Meet James Oakley, a fourth-year English major. John Oakley, an international relations major, also attends UC Davis. They share friends and an apartment, but what brings them together? They share the same DNA.
James and John both attend UC Davis. But not all twins go to the same university. Identical twins tend to possess more similar interests, while fraternal twins may look and behave in completely different ways. However, each embodies a unique individual beyond the mere identity of a twin.
“I suppose we’re the stereotypical idea of identical twins,” James said. “[As kids] we were always interested in the same things, always interested in teamwork; the two of us together to accomplish one goal.”
Going to the same school was a benefit for the boys because they were automatic roommates and instant friends.
“Just having a companion [is the best part], and I’m fortunate that he’s interesting, that he has a personality,” John said.
Fraternal twins, on the other hand, customarily lead very different lives, and may not even consider choosing the same college. Such is the case with Naomi Rich, a third-year community and regional development major, said of her and her fraternal twin sister Sara Rich, an underclassman at Chaffey Jr. College.
“We usually had different goals … we would jokingly say we’d go to the same college, but it was never serious,” Naomi said.
Naomi and her sister epitomize a common conception of fraternal twins. Naomi sports dirty blonde hair and Sara has brown hair. Each twin is completely opposite in personality and life goals. John and James, on the other hand, exemplify the stereotypical idea of identical twins who choose almost the same path in every aspect.
Originally, John planned to attend UC Santa Barbara, but later chose UC Davis like his brother. The boys said that when they were growing up, they always participated in the same sports, always had the same interests and always had been naturally inseparable. However, slight differences in their interests eventually led to the twins studying different majors in college.
“I was always a better writer; John was always better at history,” James said.
Even if they had chosen separate schools, the pair believes that they each would have still been happy. Yet the two agree that they do not regret both choosing UC Davis, despite the trials of attaining a reputation as an individual instead of the collective twin.
“I guess there were a lot of drawbacks going to the same school, but now I have a pretty good sense of who I am. At the same time, I wouldn’t have been as close to John as I am now [if we had chosen separate schools],” James said. “I can understand why other twins want to separate, but I can’t imagine meeting for a break and talking
about individual experiences.”
Those who do go to a different school than their twin tend to develop a greater sense of individuality among the public.
“I would not have had to go outside of my comfort zone as much because she was generally the more outgoing one,” Naomi said of her sister.
Third-year chemistry and psychology major Kelsey Cox said her experience living apart from her identical sister Kaitlyn Cox, a student at Copper Mountain College, was similar.
“I’ll forget sometimes that I’m a twin, because people don’t come up and say, ‘Oh, you’re Katy’s sister,’” Kelsey said.
Although she was first tempted by the benefits of having her twin so geographically close to her, Kelsey said that separation has been healthy for both her sister and for her.
“I definitely think being separated is a lot better … I would feel guilty if she was going to the same school just to be with me,” Kelsey said. “The sense of independence you get on your own wouldn’t be the same as having that security blanket of having your twin here.”
While Naomi said she always enjoyed more individuality from her twin due to their very different physical characteristics and distinct interests, Kelsey said she had a newfound independence from her twin’s identity upon entering college and grew closer to her sister after separating.
“We were not very close; as soon as we got into separate rooms and separate houses, we became closer,” Kelsey said.
After all, being constantly mistaken for “the other one,” or what’s known as the collective twin, Kelsey said, does not leave room for much normal experience of individuality. While twins share a close bond, they also endure the assumptions of people who don’t have a twin.
“I used to get annoyed when people couldn’t tell we were twins … they just thought we were the same person who changed clothes throughout the day. That was really frustrating,” Kelsey said.
John said that an aspect of having a twin is the inevitability of being categorized.
“It used to really bother me, but I don’t care anymore. I think it’s just a matter of being around people enough. I mean, I’ll get twins mixed up sometimes, and that’s sucky when that happens to me,” James said.
Although the worst part of being a twin might not stem from the bond with your twin but rather from the way others perceive you, twins conclude that there are many irreplaceable positive aspects of being a twin that overshadow the negative.
“At the end of the day, you always have a friend; you can stand up for each other, [and] the goodness in her I can always defend [and vice versa] no matter what other people say,” Naomi said.
Kelsey said her relationship with her twin is similar, despite their distance.
“You can’t really put it into words. I really appreciate being a twin … they just understand you, you understand them, there’s nothing that can compare,” Kelsey said. “Even if you annoy each other so much, you still just ‘get’ each other.”
ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.