Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Top 10 Stupid Questions People Ask About Multiples

I came across this article and had to laugh out loud...and share with you. I've already had the pleasure of being asked more than a couple of these questions and I just grit my teeth and try to come up with some sort of response. I guess it goes along with the weight questions/statements and the belly rubbing that complete strangers feel they are entitled to... Enjoy!

Twins and other multiples are naturally the subject of public curiosity. Families with multiples quickly become accustomed to being targeted with questions, and constantly having to answer the inquires of strangers on the street. My twin daughters and I compiled this list of silly, rude, annoying or otherwise aggravating questions that people most commonly ask us about twins and multiples.

1) Are they twins? We've all heard it. It's the most common way for strangers to start up a conversation about your kids. Although it's harmless, this ubiquitous question can be annoying. Perhaps because the answer seems self-evident, or maybe because you know 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 me because I feel compelled to enlighten the asker, yet at the same time I want 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. This really makes me crazy now that my twins are older and people pose the question to them directly. Their answer? "We don't know." (They really don't; we haven't told them!)

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 misbehavior, but ... wait five minutes and they'll switch roles.

5) Do twins run in your family?This is another seemingly innocuous question that parents of twins hate 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. [More: What Are The Odds?]

6) How come their names don't match? When we chose names for our twin daughters, we 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?If your twins are identical -- and even if they're not! -- 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.

8) Did you have them "naturally?"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.

9) Do they have their own language?Like any individuals that share an extremely close relationship, twins can sometimes develop a pattern of communication unique to them. The reason that this ranks as a stupid question is that people often ask it of parents of infants -- who haven't yet developed any language, much less one of their own.

10) Do you ever dress them alike?Dressing alike is a sensitive issue for multiples. Some like it, some don't. Some parents elect to do it, some don't. But for some reason, some non-twin people seem to think that twins aren't twins if they're not dressed in cloned clothing. Just like the saying goes, "Clothes don't make the man." Well, they don't make the twins, either!

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