Conjoined and confused? A twin’s take on TLC’s ‘Abby and Brittany’

After watching the premiere of “Abby and Brittany,” a TLC reality show about the lives of two conjoined 22-year-old twins sharing one body, I had a lot of questions, most of which I felt incredibly guilty about asking.

While the show aims to portray how normal Abby and Brittany’s lives really are ­— how they do the same things we all do, such as go to a job interview, throw a birthday party and catch up with girlfriends over coffee ­— I couldn’t stop wondering about the mechanics, the biological ins and outs of how they operate. Though some of my questions were answered over the course of the 30 minutes ­— they each have their own heart, set of lungs and stomach while sharing a reproductive system — many of them were not.

At first my curiosity got the best of me and pushed away any and all notion of sensitivity. I’m no scientist, but the way I was analyzing and hypothesizing and variablizing — well, you would have been convinced had I not just tried to turn the word ‘variable’ into a gerund. The point is I watched them like I would an experiment.

It’s easy to look at them and want to examine the How. How do they decide what to study, where to live or whom to date? How can they date or get married or have kids? Moreover, how have they not killed each other yet?

My twin sister and I watched the show together Monday afternoon, and we had the exact same reaction: I could never do that. Like most twins, we fight often and obnoxiously. Our arguments naturally cause a bit of tension — honestly I don’t know how our other roommate stands either of us. And yet I can’t imagine not sharing an apartment with her. But a body? That’s like apples and the Great Wall of China.

Over the course of the show I repeatedly thought of the phrase “attached at the hip” and how unbelievable it is that that metaphor is essentially their reality. And in part I think that’s why I had so much trouble getting past them as this anomaly: My awe was greater than my sympathy. But now, after watching a couple of episodes, I see the differences their friends talked about during the show. How Abby is more opinionated and outgoing, Brittany more laid-back and goofy.

They aren’t subjects to be studied — they’re sisters. We haven’t bought tickets to a medical fair featuring this physical phenomena, a PowerPoint presentation entitled something unemotional, One Body, Two Heads. We’re being given a glimpse into the daily lives of two people with two different personalities and seeing how they make their relationship work. As it should be, it’s feeling over function. It is TLC, after all.

Last semester, when I studied abroad in Denmark, it was the longest my sister and I had ever been separated our whole lives. We went four months without seeing each other, with the exception of poorly connected Skype dates. And as weird as that initially was and as much as I missed her, I found it necessary to have a chunk of time in my life where I was on my own. Sure, at times I was a little lonely and lost without her, but I proved to myself I could find my own way and figure it out.

To never have that chance seems crazy and cruel, yet Abby and Brittany smile and sing like they aren’t missing out on much. Granted, they’ve never known themselves without each other, never had a memory the other one didn’t, but their optimism still amazes me, sending me to my sister’s room to apologize ­— sorry, it was me, I took the sweater, and I promise to buy you a new one if the spaghetti stain doesn’t come out.

Emily is a senior in LAS.