Our first highlight is actually two people. Abby and Brittany Hensel are dicephalic or “conjoined” twins. They are unusual in that they share one body with separate heads and necks.
You can read all about them here
What is notably remarkable about these young ladies is how their family and their town in Minnesota have helped them to live as any other young person growing up would live. They went to school, did homework, made friends, played outside and did everything any of us did as kids. Now they’re in college. They’ve both got their drivers’ license. Though, I have to wonder at any traffic cop writing them a ticket. They’d argue that the other one did it. At least I would.
In effect, they have experienced a regular life as two people with two bodies have done, but sharing one body.
Their parents, Patty and Mike, as well as their younger siblings, have done a laudable job of giving these girls “equal opportunity” if you will, to have as equally a miserable or fabulous life as any of us have cobbled for ourselves. They’ve done some interviews and TV documentaries, but mostly to keep the curiosity seekers satisfied and at bay. The town has obviously rallied round them and treats them like any other kid. They picked the right Minnesota town to live in, I’d say.
Whenever they leave their hometown they are stared at by looky-loos with cameras a clicking. Of course they hate this. I find it very sad that out here in the “real” world, they are regarded as circus freaks when in their hometown they are just Abby and Brittany. It does not speak well of our species that we are so “stuck” with appearances and what we judge to be “normal”. The Twilight Zone had an episode that made an interesting counterpoint on this called Eye of the Beholder. (I couldn’t find the original B&W episode, which I consider to be superior to the remake…but C’est la YouTube).
Now that they’re grown, it is honestly difficult to imagine how they will handle dating, and if they figure out marriage and children. With two distinctly different personalities, chances are they’re not going to fall for the same guy. Frankly, speculating about this really falls in the “poor taste” category. It’s tempting to travel that road, as some more prurient blog sites have done. I will draw the curtain on it here.
They are in college now. They’ve probably experienced their first alcoholic beverage. Do both get drunk if one drinks? They have two stomachs but share intestines. That would be interesting. What if one turns out to enjoy recreational stimulus, like marijuana, and the other is a teetotaler? Do they take two full loads of classes, and then get two separate diplomas? That could be exhausting, since college is exhausting for just one set of legs. All these things probably had to be pre-negotiated.
After college, getting jobs is going to be interesting as well. Will they have two separate jobs with two separate shifts and one sleeps while the other works? It would have to be quiet work, with the other wearing a sleeping mask. And you’d have to be able to do it one-handed as they have to work cooperatively to use both hands. Will they get one paycheck or two? I’m sure they have two separate Social Security numbers. Well, if they’ve figured out sports and driving and riding a bicycle, this should be a cakewalk for them. And they’ll likely end up with two cakes.
When you watch their YouTube below, you’ll see what I mean about their being relentlessly “normal” for two people in one body. It is inspiring and remarkable how this family has sailed head on and strong through their lives, making as non-sensational a path as possible for these girls. I don’t think the outside world will be as accommodating.
The next time I think I have it tough I will take a moment and imagine what it might be like to wake up, day after day, as Abby and Brittany. Always together. Always needing to negotiate the day. Frankly, I would hope they run for public office. They could teach our Congress a thing or two about how to work together, don’t you think?
There are sites out there claiming to have nude photos of the girls. With all the questions you’d think to ask in poor taste. But they miss one. What will it be like for them at death? At that final summation we all must face, they will have to face this together. They’ll do exactly as we all must. But it will be different for them. As everything is. As much as they don’t want it to be. And that is no better or worse than what we will have to face. Just different.