. If it weren’t for her, I would probably be in sweat pants with no makeup and a unibrow. On the inside of our relationship, there is nothing more perfect; it was always the outside that I had a difficult time with.

My sister has always been the person that everyone falls in love with, and I was her not-as-pretty and a-little-dorky, twin sister. This is not something I would ever fault her for. Hell, my world lights up when she is around, but more people than I can remember have told me they were in love with my sister. Not just guys… girls have always flocked to her as well. I can recall numerous occasions when I’ve had best friends but the second she was there, it was as if they completely forgot I existed. I even had one friend in middle school write me a note out of the blue to tell me she no longer needed me as a friend because she had my sister. I had another friend tell me that everyone always said she was so much prettier than me as if she were telling me it was a nice day outside. I was always a little heavier than her and although I was never overweight, it was difficult to constantly hear that I was bigger than her, and yes–people were always ready and willing, excited even, to stand us side by side and compare top to bottom.

People find it difficult to understand how to see a set of twins, which leads to constant analysis and confusion. Instead of being two separate people, just as if you were friends with any two people, they don’t know whether or not they should separate us, or forever think of us as one. They insist we are the same on one hand: “If she likes mushrooms, why don’t you?” But they also feel the need to distinguish us–one is a really fun person who loves to party, the other is really sweet and loves to read–as if one has one identity covered, and the other has another identity covered, and they both can’t be both. I adore every inch of her. I find her stunning, smart, sweet, caring, giving, fun, funny, and every other quality you can think of. But it has always been difficult to fight for my own identity, yet needing the validation of being compared to someone I saw as perfect.

I think I bypassed a lot of the middle/high school drama because I was consumed with the way people viewed her as opposed to me. I’ve spent years wondering why no one liked me enough to want to date me until much later when I realized that I may have ignored any signs of genuine interest. Instead of actually believing the possibility, I refused anything real and allowed only the wrong relationships. To me, it was impossible… I wasn’t her. I always felt that no matter who I was sitting with, or who I was talking to, they would rather be with her. I have met a few people along the way who have praised me for who I was, encouraged my personality, my intelligence, my looks. Instead of embracing these people, I allowed myself to get close to them and then panic when I felt as if I would never live up to their expectations. In the long run, I ended up losing them and hurting both of us.

My first time away from her was the summer after my senior year, and then quickly after when I first went away to college. I look back at those times a little embarrassed. I drank a lot and dated too much. I was on a path of self-destructive rebellion. I never had the need to rebel against my extremely liberal parents, but I think I was rebelling, for the first time, against the constant need to live up to, separate myself from, and hold on to all that was her. For once I was working hard at being the fun one. Guys were attracted to me without the comparison of the better half, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

I moved home two short years later and automatically met my husband, we had our daughter shortly after, and I was well on my way to family life. It still took some time to get comfortable with myself, but once I stopped the superficial fears of the way people viewed me compared to her (credit to motherhood), and the constant need to refrain from being myself, the confidence I began to have gave me everything I ever wanted all those years. I enjoyed and didn’t shy away from talking to others about my interests. I took pride in how I looked and became comfortable in my own skin. People are drawn to others’ confidence, and it allowed others to see me for me, and not just as her twin.

I would have never been able to walk this life without her. Now, however, I no longer feel the need to walk behind her, but beside her, and I like this angle a whole lot more.

Michelle Herrle

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