The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Twins on Twins on Twins

Photo by Tela Ebersole

It may be hard for some to imagine what it would be like to have a twin. For Stephen and Shaun Duncan (’17), Kristen and Taylor Dabney (’15) and technology consultants Stacey and Stephanie Puls, the idea of not have their twin and closest support network with them at Grinnell is a bizarre idea.

Duncan Twins - John Brady
Stephen and Shaun Duncan are from Matteson, Illinois, a suburb to the south of Chicago. They’re fraternal twins who not only decided to go to Grinnell together, but also decided to be roommates as well.
“It’s great to have someone here who you’re already really, really close to and who you know if you call, they’ll come to you,” Shaun said.

Both were home-schooled until high school—one of the reasons for their powerful connection. They remained extremely close throughout high school and were part of the same group of friends. They expected the same to be true in college, but were surprised to realize the limited amount of time they would see each other.
“I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t get to hang out with him,” Shaun said of Stephen. “I’ll see him at the end of the day, but he’s out the majority of the day. It’s just not what I expected, all of this.”
They believe that, despite being twins and living together, they are both quite different, and being at college has let them express that.
“My dad used to say, ‘The only thing you have in common is your last name!’” Shaun said.
Shaun and Stephen differ in everything from their taste in music to their cleaning habits, but there have also been times where it was undeniable how close they were.
“We’ll say something at the exact same time, with the exact same inflection, and that will make us laugh, and we’ll laugh in the exact same way, which will make us laugh again in the exact same way, it’s really strange! But it’s so funny,” Stephen said.
The brothers agreed that having a twin, albeit fraternal, is very different from just having a sibling.
“I think there’s a bigger connection because when you have a sibling, you can give them advice and be there for them and whatnot,” Shaun said. “But [with twins], they experience everything in life that you do at the exact same time. … We can be there for each other every step of the way because we always have been.”

Dabney Twins - Mary ZhengKRISTEN and TAYLOR DABNEY
Kristen Dabney is two minutes older than her brother Taylor. They’re fraternal twins and come from a family of Grinnellians: their mother, father and uncle. Despite this, they arrived at their decision to come to Grinnell completely independently from one another.
“We both came to the conclusions separately—so I went and researched my colleges, she went and researched the colleges she wanted to go to. And I was like, ‘Yep, I’m going to Grinnell,’ and she’s like, ‘Yep, I’m going to Grinnell!’” Taylor said.
Similar taste in schools isn’t the only thing they have in common.
They are both physics majors, for example. They have also experienced “phantom pains”—what they call when both experience the same pain even though only one of them actually suffers an injury.
But, of course, no two people, even twins, are exactly the same. Kristen is interested in the practical application of physics and likes visual art, while Taylor is interested in theoretical physics and enjoys music. Also, by being fraternal twins of the opposite sex, they never felt like one threatened the other’s identity.
Still, Kristen and Taylor both agree that being twins has bonded them in a way that being just siblings never could.
“You have someone to brainstorm ideas with. You know, you can hear what they’re thinking and you try to figure out what you’re thinking based off of that. They kind of influence your growth,” Taylor said.
They also make a conscious effort to stay close.
“It feels weird if we don’t see each other for a couple days or just check in—just to make sure you’re still happy,” Kristen said.
Both Kristen and Taylor know that in the future, they will probably visit each other more than they will their two younger siblings.
“I know that I’ll have to live at least somewhere close to you,” Kristen said to Taylor. “Or I hope you end up somewhere close to me.”

Stacey Puls and Stephanie Micetich - Tela EbersoleSTACEY and STEPHANIE PULS
Stacey and Stephanie Puls are identical twins who were born and raised in Grinnell. They attended the same community college and now both have technology support jobs at Grinnell. During high school, they even won a “twin contest” at the state fair for looking the most alike.
From a distance, it might appear as though the twins were the epitome of two peas in a pod. For their whole lives, they have been finishing each other’s sentences, thinking the same things at the same times and accidentally dressing the same.
“When we were in high school … it was whoever was up first that got dibs on that outfit,” Stephanie said.
Despite the mild disputes over fashion, neither Stephanie nor Stacey could fathom life without the other.
“I am not just known as Stephanie. I’m known as ‘Stacey,’ ‘Stephanie,’ ‘Oh yeah, hey you, whichever one you are,’ twin or as ‘Stacey’s sister,’” Stephanie said.
The sisters agreed that managing their separate identities—in high school they were each just ambiguously referred to as “Puls”—became easier as they got older. Now, they have different friend groups, and Stephanie has actually moved to Knoxville, Iowa with her husband and son.
The depth of connection that these identical twins share is still very much present.
“Probably the longest time we’ve gone without talking either on the phone, in person or text is three days maybe. I think because someone was on vacation. Otherwise, we’re in contact all the time,” Stacey said.
From talking on the phone regularly to having lunch together almost every day, the two hope to remain close despite the challenges that inevitably arise in their adult lives.

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  • L

    Lyndell JonesSep 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Wonderful stories of friendship and love, and having that binding support of family and kinship will boost their education as well, for they can help each other every step of the way. Just beautiful.

  • L

    LindaSep 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Great story on the Twins…Shout out to my cousins, Stephen and Shaun