More than. Less than. Greater than. Equal to. We learned it in school with polite little symbols. Carrots, really, wedged into our everyday lives, where everyday consisted of lunch trays, chalkboards, and playground carpeting. And then we grow up and are told not to make comparisons anymore. They strip us of experiencing things fully. You shouldn’t compare one city with another, shouldn’t certainly, compare your present partner with those of your past, and by all means never compare your children.
As a parent of twins, the one thing you hear most often is the boldface warning, "Don’t compare them!" It’s a baby evil akin to honey and stomach sleeping. Comparison might not kill them, but if you dare to try, you might as well defecate on their souls. Books demand you treat them as individuals, that you don’t refer to them as "the twins," always grouped together. Don’t dress them alike, realize they’ve got their own personalities and tastes and timing. No shit, assholes. Seriously, I hate these books and their insipid warnings. Forget for a second that our twins happen to be a boy and girl. If they were identical, we’d of course expect them to be different. They’re different people with different names. We know not to compare them, not to expect one to perform just as the other does. These warnings should have been blown down along with the pig’s first house.
Because we compare everything and everyone. We just do, and the whole, "well I try not to compare you" line is bullshit. Of course you compare. You look at what has come before and weigh things out. Is what I have now better? Do I feel better? Am I happier now? You compare your now with your then. Measure people up. Compare and contrast is as old as Eve, or at least as old as Mrs. Zlockhower (my frighteningly horrid third grade teacher).
We visit the Pediatrician who asks how Lucas and Abigail are doing, and we begin by saying, "Well, we don’t want to compare, but–"
"Of course you compare them," he said. "Everyone compares their children. The only difference is parents of single babies don’t remember exactly when their first born began to smile or roll over. They think it over and determine things but because they don’t live it at the same time, they don’t think about it as much." This translates to "don’t worry about it as much." Abigail is more inquisitive, physically advanced, and alert than Lucas. She’s almost sitting up on her own, knows how to roll over (but cannot yet roll from her stomach to her back). And knowing she was lifting herself and rolling over for well over a month now and Lucas hasn’t yet begun, we told our doctor. Truth is, we’re not worried about him. We’re not saying it out of fear. We’re reporting the contrasts. Still, I feel uneasy using the word "more." Guilty really, as if a grown twin is going to slam the door to our examination room open, then bitch slap me silly, shaking her head, "You really shouldn’t compare them. Look how I turned out!" She’s of course ridiculously bitter and brooding, with wiry black hair pulled into tight frizzy braids, just out of a clinic for her eating disorder.
"They’re both doing great. And the good news is that he’s got a built in tutor with this one," he says of Abigail as she flirts wildly with her doctor.
"Don’t listen to him!" crows the imaginary raven-haired twin beside me, as she smacks my cheek a third time. "You’re ruining them by comparing. You’re expecting him to get in line with her. Expecting! I tell you! RUINING!!!" Then she wrings her fists at me, indicating that she’s ready to throw them down. Who is this woman? And why is she here, in my head? She’s the bitter twin, the twin with self-esteem issues who’s never felt good enough. She went to an Ivy-league school, but her twin sister went to a better one. Her sister has natural talent, while she’s always had to work for it. She’s never been naturally thin, athletic,or talented at anything other than dramatics. So she decided to wear the creative cap in the family, and in her dorm room, she mounted a requinto guitar because she thought it made her look interesting, and when she wasn’t smoking clove cigarettes, she was going to downtown to Fez. "At least I have social skills," she’d sometimes think when comparing herself to her brainier sister. "And I’m prettier." And she’s fucking deluded. And now she’s warning me not to turn one of them into her.
"Lucas will see Abigail doing things," the doctor continued,"and it will motivate him to do more than if she weren’t around." Boys mature at a slower rate than girls. It’s always been so. Our doctor doesn’t agree with this outright, just shrugs his shoulders and tells us that’s what the mothers tell him. I am not the kind of parent who reads up on milestones. I don’t believe it’s a sign of intelligence how early a child crawls, or walks, or talks. They all get around to doing it eventually, so why rush them, and my God, why worry about it? We all take this world in differently, and learn at our own pace. I digest things slowly and sit with them for a long time thinking. Phil is quick to determine his opinions, gets them off his chest, then moves on. Days later, they’re still with me. We take in the world differently and doing so makes us who we are, not who we aren’t. You know, more or less.