Twin Speak

If you think DNA dictates all, be prepared to have your beliefs shaken. In spite of having the same set of genes, these identical twins couldn’t be more different, personality-wise.

Sandra Peña (left) and Marisa Peña, 32 Both work at MTV: Sandra is a graphic designer and Marisa is an event producer.

Sandra, who was born a few minutes before her twin, has clearly taken the role of big sister to heart. “I put her in line,” says Sandra. “I have more self-control, and I shield her.”

After their parents died unexpectedly, the Peña sisters were devastated—and another trauma was just around the corner. Sandra decided to strike out on her own, following her boyfriend to Germany. “I cried for days,” says Marisa—it was the first time that the two had ever lived apart. “It completely backfired,” agrees Sandra. “It broke me and my boyfriend up. She was all I thought about, and my boyfriend and I would just fight, fight, fight.”

The sisters are now about as close as two people can be: They live together, commute to work together and hang out with the same people. But they don’t ask each other for advice: “What advice can she give me, when I know what she’s going to say?” asks Sandra.

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Debbie Quinn (left), stay-at-home mom, and Diane Schierer, nurse, 44

“Debbie’s more like my mother, and I’m more like my father,” says Diane. “When I try to give her advice, she gets upset. She thinks I’m always telling her what to do. I just think I have a stronger personality. Growing up, Debbie had a lot more boyfriends. I was a lot more standoffish. And when we would go to parties, she would drink more. I was always the designated driver.”

Although they have quarreled seriously in the past—and even stopped speaking to each other at one point—the two sisters are close now, says Diane.

“I’m nice, and she’s nasty,” says Debbie. “She used to chase the boys home with a broom. Everybody says she always had a puss on her face, and I always smiled. It’s true to this day. And she’s always trying to tell me what to do. She acts like my mother.”

Randy Sklar (left) and Jason Sklar, comedians, 32

The brothers are “different shades of the same color,” according to Jason. They share a creative sensibility and have toured the country with their stand-up comedy act. They’ve also had a show on MTV (Apartment 2F).

Yet they live apart and have slightly distinct styles: Their friends can even tell them apart on the phone. “It’s subtle, but they know how I say hello,” Randy says.

Other differences are more revealing. For example, “Putting together an Ikea cabinet,” says Jason, “Randy would just be done as quickly as possible. If there were extra screws, he’d throw them behind the washing machine. I would look at the directions for so long before I dove in—and then still get it wrong.”

What’s for certain: They have no extrasensory twin perception. When the brothers were 14, they were involved in a university study investigating reports of telepathy between twins. Randy sat in one room looking at shapes, and Jason was supposed to draw them. “Not only did we show no telepathy, I was so far off, they ended up stopping the study,” Jason says. “I felt kind of bad about that.”

Pam Spiro Wagner (left), poet; Carolyn S. Spiro, psychiatrist, 51

Growing up, Pam was the “smart one,” more assertive and outspoken than her sister. She still wins prizes for her poetry, but since young adulthood, she’s also been struggling with schizophrenia, a disorder that often lands her in the hospital. Shy Carolyn is now a psychiatrist—she began her studies before she fully realized what was troubling her sister.

The two are now jointly writing a memoir, Solo for Two, due to be released in early 2005.

“Our first word, after mama, was we, which meant I. We weren’t merely similar and separate, we were—we knew—one,” writes Pam. “Basically, we had no concept of being separate” until the beginning of school, Carolyn adds. At age 6, Pam broke her leg on a ski trip—and Carolyn felt so betrayed she refused to speak to her wounded sister. “I just didn’t understand how she could have a broken leg, and I didn’t,” says Caroline. At 17, the two were in a car wreck that injured a motorcyclist. Pam was driving, but Carolyn feels like it was her fault, too: “ We were driving the car.”

Even though Pam’s illness makes her delusional and suicidal at times, the sisters relate to each other well. “I still feel like Lynnie understands it all, that she’s been through it with me,” says Pam. “It’s sort of jarring when I have to explain it to her, because I think, ‘She was there with me.’”

Sha-Asia (left) and Na-Asia Jones, 13

These girls insist that they are as different as two sisters the same age can possibly be. They go to the same school but are in different classes and have different friends. They don’t agree on boys: Na-Asia, wiggling a ring on her finger, is confident that she’ll eventually marry Lil’ Fizz of the hip-hop group B2K; Sha-Asia is more interested in rapper Lloyd Banks of G-Unit.

They both insist it’s only an accident when they finish each others’ sentences—something any sister might do. But “because we’re twins, people think there’s something special about it,” Na-Asia says.

Still, they keep close track of each other’s taste in clothes, in books and in food. “Even when it’s 110 degrees, they’ll be lying on top of each other to sleep,” their mother, Tonya Nunn, says—although Sha-Asia says that’s only because the bottom bunk is closer to the bathroom.

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