What is it like growing up as an identical twin, looking at someone else and feeling like you are looking into a mirror? Abigail Pogrebin drew on her own personal experience growing up with her identical twin, Robin, but she wanted to cast a wider net and explore available research as well as other people’s experiences. The result is One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular, a page turner chock-filled with information about twins from the scientific, to the psychological, to the emotional. Abigail interviewed numerous experts on twins and attended conferences around the world in her quest for information. The relationship between Abigail and Robin provides the backdrop for the book and is a moving and special love story between two sisters. (Abigail is on the right in the photo above).
Abigail, a Yale graduate, is the author of Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk about Being Jewish (Doubleday/Broadway Books 2005), which went into eight hardcover printings. She began her career in broadcast journalism, producing for Fred W. Friendly, Bill Moyers, Charlie Rose, and then for six years at CBS News’ 60 Minutes, first as a producer for Ed Bradley, then for Mike Wallace. Segueing to print journalism after her two kids were born (and she wanted to travel less), she became a senior correspondent for Steven Brill’s Brill’s Content Magazine and a contributor to Tina Brown’s Talk Magazine. She has written for publications such as New York Magazine, the New York Times travel section, Harper’s Bazaar, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Self, Parents, Salon, Tablet, The Forward, and Ladies Home Journal. She has moderated several conversations at the 92nd Street Y, and will be moderating a new series at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center this coming year, interviewing an impressive list of newsmakers. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.
What made you write a book about twins?
Being an identical twin, I was consumed with questions about growing up a twin, and I wanted to explore what it meant to be a twin. As close as Robin and I are, and we are intensely close, it has not been uncomplicated. I became interested in learning about other twins and whether or not their experiences were similar.
What were some of the complications you experienced as a twin?
Our relationship has become more complicated in the last 10 years. Robin needed more distance than I was willing or able to give her. Negotiating that was tricky, emotional and made me wonder whether other twins had encountered the same stumbling blocks. Robin’s issues went to the universal question of how one feels distinct in the world. This question likely applies to everyone, but is especially difficult when you are a twin.
We struggled with how we each make our mark in the world and really feel known as separate and distinct people. It is very hard to stand out because you are always seen as a set.
What were some of the biggest challenges you found being a twin?
One of the biggest challenges is to affirm your individuality and be sure of it. If you are not sure of it you feel unsteady. As Robin and I got older, she needed to pull away more from me to greater feel her individuality and independence. This was difficult for me, because her absence made me feel less steady.
You write about “Twin Shock” in the book. Can you explain that?
Twin shock is what often happens to parents raising twins. Every new parent knows the feeling of being overwhelmed by unending diapers and sleepless nights. Double that and it is uniquely trying. The stress of raising two children simultaneously is incredibly challenging, and not just the physical aspects. Parents of twins often worry that their children are being short-changed, and are consumed with giving each twin equal time-and that the goal of raising twins is equality. I learned from my own experience, and through my interviews that twins cans feel interchangeable by always being treated equally. Parity is not always better.
How do your parents feel about the book?
Like most parents, they are extremely proud. They were also surprised that things weren’t smooth between Robin and me at the end. Up until the book was published, my mom always sent Robin and me emails at the same time, needing to communicate with both of us equally. Reading the book broke her of that long-standing habit; one that she didn’t realize she even had.
Finally, do you have any advice for parents of twins?
-Give each twin separate time-even if they fight against wanting it
-Listen to who each twin is; allow and encourage their individuality
-Allow each twin to choose their own path
-Don’t dress them alike
-Sign them up for some separate activities and make them separate play dates
-Don’t become consumed with your twins coexisting in perfect harmony all the time. Allow for the discard and fighting and blemishes.
Photo of Abigail and Robin by Lorin Klaris.
Pamela Weinberg is co-author of City Baby, the best-selling NYC parenting guidebook, and runs seminars for new and expectant moms. Her website is www.citybabyny.com.