Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Separated At Birth?

You may recall at the end of last week a story about a pair of twins who, having been separated at birth and adopted by different families in different parts of the country, had hooked up and got married. Only then did they discover they were brother and sister and had to get the marriage secretly annulled.

Shocking stuff, really: separating twins during the adoption process, the strange attraction of the familiar, the taboo of incest - it's a headline writer's dream (see Foetal Attraction) especially given its Wagnerian overtones.

Only one problem.

Is any of it actually true?

There are a number of questions that spring to mind here. Firstly, if you were adopted and found out your partner was also adopted, and you shared the same birthday, wouldn't you then start to wonder if you might just possibly be related?

Okay I know that some people who were adopted as children may have the adoption date as their birthday, rather than their actual birthday, but you'd still think that both of them being adopted - and from the same City - would have led to quite long and involved conversations about their past. Probably along the lines of "you too, eh? Freaky coincidence." Even more freaky would be them NOT discovering they were related seeing as the chance of them both not having passports (and thus never having seen their birth certificates to discover this information) must be pretty low*.

Secondly, while the idea that the UK actually used to separate twins when they were put up for adoption is indeed horrific, you do need to look at the tense. Used to. It hasn't been done for the past 40 years. Indeed it's now unusual for brothers/sisters to be split up, let alone twins. So if this case is true, then the twins are over 40. This doesn't reduce the likelihood of it happening, but does make it seem more likely to be an old story, possibly a very old story, no?

Thirdly, it is just a bit *too* Wagnerian, isn't it? Seeing as it pretty much is the plot of Wagner's The Valkyrie. The separated twins Siegmund and Sieglinde meet by chance, feel a powerful attraction, discover that they're related, and being German, then have sex. (The resultant child is Siegfried, without whom there'd be neither of the two further operas of the Ring cycle, which is another argument against incest).

The sad part of this whole tale is that while it might have actually happened, the only source for its recent reincarnation in the press is Lord Alton, who mentioned it in a debate about the transparency of donation to IVF treatment. He claimed initially to have spoken to the judge who annulled the marriage, but has since changed his position and said it may have been a judge who knew the judge who knew the judge etc.

Essentially, this may well be just an urban myth.

* 80% of the UK Population (as of August 2004) had a British Passport according to figures obtained from here

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