David Greenberg,

David Greenberg,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 28 1998 3:30 AM

David Greenberg,

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       At first, when Slate's estimable Managing Editor Cyrus Krohn suggested that my twin brother, Jonathan, and I write concurrent diary entries for the magazine some week, I was slightly offended. Here was another instance of the societal prejudice I have come to call "twinism." A cousin of racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and various other newly discovered isms, twinism is a way of looking at twins that denies their individuality and focuses on how they differ from the rest of you "normal" people. Oftentimes, the prejudice is so ingrained that people don't even realize it's offensive. In fact, it's usually well intentioned--just like the independent prosecutor law was well intentioned.
       If you're not a twin, you might find it hard to appreciate how twinism demeans us erstwhile womb-sharers. Trust me, though: It can be a real annoyance. It can occur on an individual level, as when one stranger after another at my brother's wedding accosted me to utter what each one no doubt thought was a thoroughly original joke: "Hey, don't get married by mistake!" or "Hey, there's another guy here who looks just like you!" Har, har. I've heard 'em all. I've also heard far too often all the old questions: "Do you guys have ESP?" "When one of you is hurt, does the other feel pain?" "Who was born first?" (No, no, and me, by four minutes.)
       Twinism can also occur in mass culture, as in all those inane sitcoms with two cute little blond girls dressed alike and skipping rope, or The Parent Trap, or that wretched Jeremy Irons movie where he plays twin gynecologists or something like that. Even Shakespeare stooped so low as to pander to twinist sentiments in A Comedy of Errors. Then again, what do you expect from the guy who brought us The Merchant of Venice? Basically, twinism rears its head whenever someone tries to elicit cheap thrills from our twinhood at the expense of our individuality--treating us not so differently from circus freaks.
       I could go on all day--even all week--about this, but a) it'd grow tiresome, if it's not already; and b) I'm saving all my best stuff for a magazine article on the topic. My point is simply that the way that "singletons" (to use the demographers' term) view or portray twins is usually at least as far off the mark as the way that, say, whites have portrayed blacks in movies up through and including Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
       Anyway, I finally relented and agreed to Cyrus' little twin fantasy when he reassured me that he was the brother of twins and had no wish to make this some kind of cheesy gimmick. He also reminded me that the "Diary" pays fairly well for a rather modest amount of thinking and writing.
       So tune in tomorrow and find out about the SECRET INNER LIFE of an IDENTICAL TWIN! ...