Monday, June 13, 2011

Twin Peeks

We had stopped for a cup of tea on a busy Vancouver street. It was a bit cool, a bit damp and a bit expensive. But the tea was hot and the street was busy. It was the perfect perfect stop for a couple of people watchers. Joe wanted to bet that by the end of tea, I'd have an idea for a blog post. I refused the bet. I'm glad I did.

I noticed them long before I saw them clearly. Two boys, same height, same age, walking down the street. They were, oddly as it turns out, noticeable because of their difference. One walked along looking up, fully engaged with being out. The other walked with his head down, seemingly disassociated with where he was and what he was doing. When they got a little closer, I noticed that they were despite their difference, identical twins.

As they walked by, I stopped noticing them and started noticing others noticing them. People did the nudge, nudge thing, along with the chin points and, of course, the open stares. All things I am, in fact all disabled people are, familiar with. One boy greeted the stares with an almost brazen attitude, a 'yeah I'm here, yeah the kid next to me is an exact double, yeah, go ahead, take a look at me'. He had an, 'I'm more because I'm different' attitude. He saw his brother, the guy who's appearance made him different, as part of his personal cachet.

The other boy simply refused to look up. He didn't see the stares but you could tell that he felt them, that he was stung by them. When his brother spoke to him about something, he glared at him, didn't answer him. He walked angry. He had a 'I'm less because I'm different' attitude. He saw his brother, who's appearance mirrored his own, as something that robbed him of individuality.

They came and went. In the two of them I saw, essentially, the only two choices someone has in dealing with difference. Either embracing one's difference or loathing one's self. That's pretty much it. I realized that I veer between those two extremes. Well, not so much veer but I find myself attempting to live 'embracing' but cannot stop myself from visiting 'loathing'.

It was instructive for me to see these two boys. They've taken a spot in my mind and captured a piece of my imagination. They make real the choice that I have to make. Seeing that unadulterated pride and self acceptance, walk down the street with both defiance and determination was strong stuff. Seeing that angry, bitter, step, walking like pride's dark shadow, was startling stuff. Attitude takes physical form. It changes twins into polar opposites.

We finished our tea just as a group of young school children congregated around a street vendor ordering food and laughing with each others. Often these kinds of groups scare me - they can be so open in their stares and unsubtle in their notice of me. But I set the cup down and said let's go. I simply let their stares glance off my attitude. I returned fire with attitude. Oddly, they lost interest in me quickly.



Anonymous said...

Its not clear from the post, did one of the boys have a disability?
I'm thinking not, he just chose to express himself differently from his brother.

I think having an identical twin sister helped me embrace my son's differences easier when he arrived with Down Syndrome.
I was used to people staring all my life. My sister and I have a name for it....we call it the gold fish bowl syndrome!
When we see people we say gold fish bowl at three o clock and we laugh our heads off!

On a more serious note, I've had issues with my identity and seperation all my life.
Its like our energies merge and if I'm in her company too long I don't know who 'we' and 'I' really are!

For the most part its been a wonderful gift for me to have my a womb twin sister Louise!

As for embracing difference....that the word that came into my head soon after Robert was born....Embrace! Embrace! Embrace!
I can so identify with this post.

love Linda ( LinMac)

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

My grand-daughters are identical twins. I will never forget the first time I was at the mall with them and my daughter-in-law. They were only a couple of months old and to me the most beautiful babies ever on the face of the planet. My exact words at the time were - this is like a freak show. And I remember thinking, this must be what it is like to have a visible disability. People stared, gawked, and felt free to ask really dumb questions - are they twins? are they both girls (dressed in pink frills)? We amused ourselves by coming up with witty retorts. Are they twins -no one is just a really short 2 year old. Are they both girls - no one is a cross dresser. But we never used our witty retorts - we were always polite to people. Now I don't even notice the stares when we go to the mall - am too busy having fun with the girls.

But I do think about this freak show aspect. My youngest child did have a visible disability. She died when she was 4 so we experienced some but not a lot of the stares and gawking. We did have some really stupid questions asked and I was polite when I think I should have been rude sometimes. Cari would be 24 now - people would be staring when we went to the mall no doubt. I think I could bear it just to be with her again. I didn't realize until I wrote this - that is likely how I recognized the freak show aspect of the twins' first trip to the mall - I had been there, done that, got the T-shirt but hadn't fully realized it because I was too in love with a beautiful child.

Dave, I had never even realized this before. It is bittersweet, believe me. I am probably one of few people who can say that I have lived both aspects of this (along with LinMac) and yes, you have hit the nail on the head once again


Dave Hingsburger said...

