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Friday Friends

Spotlight on Joy and Jenelle,

Identical Twins

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. 

Identical Twins … is it any wonder they foisted their plan on unsuspecting friends!

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

 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? 

 You have just read, “Friday Friends: Spotlight on Joy and Jenelle” written by Joy Thomas and Jenelle Landgraf. Copyright November 6, 2015. Don’t forget to take a moment and leave a comment!
Friday Friends: Spotlight on Identical Twins
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9 thoughts on “Friday Friends: Spotlight on Identical Twins

  • November 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Wow. I am and always have been afraid of a big place like a college or university campus. Maybe I will actually get a jump on that fear one of these days. Great retelling.
    I had a brother who couldn’t see, and we have been accused of looking alike, but the closest we could get away with this would be not at all, as we’re hopefully not identical.
    Physical, social cues and field of vision. I know these struggles well.

  • November 8, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Hi Kerry,
    Some colleges or universities are more accessible than others. I have one about forty-five minutes from my house that has excellent facilities and an office to work with students of any kind of disability. Wouldn’t it be great if you and your brother could both go to a small branch of a college (one building). I taught at a branch like that and they offered several degrees. How did your first ever writer’s group go??? Been thinking of you and wondering!
    Have a great Sunday!

  • November 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for your comment Kerry! Yes, social cues are probably one of the toughest parts of low vision, especially as a young person. I bet you and your brother can find a small, manageable college to attend, or even large universities these days have awesome services that help students adapt. I checked out your writing and love it– keep it up!

  • November 10, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Hi ladies. Nice article. Very relatable to anyone who has RP🙋 Know those sly remarks very well BUT you missed one. I would often say, “I’ve got tunnel vision.” Which was my way of telling the truth and concealing it at the same time. Metaphorical reference to being soooo focused on what I’m doing or where I’m going. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • November 10, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    Thank you for joining us on this post! Feel at home and browse through the posts!
    Nice comeback! Ha ha!
    Feel welcome to stop by again for another RP post.

  • November 10, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    No twin, and no siblings period, to blame anyone on. I was fortunate in that my extreme nearsightedness (if my vision had not been correctable I would have been legally blind since around 8 years old) was correctable by glasses but no preteen wants to wear glasses or stand out from the crowd for any reason. And so I stumbled around outside the classroom or my apartment in a blur that, for me, was not necessary. Only in the safety of certain environments would I grant myself the gift of sight.

  • November 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Alana,
    Me either! I got my first pair of glasses when I was four! I have photos of me with cat eye glasses. I think I was pretty careless with glasses as I was growing up. I remember I had to keep getting them fixed. It wasn’t fun. I have a photograph of me in the middle of my first grade classroom looking dorky with those cat glasses. I was wearing a blue jumper and buckle shoes. Ha ha! I also have soulful pictures with strange hair and glasses slipping down my nose as an adolescent. I hear you!

  • November 27, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Joy & Jenelle,

    I really enjoyed your article. I just started back to college this past fall. Right now, my RP is too advanced to hide it. But I can relate to your experiences when I was in my earlier stages of the disease. That was very clever how you blamed each other. I wish I had had a twin to blame for my mishaps. Thanks for making me laugh.

    Take Care,

    Matt Harris

  • November 27, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Matt,
    I can bet you really related this being your first semester back!
    Maybe you can somehow conduct a survey, narrow down a pool of people to find someone who looks like you and hand him a cane?? Then no one will know which one to blame. 🙂
    That rhymed. 🙂 Thanks for taking time to read!

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