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A twin’s struggle to be ‘One and the Same’

In her new book "One and the Same," author Abigail Pogrebin takes an unsparing look at the joys and sorrows of being a twin. Read an excerpt of her interviews with TODAY correspondent (and famous twin) Tiki Barber.
/ Source: TODAY books

In her new book, “One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular,” author and former “60 Minutes” producer Abigail Pogrebin interviews countless twins for their hilarious and heartbreaking accounts of what it’s like to grow up with an identical sibling. Here’s an excerpt:

Embryo to end zoneTiki Barber, retired running back for the New York Giants, knows that he wouldn’t be so famous if he wasn’t an identical twin whose brother, Ronde, is a star cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Without even trying, people will take an extra look,” says Tiki, sitting in his office at NBC News, where he is now a correspondent for the TODAYshow. Dapperly dressed in a striped pink-and-white shirt with cuff links, Barber is syrup-voiced and affable. “No twins have been as successful in professional football as we have. In sports, or any kind of endeavor, part of the reason you do it is for recognition; we got that notice by default, just because there’s two of us.”

I tell him his and Ronde’s looks don’t hurt (they were People mag­azine’s “Sexiest Athletes” in 2001).

“Yeah,” he says, smiling that brilliant Barber smile. “We take care of ourselves. We got a good education, we don’t get in trouble, and for many years we were both at the peak of our respective careers.”

When I meet Tiki’s brother, Ronde, a month later in Florida, he’s in his twelfth year with Tampa Bay. He saunters up to the family restaurant he’s recommended, dressed casually in jeans, a long-sleeved multicolored T-shirt, and aviator sunglasses. Both brothers are suave, obviously strong, and short for professional athletes — five ten. Both also appear guarded — a remnant, perhaps, of extreme childhood shy­ness, which they independently describe as paralyzing.

“We were very shy, to the point where, if I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t look at you, much less talk to you.” Tiki smiles. “So Ronde was my comfort, you know? We were always right next to each other because it made us feel comfortable. My mom used to say that we had this ‘twinspeak.’ All it really was, was mumbling and talking very low and intimating certain things; he understood what I was saying, because we had the same thoughts.”

“We wouldn’t talk to anybody,” Ronde confirms.

Which is not to suggest they’re bashful today.

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There must be something in the genes: These stars prove that talent is all in the family.

“There’s one thing I know about myself and Tiki: We have a very distinctive charm about us,” says Ronde. “I don’t pretend that’s not the case. I feel like I can charm anybody.”

No argument there.

“Not intentionally,” he continues. “It just kind of comes out — the Virginian in me, the politeness, the kind of person my mom raised us up to be. People love that.”

But he’s realistic about why he gets so much attention.

“I’ve said more than once, ‘If I didn’t have a successful twin as a running back for the New York Giants, how many people would really know about me?’ There is not a city in America that I can go in and people not think that I’m Tiki.”

Tiki doesn’t correct strangers when they call him Ronde. “Unless people ask if they’re mistaken, I let them think they got it right. They’ll call out, ‘Hey, Ronde, what’s up?’ I say, ‘Good!’ Unless it’s someone who I know knows Ronde. Then I’ll correct them. Other­wise, if they have no clue, I won’t.”

Ronde says his old timidity kicks in when he’s walking through an airport or visiting Tiki in Manhattan. “Part of me just wants to hide,” he tells me. “I just put my blinders on and walk fast.”

Will he respond if someone calls out?

“I’ll respond. But if someone’s looking at me, trying to figure out which twin I am, I’ll just keep walking.”

Tiki is the Giants’ all-time leader in rushing and receptions. He amassed more total yards in his last three seasons than any other player in the league, setting most offensive records for the Giants, which got him voted three times into the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s annual all-star game. In 2005, Ronde became the first cornerback in NFL his­tory to record twenty career interceptions and twenty career sacks. He was voted to the Pro Bowl four times and chosen by the Associated Press for five All-Pro Team rosters (essentially an honor roll, not an actual team).

