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The day my twin brother Danny and I got into Harvard was about as stereotypical as it gets. After we ripped open our envelopes, the two of us, alone in our apartment, ran around in circles, screaming. He picked me up. I tried to pick him up. We called our parents.
That moment was about getting into Harvard, but even more it was about getting in together. If Harvard, great Harvard, recognized that we deserved to go to college in the same place, then it must be a wonderful university.
Danny and I have chosen to go through most every stage of life together, from elementary school to high school to Harvard, because we like each other’s company. Like all siblings we fight, but like all twins (particularly boy-girl twins) we have an awesomely close friendship. We are each the others’ closest confidante, cheerleader, and pal.
The differences between Danny and me go far beyond our full-foot gap in height. He loves sports and military history and wears sweatpants; I adore poetry and trail empty coffee cups and dangly earrings. His primary activities at Harvard have been organizing intramurals and mentoring a boy from Dorchester; mine has been writing for The Crimson. His intellect and strong sense of justice hide underneath a façade of goofy humor and rebelliousness; my sense of humor jumps out from behind a screen of passionate literary and political chatter.
But those who know us know the fundamental ways in which we’re alike. Our parents imbued us with an idealistic distrust of “the system,” which manifests itself differently in each of us, but nonetheless it defines both of us. Because of that shared quality, we both thought we were coming to Harvard to get ready to change the world. And as a result, we were both profoundly disappointed with the ambitious, busy, career-focused atmosphere here. Both of us looked around and saw a certain lack of kindness and ability to laugh at oneself at Harvard that cut both of us to the quick.
That, particularly, is when we came in handy to one another: we both, in different ways, like to make it clear that we don’t give a crap about the administration, or “getting ahead,” or being like everyone else. And we both support each others’ efforts thereto.
Our mutual support has made Harvard—a disappointment as an institution—so much fun as a college. My brother has been my constant ally, even as we’ve forged separate identities here. Danny and his roommates, who have become my extended family, could always be counted on to show up to a Crimson party and make me laugh with outlandish dance moves, or just laugh with me as we watch other Harvardians attempting to get down with their bad selves.
Danny and I were both ready with invective for members of our own gender crossing romantic wires with our twin, and ready with more invective against professors or TFs who were too foolish to appreciate our twin’s unique brilliance. Together, we’ve railed at the way the administration sends away favorite young professors or lecturers after a few years, we’ve complained about final clubs and backstabbing social climbers, we’ve rejoiced in each others’ triumphs on the playing field, in the paper, and in true friendships and relationships. We were both always there to affirm each others’ good intentions, too, when no one else saw them.
And when Harvard got me down, Danny always knew what was up. He knew how to tell me it didn’t matter, and most of all he knew how to make me laugh. Hysterically. A trip to Eliot house to see Danny and his roommates inevitably turned me from grumpy and jaded to giggly and pleased. And when I make him laugh, it’s more rewarding than any grade or byline could be.
We’ve been a balancing force for each other, too. Throughout our Harvard careers, I was there to talk with him about Austen novels and he was there to take me on off-trail biking expeditions. I would tell him the IM basketball championships weren’t so important in the scheme of things, while he frequently told me that my gossip from the world of undergraduate journalism was less than scintillating. I like to sarcastically say “Dan, you keep me so real.” But the truth is, he does.
Being a twin means never just worrying about yourself—there’s always someone else on your radar screen. But as time has gone on, that aspect of our relationship has eased. Our junior year was spent oceans apart. I spent four months in Ireland, he spent the spring and summer in Scotland. That time taught me to be less and less anxious about my brother and more and more happy in his friendship, confident that he was having fun and we were both growing up. A lot of people at Harvard don’t even know I have a twin. Others just know me as Dan’s sister (I’m also the only person here who adds the “ny” to his name). But my close friends know how vital my brother has been to my time here and the person I’ve become.
Sometimes Danny and I look back on the day we got those acceptance letters with bewilderment. “What were we so excited about?” we ask each other as we bitch and moan about Harvard. But we were right to get excited—Harvard may not always be a force for good, but it took us together. And I’ll always approve of that.
Sarah M. Seltzer ’05 is an English concentrator in Lowell House. She was magazine chair of The Crimson in 2004.
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