I just got off the phone with my good friend Caroline in London. She was kind of
aggravated due to some very silly and rude questions she had gotten in the park today. Caroline has twin girls, and is annoyed by being targeted with questions, and constantly having to answers the inquires of completely strangers! As we talked I laughed so laud that my cat left the room, and she participated after a while, understanding that her stories were hilarious!
Twins and other multiples are naturally the subject of public curiosity. Caroline is not happy speaking to strangers, and she never thought she had to small talk with anybody just talking her children to the park. And when she tells me what people might ask, I understand her. We ended up making this list of silly, rude, annoying or otherwise aggravating questions that people most commonly ask her about her four year olds.
1. Are they twins?
This must be the most common way for strangers to start up a conversation about her kids. Although it’s harmless, this ubiquitous question can be annoying. Perhaps because the answer seems self-evident, or maybe because Caroline knows that answering it will induce the interrogator to ask another stupid question (like the ones below!)
2. Are they identical or fraternal/paternal/maternal?
For some reason, people want to classify twins into two categories: identical and not-identical. Most people know that there are two types of twins, but they really have no idea what that actually means. This question exasperates Caroline because she feels compelled to enlighten the asker, yet at the same time she wants to minimize the distinction between twin types.
3. Which one is older?
Why do people feel compelled to know this? Birth order typecasting is not relevant to multiples. You’re talking about a matter of minutes between births, not enough time for anything meaningful to impact their personalities.
4. Which one is the good one?
No one would ever ask a mother of singletons to label her children in this way! No child is all good or all bad. Certainly, there will be times when one kid acts like an “angel” in response to her twin’s misbehaviour, but … wait five minutes and they’ll switch roles.
5. Do twins run in your family?
This is another seemingly innocuous question that Caroline hates to answer. It’s just too difficult to explain what causes multiple birth and why it may or may not be hereditary. Usually when strangers pose this question, they care less about the actual answer than about sharing their own family history of twins.
6. How come their names don’t match?
When Caroline and her husband chose names for their twin daughters, they purposely selected ones that didn’t sound too “twinny.” Yet, the general public always seems disappointed that their names don’t rhyme, start with the same letter, or otherwise “go together.”
7. How do you tell them apart?
The twin girls are identical, and Caroline says this is a very common question generated sometimes by politeness, and other times out of curiosity. Some people genuinely want a physical signal to help them identify and distinguish between children with similar appearance. But many others simply want to pick apart the physical characterists of supposedly duplicate people. And Caroline is so tired of questions like this, because it always end by her having to talk to persons she doesn’t know, and doesn’t care about.
8. Did you have them “naturally?”
I really understand Caroline here. This is an extremely personal question, and one which strangers have no business asking. There are two interpretations of this inquiry, referring to either how the multiples were conceived (ie with fertility enhancements) or how they were delivered (vaginally vs. c-section). In either case, its nobody’s business, and its simply not polite to ask unless you are already on familiar terms.
I wish my friend Caroline, her girls and everybody else a great Friday night, hoping that you at least have smiled twice reading this blog post!