Letters of Life

Twins (Not Really)

My twin, Go. I’ve said this phrase so many times, it has become a reassuring mantra instead of actual words: Mytwingo. We were born in the ’70s, back when twins were rare, a bit magical: cousins of the unicorn, siblings of the elves. We even have a dash of twin telepathy. Go is truly the one person in the entire world I am totally myself with. I don’t feel the need to explain my actions to her. I don’t clarify, I don’t doubt, I don’t worry. I don’t tell her everything, not anymore, but I tell her more than anyone else, by far. I tell her as much as I can. We spent nine months back to back, covering each other. It became a lifelong habit. It never mattered to me that she was a girl, strange for a deeply self-conscious kid. What can I say? She was always just cool.   — American author Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2012)

Not long into my first job at a local women’s magazine, I met Louise, who had just been hired as the stylist. We sat next to each other in adjoining cubicles. She’d studied architecture at the local university, I had just returned with a journalism degree from America.

If one of us wasn’t out doing interviews or the other wasn’t gathering clothes and accessories from boutiques, the other magazine staff passing our cubicles to go to the restroom or to other offices would see the two of us sitting at our desks. And the back view, we were told, was like seeing double. Two heads of long dark hair, tousled, uncombed, on similarly petite forms. You look like twins, they said.

There the similarities ended. Louise had a porcelain complexion, is chatty and had a lot of opinions which she liked to share over press lunches or at dinner after work. I was tanned, quiet and perceived icy by not a few fellow staffers. Louise smiled a lot.

Her immediate boss was an older woman called Jennifer, a longtime fashion editor of the magazine.  Even Jennifer acknowledged our sisterhood by referring to us as the Bobbsey Twins.

For those who didn’t grow up on children’s detective fiction, this is what the Bobbsey Twins—in illustrated pictures—look like.



As you can guess, the reference was not accurate. The flawed nickname was not flattering and wasn’t meant to be.

Still, the name, for all its unfavourable dissonance, didn’t bother Louise and I.We accepted it with the good-naturedness of young working women focussed on doing what we did well. Long after we’d left the magazine, we would meet occasionally and refer to ourselves as the Bobbsey Twins. It was our way of lifting the lid off the hope chest that held memories of our First Job. To be a Bobbsey Twin once more was to treasure the idea of having a twin, –a description bestowed by someone else, not something I, who have no sisters, or she, made up because we wanted it to be so– and ever since Louise, I have not had the pleasure of meeting someone who looked like me, even from the back.

I visited my twin recently in Hong Kong, where she lives now with her husband, also an architect, and two children.

On hindsight, I should have taken a picture of our backs instead. We might have fooled you too.


Do you have a ‘twin’? Leave a comment if you do! 

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5 Responses »

  1. Dearest doppelganger…you have no idea how much more we had in common, it was eeeeerrriiiieee….eg. we have the same middle name – you’re Yu Ming, I’m Yu Xiu, our family background, especially wrt parents and siblings, is IDENTICAL, our clothes were all navy blue, etc. It was freaky to find out by and by, but we were getting along swimmingly before we knew all that, and with Geri, we made a trio. You were the prettier one, more photogenic and distinctly, delicately “Victorian”, complete with a sprinkling of freckles across rosy cheeks and an occasional air of melancholy. I think our colleague John had a crush on you, he did whatever and whenever he could to tease a smile from you. I was noisier, bolder, enjoyed tearing around and making pictures.

    We didn’t know quite what to do with our lives then, and what fun we had not caring or worrying too much about a “career”, hanging out at the studio, going to fashion parties and junkets, wolfing down quaintly bourgeois canapes, sniggering at the daily absurdities and drama of our effete circle, and diy-ing before there was even a word for it.

    We were called the Bobbsey Twins because it was traumatising enough to deal with one…heh..and someone would come up to me and say “I saw you at the Times’ library yesterday,” and I’d reply “Nope, did not go there!” “It was you! I’d know that hair…” *Wink*….

    Oh it would have been cool to skive off work like that, in the confusing fog of ghostly apparitions of skinny navy silhouettes and long brown tresses, intermittently darting from one work venue to another. Unfortunately, my Editor sat across from me, her cackling whilst sharing an inside joke with another senior jolted us back to the mundane tedium of reporting on the madness of yet another fashion season so hideous it would soon be repudiated by the diametrically opposite direction adopted by the next one. Our fingers crawled across the keyboard with the speed and energy of arthritic sea urchins (your favourite sushi) while we stifled yawns and downed over-boiled coffee, waiting for the clock to strike 6 and release from the fashion gulag….

    We went on our separate ways to life’s further calling – you on to domestic bliss and I back to being architortured. I was so pleased to see your dreamy wedding pictures, romantic in a simple Walter (?) frothy ballet dress, smiles radiating from a wellspring of conjugal beatitude. On your arm is On, a lanky Prince Charming in his own pensive, physician’s way, a great complement to your physical charms and disposition.

    More parallels must have surely ensued in our lives, but that must be reserved for another day of reminiscing.

    So let’s make a date for the next one, eh? 😉

  2. Dear Louise, the images conjured up by your picturesque words have sent me into a deep reverie of our past! I remember you walking into the open-plan office one bright sunny morning in a trenchcoat the colour of vermillion. You said it had been raining earlier.

    Since we have an online presence 24/7 these days, we should post random memories of our days (and nights) at Times Publishing. It would be a blast all over again!

    Thanks for the memories.

    • Oh, oh, I remember the trench,…would wear it again, where’s it gone? I was such a fashion victim then. My greatest contribution at the office consisted chiefly of introducing you and Geri to the wonders of Uhu Glue and sequins. 😉

      Thanks for writing this, Ming, with Geri and John, we were tagged the Gang of Four, too.

      • I think I’d overlooked the Gang of Four because it was so short-lived. After you left for Boston, we were down to three, and it wasn’t the same Gang again.

        Maybe if you’re in town next month or any time soon, the Gang of Four should really try to meet up.

  3. Yes, I wonder what happened to John? Has he settled down in Spore and still writing? Those were quite carefree days, in our early twenties and looking forward to the future ahead, full of promise. Sometimes I fear I don’t have enough “time” to do something with my life anymore, bogged down with daily stress (the usual perennial problems with a constantly irate and stressed out husband and underachieving spawn, phone calls from teachers and parental visits…sigh…), etc. I do wish at times I could turn back time and do things differently…wouldn’t have come back to Hong Kong for one! Would have been more ambitious and less of a slacker, would have gone on to PhD, etc.

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