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In which John discusses his obsession with books about conjoined twins, Chang and Eng (who were the original Siamese Twins), and Alice Dreger's fascinating book One of Us:

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A Bunny
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Group: Good morning Hank, it's Monday!

WheezyWaiter: Good morning Hank, it's shmhs-day.

John: Good morning Hank. You just got said hello to by lots of Nerdfighters and also *Wheezy Waiter*.

So Hank, I'm in New York City still on tour for Will Grayson, Will Grayson and I want to say thank you to all the Nerdfighters who have come out and also particularly to all the Nerdfighters who have gotten me tee-shirts. I got this shirt, this shirt, this one features my rapping name "J-Scrible", and I got this one. It's a nice shirt, I appreciate it, but it's a little small. Ohhh. Henry! And I got this shirt which says "Ask Me About Conjoined Twins" which, as it turns out, is one of my areas of expertise.

Hank, I don't know if you know this, but I have one of the largest collections of books about conjoined twins ever assembled. In fact, I have more books about conjoined twins than there are conjoined twins. And yes, that includes if you count them separately which you should which is one of the many interesting things you can learn from conjoined twins literature.

So obviously writers love to write about conjoined twins because it's a very convenient metaphor, right? Like thinking about conjoined twins leads us to all kinds of questions about identity and separation and where does one human being end and another human being begin? And like no matter how hard you try you can never abandon your family because no matter what you do they're right frickin' there attached to your hip. Or in our case Hank, attached to the camcorder. But Hank I think the really fascinating thing about conjoined twins is ultimately not that metaphor, although it is interesting, but the question of whether and why we should separate conjoined twins. There is this great book, One of Us by Alice Dreger, in which she argues that our obsession with separating conjoined twins whenever it is medically feasible, and even sometimes when it's very medically dangerous, is a reflection of our discomfort with unusual anatomies.

Like Hank, you might know Hank that the most famous conjoined twins in American history were Chang and Aang, two guys form Thailand, the original Siamese twins. They became very successful circus performers and were eventually able to buy a plantation. And they both got married to separate ladies. And had kids. I don't know how it worked. Maybe one of them was like "Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, are you done yet?" Also, one of them was an alcoholic and the other wasn't. Even though they had the same blood. Anyway, even in the nineteenth century, Chang and Aang could've possibly been separated by a surgeon. But they didn't wanna be separated because in addition to all the disadvantages of conjoinededness, there are a number of advantages. For instance, your anatomy allows you to go from being poor in Thailand to being rich in America. Also, you're never lonely. There's always someone in bed with you to warm up your feet. Now admittedly there's also always someone with cold feet whose rubbing them against you. And there are a bunch of other disadvantages to the anatomy of conjoinededness. But there are also a bunch of disadvantages to regular human anatomy. Like we can't fly. And it's impossible for human beings with regular human anatomies to benchpress more than eighty pounds. That's not impossible? Well, are you saying that I have a weird anatomy? So Dreger ends up arguing that even if it's medically easy to separate conjoined twins at birth, you should wait until they're old enough to decide whether they want to do it themselves before you do. And the problem isn't with conjoined twins, but is instead with us for failing to accept unusual anatomies.

Anyway Hank, this has been much on my mind lately because when you become a parent you become obsessed with the idea of normal. Like the other day I called the pediatrician and I said "Henry seems to be peeing a lot. Is that normal?" Pretty much with babies, as far as I can tell, everything is either normal or it's scary. And I think it's very helpful to think about the extreme end of that in conjoined twins even though that's a very uncommon phenomenon, because it's a good reminder in the world that only celebrates normal that just because something isn't normal doesn't mean that it's bad or scary.

So my non-rhetorical question of the day, which I don't think is easy or simple to answer: Should we separate conjoined twins at birth?

Hank, don't forget to be awesome. I'll see you on Wednesday.