Stepping Out of a Twin’s Shadow

The following is an excerpt from a paper about twins by Charlise Koch, an enterprising journalism student in her second year at Northeastern University in Boston. She has graciously given me permission to share this portion of her project.

Competitive Connection

Charlise Koch

Emily Laliberty stood quietly to the side. A few feet away, her sister Molly was being interviewed by the Newburyport News for her position as star goalie on the high school lacrosse team. The article would later be published to praise Molly’s athletic skill and second-place ranking in the graduating class, with a follow-up sentence halfheartedly stating that her twin sister, Emily, was also on the team.

“It was hard in high school because she [Molly] got a lot of recognition,” says Emily. “I felt unnoticed.”

This was a year ago. Emily and Molly Laliberty, fraternal twin sisters from Massachusetts, have had their fair share of competition growing up. Emily, 19, is a first-year psychology major at Northeastern University, whilst Molly, also 19, is hoping to pursue a double major in psychology and political science just a few miles away at Tufts University.

Both sisters have a love for lacrosse, but it was also a source of tension in their relationship. Molly was being recruited by Division 1 schools such as Northwestern University and Cornell University from her sophomore year in high school. After falling in love with Tufts, a Division 3 school, Molly tried to convince Emily to join her in Boston.

“It was a weird time, I always kind of feel bad about the way it went down on her [Emily’s] end, cuz it definitely made it seem like it was all about me and where I wanted to go,” says Molly. “I told her that I can’t control what she chooses but that I wanted her to be somewhere close by.”

Emily recalls that by junior year of high school, it had been decided that the sisters would attend different colleges. It was hard, but necessary, she says. Emily’s first choice school was American University in D.C., but after Molly’s acceptance to Tufts, that wasn’t an option anymore. “When Molly found out that Northeastern was a possibility, she told me that that was where I was going to go,” says Emily.

Perhaps due to the fact that Emily was always in her sister’s shadow, being at her own college has given her a sense of freedom. “People find out I’m a twin and it’s just one part of me,” she says. “It’s not a defining thing about who I am anymore.”

Molly seems to share the same enjoyment. Both sisters recall being “lumped” together socially in high school, whereas they’re now able to become their own people. “I think it’s really unique being a fraternal twin but looking so much alike,” says Molly. “It’s a weird dichotomy because people expect us to be so similar but then they pit us against each other—who’s funnier, smarter, prettier—so it’s very competitive.”

For Molly, the competitive nature of her relationship with her sister has had “lasting effects,” as she continues to compare herself to Emily even though they are in different colleges.

The sisters’ relationship has also developed a “disconnect” in the first few months of college, says Molly. They are no longer going through experiences together, so trying to understand and empathize with each other on an individual level has proved challenging. Despite this, Molly values her newfound independence.

“I definitely feel like I don’t have this need to be right all the time, I don’t need to keep proving myself,” says Molly. “I should tell the truth. It sort of feels like there’s almost a weight off my shoulders.”

Emily has noticed this change in her sister, and attributes it to their decision to separate. “She’s developing her own character,” says Emily. “I’m finding out more about her that I don’t think I would’ve if we had stayed together.”

Emily describes how the sisters have been able to grow into their own, unique interests. Molly likes lacrosse, and Emily likes community service. Molly likes poetry, and Emily likes babysitting.

Regardless of the differences and competition that these sisters have endured, their bond remains unshakeable. They have matching necklaces of a sun and a moon; as Molly explains, “You think of the moon and the sun and you can’t separate them from each other even though they are so different.” The girls still love to go for long drives together with blaring music, and “pickles” has remained their substitute for an apology since middle school.

“I would give up anything and everyone for her well-being,” says Molly. “There’s no-one else like her, and there’s no relationship like the one we share. I hope she [Emily] does everything she wants to do, but that she’ll come back and live close to me. Maybe we can grow old and gray together.”

Image courtesy of Adrian Snood (CC BY 2.0)

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