I ask Tiki if, in the annals of football history, he or Ronde will be remembered as the bigger star. He pauses. “This is what Ronde likes to say, and it’s very true: ‘Tiki is the less-talented, more popular twin.’ As far as pure accomplishments, far and away, he’s better than me. He’s always been a better athlete than me. But I was always faster, stronger, and I played the glory position. So people knew who I was, simply because I was a running back. I did an interview with Ronde for "Foot­ball Night in America" three weeks ago, and the last question I asked him was, ‘Are you where you are because of me?’ And he basically replied, ‘If I wasn’t your brother, I’d still have been a great cornerback, but I wouldn’t have gotten any recognition. Because there are a ton of great cornerbacks that nobody knows.’ So I say to him, ‘You owe it all to me!’ ”

Ronde says, “I’m more diverse athletically. Tiki could never run hurdles; he’s not coordinated enough. That sounds funny to say about a world-class athlete, but things are very specific with him, especially in his athletic ability. He couldn’t play basketball.”

And Ronde can?

“No, I can’t either.” He laughs. “But he really couldn’t. I’d say I’m more agile. Put it that way.”

What about strength?

“He was always stronger, always faster. He got all the good genes, man.”

The Barbers’ story is a classic sports fable: hardscrabble youth, a dad who walked out, a resilient mom who raised the boys alone, working three jobs and shuttling them to football practice and wrestling matches. Both boys were obedient, studious, and smart—Tiki made valedictorian — and both showed incredible athletic talent, although their height didn’t bode well for professional sports. Their mom, Geraldine Barber, recalls how the junior high athletic director phoned to suggest gently that she was setting her sons up for disap­pointment. “She said, ‘I just want you to think twice about letting your boys play football; you know, they’re kind of small ....’ For years after that, every time I saw her, she’d say, ‘I know, I know! I was wrong!’ ”

Geraldine, a compact, sprightly breast cancer survivor who lives in Virginia, insists that her twins were tenacious and unbowed. “I’ve always known how determined they were from the day they were born. They fought for every breath they took.” Her sons were born five weeks premature — Ronde seven minutes ahead of Tiki — and they spent their first two weeks of life in incubators. “I’d look down at them and Ronde would be sleeping peacefully, while Tiki would be screaming his head off. It was as if Tiki was yelling, ‘I don’t like this; I want to go!’ and Ronde was like, ‘Chill; we’ll get out when we get out.’ And they’ve always kind of been that way.” Their names were chosen accordingly: Jamael Oronde (Ronde) means “firstborn son,” and Atiim Kiambu (Tiki) translates as “fiery-tempered king.”

Geraldine says when she finally took the boys home from the hos­pital, she’d put them on opposite ends of the crib at bedtime. “When they were old enough, they started scooting and squirming toward each other until they were touching. So I got smart: I started putting them in the same bed when it was nap time, and they would just go to sleep like that. I remember once, when they were two or three years old, they were still sucking their thumbs; it was naptime and I said, ‘Go get on the couch.’ One of them lay down; the other lay down right on top of him, put his head in the middle of his back, and they went to sleep. They just gravitated to each other. Maybe that was because they spent nine months — or in my case, eight — in the womb, hearing the other brother’s heartbeat.”

“We were always that way,” Tiki recalls. “We had to be in the same room. Even when we were fifteen or sixteen years old, we had to be physically together .... Being with Ronde now is still a comfort that I haven’t found anywhere else, that I don’t think I’ll ever find any­where else. Just to be able to sit with someone and have absolutely no agenda. If there’s something to talk about, we’ll talk about it. If there’s nothing to say, we don’t. That level of ease doesn’t exist in the world, that I’ve encountered, except with your twin.”

