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Although there is an impressive ring to ‘Multiple embryos once coexisted in my mother’s womb,’ this icebreaker comes at a cost. While I don’t mind explaining to university peers (and tutors) that two girls and a boy cannot be identical, whilst I can bear hearing that I look more like my brother than my sister, one response has me running for the hills.
‘So… what is it like, being a triplet?’
Unanswerably vague as this question is, I understand the intrigue. My Dad was so tickled (or sleep-deprived) by the thought of raising three children at once, he stuck ‘Welcome to the Triplet Zone’ on our hospital door.
There have been downsides to living with my half-clones. ‘Skelton’, ‘Skelton’, ‘Skelton’ on class registers attracted unwanted attention from teachers, and having to book doctor/dentist/eye appointments was unbearable. Next time you’re sweating because you have to telephone a receptionist, be thankful it isn’t after your brother has made an appointment for the exact same day citing an identical surname, home address and date of birth. It was difficult to hear ‘Happy Birthday!’ from friends without responding with the same salutation, and opening presents on such occasions was a minefield. If Kathryn unwrapped that square box addressed to her, before I unwrapped the matching square box addressed to me, then two weeks of anticipation would be ruined. God forbid if Patrick was gifted the same gender-neutral outfit, so we would have to attend Own Clothes Day as Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Tweedledoo.
On the other hand, I grew up with ready-made best friends. There was an intense rivalry between my brother and me (and Kathryn and I had our moments, like the time she bashed my head on the floor so I pretended to be dead), but these scuffles were nothing compared to the invincibility we experienced as a team. We obtained an inflated sense of power, knowing that our parents locked the family’s five cats out of harm’s way when we were loose. Our Mum won’t let us forget the day she had a friend visiting and we decided to empty the fridge onto the kitchen floor.
In our trio, I learned early about patience: waiting for Mum or Dad to feed me every third spoonful of mush; or lingering by the advent calendar until it was my day for a chocolate. At school, we were quiet compared with other children because we couldn’t understand their urgency to make new friends. At home, our imaginary games and ‘bit-and-bob swaps’ turned into shared revision sessions for our GCSEs and A-levels. Here on campus, we regularly book a group library space to meet and compare the woes of our degree subjects.
‘So… what is it like, being a triplet?’ My grandma remembers ‘how united’ the three of us were. ‘Never accepting a biscuit until the other two had been supplied.’ Whenever I go house hunting for the first time, or travel to a foreign place, I know which two friends will be coming with me.