January 16, 2012

Whole People

One thing they do have in common is how much I love them.
I really wanted to do this last night, but I was far too busy helping M put together our massive new collection of bookshelves and editing a new header for this blog (my babies are big girls now!).

I've been following PostSecret since I discovered the concept in Found Magazine.  I think that was probably nine or ten years ago now.  I anxiously waited until Sunday to check the livejournal feed every week, and there are secrets from the beginning that still haunt me.  I remember one, written on an unfilled prescription slip, by a person who couldn't find a way to tell his wife she was going to die.

PostSecret, 2005
And then there are some, like this Hitler secret, that still crack me up.

Living in the Central time zone is great, because it means that a lot of weeks, I actually get to read the secrets on Saturday night.  It feels like cheating, but it's something I still look forward to constantly.  I can't tell you how close I've been to sending in dozens of secrets, but each time I realize that my secret is something that shouldn't be a secret.  That I have people I care about that I can confide in, and that it's a healthy thing to do for me to take advantage of that.  I know how lucky I am.  I know how isolated and alone I felt back when I did lead a life full of secrets, and mostly secret pain.

I think that PostSecret isn't just an incredible art project, it's a public service.

At any rate, yesterday I discovered Mad Jackie's weekly event, Secret Sunday.  It's a weekly link-up and writing exercise.  You go through the week's secrets, pick one, and use it as a writing prompt.

I also freakin' love a good writing prompt.

Unfortunately, this week yielded a surprisingly small collection of secrets.  I think that's because Frank Warren, the creator/administrator/curator of PostSecret is still posting secrets from the short-lived iPhone app. So I went back a bit, I'm not sure how far, and picked out this one.  As it sort of speaks to something that I frequently find myself internally drafting diatribes about.

People feeling the need to label my twins.

I don't feel like in my family we split up "pretty" and "smart" genes.  We split up "crazy," "smart," "funny," and "creative."

Lucky us, there are more "crazy" genes than anything else.

But people really are determined to label children as soon as possible.

When they were newborns, and M and I would take them somewhere- say, to a restaurant or a hospital waiting room- bystanders would ask me, "Which one is the quiet one?"  "Which one is the social one?"

It's constant, and it has never stopped.

Because there are two of them, they must represent different traits.  One must be smart, one must be pretty.  One must be quiet, one must be troublesome.  One must be a good sleeper, while one must be a good eater.

I don't see people do this as much with singletons, but it still happens.  And the fact is, it's so pervasive that children do it to themselves.

My children aren't simply aspects of a person that opposes a different aspect.  My children are people.  That means that they have moods, they have funks, they have passing whims.  Yes, right now SI constantly asks for help.  That doesn't make her "the needy one," that means that she's figured out that when she says, "Help, mommy!" I might do something for her that she thinks is a little too much trouble.

DD is picking up whole phrases and using them in context right now, that doesn't make her "the verbal one."

They're both people.

They're people with preferences and quirks.

Just like anyone else.

Aunt Something Funny, me, and Aunt Genocide
I think they get it worse as twins, but this was the case with my sisters and I.  I always considered Aunt Something Funny to be "the smart one."  I always considered Aunt Genocide to be "the funny one."  At different times in my life, I was intensely jealous of them for that.  I tried very hard to present myself as "the creative one."

But Aunt Something Funny isn't "the smart one."  She's one of three girls, born within about three years, who are all very, very smart.  She was the best at telling adults when they were wrong, she did have the best ability to recall impressive vocabulary, or identify specific dinosaurs.  She got good at Scrabble first.  She was also the oldest.

Aunt Genocide isn't "the funny one."  She's one of three girls, very close in age, who are all very, very funny.  She was the best at clowning around for a crowd, she was the best with a biting comeback, or a hilarious one-liner.  She also felt from a very early age that there was no way she would ever be "as smart" as her older sisters.  Which is a belief that, I'm sorry to say, Aunt Something Funny and I encouraged.

I wasn't "the creative one."  I was one of three sisters right behind each other in school who had a variety of talents.  I might have had the most drive to perform, I might have had the most art supplies in my rooms, I might have listened to the most progressive music, but I certainly didn't monopolize creativity.  Aunt Something Funny is a brilliant writer.  Truly brilliant.  I've reread one issue of her zine, published about a decade ago, more than almost any other book I own.  Aunt Genocide is an amazing photographer.  Really.  Even if she's decided that her passion lies more with her "smart" pursuits in academia.

Not "the boisterous one."
And we're all crazy.  And yeah, we all have our opinions on who is the craziest.  But frankly, there are enough kinds of crazy going around that we can all have our own.

The idea of teaching my children that they are whole people, not defined by their similarities or differences to each other, has been important to me since I first learned I was having twins.  I see so many other multiples- and their parents insist on dressing them identically.  What does that say about them?  That they exist only as reflections of each other?  That in fact, they are only one social entity?

How would I have felt if I constantly matched my sisters?

I would have felt even more that I needed to identify myself- to be "the creative one."  Because aside from that, I would have had no other distinctions.  I would have been simply part in a collective person.

I wouldn't be Lea the individual, I would be Lea of "The Borenstein Girls."

Just as DD and SI wouldn't be DD and SI, they would be, "The Twins."

They'll probably never get away from being, "The Twins."  No matter what I do, it's going to happen.  Just as I was lumped into the unit of my sisters, they'll be lumped into the unit of their twindom.

And yes, I've been guilty of dressing them alike.  Or as complements to each other.  But only as a special occasion thing- only for a picture, or for a big family event.  For something that they will understand as "not the way things normally are."  But each time I do it I feel ashamed.  Because being a twin isn't just a cool trick they can do.  It's a facet of who they are.  And I have no right to make a spectacle of that without their consent.

No, she's not "the sweet one."
I'm sure that it will be easier for them to actualize as individuals being as visually different than each other than it would be if they were identical twins. But they're not- no more than I am identical to MY sisters.  They just happened to be born at the same time.  And that means that they are automatically perceived as being part of a set- incomplete without each other.

I just wish that the rest of the world would stop treating it as some sort of novelty act.  One person, with traits divided between two bodies.

They are TWO people.  In some ways similar, in others, not at all alike.

Just as any two people in the world might be.

...and for those of you reading through a platform that doesn't actually show you my blog- the new header:
"Becoming SuperMommy!"

1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a great post! Thank you so much for linking up.

    I loved this secret. I think it's very relatable to anyone who has a sibling. I love how you talk about it from your perspective as a mother and as a sibling. I have an only child so I don't really get that with him. There's no one to compare him to. ;)

    I'm so glad to hear you're such a fan of Post Secret. It really is a special project, isn't it? I had the app while it was running and people quickly started abusing it since it was self-governed. I hated to see it go, but hopefully it will be back. (I'm assuming it will require a user name or number so that secrets can be traced back by administration and banned if needed.)

    I hope he'll start posting just "real" secrets again soon... I think he's just trying to show others that good things did come from the app in addition to all the bad (pornographic and obscene posts, etc).

    I hope you'll link back up next Sunday! Maybe I'll have more than two participants then. ;)

    Your newest follower,
    @ http://www.madjackie.blogspot.com



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