Growing up, there was an important rule in my house regarding piano: No playing the pieces your sisters are in the process of learning. This rule was my mother’s proactive attempt at limiting sibling rivalry. But sister squabbles still occasionally ended in the ultimate insult: one sister running to the piano to squeeze as much musical emotion into playing the first couple measures of another sister’s piece just to prove superiority.

This act always caused a domino effect: a pang of self-doubt, followed by a recalibration of one sister’s definition of success. My three sisters doubled as my best friends and the intensity of our closeness made it all too easy for us to get under each other’s skin. In those moments, I sometimes wished I had a built-in ally in the form of a twin. But of course, sibling rivalry applies to them too, potentially even more so.

Curious about how twins handle the impossible closeness, I asked three sets to share their experiences. Our conversations exploring siblinghood, success and sharing a connection with cosmic allure are below.

Ananda Naima González and India Lena González

Ananda (she/her) is a dancer, choreographer, musician and Columbia grad student. India (she/her) is a dancer, actor, choreographer and musician getting an MFA in poetry at NYU. They’re 25.

Ananda wearing: dress via Hypnotica Vintage and Zara coat; India wearing: Madewell jumpsuit, Zara coat, Éliou earrings

What’s your relationship like with your twin?

Ananda: My relationship with India is surrounded by a sincere tenderness, a wicked and unrelenting sense of humor, raw honesty, and a heavy dose of respect. Our bond is undeniable and yet so is our sense of independence and individuality. Being able to travel through life with such a vibrant force by my side is nothing short of a privilege.

India: Having a twin is like having a built-in buddy system. We live together so I see her often, but when we’ve both been out and about all day, we miss each other. Coming back to our apartment and seeing her is one of the best feelings, which is probably what any pet owner says about seeing their pet, so yeah, being a twin is not unlike owning the world’s cutest puppy.

Is “twintuition” a real thing?

Ananda: Perhaps due to the fact that we’re fraternal twins, India and I don’t experience this phenomenon in its purest or most extreme form. Or perhaps I should say we haven’t yet, since we do remain hopeful. More often that not, we share similar thoughts and dreams even if we’re in completely different environments. I can intuit India’s exact thoughts and feelings in any situation just by giving her a quick glance.

India: Yesss? But also noooo? We often have similar thoughts and feelings about most situations, and I know exactly how she’s feeling based off her facial expressions, but I can’t read her exact thoughts.

Do you think being a twin has affected your concept of individuality?

Ananda: India and I are simply siblings who happen to share a birthday and maybe a similar facial profile. We never question our identity or individuality. We grew used to strangers constantly discussing our appearances in front of us and accustomed to people saying “god bless” because they understood twins to be sacred or a sign of good luck. Being a twin has taught me to stand with more strength and confidence in who I am, and has allowed me to see the beauty of operating both individually and within a sisterhood. Being a twin doesn’t diminish my wholeness or uniqueness as a human, but rather celebrates it and proves that it can coexist and even flourish in a loving partnership (a.k.a. twinship).

India: Our parents did a great job raising us as individuals while also honoring our special bond as twins. I always taught that my sister and I are a team, and we must always have each other’s backs. Perhaps our bond is more intimate than that of other siblings because we are the same age and we experience much of life at similar rates, but I’ve always understood that India and Ananda are two separate people with very different personalities who just happen to look similar.

Do you think that being a twin has affected your standards of success, personally or otherwise?

Ananda: Absolutely. Growing up, my sister and I received similar grades and evolved at similar rates. Whenever my sister excelled at a sport or subject in school, I felt that I also possessed the same or greater ability. In some ways, she was a barometer for what I was capable of. Today, that’s still true to a degree, but we are never in competition with one another. We simply recognize that we’re cut from the same cloth and believe there’s no reason why one of us should continue to grow while the other experiences stagnation or regression. The confidence I have in my sister fuels the confidence I have in myself. We’re stuck in a sort of lovely infinity loop in this way.

India: I’ve often found that Ananda’s success brings me the same amount of joy, if not more, than my own. There’s no better feeling than hearing about her victories. Similarly, she’s the first person I tell whenever something good happens to me as her reactions are always so pure and invested. This goes back to the feeling that we are a team and a certain selflessness you’re taught as twins.

Do you feel like your reputation is intertwined with your twin’s?

