By Desiree Matloob, 17, Beverly Hills HS
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From left: Desiree, Michael and Tiffany.

No, we can’t read each other’s minds. We don’t have the same dreams. And I can promise you that we don’t always get along—not even close. As absurd as it may sound, these are typical things people ask me when they learn I’m a triplet.

Over the years I’ve discovered that being a triplet means that I am not just responsible for my own actions and feelings, but Michael’s and Tiffany’s, also. If Michael stormed away during a conversation, I got asked, "What was wrong with him?" and "Why did he do that?"

Although I love my brother and sister, I don’t love it when people think of us as one person—"MichaelDesireeTiffany," instead of "Michael" and "Desiree" and "Tiffany." I don’t love it when people think we should act or think the same just because we were born at the same time, like when people ask me why I’m so shy while Michael and Tiffany are so much louder. And I definitely don’t love it when people don’t make the effort to learn our individual names, likes and dislikes.

While I am 5-foot-1, thin and have black, wavy hair and dark eyes, Tiffany is two inches taller, curvier and has light brown eyes and curly brown hair, which she usually keeps in two buns. Michael looks more similar to me with his straight black hair and dark eyes, even though he towers over me at 5-foot-7.

Our sense of style differs, too; while I opt for jeans and tees, Tiffany is known for her eclectic sense of style, ranging from long 50s style dresses to mismatched skirts and tops. Her most outrageous outfit, which I nicknamed "the Big Bird," was a huge yellow poncho she wore to school four years ago. Michael usually wears white or navy blue cargo pants and a sweater.

We’re so different

I’m shy and into journalism, running and the indie rock band Rilo Kiley, who my sister hates. Tiffany is blunt and would rather be making funky crafts (the most popular of which were her multi-colored "felt monsters," which were stuffed felt creations and furry iPod covers that resemble the Japanese television mascot known as a "Domo-kun") and browsing thrift stores for cheap vintage purses, jewelry and miniature wooden parrots. My brother, who is also a big talker, would love nothing more than to go biking along Venice Beach or to surf the Web on his computer.

One classmate last year had different classes with all three of us and didn’t realize we were triplets until we told her—and even then she didn’t believe us because we acted so differently.

"How is that possible? Tiffany looks nothing like you two!" she said. This is a common sentiment among our classmates—some have even asked whether Tiffany was adopted.

Growing up, Tiffany, Michael and I shared almost everything. It was funny how the exact moment I wanted to use the bike was the same time that Tiffany felt like going for a ride. By age 4, we each learned that nothing was just one of ours. We still face this. Since all three of us learned to drive at the same time, we constantly fought over who got to practice with the car.

But the hardest thing was sharing a room until the age of 8. Our tiny beds were almost attached—terrible for our physical comfort and sanity. When my parents noticed our irritation, they gave each of us our own rooms and began devising ways to let us have our personal space.

My dad came up with a brilliant plan called "turns." One Saturday a month, each of us would have a chance to spend three hours with our dad, alone, and do whatever we wanted. I usually just talked about what was going on in school, what was going on in my life, or anything that I was sad or angry about—my talks with my dad felt like a therapy session. For three hours every month each of us was allowed to feel like he/she was an only child.

But not everyone has been as understanding as my parents. Peers at school didn’t realize that the three of us didn’t always want to spend time together.

During freshman year my brother and I were put into the same PE class and we rarely talked to each other.

"Why aren’t you hanging out with your brother, Desiree?"

"Well, I’m talking to my friends right now. I can talk to Michael in the car, or when I see him at home."

Being in the same classes also means being compared to one another. At the end of the year, my parents would stare at our report cards, and whether they were thinking it or not, I imagined them saying in their heads, "Ooh, Desiree didn’t do as well in history as Michael did."

At least I’m never alone

Despite its hardships, being a triplet hasn’t always been negative. Last year, I forgot to bring my math book home the night before my math midterm. Luckily, my sister remembered hers and spared me a panic attack.

And I never really feel alone. With Michael and Tiffany, I always have someone to complain to or just to relate to. While I am closer with Tiffany, there are certain things I can only talk about with Michael, such as things that happen in my newspaper class (or "journalism updates," as he likes to call them) and our favorite comics in the Sunday comics section. We even fight for who gets to read them first. And family vacations can feel like vacationing with a friend—well, when we aren’t fighting.

I accept that being a triplet is a part of me, but it isn’t the only part of me. I don’t just want to be thought of as "the girl who’s a triplet." I want to be thought of as an individual. I want to be thought of as "the girl with the cool earring collection." Or maybe "the girl who, embarrassingly enough, loves watching bad reality TV shows."

"Desiree" would be just fine, too.