Anya Groner | Longreads | June 2017 | 20 minutes (5,065 words)
I’m stopped at a red light in Twinsburg, Ohio, when I spot my first pair riding in the Jeep behind me. Matching blond hair, bug-eye sunglasses, and pink chins fill the rearview mirror of my rental car. I glance and glance again before texting my sister. “It’s begun,” I type. “They’re here and you’re not.” I erase the last three words and press send. No point in guilting her for a decision she can’t reverse.
When the light turns green, I press the gas, heading to the local high school where a wiener picnic and silent auction will kick-off the 41st annual Twins Days festival. An identical twin myself, I’ll be eating my hot dog alone tonight. My sister, a marine biologist, has opted not to join me, instead signing up for a dive certification class the same weekend. Though she apologized for the timing, she didn’t offer to reschedule. Twins Days doesn’t interest her much.
I’m not sure what to expect or even why I’ve decided to come. The website tells me the three-day fete is patriotic and sweet, a massive show-and-tell where the attendees are also the main attraction. Last year, 2,053 sets of twins, triplets, and quads journeyed here from as far away as South Korea and Australia. The revelry includes competitive cornhole, look-alike and un-lookalike contests, talent shows, and a research plaza where scientists collect data from volunteers. My surface excuse for flying out is that I’m a writer, trying my hand at journalism, but even a rookie like me knows the event is far too personal for objectivity. I’ve known about the fest for as long as I can remember, and for most of those years I wouldn’t even consider attending. Lying on stacked bunks in our childhood bedroom well before our age reached double digits, my sister and I put Twins Days somewhere on the continuum between obnoxious and offensive, a gathering of voyeurs looking to celebrate sameness, the facet of our identity that frustrated us most. The best parts of twinhood we knew to be exclusive, shaped by our two unique personalities, shareable only with each other. For us, the festival held no appeal.