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Twin Etiquette: What Not to Say When Talking to Identical Twins

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My twin sister Yvette and I don't think that being twins is one big barrel of fun. A lifetime of being mistaken for someone else can be trying. The script rarely varies. "Oh, I thought you were your sister. You two look so much alike." That's what identical twins do, they look alike.

When we were little girls, adults used to ask us to stand back to back to see who was taller. And since we had to respect our elders and not express to them how that made us feel, we did it. The back to back and side by side tests were sometimes cruel. They would go so far as to say who was prettier. Twin enthusiasts also make the odd assumption or at least act like our hearing isn't too swift. How many times have we heard and watched people talk about us while we're standing there? We've been twins all of our lives, so we don't understand the fascination that singletons have with us. And nothing is more curious when someone says, "I always wanted to be a twin," as if it's all fun and games. In fact, a common question is, "Did you play tricks on your teachers/friends/boyfriends?"

2010-11-25-yvonneandyvettesmall.jpg"Are you the right one?" a woman asked me.

"I'm Yvonne. Is that all right?" I replied. What the woman meant to ask was whether I was the twin she knew.

"Can't you be a little more patient with people? Try to understand people when they know you're a twin?" a friend asked.

"No," I replied. "Can't they try and understand?"

To us, we have noticeable differences. But what happens is that when people see twins, they automatically see sameness and think that there can be no differences.

The next time you see a set of identical twins, consider these dos and don'ts from us:

  • Don't ask twins if one feels the other's pain. It's a very dull and uninspiring question. The same goes for the question, "Are you twins?"
  • Don't ask who's the oldest. This has more impact than you think. We have a friend who has twins and won't tell the boys who's the older because she doesn't want them to take on younger/older brother roles. They're just minutes apart.
  • Do feel free to say, "Hello, Yvonne." If it's the wrong name, it's okay, we'll tell you. No need to play a guessing game.
  • Do be mindful of how often the same questions are asked.
  • Do speak in your adult voice. For some reason people fall into a baby voice when they talk to us.
  • Don't point out similarities and differences when twins are present, or make a big deal, especially among other people. Consider other guests.
  • Don't feel compelled to give both twins a compliment just because both are standing in front of you (e.g., "Yvette, you like nice. So do you, Yvonne").
  • Do respect twins as individuals, despite their DNA.
  • Don't walk up to a twin and say, "You're not speaking to me?" Obviously, it's the twin you don't know.

Yvette and I have four other siblings, and they are just as special and unique. We've been told that we're miracles. We're not. We're just twins.

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