to reproduce, as an organism does

I decided to participate in this week’s Illustration Friday topic, “propagate”. If you don’t want to read a million digressions, just skip to the bottom of the post for the image. Otherwise, here’s some ramblin’:

Failing to think of a worthy topic to organize a flow chart around, I was planning on doing some kind of family portrait, like a bunch of redheaded children or a family of four-eyed book nerds, all with their heads buried in whatever they’re reading. Then I started thinking about pregnancy, which made me think about the Hensel twins, Abby and Brittany. I’m sure that isn’t where most people’s minds go to when they think of childbirth, but ever since watching the documentary “Joined for Life”, the association has been persistent in my mind.

A very brief history of the Hensel twins: Abby and Brittany Hensel are 19 year old conjoined twins. Plainly stated, they pretty much look like a two-headed person; they both face the same direction, being joined down the middle and having a very symmetrical appearance, with two legs and two arms. Their coordination is amazing. They're able to type, run, ride a bike, and both have their own driver's license. In the documentary "Joined for Life: Abby and Brittany Turn Sixteen", the girls discuss all the things they plan to do: attend college (they're currently enrolled at Bethel University in Minnesota), get married (no word on boyfriends), and… have children.

Yes, have children.

How that is ethical or if it’s even possible, I know not. For them, I suppose it would be natural though, so while it would be a confusing situation (for me, anyway), I’m not sure how it registers morally. They do share reproductive organs.

And an equally brief history of me: Conjoined twin documentaries are to me what Lost: the Final Season appears to be to the rest of ya’ll. You eagerly await it and would lose your shit if you missed it. I am fascinated by the topic and have been since sometime in elementary school, when I first learned about conjoined twins watching the documentary “Katie and Eilish: Siamese Twins”, (so this was circa pre-political correctness, obvs.) about the Holton sisters (Irish) and their surgical separation, which resulted in the death of Katie due to a weak heart. I watched it, bug-eyed and heart-thumping, next to my mom. My interest isn’t purely morbid amusement, and while it’s easy to crack jokes (I mean, come on, you can see Abby in Brittany’s driver’s license photo!), the topic is fascinatingly complex and often heartbreakingly sad.

photo from Life magazine

So that’s my train of thought. All that said, this image is going to probably seem quite insensitive. Pregnant conjoined twins is a pretty nutbag situation though, guys. And I should note, I’ve also been watching some Daria (R.I.P.) as of late, and am (happily) reminding myself of a “Sick Sad World” cover story here. Without further ado:

I need to break into the greeting card scene. I think I’ve got something to offer. Hallmark, just say the word.


10 thoughts on “to reproduce, as an organism does

  1. I know them. They’re nice folks, and they value their privacy. Your comments are a little insensitive, and your illustration is inaccurate. They only have two arms.

  2. RSJ, I’m aware of how many arms they have. I thought it was clear this wasn’t a drawing of them, but that their discussion of having a baby was simply what triggered my idea for an illustration of (fictional) conjoined twins.

    I am sorry if you took offense, but I have posted information and imagery already distributed by sources they obviously approved (Life magazine and the documentary), so I don’t see this as any sort of impediment on their privacy. They seem like incredibly motivated and inspiring people. I stand by the opinion that they they have two of the world’s most interesting driver’s license photos.

    Take care.

  3. nikki j, you hit the nail on the head, out of the park, on the button. your ‘ramblin’ isn’t insensitive at all. love this.

  4. Love the drawing. Rather than being insensitive, your comments take us nose to nose and remind us to notice when we’re separating folks into “us” and “them”. We’re all just people. I read RJS’ comment as ironic. Is it just me?

  5. Vote for “insensitive.” Abby and Britty already have to deal with enough intrusive mannerless idiots. I think the civilized and decent thing is not to add to the notion that they’re fair game for jokes of any kind. If they want to make fun of themselves, that’s their business. But their quality of life depends very much on whether the rest of the world can be adult enough to treat them with respect. If you can’t restrict your commentary about them to positive things, zip it.

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