Ananda: Many peoples’ brains freeze at the word “twin.” A lot of our family and friends growing up referred to us as “the twins.” People are often quick to assume my personality is identical to India’s. On some level, I understand how our similarity in appearance can cause these sorts of brain glitches. There’s an interesting shape-shifting that society sometimes requires of twins, simply because pretending to be my sister for a few seconds is often easier and more acceptable than crushing some poor stranger with the words “I don’t know you” when they swear with every fiber of their being that they do.

India: It depends. We go to different graduate schools now; at my institution people only knew me as India (sans Ananda) in the beginning. We use the royal ‘we’ all the time when talking about ourselves, so there’s that. People think I’m married and talking about my husband, but no sweetheart, I’m talking about the 25-year relationship I’ve upheld with my glorious twin. I’m talking about I & A, the González Gals. I don’t think it gets more intertwined than that.

What’s one of your favorite memories of your twin or of being a twin?

Ananda: Around the age of 3 she began referring to me as “Dia,” which is rather cleverly the last three letters of her own name. Eventually I asked India to stop using this nickname at school because I disliked having other kids call me something that was created solely for me and her. I find this nickname so incredibly tender and honeyed because she was willing to give me more than half of her own name (as if we didn’t share enough already), while also communicating that she saw me as more than a sister, but as a sort of extension of her very self.

India: When Ananda and I were in school, she had a crush on this boy whom she would follow around during recess every day. Eventually this crush got tired of her following him, so he turned around and pushed her. Having just witnessed the abuse dealt to my twin, I punched her lover-boy-turned-villain in the face. I didn’t get in trouble because all the teachers knew I was standing up for my buttercup of a twin sister; my father even gave me a high five. My fighting days are over now of course, but the moral here is that Ananda is always worth fighting for.

What’s the biggest difference between the two of you?

Ananda: When I first meet someone I’m more inclined to give them a hug, crack a joke, and make them feel welcome and at ease throughout our exchange. Some people call me warmer than my sister but India is equally as warm, simply more discerning. She has, to my knowledge, never suffered from FOMO and most likely never will. What a peaceful way to live.

India: On the surface, our hair. She’s also a whole inch taller — I’m always the short twin in photos, which isn’t the look I’m going for.

Soull Ogun and Dynasty Ogun

Soull (all pronouns) does conceptual art and design, Dynasty (all pronouns) is an Artisan Creative Entrepreneur. They co-own a design incubator and are both 34.

Dynasty wearing: L’Enchanteur outfit with Nike x Martine Rose Air Monarch IV shoes; Soull wearing: L’Enchanteur outfit with ASHYA bag

What’s your relationship like with your twin?

Soull: Fun in the sun. We use our mirrors of one another to grow and expand. We hype one another up to channel our best selves. We are always laughing and joking together.

Dynasty: We’re always pushing and driving each other to be the highest versions of ourselves.

Is “twintuition” a real thing?

Soull: Yes. We def have similar concepts and ideas. I will call her like, “Yo I was thinking…” then she’s like, “Yo I was thinking the same thing.” It’s magical. We can align and empathize with others by tapping into that with one another.

Dynasty: Sure, why not? Lol. There’s a bond from before birth.

Do you think being a twin has affected your concept of individuality?

Soull: Of course — I always feel truly connected with another person. I grew up not thinking I needed to please others for friendship because I always had a friend. It allows me to be as much of myself as I can, because I can be that true self with my twin.

Dynasty: There’s always been a sense for us to strive for individuality; you get insight as a twin into how we are all unique yet from the same source. We can and are always learning from each other and our experience brings unique information back to learn from.

Do you think that being a twin has affected your standards of success, personally or otherwise?

Soull: We like to equally be successful, and push one another to attain that feeling. We both will have success because we keep lifting one another up.

Dynasty: Success is connected to not just yourself but sharing that success with others who want you to grow and reach heights together.

Do you feel like your reputation is intertwined with your twin’s?

Soull: Yes and no. I get a lot of, “Hey! Dynasty!” and I’m like, “Nah, that’s my twin.” I get random hugs and handshakes in the middle of the street. The beauty is that I know my sis is loved! I also get the, “Where’s your sister?” when I go out. My response is, “She’s doing her.” People think being a twin means being with one another all the time; some twins are like that. We go through periods where we are doing our own thing then hanging like every day. The ebb and flow is great.

Dynasty: Yes. When you see her — datssss me!

What’s one of your favorite memories of your twin or of being a twin?

Soull: Shit, we have lots. We go to places and do things together that we missed as kids, so on our 30th birthday we went to Coney Island. Of course we got on the rides together and were scared and giggled the whole time. Being able to channel childhood in our growing ages was so funny and free.

