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Not a day goes by that someone doesn't approach us with that famous question. They'll see us walking together, do a double take, point, smile, and stare like we're some strange, exotic species. Then they'll ask: "What's it like being a twin?"
They might as well be asking us what it's like to be alive. Doing things together, walking in synch, talking alike--all that is as natural to us as waking up. Do we like it? Absolutely. Do we sometimes wish we weren't twins? Absolutely not. But as all twins will tell you, we don't know what it's like not to be a twin.
Our world exploded when we opened TWINS, our dream restaurant in New York City, staffed entirely by identical twins. We suddenly got to meet 50,000 people just like us. Some were tall, some short, some wealthy and some just scraping by, some from foreign countries and some from America's heartland--people from every walk of life who felt connected to the core because they were twins. We always knew being twins made us different, but with our restaurant we finally felt normal and at home. At TWINS, we were spared those never-ending questions the nontwin world loves to ask: "When you wake up in the morning how do you know it's you and not your sister?" "Do you have the same birthday?" "Have you ever switched dates?" and, of course, the best--"Are you twins?"
We realized over time that we are part of an amazing subculture based on a bond that's deeper and different than any other; an incredible world of "We" and never "I" in which behavior that strikes most people as weird--eating off each other's spoons, finishing each other's thoughts--is perfectlynormal.
Unlike nontwin siblings, growing older has not brought us closer together. Instead, time has helped us understand the intense closeness we've always had. When we were babies and one of us got sick, our mother would put the healthy one into the crib with the sick one. We'd lie there together, curled up, and whoever was sick would stop crying and quickly get better. Twins are each other's natural remedy. Like a marriage, we laugh together, fight together, push each other's buttons, and often get on each other's nerves.
Growing up, we drank from the same baby bottle, went to the same schools, had the same hangouts, and attended the same college. We shared friends, dresses, cars, makeup, secrets, jokes, and even birthday cakes. Some might find it sad-that we never had individual birthday parties, but we would not have it any other way. Today, though we no longer live together, we still enjoy the same food, the same guys, and the same movies. We open each other's mail, cut each other off midsentence, and we never, ever say good-bye or hello to each other on the phone. We just start right in, and then hang up. We're so used to knowing what the other is thinking that there's no need for formalities. We have learned to embrace and cherish our sameness.
One thing you'll never hear one of us say to the other is, "So, do you like this?" If one of us likes something, we know the other does, too. When we were little, our mother gave us $5 each, turned us loose in a mall and gave us ten minutes to buy ourselves presents. We came back with the exact same doll. If onc of us goes shopping for shoes, we never think, "Will she like them?" We just buy 'em and we know we'll like 'em. Now we even agree not to buy each other gifts, because it was no longer a surprise and it felt like we were giving a gift to ourself. To twins this sounds all too familiar, yet to others it is incomprehensible. Most people's understanding of individuality is defined by their different likes, dislikes, and decisions. For twins, we are two different individuals who make one heck of a whole together. We can make our own decisions but our inherent choices always remain the same.
Growing up we learned that being a twin meant always having an unconditional best friend. Being a twin means feeling it's okay to fail. Being a twin means feeling like you can conquer the world.
Sure, sisters and brothers can be supportive, and best friends, husbands, and wives can feel connected at the soul, but no relationship can truly compare to twins. To hear your identical heartbeat, to see your smile flash on another's face, to never have to explain yourself, and to have a constant companion throughout life--this is the gift we were born with. Being a twin is like having a conscience with an outside voice. All siblings, including twins, fight--but on a whole, twins' ties are never completely severed. We are born into an unbreakable conspiracy against the world; we are automatically in synch, as consistent and dependable as the dawn. The harmony of our laughter, the synchronicity of our walk, and the communication of a single look-- these treasured moments are our common language.
And that is the wonderful spirit we've tried to capture in this book. It's difficult to describe the incredible energy that exists between twins--we call it twinergy--but we hope that through The Book of Twins you can peek into our hearts and share a small part of our special kinship. We must thank all of the amazing twins for joining us in the celebration of our story. With the timeless and universal moments we've captured in images and stories, you will get a feel for our camaraderie. We've rounded up some remarkable sets of twins who will touch your heart, make you laugh, and give you a glimpse into our magical world.
What do the twins within these covers have in common? Everything. We have a built-in support system that never goes away. We're still together, still connected, still close--physically and emotionally. We each have the kind of permanent friend other people spend their whole lives looking for.
Recently, we were out together and dressed identically. This guy came up to us and said, "When are you two going to grow up"? What did he mean, "grow up?" This is it! Many twins do not dress the same, yet for us it represents our commonality, our twin bond. We're never going to change, never going to try to be different. Being twins isn't something you slip on and off, it just is. It cuts across continents, defies all obstacles, and transcends time. Science can't explain it; society can't change it. Twins, simply, are forever.
Okay, but what's it like to be a twin? What's it like to have someone who looks and sounds and acts exactly like you? A double, a clone, a kindred spirit? A daily reflection of your strengths and flaws, a sounding board, a spiritual peer? An intuitive partner who understands your every mood and whim? A soul mate--no, a womb mate--who is a part of you in every way? What's it like to feel a love that mystifies many but fortifies us like nothing else?
