The Crossroads of Separation

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About the author: This article was especially fascinating for me because I am an identical twin. It is interesting to note how other twins have coped with the idea of separating. Although I do not think my sister, Rachel, and I look identical, the random stares from across the room, quick paths of avoidance from other people and occasional mis-identification prove otherwise. I know these facts and life stories may seem abstract or even extreme but they are not. Rachel and I have not been apart longer than a week in the past 21 years. It is difficult for others to comprehend because many married couples don’t even spend that much time together. However, being an identical twin, as many of these twins can attest, is one of the great blessings in my life. Not many people can say they were born with a best friend. – Chelsea Jackson

Paige and Sidney Stringham do everything together. They wake up to the same alarm, attend the same animation classes, work the same job, share the same phone and eat the same five-dollar-foot-long for lunch.

The two girls have only been apart for one day in the past 20 years.  The sisters practically share everything, including their DNA.

As many college students find themselves at a crossroad of decisions, like which college to attend, major to study and significant other to marry, this crossroad is amplified for many identical twins, who must also make the decision to separate from their twin, a person whom they have built their life with for the past 20 years.

After spending such a significant amount of time together, this decision is not easy. Each set is different. Some choose to separate early, whereas others have not ventured into independence yet.

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]When many people think of identical twins, they probably imagine a situation close to Paige and Sidney’s: dressing the same since childhood, speaking in “we” form instead of “I,” and choosing to remain inseparable. However, Paige and Sidney are more than identical twins, they are identical mirror twins. Therefore, Paige and Sidney reflect each other physically more than average identical twins.

“We are mirror twins,” Sidney said. “So I am left handed and she is right handed. Our teeth came in on opposite sides, but if we look at each other it looks like we are in the mirror.”

Whether it is making birthday cards for each other or drawing for the same animation project, Paige and Sidney are inseparable.

“Sometimes I’ll stay at school longer and work on a project and Sidney will be at the apartment,” Paige said. “We’ll usually have g-chat pulled up so I can talk to her while I work on stuff because we share a phone.”

Despite their similarities, there are apparent differences in the two girls, the most prominent physical differences being Sidney’s long brown hair and beauty mark on her face. However, differences are not just skin deep.

“I am more outgoing in social situations than Paige is,” Sidney said, “but Paige is less stressed about school work.”

These differences provide a foundation of identity and uniqueness among the girls.

“If people can tell us apart then I feel like I have an identity,” Paige said.

Not all twins choose to look alike or be involved in the same activities. Some separate quite early in life, such as Shaquille Walker.

Walker, a freshman from Georgia, is also an identical mirror twin. Unlike Paige and Sidney, Shaquille and his twin brother Gemille could not be more opposite.  Shaquille runs track for BYU, takes minimum credits and joined the church when he was a senior in high school. His brother, on the other hand, is a pre-medicine major at the University of Georgia, role plays Billy Flynn in Chicago and is active in a Methodist church. They talk once a week and Shaq has not seen his brother for four months.

Many people do not believe Shaquille when he says he has a twin.

“Most of the time it [calling Gemille] stems from someone not believing that I am a twin,” Shaquille said. “So I call him, ‘hey brother, another one of my friends didn’t believe me.’ ”

Shaquille and Gemille started separating in seventh grade. Shaquille quit band and Gemille quit running. Slowly their friend groups changed as well as their interests.

“We are good friends but we didn’t really have any of the same interests,” Shaquille said.

Though different, Shaquille and Gemille still fought for identity in high school.

“We are just normal people who just happen to look alike,” Shaquille said. “Just because we look alike doesn’t mean we are the exact same person.”

In his junior year in high school, Shaquille began to investigate the church.

“I wasn’t interested right off the bat,” Shaquille said. “I didn’t know anything about Mormons — are they as crazy as everyone says?  I looked it up, I wanted to learn to see what it was, and it wasn’t anything like everyone else thought. It just stemmed from giving it a chance.”

Shaquille tried to introduce the gospel to his brother.

“He didn’t see it the way I saw it,” Shaquille said.

Membership in the Church not only separated the paths of Shaquille and Gemille, but also sent Tanner and Tyson Herrick, members of the Church, in different directions.

The first time Tanner and Tyson, twins from Bountiful, separated was when they served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Up to that point of their lives, the longest they had been separated was for two-and-a-half days.

“I broke my foot in ninth grade and he went to a wrestling tournament in Reno, Nevada,” Tanner said. “We were apart for two days and that was the first time I think I have ever experienced boredom.”

When the calls came they were relieved to find out they were both called to Italy, Tanner in the south and Tyson in the north.

“Everyone compares you, even things out of your control are a competition,” Tyson said of receiving his mission call.

Going to the MTC the same day, they were in the same district for two months before heading off to Italy.

“Everyone cries when they leave their family and we were fine,” Tyson said. “Then everyone cheers when they leave to Italy and we cried because it was the first time we had to split up … Tanner’s bus left at four in the morning and mine left at two in the morning. So I just had to get on the bus and watch my bus go away from him.”

The last day of their missions, they landed on the same plane, wearing matching ties to reunite with their loved ones again. Speaking of the two-year separation, Tanner said to Tyson, “I remember I got a letter from you on our birthday with a picture of us at the MTC. That was probably one of the hardest times. I never had problems with missing the family, but missing Tyson was a little bit harder just because we’ve always been together.”

They agreed the separation of the mission eased the transition into marriage.

“I think if we hadn’t served missions it would have been way crazy,” Tyson said. “It would have been a clean break. It would probably be more annoying for our wives because it would be harder for us to separate.”

Tyson married his wife last year on May 21 and Tanner married exactly five months later on Oct. 21. They currently live two blocks apart from each other and do couple activities once or twice a week, including playing on the same wallyball team.

Despite the heartache of an identity crisis and the challenge of eventual separation, Sidney said she would not give up being a twin.

“Yeah, I love being a twin,” Sidney said. “I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I wouldn’t be the same person without my twin. Even if I had the choice of not being a twin, I would still be a twin.”

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