I don’t use the words soul mates anywhere else in this book, but it’s required here; despite the geographic distance, there is no daylight between the Barbers. They admire, appreciate, and need each other; they constantly extol each other’s gifts and characters; and they never argue—in fact, Ronde looks surprised when I tell him that my sister and I sometimes do. “Even now?” he asks, incredulous. “Come on.”

Sitting with each Barber, it occurred to me, They’re the paradigm. They actually have what so many mythologize about twins: an unqualified closeness they both view as primal and untouchable, careers they believe were honed in the crucible of their twinship because they egged each other on, and, at least from an outsider’s per­spective, thriving, separate adult family lives.

Maybe they’re in denial about repressed “issues,” maybe they’ve bought into a fantasy of twinship. But they seem to have the kind of twin relationship by which all others are measured — even mine. I find myself envying the Barbers as I listen to them, then reminding myself I have what they have, then immediately wondering if I really do. My closeness with Robin resembles the Barbers’, but I’m not sure we’re as honest, nor as forgiving. I know we don’t talk about the cosmic impli­cations of having been in the womb together (they do) and I know we don’t always tell the truth (Tiki and Ronde do) or hear criticism with the same certainty that it springs from the most loving, supportive place.

Slideshow

There must be something in the genes: These stars prove that talent is all in the family.

Their loyalty is reflexive. When Giants fans excoriated Tiki for quitting at the top of his game and for making disparaging remarks about his coach and some of his teammates, Ronde didn’t waver. “Through none of it would I have said, ‘You should have handled it differently,’ ” Ronde tells me. “He’s my brother, man; I can’t see him doing anything wrong. And if he does, I’ll tell him. He had enough people ganging up on him; he didn’t need me to do it, as well. When­ever anybody would do an interview with me, they’d invariably turn to that question, ‘So your brother...’ I’m like, ‘Look, you guys know Tiki; he’s going to say what he wants to say. He’s an honest person. And if you want to vilify him in your mind for being wrong, then go ahead; that’s your prerogative .... But I’m not going to dislike my brother because he states his opinion openly. You-all have every right to. But in the end of the day, f--- y’all.’ ”

During the eleven years when both Barbers were playing, they never missed each other’s games — even if that meant watching later on tape — and they spoke on the phone immediately after coming off the field. “Sometimes even before the postgame press interview,” says Geraldine.

Today they talk or text daily, but see each other rarely, thanks to separate cities, family commitments (Ronde has two girls, Tiki two boys), and constant work travel. Occasionally they’ll reunite for a charity event or a book promotion. They’ve conceived five children’s books based on their lives (they’re not the actual authors), targeted to boys who might otherwise not be readers. And they take their role-model status seriously. “Boys like their sports stars,” Tiki says, “and maybe if a sports star writes a book, they’ll pick it up and read it. We can maybe influence kids to do the right thing. Whether we get involved in books, philanthropy, or education, we have a power and it’s doubled.”

Though they’re now used to living apart, it was the NFL draft that separated them for the first time. “We spent every waking minute together till then,” says Tiki.

The day of the NFL draft in April 1997, the brothers — at the time, both well-regarded players for the University of Virginia — dis­tracted themselves by playing golf with friends. Tiki got the first phone call, when he was on the back nine: he was sixth pick in the second round. Ronde had to wait three more hours to learn his fate; he was sixth pick in the third round. By that time, they were kicking back with Mom and friends, ordering yards of beer at a restaurant in a Charlottesville mall. “Ronde had two or three cell phones in front of him,” Geraldine recalls. “Tiki had a couple cell phones in front of him, and I’m sitting between the two of them; every time somebody’s phone rang, they were all grabbing the phones.” She laughs. “A few minutes later, one of Ronde’s phones rang; he answered it, he was lis­tening, and then he kind of sat back and I saw him grin that incredi­ble grin he has when you know he’s up to something — he kind of relaxes. I heard him say, ‘Yeah, Coach. That would be great, Coach. Looking forward, Coach.’ Finally he hung up and said, ‘Well, I’m going to Florida. I’m a Buccaneer.’ He and Tiki toasted each other and then they went off by themselves and had words, just brother to brother, and they came back, sat down, and Tiki put his arm around me and said, ‘When you get back to Roanoke tomorrow, you quit your job. You don’t have to work anymore. It’s done.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to do that. What am I going to do?’ And he said, ‘Ronde and I just talked about it; you need to quit. Stay home and take care of your­self.’ ” She was due to finish chemotherapy the following week. (She’s been healthy since — and she did defy her boys and went back to work in county government.)

