I have been interrogated. I have been insulted. I have been hit. You might have done this to someone like me. But hopefully after reading this, you won’t make the same mistake again.
The teenage years are the time to try new things, pursue passions, and find interests or talents that make you unique. Yet for many sets of identical twins, the most unique thing – the defining characteristic – is that they are not one-of-a-kind, but rather two extremely similar people.
This concept – that identical twins are just like each other – is one that some twins love and others hate. As an identical twin, I have heard all of the twin questions. And because many of these questions that I hear daily have the possibility to offend, I encourage you to take my top 5 pieces of advice about what not to ask identical twins:
1. Who is the smarter twin? The more athletic twin?
The world today is a competitive place. But for twins, the competitiveness doubles. If someone asks a question and one twin answers first, that twin becomes the “Smart Twin.” If one twin scores in a soccer game and the other doesn’t (even if the twin who doesn’t score is the goalkeeper), the scorer becomes the “Athletic Twin.” When people want one twin to do a favor for them, they say, “If you do it, you’ll prove that you’re the better twin.” Please don’t do this. Just—please don’t.
2. Do you have telepathy?
To set the record straight: my twin and I do not have telepathy, nor does any set of identical twins that we have ever met. Nevertheless, having the same genes and upbringing does lead to similar ways of thinking. My twin and I often think or say the same things simultaneously, but unfortunately, we cannot communicate with our minds. If you ask us if we have telepathy, however, we’ll put on a show we rehearsed that fools nearly everyone. Any other sets of twins that tell you they have telepathy are tricking you as well. Sorry, I know you’re disappointed. Trust me, I am too.
3. Can you feel each other’s pain? If I hit you, will your twin feel it?
Most people don’t live in constant fear of being assaulted by complete strangers. That is, unless they are identical twins. I cannot express how many times I have been asked if my twin and I can feel each other’s pain before being smacked on the arm or flicked incessantly. If someone hit your brother or sister, do you think you would feel it? It’s no different with twins. Believe it or not, even though we may look exactly the same to some, we are in fact different people. The real question you should be asking yourself is not: if I hit a twin, will his/her twin feel it?, but: why do I feel the urge to hit people I barely know?
4. If one of you was in danger or dying, would the other sense it?
Considering we’re still very much alive at the moment, I really don’t know how anyone expects us to be able to answer that one. Moving on.
5. Do you ever forget which twin you are?
I swear we have been asked this. Multiple times. This one scarcely needs addressing since it’s so blatantly ridiculous. To clear up any confusion: no, I never forget which twin I am. Now please don’t ask that question ever again.
Well, there you have it. But chances are, if you’ve ever spoken to identical twins before, you have probably already asked them one or more of these questions. To spare yourself from further humiliation, take my advice, and please—don’t ask these questions.