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  • 1.

    I sat in a nondescript doctor's office and watched as the young mom attempted to steer her bulky stroller around the maze of squared, conjoined chairs. Each time the stroller rammed into a corner or sideswiped an armrest, the old women to my left twitched. I looked down to hide my smirk. When I looked back up, she was staring at me.

    "Excuse me," she said, making eye contact.

    Crap. Please don't call me out on my smirk. I didn't meant to judge, I swear.

    "You look just like my friend, Cathy."

    Oh. This. Again.

    "Yes, I'm her twin," I reply, a hazy recollection forming of her from a children's concert last year.

    "Really? Oh my gosh! That's so funny! I knew she had a sister, but I didn't know she had a twin!"

    "Yep, that's me." I reply.

    "I think I met her older sister at Mr. Knick-Knack last year."

    "Nope, that was me."

    "Huh. You looked less alike to me then."

    2.

    A few evenings later, my husband and I went to a beer garden. We stood off to the side, alone, instantly sticking out like sore thumbs. Groups of preppy families congregated everywhere, occupying each table and every bench. Children clad in Boden ran amok in every direction while their parents drank imperial pale ales and hefeweizens out of plastic cups.

    A mom approached me; I worried I might have unintentionally shot her kid the stink eye. I put on a defensive posture, standing up just a wee bit taller.

    "Excuse me, but you look so familiar to me!"

    Seriously? Again? I exhaled, slumping my shoulders back to resting height, and put on a polite smile. "Well, I do have a twin sister; Do you live around here?"

    "Yes! Does she? I'm trying to figure out where I know her from..."

    "Hmm. What preschool do you go to?"

    "AUCP?"

    "Yup, so does she! She has a son in the panda class."

    I recognized her excited reaction, one of having solved a puzzle. "Yes! That must be why I only see her once a week! Oh my gosh. Too funny...you guys are completely IDENTICAL!"

    We go on to talk about how much she thinks we look alike, what it's like to be a twin, etc. Before long, the conversation stalls.

    "Well, nice to meet you!" she says in parting.

    "Yes, you too!" I call back, trying to match her cheerfulness.

    Once home, I call my sister to tell her about the chance encounter. "Hmm. I wonder who it was..." she muses.

    "I have no idea." I answer truthfully. I didn't even get her name.

    3.

    I've lived in Northern Virginia for eighteen years. My twin sister moved here nine years ago. I live in in Fairfax (population 1,086,043), she in Arlington (population: 209,487). Yet we get mistaken for each other all the time. Some people swear we are lookalikes. Others divine our individual features instantly.

    Either way, they all ask the same question: are you Identical?

    We each have our own answers.

    Hers: "Yes."
    Mine: "I don't know."

    4.

    In college, I did a research paper on twins. Specifically, whether birth order dictated twin personalities. Were older twins bossier? Were younger twins more, well, like little sisters? The answer, according to the studies I found, pointed to birth weight as a defining characteristic of what they called a stereotypical 'dominant' and 'submissive' twin relationship.

    I weighed 7lbs11oz. She weighed 6lbs2oz.

    5.

    We look strikingly similar. Nonetheless, I am one size bigger, 1/4 of an inch taller.

    This variance isn't always obvious so accommodations have been made. As babies, they looked for the birthmark on my inner wrist. As children, I wore red; she wore blue. As teenagers, I permed my hair; she kept hers straight.

    Now, as adults, the jig is up. Last summer, she arrived as a guest to my swimming pool in a black bathing suit almost identical to mine.

    6.

    When we were born, in1972, we were pronounced Fraternal for no other reason that we arrived in two, separate amniotic sacks.

    In today's world, that wouldn't have proved a thing. For instance, we know now that if a fertilized egg splits within the first several weeks of gestation, it can and will develop into two separate sacks. There's also the possibility of an egg splitting before it's fertilized by two separate sperms.

    Either way, we grew up thinking we were Fraternal.

    We never questioned it, despite our physical likeness. After all, we were different. She liked blueberries; I hated them. I spent hours reading; she resented me for it. She was outwardly creative; I set my sights on business school. I wore the trendy fashions of the day; she preferred classic preppy.

    But we are also the same. We can read the others mind, finish each others sentences. And we know exactly how the other feels in any situation. Even today, both married with kids.

    7.

    Occasionally, I'll be reminded of a similarity between us that will blow my mind. "Oh my gosh!" I'll tell her. "We are totally Identical."

    "Duh! That's what I've been telling you all along." she'll answer happily.

    But what if we're not?

    We could easily find out. It requires nothing more than an at-home cheek swab and a lab bill that runs as low as $75. Twin Zygosity DNA testing, it's called.

    But I'm not sure I want to know. The magic of our relationship lies in the mystery. We are closer than Fraternal twins. I'm sure of it. I refuse to let anyone consider me only half an egg. Science is science. Our relationship is real.

    In the end, maybe we have the best of both worlds: two sisters / one heart.
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