Twin life

Opposite sex twins

Emma found this interesting article in The Guardian, which discusses the unique relationship between opposite sex twins (Emma’s got her own boy and girl on the go at the moment – they should be making their grand appearance in a few weeks’ time).  In particular, it discusses what sound like a nice, intelligent pair of adult opposite sex twins who are now in their 50s and have never been married, and asks whether their close sibling relationship has been part of the reason for them not finding permanent life partners.

These twins don’t think that it’s why:

Both firmly believe that being an opposite-sex twin is not the reason they are single. Kath says the reason she didn’t get married when she was younger was the strong message she got from seeing her mother, struggling with four young children, unable to pursue the passions she loved (opera and pottery) and, at one point in their childhood, having a breakdown. This made her determined to put her career first. “I remember saying, it’s all right for Dad, he had a job,” she says. “I definitely had a fear that if you have children you have a breakdown.”

For Chris, being single is “just the way things have unfolded. The people who I like don’t like me, and vice versa. You get to the age of 59 and suddenly think, oh,” he says. “It’s almost as if you don’t need …” He tails off. “I can function perfectly happily on my own because I have a life-long buddy. I’ve never ever felt lonely or desperate. Some people are, ‘I’ve got to have somebody.’ Obviously it’s in the back of your mind. If somebody popped up tomorrow that would be nice. I’m still on the market, but I won’t be prowling around internet dating sites.”

And I’m sure that there would be untold examples of opposite sex twins who have great relationships with each other, and who are also happily married.

More generally, the author of the article discusses opposite sex twins in pretty positive terms (his girlfriend is an opposite sex twin, which must partially explain his interest).  He highlights the fact that boy/girl twins are so overtly seen as twins by the rest of the world.  He also speculates that growing up with a close sibling of the opposite sex might give a person a finer understanding of that other gender.  And later in the article an author of a book about opposite sex twins, Olivia Lousada, speculates further:

“…Being an opposite-sex twin may bestow more stereotypically male qualities, such as confidence, on a woman and female characteristics, such as intuition, on a man, and this, she says, can create difficulties “progressing to a sexual relationship with the opposite sex because they don’t feel different enough”.

I’m not convinced that confidence is a stereotypically male quality, or that intuition is a stereotypically female quality, but I can appreciate the point that Lousada is making.  Instead of seeing the possibility of transference of these apparently gender specific qualities from one twin to the other, I wonder whether opposite sex twins might develop with less blatant gender stereotypical traits simply because they’re raised so closely together and go through every childhood stage at the same time, giving them access to parental guidance and messages relevant to people as a whole, rather than ideas like “boys are good at sport” and “girls are good at sharing with other children” that parents might otherwise unwittingly reinforce in their kids.  In other words, raising opposite sex twins might give parents an opportunity to disregard gender stereotypes to some degree, helping to develop children into people with a balanced set of emotional skills.

I was so happy when we found out that we were having a boy and a girl – partially because it will be amazing to get to experience the fun of raising the two genders, but partially because I really don’t want our children to grow up always being thought of by the outside world as ‘the twins’.  It seems more likely to me that they’ll be seen as distinct individuals with their own interests, concerns and attitudes, and I think that’s great.

2 thoughts on “Opposite sex twins

  1. I went to college with a girl who was a twin and her sistr went to a college on the other side of the city which I think was a really nice thing for the parents to do for the girls. Boy/irl twins or even just non identical same sex twins get the cool twin thing and the not being treated like one person bit too.

    1. I agree! I guess that it can sometimes depend on the twins themselves – some might hate the idea of being separated – but I remember my older sister saying that her girls thrived when they got to intermediate school and were put into separate classes, after being in the same class all through primary school. And now they’re at high school, so they’re in different core classes and also take different subjects.

      I do like the thought that our two are likely to have their own separate circles of friends from early on, as well.

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