Who's asking: Alex Trebek, Los Angeles, CA
All right, this is egregious name-dropping even for me, and he asked me this question seven years ago, so using it today is a stretch. But today's my birthday -- which means that it is also the birthday of my twin sister, Kathy -- so it seemed appropriate for the occasion.
What I told Mr. Trebek (I don't know him well enough to call him Alex) was that I couldn't really say, since I had always been a twin and had nothing to compare it to. It's one of those questions that's always baffled me: what's it like to be right-handed? What's it like to have blue eyes? (OK, the answers to those are: 1) Convenient and 2) No one knows what it's like to be the bad man -- to be the sad man --)
Having a fraternal twin is like having any other sibling, except more so. From the day of one's birth, the essential pronoun is "we," not "I." We learned to share, to cooperate and to compete before we could talk. When Kathy and I were very small, I did most of the talking for both of us, since she was shy and had a serious hearing loss; thus, my later career as a spokeswoman might have been foreordained. (Kathy got over her shyness and most of the hearing loss, and no longer has any trouble speaking for herself.)
When you're a twin, you worry a lot about what's fair, but not just about making sure you get yours. I learned very early, for better or worse, what made Kathy mad, sad, and glad. I'm sorry to say I have not always used these powers for good -- but what are siblings for?
Like most children in large families, I went through phases of wishing desperately that I'd been an only child. As an adult, I'm grateful beyond words to have my sisters and brothers. Everyone ought to be part of a large family, and everybody ought to be a twin. It's much less lonely this way.
So today I say happy birthday, Kathy, and many happy returns. We're in this thing together.