Note: Permission received from the subject.
My twin sister, Alicia, is way hotter than me. I’d like to get that out in the open. After thirty-two years, I’m at peace with it.
These days, when people try to be cute and say, “I don’t believe you two are twins. Where’s your birth certificate?”
I answer with a swift, “I don’t have it with me, but ask my mom’s vagina if it remembers us, I’m sure it does.”
Yet, I didn’t always have such an aloof attitude about my sister and me resembling Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins. Though Alicia is now the best friend I could ask for, before I got to know the girl behind the pretty face, my sister’s good looks caused some issues.
Unaware of her influence
With a set of fraternal twins, it’s pretty much a given that one will be more conventionally attractive than the other.
As children, before a good chunk of our worth depended on looks, Alicia and I never left each other’s side. Then, during the summer before middle school, puberty hit my sister like the kid from Big. One day she was the weird, sunburnt girl playing “Horses” at recess, and the next, she came to middle school with double D cups and the makings of a Kardashian ass.
It’s safe to say my sister took the title of “hottest twin” and ran with it. It didn’t help that I was an awkward child who hadn’t grown into her nose, smile, or curly hair yet.
And it definitely didn’t help when boys learned Alicia and I were twins, they’d do their best not to look at me as if to say, “Oh, you got fucked.”
I grew popular only because the boys thought of me as the gatekeeper to my sister, I guess. I didn’t want the attention or the extra friends, but often I’d find admirers at my doorstep with baked goods and a million questions about my sister.
What’s funny is, Alicia had no clue most of her fans existed.
The other day, when I asked her if there was a moment she realized her beauty, she furrowed her brow and said, “I just knew a lot of girls looked up to me.”
She then went on to swear she remembers nothing from our high school days except all the praise for the stupid shit she and her friends got away with. Hijinks like literally rolling up to Sadie Hawkins in 80’s work out gear drunk on rollerblades.
And abusing presidential powers to convince an entire school the Backstreet Boys were coming to our assembly to reveal her and her friends in bad male drag.
Yeah, she got away with all of it, which makes her seem like a spoiled brat, but really, everyone else was to blame for worshipping her.
Pretty much obsessed
Gossip and news revolved around Alicia daily. A few guys and girls even cried when they learned she didn’t know their names.
One girl, a “friend,” started a bogus rumor that my sister got plastic surgery. Another nameless person opened a fraudulent Myspace account, pretending to be Alicia.
Some teachers lost their minds over her, too. Our seventh-grade science teacher often tried to get dirt on my sister from our peers.
The worst happened when a high school teacher started a vicious prank war against my sixteen-year-old sister for ignoring his inappropriate, vague advances. My sister had a panic attack when he strung his tarantula’s exoskeleton to some fishing twine from the ceiling and tangled it in her hair during silent reading.
I attempted to give him a nose job with my fist when I found out. The only thing separating me from Juvie was my sister’s admirer, Sean, who slung me over his shoulder and ran out of the teacher’s office.
Looking back, I can see now how strange everyone acted around my sister. I wouldn’t blink if they’d started to bow at her feet like she was Aphrodite — they’d already brought offerings.
It bothered me a lot, but not for the reasons you’d think.
Who cares who you are when you’re pretty?
No one should be placed in such high regard for being beautiful, and certainly not a young girl.
The lack of focus on my sister as a person was also disturbing. Alicia had true friends all over because of her kind heart and genuine nature. But none of that mattered.
Neither did getting into Cornell or being an amazing athlete. But damn, you best believe everyone remembered Alicia’s show-stopper prom dress.
Then, there was me and the rest of the kids who ate lunch on the theater department steps or alone in the band room.
Puberty and our teenage years are difficult enough. But when you’re different and insecure about it, the spotlight placed on your shortcomings can be white-hot.
Yet none of it hurt as much as losing my friend. My sister had new, more appropriate companions. Even at home, we didn’t talk much anymore. Space is fine, but I felt like a novelty in her life — and a disappointing one.
Still, despite my massive discomfort with my sister’s status, I never told her how I felt.
Everyone will just think you’re jealous, I reasoned.
So I decided to keep my opinions to myself. Or at least I tried until our twenty-first birthday when my sister surprised me with one of the most unwanted, cringe-inducing gifts I could imagine.
It’s a trap!
On our birthday, my dad took my sister and me to Disneyland. Once we unpacked our belongings and said goodnight to my dad, Alicia rounded on me with a grin.
