That title sure caught your attention, right?
Don’t be alarmed—I wasn’t full-body tied to my sister, but rather connected at the waist to her with a detachable rope, tied around two carabiners, which we hooked to our jeans. And it wasn’t even for the entire day—more like thirteen or fourteen hours.
But still. Even this was enough for me to gain some appreciation for the freedom I have in my individuality.
The reason that we were tied together was for an assignment for English class. We had recently read Moby Dick and our class was taking a field trip to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. To get a few extra credit points, we had the option of dressing up in a costume related to the book. My sister and I wanted to do a costume together (even when we don’t have an actual rope connecting us, we are quite connected at the hip). So, after much deliberation, we came up with what we thought would be a unique and cool idea: the monkey rope!
To those unfamiliar with Moby Dick and/or whaling (though if you read the former, then you are sort of forced to become familiar with the latter!), the monkey rope is essentially a rope that connects two whalers on a whale ship during the process of harvesting the blubber from a whale. One end of the rope is connected to a whaler standing on the ship, and the other connected to a whaler standing on the very slippery whale, coated with blubber and such. The idea is that the person standing on the ship would be able to hold on the rope connecting them to the person on the whale and preventing them from slipping, but in actuality, it takes a bit of a morbid twist–if the person standing on the whale slips, which is quite likely, the person standing on the ship is then tugged overboard and falls to their death too.
Ah, yes, Moby Dick is a very… cheery book.
My sister and I had thought that the monkey rope would be clever, unique, and certainly show that we read the book and maybe win us a few points. Besides, we enjoy one another’s company, so we figured it wouldn’t be absolutely torturous to be tied together. If anything, the carabiners were easily detachable, in the event that we needed to be released from one another (say, for example, to go to the bathroom).
We didn’t anticipate how confining the monkey rope would actually be, though.
There was something in how technically complicated it was to ensure we didn’t get tangled up in our own rope. The carabiners would need to be attached to parallel loops in our jeans, or we would end up twisting the rope around each other if we tried to turn, and one person would end up, mysteriously, facing backwards. We often had to swap the positions of the carabiners frequently from the first to second loops on our jeans to ensure that we would both be facing the same direction.
We also had to coordinate how fast we walked and in what direction; sometimes, I would want to look at a statue or exhibit to the right, but my sister would want to look at a boat further down the dock. It isn’t unusual for us to argue about decisions that we make, but we’d never been forced to compromise like this. Let me tell you, I got angry with her at least two times an hour because of her stubbornness (and that’s a personal record!).
Aside from how technically confining it was, there was also an aspect of social confinement as result of the monkey rope.
Being a twin, I’ve always been part of a set. People refer to me sometimes as “one of the twins”; sometimes, when I walk into a room, people are surprised to see that my twin isn’t beside me. Sometimes I’m surprised when she isn’t next to me, or sad that she isn’t. I’ve become so used to her presence. At times she’s like an annoying gnat who just won’t go away, but most of the time, she’s just an extension of myself, a part of me that I can’t really see myself without.
We’ve always had what you might call an us-against-the-world type of relationship. It’s not even in that I know that no matter what, she’ll always be there to support me; it’s more that we are so different from our peers, perhaps partly because of our twinship. We are able to talk to one another about things that other students would likely only be able to discuss with a parent or maybe a diary (neither of which would provide as insightful or understanding responses)—things like why do we think the way that we do? what are our fears? what are our dreams for the future? why are we the way that we are?
Being a twin has led me to see myself as not my own, whole person but rather as half-of-a-duo.
Usually, I don’t consider this a disadvantage or a negative in any sense. It’s nice, having someone next to me always who understands the way that I think and knows (most of) my deepest fears and the thoughts that I don’t really verbalize. But on that field trip, where our invisible connection was materialized, it became clearer and clearer that us-against-the-world could be… lonely.
It sounds backward, I know. How can us-against-the-world be lonely? By definition, you are never alone. And yes, that’s true; you’re never really by yourself—but when the person who you’re always with starts feeling like an extension of yourself, you start to feel like you are alone.
Being a twin has led me to see myself as not my own, whole person, but rather as half-of-a-duo.
I started to notice this paradox from the moment we headed to Mystic Seaport. We climbed onto the bus and my sister and I, naturally, sat next to one another (not that we had a choice; if we’d sat on different seats in the same aisle, we definitely would’ve caused some major injuries). At first, I didn’t really feel that lonely, until I started noticing our friends sitting next to us, surrounding us, talking to one another, but not talking to us.
My sister and I started having our own conversation, but I feel a little bitter inside. Why weren’t any of our friends talking to us? We were right next to them, but they seemed to be engaged in their own conversations. It was like they were in their own world, and we were in a separate world.
Imagine that. A world populated by only two people.
Sounds lonely, doesn’t it?
As the field trip progressed, it was like this wall between our friends and us grew thicker and thicker, reinforced by the monkey rope. Because we had to walk at the same pace, my sister and I typically walked a little bit slower than the rest of our friends, which led us to drag behind them. From there, I could almost see that wall between us, an invisible barrier that I couldn’t really cross because there was something pulling me back, something keeping me tethered to that two-person-world… the monkey rope.
We were right next to them, but they seemed to be engaged in their own conversations. It was like they were in their own world, and we were in a separate world…A world populated by only two people.
I realized that the wall between my friends and my sister and I wasn’t created solely by my sister and I, but also reinforced by my friends. Because they viewed us as a set, as ShreyaandVanshika, and not Shreya and Vanshika, they placed us in a world separate to theirs.
My sister was fine with being ShreyaandVanshika. Shreya, she said, why are you so upset? Shouldn’t you be happy that you have a friend wherever you go?
And I was. The security that I find in being a twin is invaluable.
But I also wanted, I realized, the freedom to make friends that weren’t her, to have thoughts that I didn’t share with her, to be able to freely walk through the wall that blocked my sister and I from the world with our friends—to even break down that wall completely.
The monkey rope, being tied to my sister, made me value my individuality, the ways that I am different from my sister. By being reminded of the fact that I’m constantly viewed as one identical part of a set, by others and even by myself, I gained an appreciation for the things that make me different from my sister—my articulateness, my love for classic and instrumental music, my unfailing optimism… and even something as simple as the fact that I love the color orange and she despises it with a passion.
I take comfort in my sister’s hatred of the color orange. It tells me that I am my own person. That individuality reminds me that regardless of whether this wall between my friends and I is self-imposed or a construct of society, I have the power to break that wall down and I have the freedom to do that, because I have the freedom of choice.
By being reminded of the fact that I am constantly viewed as one identical part of a set, by others and even by myself, I gained an appreciation for the things that make me different from my sister…
Yes, I’m very lucky to be a twin. I have a best friend for life, someone who has to put up with me, whether she likes it or not. But I think I’m most lucky because my twin gives me a reason to love my individuality even more, something that non-twins really don’t have.
Have more thoughts about what it’s like to be a twin? Ask your questions below; I would be happy to share! If you’re also a twin and want to discuss whether you’ve ever felt similarly to me, I would love to discuss that with you too. If you’re just a book nerd who wants to talk about Moby Dick, I’m absolutely up for that. Or, if you’re just someone who appreciated this insight into what it’s really like to be a twin, well, I would leave to hear from you, too!
Either way, thank you for reading, and until next time!