Dynasty: Sharing cups of juice, creating characters, having someone to play with — you just come in this world with a bestie.

What’s the biggest difference between the two of you?

Soull: Her rising sign is Libra, mine is Capricorn — that trickles into some aspects of our personality.

Dynasty: I would say the way we express our concepts and style. It’s rooted in the same source yet expressed through our unique visions.

Cole Zerboni and Gage Zerboni

Cole (she/her) is a CUNY graduate student and Gage (he/him) is a flight attendant. They’re 24.

What’s your relationship like with your twin?

Cole: He’s my soulmate and best friend. I can’t think of anyone closer to me. He is half of my heart and the person I’m in contact with the most on a daily basis. We both love boys, Britney Spears and any reason to celebrate.

Gage: Cole is my everything — my light, the other half of my heart, and my best friend through every single crazy thing life throws at us. I’ve never experienced a soul attachment as meaningful and as breathtaking as mine with hers.

Is “twintuition” a real thing?

Cole: Absolutely, at least for us. Sometimes, I’ll be having an off day, and there’s seemingly no reason to it. Then, he’ll text me with bad news or come home saying that he also had a bad day. It’s like his state of mind affects mine without me knowing. There are also times when we’re both looking at something unrelated to a memory but it reminds us of the same thing at the exact same time.

Gage: It’s a full-blown thing. Maybe it’s not as clear and cinematic as one would imagine, but in terms of emotions, we’ve definitely hurt at the same time and let each know at the exact same time. It’s sometimes scary.

Do you think being a twin has affected your concept of individuality?

Cole: Yes, to some extent. I’ve never had my own birthday, or my own high school graduation, so I definitely feel like I share my life more than the average person. Gage has shaped a huge part of who I am, and I like it that way. I still have my own personality, but I feel more comfortable trying new things and taking risks, because I know I’ll always have someone to support me if I fail.

Gage: Especially being fraternal, I don’t think our individuality has been stifled in the least. We’ve been able to be alike but enjoy and go after completely different things at the same time. I think being a part of a large family has helped in that too. Nobody wants to blend in within a family of seven, and so we’ve been forced to have our own personal and colorful lives while maintaining a strong foundation of the same core principles.

Do you think that being a twin has affected your standards of success, personally or otherwise?

Cole: Luckily, we don’t get too competitive. We team up in most aspects of life. We definitely hold each other to high standards, and Gage has always motivated me to challenge myself because he believes in me, and I him.

Gage: I don’t know that success could ever be measured by how close you are to a loved one. If anything, having someone who knows you better than anyone in the world by your side throughout adolescence and young adulthood only accentuates your own beauty and positive attributes. I feel so incredibly lucky to have a personal hype woman.

Do you feel like your reputation is intertwined with your twins? How?

Cole: I do, yes. People group us together as one person all the time. It doesn’t really bother me. We both have a reputation of being happy-go-lucky social butterflies, and it’s nice because we tag team each other well. If ever we’re together at an event and I’m not in the mood to chat it up, he picks up my slack and makes me feel like we’re a team.

Gage: We’ve had our own reputations for a while, and living in New York together now is probably the only time people have been able to really group us together due to the fact that we grew up in Southern California. If our reputations are intertwined, I see no problem with it thus far and I feel like that has all to do with my trust in her and who she is as a person.

What’s one of your favorite memories of your twin or of being a twin?

Cole: I will never forget when we saw CHVRCHES at 2016 Coachella. It was just reaching dusk, we were screaming the words to our favorite songs and I remember looking back at Gage and thinking that I would never have a more beautiful moment in my life, and I haven’t since. The best part is, we were sober. We were running off of pure love and music — our two favorite things.

Gage: The best memories of being a twin is truly having our own rhetoric and understanding. I’ve never had a relationship that has come close to how easy she is to understand. Movie quotes, music, family memories, parties, interests in general — you name it, she’s my go-to to make another memory with and I’m totally okay with that.

What’s the biggest difference between the two of you?

Cole: Salty and sweet. He’s obsessed with pickles and I’m obsessed with ice cream.

Gage: The way we handle situations — I’m more blunt. If I don’t like something, I’d rather nip it in the bud as quickly as possible. Cole has patience, understanding, grace and poise in the most unruly situations and I’ll always commend her for that. It’s something I wish I could master.

Photos by Starling Irving.

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