“We’re going out,” she said, rifling in her suitcase for a new outfit and her make-up. “I want to have my first drink as a twenty-one-year-old.”
Before I could raise an eyebrow, Alicia added between applying lipstick, “my first legal drink.”
I refused as best I could, but, as a perpetual popular girl, Alicia knew what to say to a wannabe. Thirty minutes and one “I guess you don’t want to be cool, then, Ev” later, I sat at the bar in pajama pants, no makeup, and a baseball hat, sipping at a Piña Colada.
A Corona in her hand, my sister flirted her way across the floor in a mini skirt.
“Body shots!” screamed Alicia, surrounded by frat boys and leering Disney dads. Splaying herself on the countertop, she signaled for the bartender’s attention.
I buried my face in my drink until a strange voice said, “She’s interesting, huh?”
It turns out, Sam, the sheepish young man with the chestnut curls and sparkling blue eyes beside me had come for me.
Oh, God, no, I thought as my sister appeared from the crowd with a random man on her arm and a mega-watt “proud mom” smile.
As the apparent group leader, once we’d gathered, my sister said, “Let’s go to the park!” Then she scampered off to Frontierland to ride Indiana Jones, leaving me by my lonesome to try and converse with a man who didn’t hide his disappointment.
We’d only bought churros and found a seat before he made his motives known.
Not a big deal to some, maybe
“I have a question for you,” Sam asked, his tongue flicking out of the corner of his mouth. “Can you put in a good word with your sister?”
“I mean,” he said with a shrug, “no offense, but have you seen her? Sorry, I just, you know, expected you to look the same. You’re twins.”
My feet moved so fast, I almost skated back to the resort. Alicia pounded on my door an hour later, then stormed inside, dark hair wild.
“What the hell?” she snarled. “Sam came for you, Evie.”
I turned to her, my nose wrinkled in disgust.
“He lied.” Snatching a Mickey-shaped towel from my pillow, I sauntered across the room. “I’m going to take a shower.”
Alicia stepped back, her hand on her chest as I stared at her.
“Alicia, You have no idea what it’s like seeing guys’ faces when they find out I’m your twin.”
Perhaps this dialogue seems dramatic to some, but I can tell you years of pain culminated at this moment between me and my sister. Judging by the true disbelief in my sister’s eyes, Alicia had no idea our contrast caused me grief.
Later that night, my sister came to my room.
“Hey, are you awake?” she asked, maneuvering around my open suitcase before climbing into bed with me. “I want to tell you something.”
She placed her chin on my shoulder and said, “You know, I wish I looked like you sometimes.”
I laughed, an obvious mistake once I noticed the pain in her eyes. “I mean, I know I’m not ugly or anything,” I backtracked. “But who wouldn’t want to look like” — I made a broad gesture in her direction — “all that.”
“I didn’t ask to be born this way,” she said before she left, any hope of my falling asleep going with her.
For years, I couldn’t quite grasp that our society judges people on how they look, and the beautiful ones have an advantage. Today, a good-looking mugshot can take you from convicted felon to working fashion model.
And this leg up in life makes it easy to hate someone more fortunate than ourselves. It’s simpler to be envious of others than accept who we are sometimes.
But I’d realized I couldn’t blame my sister for her face any more than I could for my being a five on a good day. I couldn’t be bitter toward Alicia, so I did all I could do: I got to know her. And wouldn’t you know it? She was delightful.
A lot of times when I talk about my sister, people (mainly women) ask how we’ve stayed such close friends.
“She’s gorgeous. If my sister looked like that, I’d hate her,” they say.
My answer is always a gentle smile and, “you might change your mind if you chat a bit.”
And this response goes for anyone else who might judge or be judged for the way they look.
Judge the person, not their looks
I didn’t write this story to get compliments or to feel sorry for myself. When you have a high chance of being born with spina bifida or cleft palate, you learn to be grateful for what you’re given, imperfections and all.
But I did write this story to throw a reminder out into the world: pretty, “ugly,” or somewhere in between, a person is still a person.
What if I had hated my sister for being beautiful rather than choosing to get to know her as a woman? I wouldn’t have such a wonderful friend, that’s for sure.
And our bond now makes me wonder how many other amazing people are out there waiting in an “unconventional” skin.
So, I’ll leave you with an exercise.
Find someone you wouldn’t gravitate toward on a normal day — a blind selection in a store or at the park. Take a look in their eyes (from a socially acceptable distance, of course), and, if they’re willing, have a conversation. A few sincere words will do.
Who knows? You might find you enjoy the conversation regardless of the view.