If I didn’t know from an early ultrasound that my daughters were identical twins, I would have just assumed that they were fraternal. I’ve known fraternal twins and different aged siblings who’ve looked more alike than J and M do, at least to my eye. We still get asked if they’re identical occasionally, but most people are surprised to learn that they are.
As M likes to point out, her widow’s peak hairline makes her face heart-shaped, where J’s is oval, thanks to her ruler-straight hairline. J is built like a soccer player, all lean muscle and power, while M has a typical dancer’s frame, birdlike and flexible.
J inherited Daddy’s single dimple, but M didn’t. J’s cowlick is profoundly untameable, while I can get M’s hair to hang down nicely with a little effort. On the other hand, I can part J’s hair in the middle, put it in pigtails, and have her hair stay generally well-behaved all day. M’s part, on the other hand, clings stubbornly to its location. It’s stronger than any combination of hair elastics, gel, bobby pins and effort I’ve been able to come up with. I’ve stopped fighting it, even if it does cause her pigtails to noticeably differ in thickness.
M was born with a facial cleft, which hasn’t needed any surgery so far. I hope it stays that way. Rather than the more familiar cleft palate, her frontonasal dysplasia is higher up in her face, and is the cause of her defined widow’s peak. It also causes her eyes to be more widely set than her sister’s and impacts the symmetry of her nose. She hasn’t had any complications from her condition, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. On the rare occasion that a child asks why M’s nose is funny or little, I say that it’s so we can tell her apart from her sister. That answer has always satisfied diminutive inquisitors.
Every now and then, though, I catch a glimpse of Sister in the face of one of my daughters, and the sameness makes my breath catch.
I’ve come to enjoy the opportunities I get to share the science of twinning with strangers. I’ve learned to explain in a few words that identical twins are identical(ish) at the level of DNA, but are otherwise completely distinct people. Still, I’m taken aback every time I participate in the following exchange:
Stranger or acquaintance: Are they identical?
Stranger or acquaintance: No, they’re not!
Do you know whether your multiples are identical or fraternal? Does it make any difference?
Sadia is a business analyst living in El Paso, TX. Her twin daughters, J and M, will be turning 6 next month.