I ask Ronde if it was hard to see Tiki favored markedly in the draft. “Not at all,” he replies with a look that tells me I just don’t get it. “Tiki was Virginia football. He was it, even though I’m the only three-time all-ACC first-team selection ever, I think.” He keeps doing that — telling me how Tiki excels but then listing his own feats. “Tiki’s always been more popular,” he continues, “but I’ve had more accolades. Back to high school: Even though he was Player of the Year in football and whatever else, I won a national championship in track and field; he didn’t — he finished second. I’ve been in more Pro Bowls and more All-Pros than him, and more first than him.” (There are two tiers of All-Pro teams — first and second — each year.) “So if you were making those judgments based on that, then who’s the more suc­cessful one? But we’re not talking about that.”

Tiki was paid more than Ronde. He says his Giants signing bonus was $800,000 and tells me Ronde’s was $300,000 to $400,000. In 2001, Tiki signed a six-year $25.5 million deal and Ronde an $18.5 million six-year deal with the Buccaneers, with a $2.5 million guaran­tee. Ronde says he’s never measured incomes. “Before Tiki got mar­ried, it was almost like, what he’s got, I got. We shared everything forever. So if it had turned out that I was out of the league after just two years and he played for ten, he would have taken care of me. Or vice versa. I just know that to be a fact.”

The thrill of that memorable draft night was tempered by the realization that the brothers would soon be more than a thousand miles apart. “There was anxiety,” Tiki admits. “First, I worried, How am I going to survive in New York City? I’m a country boy. Two: How am I, for the first time in my life, going to be by myself?”

“It was a tough moment,” Ronde affirms. “I remember when he finally left to drive to New York: I was still in Charlottesville because our training camp wasn’t starting for another week. He got in the car, turned down I-29 at Charlottesville, and was gone.” He pauses. “But I wasn’t emotional.”

Was he trying not to be?

“Probably. But there was nothing that we could do about it. I didn’t get drafted by the Giants; he didn’t get drafted by the Bucs.”

It actually looked like they might end up on the same team until the final hour. Says Geraldine, “Jim Fassel, Tiki’s first Giants coach, has said to me on a number of occasions, ‘I really wanted Ronde, too. I had great plans for the two of them together.’ But it was the luck of the draw.”

“Of course we wanted it,” Tiki says. “And there was a very good chance. I think if he had fallen two or three more spots, the Giants would have taken him.”

“I’m glad it didn’t happen,” Ronde says now. “At some point — you understand this as a twin — you’ve got to stand on your own .... I was finally forced into it and I had to go make my name for myself. And that’s kind of rewarding.”

Their first year apart the Barbers bridged the gulf by running up their cell-phone bills (“I bet they single-handedly kept AT&T and Verizon in business,” says Mom), and by buying a home together in Tampa, which they’ve since sold. But ultimately, living in different cities was more defining than they anticipated. “This question of nur­ture versus nature on how personalities are shaped,” Tiki says, “I would have argued for nature until I was drafted to New York and he was drafted to Tampa. Because we completely changed. Our interests are now different: he’s into all genres of music, primarily hip hop. I lis­ten to jazz and rock music — not hard rock, but Pearl Jam. He plays golf almost every day, dresses casually, has seven tattoos; I have none, and I wear suits. We’re just different now.”

