Laura and Erin Holt

By Lora Hlavsa and Shasta Webb

This week The Mac Weekly sat down with identical twins Laura and Erin Holt ’13, who are involved in a lifelong twin study at the University of Minnesota. Even after four years on campus, faculty, staff and students still mix them up. But under the surface of matched features and hair color, the Holts distinguish themselves by way of fashion, involvement on- and off-campus and academic interests. The Mac Weekly: How did you both end up here at Macalester together? Laura: I think Erin spoke a little bit more openly about going to different colleges but when I was thinking about going to college, I didn’t want to go to a different school. College is overwhelming. It’s exciting, but it’s also overwhelming, and people don’t really talk about that as much. And I thought, “And I would be away from my twin sister?” We are really good friends and we have similar friend groups usually, so I didn’t really want us to go to different schools. Erin: I think I didn’t think about it too much. She’s an INFP and I’m a INTP, so she’s got more of the emotional connection. To me, I wanted to go to a school that I like. I mean, I did want to go to the same school as Laura, but the immediate thought was that it wasn’t a sticking point. Though as the summer wore on, I realized I was really looking forward to going to the same school as she did. This was always our top school. One of the reasons we almost didn’t go was because of money, but Macalester was really cool and we applied to get work study and they gave it to us. LH: Well, I wrote them a letter and I was like “I really want to go to Macalester and there’s two of us.” They worked with us because we expressed how much we wanted to go here. EH: And that we’re a set. LH: We’re a match deal. TMW: Do you like being a match set? Or do you like to diverge? People still mix you up. LH: It doesn’t bother me when people mix us up. It’s kind of one of those cool things about being a twin. Sometimes it’s fun to get that attention. Yes, I’m an identical twin, and yes, you have not met me yet. But I’m definitely not trying to be like Erin. EH: I don’t think I ever try to be like Laura. Occasionally we’ll dress up a like a little bit to play up the twin thing. It’s fun, it’s a game. TMW: I’ve heard that that you’re part of a twin study. EH: University of Minnesota Twin Study. LH: We get paid. That is the most important part. You get paid because you were born a twin. EH: It’s been going on for years, decades now. You go in and it’s everything from quizzes, to psychological interviews, to IQ tests. LH: Strength tests. EH: There’s this one horrible test where you have to put headphones on and it tests your startle reflex. It’s horrible. You’re in a dark room and you’re just listening to static, static, static. There’s also a light [in the room]. If the light goes on, there is a loud noise coming. But sometimes there’s a loud noise coming even when the light doesn’t come on. Basically you’re just sitting there going, “This is gonna suck.” LH: And the whole time you’re trying to mess with the data, like “ I will be calm. I will be like a grasshopper.” And it doesn’t work cause it’s still really startling! TMW: Have you been a part of the testing your whole lives? EH: We were in the registry when we were born. They get data from all twins born, but we started [the testing] when we were 8 or 9. Then every four years we do it. TMW: What are some of the things they’ve discovered? Is there anything you’ve noticed as a result of being a part of this? LH: We always assumed we were identical twins, but we learned for sure that we’re identical twins. They tested that for us, which is something personal that we learned. TMW: Did they run your DNA? EH: Yeah. It’s something they do for free. Some twins don’t want to know. If they think they’re identical, and there’s a chance they’re not, they don’t want to know. We had to seriously consider it for a while. LH: Last time I was in there I asked them if they were looking at me versus Erin, but they are more looking at identical versus fraternal, or how identical twins relate to one another. They’re asking big questions nature versus nurture. They’re looking into psychology and even genetic triggers. EH: We’re both synesthetics. TMW: What does that mean? LH: It means that if I look at the alphabet, a is red, b is blue, c is yellow or white. EH: It’s a cross sensory thing. In your brain, two pathways have crossed, so one stimuli is interpreted as another. LH: So letters and numbers are colors. EH: We’re color-symbol synesthetics and so any symbol is interpreted as a color. TMW: That is so interesting. EH: Once, I took a calculus test and “5” and “h” are the exact same color. I added a variable! It got very complicated very fast because all of the sudden it was a two-variable problem. I went through it with her later and I did it right with my added variable! TMW: Do you know what your next steps are after Mac? Will they involve each other? EH: We’ve talked about it a little bit. I’m gonna take a year off and try to do the art thing. At least a year. LH: We might room together. We’d like to travel a bit too. We’ve traveled a lot separately. EH: She went to Ireland and Belize, and I went to New Zealand. LH: It’s just the way it worked out though. I went to Belize to go to archaeology field school, and Erin doesn’t want to do archaeology. EH: I went to New Zealand for 5 months. LH: It was the first time we’d ever been apart for more than a month. EH: And Belize, which was summer before last, was the first time we’d been apart for more than 2 or 3 days. It was one of those things where when we were approaching it, we were like “Holy crap!” Actually, the longest we has been apart before that was probably 20 hours. TMW: What was that like, to be apart? LH: Building up to it, I had a lot of struggles figuring out how that was going to work. I knew abstractly that I am my own person, and it’s very easy for me to do things on my own, but there’s something so overwhelming about thinking of it terms of 30 days and that just felt like such a long time. And it was a lot to sort through before I left. Erin was quieter about it. EH: I’m not as good about talking about feelings. LH: The hardest part about that was sitting in the airport in St. Paul, cause I’d never flown on a plane alone without my sister before. Being alone in the airport, it really sank in. EH: She called me and I was trying to go back to sleep. I’m lying in bed and I get a call from Laura and she’s like, “What am I doing?” And I said, “It’s ok! You’ll be fine!” LH: But it’s amazing how easy it is to get used to it. At one point I visited this island and it wasn’t sad but the whole time I was thinking, in a perfect world, it’s a place I would want to be experiencing with my sister and dad. Humans being are adaptable. EH: When I was abroad in New Zealand I would drunk dial her a lot. I’d be out at a bar and I’d be like “I need to call Laura!” But it was never a sad thing. LH: But it was a 12-hours time differemce so she’d be calling me on my way to library! And I’d be like, “I don’t have time to talk!” It’s like being married to someone but not as much fun. EH: What? That’s the weirdest description ever! LH: It is kind of though! EH: I don’t know. I don’t agree… LH: I don’t know what its like to be married to someone I guess. EH: Unless you’re hiding something from me, which is not even possible. Unless it happened in Ireland. LH: I met some nice guys in Ireland, but no. I don’t know. That’s what it is. It’s weird stuff all the time. It is a different way of existing. EH: I mean, the hardest points in my life I wouldn’t have been able to get through without Laura. LH: Just like you can’t get through without your siblings or family. Erin is a default to go to because we’re the same age and we’ve been raised the same. EH: There are points in my life
where, if I feel like I’m ricocheting out of control, this is someone I can come back to. LH: Or someone to yell at. EH: Yeah, we’re good at that. refresh –>