Feelings of comparison are natural and felt by everyone, but are perhaps amplified when you shared the same womb, the same genes, same face and same matching outfits with someone else - your twin. I've always struggled with the fact that the lives of mine and my twin sister have been compared from the very start - intentionally or not. Because we're twins, one eye always looks from one to the other; unspoken comparisons are entirely normal, and so too I imagine are the feelings of inadequacy when your sister achieves a milestone that you have yet to reach.
We were born only 18 minutes apart, treated and loved absolutely equally and each given the same opportunities as the other. Naturally, as we grew up, our lives went on different paths. My sister went on what is seen to be the traditional road: a steady job, wedding and a house and all this and she's only thirty. I'm nowhere near putting a ring on it and only in the last few months could my job resemble steady as I freelanced and worked part-time for a few years. She's ticked off many boxes at a very young age, which often made me ponder my own life choices that were always going to differ.
She got the first job, first boyfriend, the first school trip away, while I waited in the wings. Unspoken milestones that I agonised over because I hadn't "achieved" them. In our teens, she got to wear the skirts and dresses while my main concern was covering my necessary yet unhip splints due to the Cerebral Palsy I had from eighteen months old. I loved her absolutely, yet how I envied her. How she could get dressed with ease (and unaided), achieve better grades - and the big one - she could wear any shoes she wanted. I had what most identical twins struggle with: a sense of real identity - the CP saw to that. We were the same, yet I was obviously very different. And yet, I longed for us to be exactly the same. Why wasn't my hair as nice as hers? Why weren't my teeth that straight? (My fault - I adamantly refused the braces). Why didn't I look/feel as pretty as she was? (she still is).
Beginning life automatically bonded to another person, twins have gotten as close as anyone can to finding an 'Other Half'.
I felt conflicted; simultaneously wanting to be her while resenting her. Thankfully, the feelings passed (along with the teenage hormones) and so I came the realisation that she hadn't it as easy as I mapped out. She felt burdened by her own freedom, guilty that things were so different for us, and then I felt guilty about that - a never-ending cycle. She did the same by comparing her life to mine so we each felt our own pressures. We never speak of it; the guilt felt from both sides, but I'd like to think it's brought us closer together.
I read a study this week that said being a twin makes you handle relationships better because you already know how to handle 'The Thing' that makes them rise and fall: Compromise. You know you have to give way, pick your battles - you can't just bail out, you have to stay and figure things out."Twins have to learn early on how to navigate conflict in a way that most people don’t — which often means that they’re better equipped from an early age to form and sustain close relationships," so says the study.
And yet, as we grew into adults, with every romantic success for her came the inevitable "it'll be your turn next" often innocently said by friends and family. What if my "turn" didn't come? And more importantly, why was this bothering me so much? The study pinpointed a reason that I identify with. That dating is actually hugely complicated if you're a twin. Twins often have high expectations for their romantic partners, looking for someone who seems to automatically understand them on a deep level. "I’m one of those twins — too many dating experiences left me feeling frustrated and confused by the lack of connection I felt. I was used to something more: I wanted someone to understand me instantly, and often without words, the way my twin would," says its author.
I know now that I subconsciously look for this and when I feel the connection is sub-par, tend to bail out before even giving the guy much of a shot.
The upside of this is the following: beginning life automatically bonded to another person, we’ve gotten as close as anyone can to finding an 'Other Half'.
When I really thought about it, I realised that I feel this at the same time every year - regardless of the romance factor - when my birthday approaches. I compare and contrast until I'm driven demented. It was my mother who gave me back my perspective. Why is it, she wondered that when the time comes that I get another year older, I focus on the negative?
Because, in the grand scheme of things, milestones, dating - whether I reach them before or after my twin - don't matter. Life is undoubtedly too short to live it through someone else.
Going into 2018, I'm determined to give myself a break (and the guys too it has to be said). Life isn't a race.
And even if things don't go to plan in the dating world, you'll always have your twin - the person who knows you better than anyone.
And better still, you'll never settle because it’s such a tough act to follow.