Ronde agrees. “New York shaped him and this culture shaped me. A perfect example: Neither one of us could play golf when we left Vir­ginia, and now I have a four handicap and he still can’t play the game.”

Slideshow

There must be something in the genes: These stars prove that talent is all in the family.

Does Tiki try?

“He tries and he quits.” Ronde laughs. “It’s not something he can perfect on the Upper East Side.”

Ronde says it wasn’t just their tastes that changed but their dispo­sitions, too. “I became real casual,” Ronde says. “Just doing my thing. No guidelines, no real sense of urgency to do anything, other than my job. While Tiki turned into this structured guy who went by the minute on the clock. His second year on the Giants, he was already doing commentary in the morning with WCBS Sports, and I was like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Don’t you want to be a football player?’ He was gaining interest in new things, stuff I had no exposure to, and eventually turned into who he is now. When we left Virginia, I wouldn’t have predicted for anything in the world that he would have become this guy, but that’s who he is. I think he took advantage of a good situation because he’s an opportunist.”

I ask Ronde if he’d describe himself the same way.

“Yes, but I don’t know if that’s translated in the ways that it has for him. I mean, he left football and went right to a great job at NBC News. I don’t have that opportunity like he does. It’s something I may do down the road, but I can’t possibly set it up the way he’s set himself up. That’s just about being in the number-one market in the country. The opportunities to groom yourself here are not the same as they are there .... And he’s good at what he does — for no reason! He never had any formal training other than jumping into the fire. I don’t know if my jumping into the fire here would be as fruitful.”

Is he surprised that Tiki’s had such a smooth career-change? “No.” He smiles. “He’s good at everything.”

Does he look at Tiki and say, “He has skills I don’t”?

“Yes. He has learned skills that I don’t have. Tiki is much more cerebral than I am. He’s an intelligent dude, picks up things very quickly. It’s been that way our entire lives. For the most part, I was the twin that was beating on his door, saying, ‘I can’t figure this home­work out.’ He was like, ‘Come on, you’re stupid; it’s easy.’ He’s always been more above-the-neck than I’ve been. But I’ve got a tough stan­dard to keep up, because one of us has got to be the short end of the stick.”

I tell Ronde that his mom remembers his childhood response when she suggested that he study five minutes more each night: “You’ve already got one geek in the family; you don’t need two.”

“Exactly.” Ronde nods. “And I don’t know if that was self-conscious or intentional. I don’t know if I was saying to myself, I don’t want to be like him, or, I want to be exactly like him. Tiki always did everything so easily in school, and I felt like I was the one that had to work at it. Somewhere along the way, he became the smarter twin.”

How many twins could say that without bristling? Very few. There’s this odd sanguineness when the Barbers describe their flaws and strengths, while other twins I spoke to seem to dodge and weave about who does what better. Maybe professional sports breeds blunt­ness; there’s no whitewashing whether you’re good enough to make the team, good enough to play (at first neither Barber made the start­ing roster), average or exceptional. The Barbers fling their compli­ments and gibes without seeming worried that it will color the larger picture — that they think the world of each other. The only time Ronde recoils at an adjective is when I offer one that might sound negative.

I asked Ronde if he’d call Tiki more “ambitious,” and he seemed to stiffen. “Depends on how you use the word,” he cautioned, clearly protective of how I might label his brother.

I clarified that by “ambitious,” I meant “itchy, always reaching for the next thing.”

Ronde softened. “I could see that, yes; judging by the fact that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing next, whereas he knew exactly what he was doing and he put a lot of thought toward it.”

