Poem: Twins

By: Mary P. Douglas

The twins astonishingly entered the world on the day they were due
The deliveries went as envisioned
A boy and a girl,
The parents were pleased.
The twins’ lives commenced
beginning the unspoken, lifetime competition.

The twins were fortunate
An upper middle class family
Parents who loved them
Provided for all their wants and needs
Education was emphasized
Abundant opportunities were afforded;
sports, music lessons, scouts, camps,
vacations, a pool, land for exploring,
toys that other children fantasized of possessing;
Out in the country there were no childhood friends,
Instead the twins were surrounded
by grandmother, uncles, aunts, all their cousins.

Twins they were, alike they were not
Their wiring somehow different
Nature or nuture,
Something crossed at conception
She was extremely high-strung
Even-tempered and quiet were more descriptive of him
Commonalities were present
Obstinate, perceptive, intelligent
Physically, each were of short stature, sported glasses
With those characteristics the similarities ended.

She was talkative, could never sit still
Her mind raced with every imaginable thought
No proficiency existed to restrain remarks
Creating perpetual tribulation at home and school
She refused to take notes, never read assigned books, completed minimal homework;
however; she continued to receive the parent approved grades.
She immersed herself in gymnastics
Tumbled, jumped, danced and swung
at her confusion, frustration, emotional strife
She excelled, received praise, awards, attention
But remained discontented, hollow, perplexed
On appearance she had all kinds of friends, but everyone was kept at a distance,
there was no best friend
She protected the false image, if not, somebody might discern
She, herself, unmistakably cognizant of the damning fact,
She was somehow different
Participation in forbidden activities; skipping school, partying, refusal of religious activities
The initial keys to escape
Conscious her actions reflected on the parents
Torture occurred from within
Apathy quickly dominated
The future couldn’t be pondered, tomorrow literally seemed years away
How could she possibly make important decisions, without understanding how to live today?

He was different than she
There was no pretending
At ease in his own skin
A gentle soul; kind, well-adjusted, cooperative
Although he was shy, he had a few close friends
Liked by both his teachers and peers
He studied hard, no troubles at school
At home his worst offenses,
Long showers that fueled the parents’ fear of the well running dry,
Blasting rock music that shook the house like a sonic boom
He did not party or even date
Goals were established early
His mind clearly focused toward the future
He concentrated on impending achievements; a high GPA, class rank, SAT scores,
admission to the highly desired school;
Success was well-defined by the parents;
education, hard work, financial security, ethics, marriage, family;
Prior to college, he was impeccably filling the mold.

The parents’ expectation of education was accepted by both
The aspiration of attending college was not considered
The attention lie on which school would be carefully chosen after acceptance
The twins graduated in the allotted four years
The path each traveled was as their whole lives had been,
as different as black from white.

As college began
He knew from the onset the answers to all the significant questions
The major declared
Classes selected that lead to the degree
The already determined profession
His course to success definitive
No spontaneity, no diversion, no complications
A simplified strategy
Each segment steered him to the subsequent step
His level head, hard work, decisive life plan,
A parent approved career with an acceptable salary providing financial security
He bought the house, married the parent approved spouse, the children arrived
He worked, and worked, and worked
There was no time for life
Vacations taken here or there
Daily things frequently missed;
The baby’s beginning steps,
Hot home-cooked meals,
The first jump off the high dive;
The money he earned converted all wants into realities
As long as everyone in the family was happy, pleased, and content
The significantly long, demanding hours
The adverse effect on his health
His sacrifice deemed worthwhile
He defined himself through his ambitious career
Life goals accomplished, success achieved
The parents were pleased, the parents were proud
His success paralleled the parents’ aspirations for each child.

She floundered her way through college
Intelligence wasn’t problematic
Initially she struggled unable to identify where she belonged
No guidance to offer direction
The mysterious turbulence materialized
She analyzed her mind, scrutinized her existence, unearthed not a single satisfactory answer
Surviving itself was challenging
Progress in school was improbable; resolution was needed to the dilemmas of daily life
Resigned from school she did.
She searched for the source of the commotion
Attempted to force a decision; a career, a major, or at least a class
She stumbled upon a crisis hotline and finally discovered her niche’
Her mind quietened; passionate and determined she became
The question that had echoed in her mind for years was asked again
Momentarily she wavered,
A gift for numbers, intrigued by physics, a desire to assist people
The new passion triumphed, a major declared
No thoughts were given to the parents’ definition of success
She focused on personal fulfillment, the lives she could impact
She did not have a life plan like him
Finances, not a factor in her vision
Although her employment didn’t match the parents’ concept for security
Her career was successful nonetheless, limitless joy it awarded her
The distinctive turmoil resurfaced, hopelessness replaced enthusiasm
Devastatingly, her gratifying profession concluded
Accompanying the emergence of pandemonium; repeated mistakes, impulsive decisions, consequences unconsidered;
Life filled with regrets; she clashed with the world
She disappointed the parents, she disappointed herself
The parents did not realize, the parents did not understand
Her decisions had minimal influence; the major, the job, the salary, the life choices;
The outcome would have remained unchanged
That peculiar episodic upheaval governed her course
The parents were not pleased, the parents were not proud
She didn’t meet the parents’ aspirations for her life
The solitary accomplishment she perfected was imperfection
In time, she appreciated more priceless valuables
More cherished than her career, more significant than financial security
Her life was full, she had time to experience it, moments were not missed;
The diaper was taken off for the last time,
The tears she cried as the child stepped onto the bus for the first day of kindergarten,
The thousands of stories both told and read;
She could not give her children the world, but she could give them her
Her life was not planned,
but lived, then written.

The twins were not close; they had little in common
Their views of the world far apart
He chose a life, a life chose her
The competition continued, but it wasn’t a fair race
The criteria that was set, only his life plan met
She continued stumbling on occasions, lived her life never measuring up to the parents’ standards
The race that originated decades ago, a word never uttered, as if it didn’t exist
It was indeed a competition, one in which nobody prevailed.


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