Spotlight on Joy and Jenelle,
Last week, I introduced you to Joy Thomas. Today she and her twin sister, who both suffer from Retinitis Pigmentosa. have shared a lighthearted story from their college days.
The Art of Blaming Low Vision Mishaps
on Your Identical Twin
By Joy Thomas and Jenelle Landgraf
Are you a college student who needs to conceal your failing eyesight for reasons related to vanity and shame? Not to worry. All you need is an identical twin.
Besides needing a twin, you may also consider choosing a rather small campus to navigate.
We chose to attend Seattle Pacific University, a small liberal arts college in Washington State that is distinctly Northwest, decidedly Christian, and definitely ….hmm, we can’t recall what the last “D” said on their flyer in 1997, we we’ll just say definitely a great fit for us!
Navigating new places was never easy, but with just a dozen or so buildings and a really nice layout, it did not take long to familiarize ourselves with SPU’s campus.
We both lived in a dorm called Ashton Hall our freshman year. Sitting high on a steep hill above campus, this dorm had a reputation as the “party dorm,” which, for a small Christian college, meant staying up past midnight and competing in lip-syncing contests and wearing crazy costumes.
Ashton Hall was a perfect fit for us and we and we instantly found our own separate groups of friends to spend all of our newfound freedom with them.
We didn’t tell any of them about our vision because we thought that we were doing a fantastic job covering it up.
We were accomplices in this ingenious scheme in which new friends would exclaim, “I waved to you and you didn’t respond, so then I realized that I must be waving to your twin sister by mistake!”
“Oh YES,” one of us would say — “silly YOU!” Sometimes we might add things like “Yeah, my sister told me some girl with blonde hair was trying to get her attention today!” or “My sister is a little shy when people she doesn’t know wave at her.”
It’s not as if we sat down at the beginning of the school year and devised this plan together. It just sort of happened, and we went along with it because it felt easier than explaining the truth.
With identical twin sisters to to blame for all our lack of visual social cues, and our memorized knowledge of campus such as steps, large rocks, fire hydrants and other low objects out of our field of vision, we felt almost normal.
We occasionally had to throw each other under the bus beyond our comfort levels, however.
“Gosh, your sister is definitely the less friendly one! She totally gave me a dirty look when I passed by her today!”
“Hmmm, she must have been having a bad day,” we’d say, knowing full well if there were any look that passed over either of our faces, it was probably just trying to squint to see something and would not have been directed at a person we couldn’t even see.
Learning to seamlessly blame each other for our mishaps definitely involved thinking on the fly.
“Your sister looked kind of lost today.”
“She must have been looking for her friend who she was meeting,” we’d improvise.
“Was it you or your sister who I saw trip near the quad today?”
“Probably my sister. She was up studying late last night and gets kind of clumsy when she gets tired,” we’d think on the spot.
If you’d like to follow our tactics, keep in mind that, for the most part, any sly remark will work as long as it diverts attention from yourself and is spoken immediately, and with confidence.
Haven’t got an identical twin? Try laughing off someone’s comment. For example, if a classmate accuses you of ignoring him or her on campus, you could make up a joke, “Haha! Sorry, it must have been my evil twin!” Who knows? They might believe you!
Author’s note: While this is obviously meant to be funny, we take shame very seriously and have blogged about it quite extensively. Truth be told, we thought we were fooling everyone, but we ended up looking ditzy and eventually told close friends about our low vision. For more stories and discussions related to blindness, shame and the human desire for “normalcy,” please visit us at doublevisionblog.com
Do I have any readers who are twins? Did you every try to fool family or friends with your identity? Do you know any twins who have tried to fool you? On a more serious note, how do you handle shame or embarrassment?