Tiki tells me why one day he was finished with football. “This wasn’t about ‘I hate my coach,’ or this or that; this was about quality of life. The year before I retired, when my wife asked me to play with my kids, and I didn’t want to, nor could I, I knew it was time to do something else .... I said, ‘If I’m fifty-two, like Earl Campbell in a wheelchair, who’s going to be cheering for me then?’ ”

“He didn’t talk about quitting all the time,” Ronde recalls, “but you could just feel it. Same way as when you play Ms. Pac-Man a thousand times and you’ve beaten it a thousand times and you’re like, All right, either Ms. Pac-Man 2 is coming out or I’m going to put in Galactica. That’s what it felt like. Not that he was bored by what he was doing, because our sport’s unique: It’s exciting when you play. But I think he was just bored with the routine of that part of his life and he was ready. He knew it wasn’t going to last forever, so he made steps to move on. Whereas I’m more along the lines of ‘It will end someday, and when it does, I’ll decide what to do then.’ Eventually your body just can’t do it anymore and then you have to do something else.”

“Physically I was much more beat-up than Ronde is,” Tiki says. “Being a running back, I get hit forty times a day, where Ronde gets hit maybe four or five. It starts to take its toll.”

“I feel great,” Ronde tells me. “I swear to God, I would never know that I’m thirty-three if I didn’t read it every day in the paper or in every magazine article written about me: ‘He’s thirty-three; he can’t do it forever.’ Eventually in the back of your head, you start thinking, Is this true?”

Why does he think he’s still thriving at the older end of football age? “I think it’s something in my makeup; I refuse not to be success­ful. Take that back to my youth: I refused to be a failure in comparison to Tiki. And I’m sure my mom told you this — last year she was think­ing I felt guilty because I was still playing football when Tiki quit. And I don’t know if I put that much thought on it, but I could see that being the case, because we always did everything together, and now, how do I judge my success? I never judged it against anybody else’s .... That aspect of my motivation was suddenly lacking, and I honestly had used it a lot. It was definitely a void I had to fill, and I don’t know if I did or not.”

I ask if Tiki drove him in a competitive way or a motivational one. “More in a motivational way. I was just excited to see him be suc­cessful .... It made it worth doing, above anything else. Even if the game stank and our team stank, it was, ‘Hey, we may have lost today, but I’m going to see how Tiki did.’ And that element completely dis­appeared last year, and in my mind, it was all on me. I had to find a way to adapt to the new structure of it.”

“There is no doubt in my mind,” says Tiki, “that we are both suc­cessful because we refused to let the other one down. It was partly ‘I have to keep up with him; he has to keep up with me.’ But it was also ‘Don’t dare be a failure, because then you drag me down.’ So we com­peted against each other’s successes. And we were always fortunate — actually, it may have been intentional, even subconsciously — that we never did the same thing. So when we wrestled in seventh and eighth grade, he dropped weight so he could wrestle at one thirty-six, I wres­tled at one forty-two. When we ran track, he learned the hurdles while I was a sprinter and did the long jump. When we played foot­ball, he was defensive back, wide receiver, and I was a running back. We never did the same thing, but we always had success. It was kind of like, ‘If you’re going to win, I’m going to win. If you’re going to be good, I’ve got to be good.’ ”

Doesn’t it bother Tiki that Ronde’s the one with a Super Bowl ring? “It was probably the greatest moment of pride I’ve ever felt,” says Tiki of Tampa’s victory over Oakland in 2003. “Cynics will say, ‘Oh, you’re jealous.’ But those same people have no idea what we have.”

The press loved the twin versus twin angle whenever the Giants played the Bucs, but the Barbers viewed it as “more talk and hype.” Ronde says, “At the end of it, he was just another opponent.”

Tiki tells me Ronde was playful during those match-ups. “One time, I was getting tackled out of bounds and he wasn’t even close to me, but he comes over and just elbows me like this.” He shows me. “I’m like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’m just trying to make it look good.’ ” He especially loves one particular photograph of Ronde tackling him near the goal line in 2006, because he’s envelop­ing Tiki just as he must have in utero.

