I have a rather unusual situation. I am 63 and I have an identical twin sister. Well, physically we look the same but truthfully, we could not be more different when it comes to our personalities, likes and dislikes.
Our mother dressed us identically for years, in spite of my objections. She made us be in the same class until we got to junior high, when our schedules demanded we be spit up. I was happy. Finally I had a little freedom to be myself. But both my sister and my mother took it hard. All of these years later, my sister and I are still at odds about our twin status.
In 2009 she discovered a “twins convention” and begged me to go with her. It was the most awful two days of my life – everyone there was dressed exactly like their sibling, they spent all of their time talking about how much alike they are and “isn’t it just wonderful to be a twin?” etc.. To me it was just a freak show. My sister has hounded me ever since to go back again. I caved in one more time out of guilt.
My sister doesn’t have a very happy life. She’s divorced twice and she hasn’t managed a very satisfying relationship with her two kids. She retired last year and I don’t think she has nearly enough to occupy her time.
Now, she is at me to go again. I have told her there is no way on earth I’ll go but how do I deal with her disappointment and anger? She keeps calling, trying to “guilt” me into changing my mind. What do I say?
Happy as a Single
As an aunt to two sets of twins, I read your letter with interest. Thank you for your willingness to share this difficult issue with everyone. Typically, all people ever hear about is how wonderful and unique it is to be a twin. You are shedding light on an issue that I hope resonates with both parents, families, and friends of twins.
Your lack of interest in attending another “twins convention” is perfectly understandable. Clearly, you have managed to establish yourself as an individual. Why on earth would you want to surround yourself with people who are celebrating how much alike they are? (One word of caution: while this convention may feel like a “freak show” to you, you’re better off keeping this opinion to yourself. Just because it doesn’t meet your needs doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.)
Sadly, it feels as though one of the few things in life your sister has to hold on to is the unique status of being a twin. With her personal life less than satisfactory and retirement leaving her with too much time on her hands, it makes sense she would look for opportunities that make her feel worthwhile. No wonder she relishes the opportunity to be surrounded by people who feel special because of their relationship to a sibling.
This doesn’t mean you have to attend, hardly. Acknowledge why your sister enjoys these conventions but remind her that they make you uncomfortable. Final answer! If she persists, simply repeat, “I understand and I’m not going.” Repeat this as needed. If she continues, graciously excuse yourself from the phone call and hang up.
However, since hounding you into submission has worked before, she may make subsequent requests. Stand firm. You have nothing to feel guilty about so don’t let her use this ploy. Instead, when she brings up the convention, shift the focus by discussing other activities she may enjoy and how you would support her efforts in these areas.
Above all else, remember that we all bear individual responsibility for how satisfying our lives are. It is not your job to make your sister happy. It is hers.