LinMac, no neither boy had a disability, they were two handsome kids identical to each other.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

after one of my closed friends died (with chd and pregnant at that time) nearly three years ago, I had to go into counseling. One of the main reasons was, that I felt emotionally cut in the middle; one part of me always telling me to stand up in the morning and do the best I can, because, even with my very hard congenital heart defect, I am able to live a very good life which we only have one on this planet and is something extraoridinare, while the other part was telling me not to get up, its not worth all the effort, my life is only a blink of an eye in the eternaty in history, nothing but a grain of sand, not worth aall the effort...

Sometimes I still feel like this, exspecially when I stand in the underground waiting for my train to arrive and see my reflection in the windows of the train flying by.

Julia (from Germany)

Anonymous said...

one of my closest friends

Sher said...

Colleen, I have twins who are 24. When we used to take them to the mall as babies we were always surprised that, a) we got asked the same questions each time (are they twins, are they had dark hair and the other had red NO, are they both girls which my affirmative reply was always met with "too bad they aren't a boy and a girl, then you could be done".....I'll NEVER understand THAT comment) and b) how many people thought that just because we had twins they had the right to stand in front of our stroller so we couldn't move and remove the blankets from the babies to get a closer look, etc. People were VERY intrusive. I even had one man, on our first outing to the mall, tell his little boy to kiss the babies, which he managed to do to one of my girls before I could stop him, then tell me that his little boy was very excited to be out of the house SINCE HE'S BEEN IN WITH THE CHICKENPOX FOR THE LAST 10 DAYS!!! We were appalled at the audacity of people just because we were pushing a double stroller. It didn't stop with adults either. My girls came home from kindergarden one day during their first week, crying because they weren't able to play during recess because the bigger kids were always carrying them around playing "twins". My girls have grown into women that I am in awe of, but they struggled along the way, often simply because they were "womb-mates". I can certainly understand how the struggle for some changes who they are. It's a shame.

Noisyworld said...

I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to have a visible difference to prove my disability but I know that, like the twin who hated the attention, I would never be able to hide, to ever seem "normal" (I was never normal, even before my accident, but I find most interesting people aren't!) this is the place I can hide but it's also my prison, not following the rules. Then at other times I'm like the confident twin, this is my disability- deal with it!
I don't really know what my point is, you just got me thinking :)

Colleen said...

coffeetalk - thanks for telling me about your daughters. It is unbelievable the audacity some people have. I remembered an incident with my daughter that kind of brings it back to disabity issues - same kind of audacity though. My daughter had Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and she had missing parts of her lower arms and hands. We were at a social gathering and she was just a tiny baby. A lady was probing and being audacious and finally started probing Cari's empty sleeves. Finally she asked - where are her hands? And we said - she doesn't have any. That put a lid on the questions! My husband and I still think this is hilarious. I guess we are like the gregarious twin that Dave saw. For someone like the more private twin I think that might have been a difficult exchange.

Catherine Roy said...


I respectfully question your portrayal of one of the two boys, the latter who is, according to you, the "loathing one's self" kid. You did not speak to him so you are speculating, albeit expertly, as to his state of mind and motivation for acting introverted as he did.

I myself have a visible disability and, I guess as some would say, a cosmetic disability (as I discuss in this blog post). I am generally very comfortable with the way I look and I certainly do not hate myself. But I regularly feel that others do not respect my privacy or are unnecessarily rude. I think that is worth considering.

I would be disappointed with unfairly labeling this youth as having poor self esteem, indeed hating himself and what makes him different just because people around him can not behave appropriately not to mention having a real life carbon copy of himself acting oblivious.

Best regards,


Ettina said...

I'd also warn against making assumptions about the starers. I'm sure many were as you describe, but you can't be sure. Maybe some of them were twins or knew twins and were interested to see another set of twins out and about, just like I am with disabilities. (Or maybe someone who'd experienced twin loss - I read an awesome poem by a mother who lost one of triplets and was imagining a mother with one surviving twin seeing her with her boys and feeling sad.)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Catherine, I hear your point clearly. This is a very 'weak' defense, but I'm writing a blog, I'm not doing research. I saw the two boys, saw their reactions to the world that day, that moment, it struck me as a means to say something I wanted to say about difference and attitude. I try to use these kinds of moments as inspiration to write something. I know that I can be our could be quite wrong about the essential nature of those two boys, but, again, this is a blog about disability based on my impressions of the world and the things I want to say. I'm not governing myself by journalistic rules or scientific rules of invesitationg and proof. I saw what I saw and wrote what I felt about it. I never want to pretend that this blog is anything more than that.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Ettina, I just can't go with you there, I get what you are saying, I think, but staring is intrusive. I don't care if someone who is staring at me is staring because they too used to be fat, or they too know someone in my brand of wheelchair. The intent may not be hostile but the effect is ... at least for me.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Readers, especially the two above I've responded to ... don't think that because I may disagree with a comment that I wasn't pleased to get it. I like to have myself challenged and sometimes to have to explain myself more clearly. I even like friendly disagreement. So comment away and challenge me when I need to be challenged.