“Someone told me this great quote yesterday,” says Tiki. “ ‘Life is a crack of brightness between two eternities of darkness.’ My first eternity of darkness with my brother was me on top of him — because he came out first. And when we were babies, my mom would put us on opposite ends of the bed and before you know it, we were lying on top of each other like we were in the womb. And here we are again in this photograph.”

I wonder where the wives fit into this duet. Tiki’s striking wife, Ginny, a former publicist who comes from Korean and Vietnamese lineage, has known the Barber twins since college, when she started dating Tiki. (They married in 1999.) Ronde’s equally attractive wife, Claudia, who now works with Diabetic Charitable Services, is of Fil­ipino descent and married Ronde in 2001. All three Barbers I spoke to tiptoe around the question of how the wives handle the twinship. “Let me answer it this way,” says Geraldine. “Do they understand it? I’d say, ‘Not totally.’ Do they respect it? Definitely.”

“When we’re all together, it’s a great foursome,” Ronde says. “When we’re not, it is what it is ....” He smiles, clearly not wanting to expand further, then takes a different tack. “You know what it is? And they’ll never admit this: They’re both control addicts; they want control. And neither one of them can have it, especially when Tiki and I are the ones who are really in control, if that makes any sense. It’s not intentional; they have the appearance of control and they do a lot of things for us. But at the end of the day, we all know who’s mak­ing the decisions. It will come down to what Tiki and I want to do, because that’s the Relationship. So you figure out the psychodynamics of that .... When you’re married to a twin, essentially, whether you like it or not, you’re married to the other one, too. Tiki’s as much involved in my life now as he was back when we were in college.”

Slideshow

There must be something in the genes: These stars prove that talent is all in the family.

Does he think that bothers their spouses? “Of course. Absolutely. And they’ll never talk about it; they probably don’t even necessarily recognize it, but, yeah, that’s what it is.”

Tiki echoes him: “I think our bond is the strongest it’s ever been and the strongest bond that there possibly is. Greater than marriage. I’m closer to Ronde, without a doubt. And that will never change.”

So many married twins told me the same thing. And it always moved me to hear it, but it’s not how Robin and I feel. Our husbands know us better. They get more of us now — not just in terms of time spent but in what we tell them and whose counsel we seek. When Ronde told me their spouses don’t always embrace their closeness, I thought of my brother-in-law, Edward. He’s accustomed to my rela­tionship with Robin, but I wouldn’t say he facilitates it. He and I have a warm friendship, but it’s been clear over the years that he doesn’t believe that a twin should get special treatment. When Robin first got pregnant, for example, Ed didn’t think she should tell me the news ahead of his family or the rest of ours. She told me anyway, but it was hard to learn she’d had to overrule him to follow her impulse. It seemed self-evident to me that she would rush to share something so momentous. To thwart that reflex was to obstruct the normal blood flow of our relationship.

Days later, I asked Ed to meet for coffee to discuss it, and he explained matter-of-factly that he didn’t see any reason why I should get particular consideration, any more than his younger brother or older sister. I was stymied; I couldn’t sit across a table and make the case for the Twin Exception. It felt like if it wasn’t obvious to him, it wasn’t defensible — my argument for twin precedence was basically “It just is.”

I tell each Barber that some twins’ relationships have struck me as a kind of love story and I wonder if they find that’s a fitting analogy. Ronde nods, “We see beyond who we pretend to be. I know who he really is, he knows who I really am, and if you were writing a love story, that’s what it would be. All those romantic ideals — ‘conquers all,’ ‘stands the test of time’ — yes. That’s certainly the case with us.”

Tiki agreed that twinship is “a perfect intimacy.”

“It starts from the zygote splitting and one destined person becoming two,” he continues. “And while we go our separate ways in life and our experiences vary, at the end of the day, we’re still one.”

From “One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to Be Singular” by Abigail Pogrebin. Copyright © 2009. Reprinted by permission of Random House.