We found out we were having twins at seven weeks, but we didn’t know the genders until eighteen weeks, so we had eleven weeks of pointless discussions about the pros and cons of the different possibilities. Which would be worse: two boys or two girls? Would one of each be any better? With hindsight it was silly: it’s not as though you can change the sex of your child in utero, and in any case it’s not a big deal; you mainly just want healthy babies. And let’s not forget that gender identity is a construct that has very little to do whether or not you have a penis. (Ha! Take THAT Freud!).
That’s not to say I didn’t have a preference: most people do. I wanted one of each. It wasn’t about having a ‘complete’ family; mine would have been just as complete with two boys or two girls. It was just that I’d always wanted a twin brother myself. A twin brother would have been someone to play with, a partner in crime, and also (let’s face it) someone I wouldn’t have had to compete with.
Who could blame me, when pop culture is brimming with examples of boy-girl twin awesomeness? So in reverse order, here are my top five boy-girl twins from popular culture.
- The Bobbsey Twins
Two pairs of boy/girl twins! Statistically unlikely in the time before IVF, but it was always possible, right?
Published by the fictitious but prolific Laura Lee Hope from 1904 to 1979, this series of seventy-odd books is like an American version of Enid Blyton. It follows brown-haired Bert and Nan, and their younger, blonder siblings Flossie and Freddie, as they go on improbable-sounding adventures. The titles range from evocative (The Bobbsey Twins and the Sun-Moon Cruise!) to descriptive (The Bobbsey Twins at the Sea-Shore!). It’s all good clean fun!
Take-home point: having a playmate your own age is great, because it means you can solve crimes in half the time and still get ice-cream later. Also parental supervision is highly overrated, and totally unnecessary if you have older twins to look after you!
- Twelfth Night
I know what you’re thinking: ugh, Shakespeare, this is going to be yawn-inducingly highbrow and worthy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Twelfth Night is basically an adventure / romance with cross-dressing and high-stakes sexual ambiguity. It’s also interesting to note that it’s the girl twin, Viola, who is the more active character, while Sebastian is basically passive man-candy.
** 500 year old spoiler alert – you have been warned**
A big part of the plot revolves around the Countess Olivia falling in love with Viola, who’s pretending to be a man when they meet. Apparently when in drag Viola looks an awful lot like her twin brother Sebastian, so when he just turns up at the end, Olivia marries him, still thinking he’s the man Viola’s been pretending to be.
Obviously all of this gender-bending was even more ridiculous in Elizabethan times when women weren’t allowed on the stage: the character of Viola was played by a man, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a man, who is in love with a man pretending to be a woman, who eventually marries a man.
Take-home point: gender is fluid. It’s all a performance, and sometimes you’re more comfortable in someone else’s costume. Boys can wear dresses and girls can wear trousers. Or not. And don’t even START me on pink and blue…
- 90210’s Brandon and Brenda
Introducing the concept of the love rectangle.
One of the main benefits of having a twin is that you can date their friends. Or so we were led to believe by the epically soapy 90210. It came out when I was about twelve, and I was absolutely hooked, in particular by the ‘love-rectangle’ formed by boy-girl twins Brenda and Brandon, and Dylan and Kelly, their respective love interests. The one flaw in this otherwise perfect piece of pop-culture schmaltz was the fact that Shannon Doherty quit the show JUST before the Kelly / Brenda hook-up we were all waiting for. It’s also sad that the world will never get to see Brandon and Dylan making out. Just think of the hair-gel!
Take away point: I have had it confirmed by adult twins that dating one another’s friends does indeed happen. A lot. Not always successfully, but a lot.
- He-Man and She-Ra
As a little girl I loved He-Man, and would emulate him by standing on the sofa, my pretend sword aloft, proclaiming my power. Mattel must have realised that this was a market waiting to be tapped. Sure, there were girls in He-Man: his friend Teela, and Skeletor’s henchwoman, the awesomely named Evil-Lyn. But what they needed was a protagonist, and a Pegasus/Unicorn hybrid… because… well, girls like ponies.
So out came She-Ra. There’s a whole women’s studies thesis to be written on why Adam gets to say ‘By the Power of Greyskull’ while Adora says ‘For the Honour of Greyskull’ when transforming into their alter-egos. But the plots of the shows are basically the same: She-Ra is a proper heroine in her own right.
Take-home point: Dolph Lundgren (He-Man in the 1987 live action travesty) cannot act. Not even a little. The character in the cartoon has more depth and nuance. I’m not sure how this is relevant to raising my own twins, but I’ll probably discourage them from taking leading roles in live-action cartoon crossovers.
- Luke and Leia
No one born on the Gen X / Millennial cusp is in any doubt as to the best and most awesome boy-girl twin duo. As a child I basically wanted to be Luke and marry Han Solo. Failing that I’d have been happy to be Leia, as she was cool and bad-ass in her own right, and shot stuff with a blaster. Also she got to wear a gold bikini, and hook up with Han Solo.
OBVIOUSLY there was that awkward time Luke and Leia kissed ‘for luck’ in A New Hope, but that was nothing compared to their full-on SNOG in Empire. I mean WOW. It makes me wonder (if you’re a Jedi, forgive me for this heretical thought) whether George Lucas had the whole story worked out when he made Episode IV. But hey, ignorance is bliss.
Take away point – It’s better to know you have a twin brother / sister from the outset because, you know, incest. Thanks Game of Thrones for taking it to the next level…