Bob and Mike Bryan...I have no idea which is which
The August 31st issue of TheNew Yorker features an article called "Perfect Match" by Burkhard Bilger. The topic: a pair of identical twins--Bob and Mike Bryan--who are professional tennis players, specializing, not surprisingly, in doubles.
The ESP twin thing they've got going makes them a nightmare for non-related doubles players. They play doubles, Bilger writes "...as if they were a single organism."
"In between games," he writes, "the twins would sit side by side and rest, swigging water from identical bottles as ball girls in red miniskirts held matching sun umbrellas above them. I felt like I was at the Ziegfield follies."
It took me awhile to pick it up because I'm not that into tennis, and I'm not that into profiles of athletes. It was only the twin thing that made me rip it out of The New Yorker to read later.
You do learn something about tennis--the fact that players can now specialize in being a singles player or a doubles player (a fairly new phenomenon), for instance has apparently had a negative impact on the skills of those who play singles.
More interesting to me were the themes of how parents decide to raise twins (the father in this case has very self congratulatory ideas that left me a little uncomfortable), the uncanny connection between them, and the theme of how interdependent twins can be.
In the article, the interdependence is mostly emphasized in a good way. But there's a dark side to it, too, that isn't really alluded to...and it's the failure to go beyond twin fascination, in this piece, that made it ultimately not all that interesting to me.
When I went to the Twinless Twins meeting in Ohio, many years ago now, one of the first exercises twins who'd lost a twin had to undertake was picking the color of the folder that held the meeting agenda when they checked in. That was a challenge for many who'd been used to joint decisions all their life. At that meeting, I heard stories from twins who now found ordering their own food in a restaurant challenging...because their twin has always done it for them.
It's not that I insist on seeing the dark side of twinhood. It's that I want more than the singleton's attempt to "get it."
As it is, this is an interesting article, written from the perspective of a singleton enamored by the uniqueness inherent to twinhood, in this case in the realm of tennis...but with not so much new insight.
I wish a professional writer who was an identical twin would attempt a piece like this...then we all might really learn something new. As it is, we're so often left with our noses pressed against the glass, wishing we were, at least for a brief time, an insider.
Not long ago, I got off a plane in Phoenix and confronted the words “Ted is Here,” painted on a pillar in bright orange. I almost cried. Ted, I realized, was the name of a budget airline. But it was also my older brother’s name.
My Ted died of an immune disorder 27 years ago, when I was 14 and he was 17. His story, along with that of another boy in Texas, were merged in the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” (Which my family did not authorize.)
Like most people who’ve lost someone they love, I’ve always wanted him back, or at least present, in some way. As a kid, I wished for a spectral sighting. As a young adult, I sought out psychics and mediums, one of whom once instructed me to ask Ted to give me signs that he was still present. Once, I asked Ted to show me a clown. Two days later, at a coffee shop, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a clown mural. My elation was short-lived, however. Had Ted contrived it, or had I unconsciously found myself a clown?
I’m not making a case for the supernatural here. But seeing that “Ted is Here” sign gave me the old I-see-the-clown feeling again.
This blog, which I’m launching on May 27th, the anniversary of Ted’s death, is an invitation to those who knew him—and those who didn’t—to share their thoughts and memories about the Ted they knew, or the Ted they imagined. Hearing about him, knowing that others are carrying a bit of him around with them, is another way of keeping him present. Honestly, I’d like that much better than seeing a clown.
I’ll also be posting thoughts and commentaries on siblings, sibling loss, families and grief—subjects I have, not surprisingly, become interested in. And for those of you who’ve read my book, The Empty Room, which tells my story and those of others who’ve lost siblings, I welcome your thoughts and messages.