For us, being a twin is feeling like you're the luckiest person alive.
The Morgenthau Twins
A century passes and still the Morgenthau brothers are side by side. Twenty-two presidents, five wars, a million fads have all come and gone and still they stick together, each a special witness to the other's wonderful life. Charles and Eugene, born an hour apart on the first day of 1904, still play bridge every week, still talk on the phone twice a day, still needle each other over little things. "It's been very good to always have a companion," says Eugene, now 94. "Talk louder," says Charles. "I can't hear you."
They almost didn't get to take their marvelous trip together. "We nearly died when we were babies," says Charles, who, like his twin, weighed three pounds at birth. "But the doctors gave us each a drop of whiskey every afternoon and we made it." After that, they shared everything--a room in their family's New York City brownstone, matching clothes, even grade-school assignments. "Each of us did half the homework, then copied off the other guy," remembers Charles. "When the teachers discovered that," says Eugene, "they separated us."
But not for long, never for long. When birthdays rolled around, the brothers had joint celebrations. "We especially liked our 21st birthday," says Charles. "We invited some friends to go to this restaurant on 14th street called Luchow's, and everybody got drunk, drunk, drunk. One of our friends jumped on stage and led the orchestra. Then we went to see the Marx Brothers on Broadway in I'll Say She Is! We had one hell of a time." New York City, recalls Eugene, "was much less crowded then. There wasn't so much traffic. There was a saloon on every corner of Park Avenue. Life was more simple then."
They grew up without cars, without television, without air conditioning. "On hot summer nights, everybody had these straw mats they'd put out on the fire escape so they could cool off," says Charles. "I remember Eugey and I would take a trolley car down to the Battery. A streetcar ride during the summer was quite a treat. They traveled fast and a breeze would come by and everyone would get cool." The Morgenthaus recall these moments as if they're right back in that bygone era, their memories more vivid for having been shared. Together at the 1939 World's Fair. Together at Lindbergh's ticker tape parade. Together when they heard about Pearl Harbor. What highs and lows they've seen along the way. "We really bonded during the Great Depression," says Eugene.
"We had $3,000 between us and we didn't have jobs. But somehow we made it through and we still had that $3,000." For their first 38 years they lived together, and nothing could keep them apart for long. They were too young to be drafted during the first World War, too old to fight in World War II.
It was never easy to spend even a few weeks away from each other. When Eugene was 19 he took a job as a traveling salesman, peddling jewelry across the country. "I would grieve while he was gone," says Charles. "I was in a living hell until he came back." Being away from his brother "wasn't easy," says Eugene. "Doing the job was a chore and I hated it. I couldn't wait to get back." Then when Eugene was 38 he got married and moved out. The apartment the Morgenthaus shared for years, the one with Eugene's model locomotives running over the radiator, suddenly seemed empty. "I was very sad," says Charles. "I felt as if I had been abandoned. Nobody knew it. I didn't complain. But that was the first time we didn't live together." He followed Eugene to the altar a year later, and has been married to Jane for 55 years. Charles and Eugene, of course, were each other's best man.
But even as they carved out separate lives, they kept the currents between them running strong. They went to work for different companies, yet both had jobs in the export business. They took all of their vacations together, to resorts in upstate New York, or on cruises to Bangkok and Sydney. When Charles' company closed its doors, "Eugene came to my rescue. I went to work for his business until we retired." Eugene was a rock of support when Charles' adult daughter died in an airplane crash; Charles helped Eugene cope when his wife died in 1981--and was his brother's best man again when Eugene remarried, to his current wife, Emmy.
And here they are, halfway through their tenth decade, as vital to each other's existence as ever. Their closest friends are all gone--"We're the last survivors of our group," says Charles. They live within blocks of each other on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and they hardly ever miss their weekly game of cards. They still venture out into the sprawling city they love, making few concessions to their age. "We must be really old," says Charles. "I get on a bus and everybody gets up to give me a seat, much to my embarrassment. I used to argue and say I don't need a seat, but now I take it."
They talk on the phone twice a day, small, quiet conversations. "He calls in the morning, I call at night, but we don't say very much," offers Charles. "Practically nothing." That's because "we don't have to ask each other questions," says Eugene. "I can tell just how he feels from the tone of his voice. And he can tell just how I feel as well." They sit side by side on a sofa in Charles' apartment, dressed nattily in suits and ties, bantering easily back and forth, heckling each other with a single, shared nickname--Niffen. "A 'nifnif' is the poorest hand you can have in bridge, so we started calling each other nifnif," explains Charles. "Over the years it turned into Niffen."
Over the years so much has changed. Luchow's has been closed for years, and trolley cars don't rattle down to the Battery anymore. Now there are jets that fly 500 mph, computers that connect the world, and phones that fit in your pocket. What a glorious time to have lived in, a kaleidoscope called America--and what a way to have seen it, alongside such a steady cormpanion. "We were very lucky to be born when we were," says Eugene. And lucky, too, to be born with a lifelong best friend--a twin.