Sunday, October 25, 2009

Twin tennis players....

Bob and Mike Bryan...I have no idea which is which

The August 31st issue of The New 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 " 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.

"I'm already a brother..."

Tom Hanks in "You've Got Mail"...his Aunt Annabelle is the little girl on the left...all part and parcel of a modern family......

So we were reading Henry one of the few new sibling books we've picked up that we actually like, and I said something flip like, "Do you think you'll like being a brother?" And Henry said: "I'm already a brother."

I don't know if he meant that he already felt like one, because he's known about his little brother for awhile, or if he was referring to the fact that he has three older half-siblings. I should have asked him. But I was too taken aback.

Conscious as we try to be about the nuances of what Tom Hanks, in "You've Got Mail," referred to as "a modern family" (Tom Hanks has an elementary school aged brother and aunt in that movie, thanks to re-marriages by his father and grandfather) it's so easy to flub it. "Ack," I thought, "I should have made sure to say BIG BROTHER."

I felt terrible. We refer to Henry's older siblings as his brothers and sister all the that he understands his relationship to them. But the fact is, as much as I presume to know about siblings, via having pondered my loss for what feels like forever, half-siblings, and those divided by many years, is a realm I know nothing about.

I have a feeling I'll be learning a lot when the new guy arrives--imminently--from both the younger and older Raeburns.