Inappropriate Questions and Brutally Honest Answers

Something about twins emboldens people to ask and say things they wouldn’t dream of asking or saying to a plain old woman, or even a mother of a single child. It’s very strange, and on some level I do understand it. Twins are the exception to the rule. They are a litter in a species that bears single live young. It’s intriguing, and the twin mystique is something a mother of twins needs to walk a fine line to both nurture and destroy in equal measure.

There are expectations thrust upon twins that I don’t think are appropriate. Namely, the expectation that they will love one another more than any other set of siblings. That they will be alike, or posses some supernatural ability or hoodoo mind power. Telepathy. Second sight. Clairsentience, or mirror-touch synesthesia perhaps.

If I chop of June’s leg will Harper feel it?

It’s both nonsense and absolutely true. I try to avoid reinforcing it in strangers, however. And I put no pressure on the girls to be any closer than any other set of siblings, which as fraternal rather than identical twins, they aren’t.

All you need to prove that point is to present them with one pink plastic tiara and watch The Hunger Games unfold before your eyes.

Still, people have no problem getting intensely personal at the sight of twins, and to some extent I understand that as well. As I twin mom I naturally find myself smiling at the sight of newborn twins when I’m out and about. I know that feel, mama. I see you. And if you initiate a conversation I may wind up asking you a few of these questions as well. Only because I know how to ask them, and more importantly, how not to ask them, and I know why the answers matter to you as the mother of a set of twins.

I’m insatiably curious and if I didn’t have twins I’m sure I’d be just as curious as people who don’t have twins in their personal histories are. I was enthralled, as an only child who basically raised herself feral, with the idea of having come into the world with another person during high school. There were a few sets of twins in my graduating class and, while I very much grew to adore the natural seclusion that comes with being an only child with less than zero social skills, I always harbored some level of jealousy for them. I probably wouldn’t ask the majority of these questions, were I not to be a twin mom and come upon a twin mom with her spawn out in public, but I get where they come from.

But, as that twin mom, it gets insanely difficult to tolerate the same questions and comments every time you just want to quickly dip in, to execute a quick bread milk and toilet paper reconnaissance mission, and get the hell back out again. The good news is, for any new twin moms reading this, that as they get older it tends to drop off and finally disappear for the most part. We still get the “are they twins” question, but that’s natural. One – Harper – is significantly taller than June and June does have a full-on baby face, so people often think they’re twins of the “Irish” variety.

Which is an offensive but effective little cliche in and of itself.

Anyhow, here are some of the most common questions and comments I got in the first few years of the girls’ life, along with the answers I wanted to give, had I had any balls whatsoever.

  • “Are they natural?”

No, I created them in the same laboratory where Dolly the Abomination of a Cloned Sheep was created. Please stop hissing and making the sign of the cross. Abominations need love too. Oh, oh I see. You’re asking if I used fertility treatments, which commonly result in the release of more than one egg and which have drastically increased the numbers of twin sets being born in recent years. Well sure. Sure I’ll answer that question. Because it’s absolutely information about me to which you are entirely entitled. The answer is no. No, I did not take fertility treatments. I found out I was pregnant on day three of my honeymoon, and I was on birth control at the time. I found out one week later that I was pregnant with twins. I never even planned to have kids, until I did, at which point I planned to have one kid, five years from when I actually had kids, once I had my master’s and was teaching writing at the college level while also closing in on my PhD. So. That’s that story. Thanks for your creepy interest in my lady parts, person I’ve never seen before in my life. Super excited to go through it with you, strange woman who smells like onions and regret.

  • “Do twins run in your family?”

Yep. As soon as I found out that I was to bring two new lives into this world my entire extended family broke out in a viral and sickeningly contagious case of “ooh, remember these twins in our family? And these? And these?” The stories go back generations upon generations, and had I known literally any of them I may have doubled up on the Yasmin. So. Does a sense of being entitled to inappropriately private information about the genetic histories of strangers run in your family? Just curious. I’ve heard its highly heritable, is all.

  • “Are they identical or fraternal?”

You’re exceedingly fortunate that they share a gender, otherwise I’d have to punch you right in the throat for general inanity, but seriously? You don’t see how one looks like an impossible combination of ginger and Asian and the other appears to be a member of the Hitler Youth with her neon blonde hair and vampire translucent skin? They’re about as identical as Queen Elsa and Tupac Shakur.

  • “Are you going to try for a boy next?”

Jesus Henry Rockefeller Christ, are you kidding me? I haven’t slept in three days because they appear to live in different time zones, lady. No. Remember that thing about planning to have one child five years in the future? I’m one hundred percent over plan and I know my limits. I am not going for a freaking boy next. I’m going for a hysterectomy next. There is plenty, I repeat, plenty of me in the world at this point. I do not feel the need to duplicate my epic tragedy of a genetic profile any more times.

  • “Do they have that twin thing where they have conversations in their heads?”

You mean like the hypothetical and intensely more satisfying fictional conversation I’m having with you in my head right now? No. They don’t. They talk at great length, out loud, whether you want them to or not, and it’s usually shrill because 95 percent of their time is spent arguing, bickering, or otherwise verbally lacerating one another. I wish to hell they would take that shit to the Miss Cleo airwaves, though. Because I’m extremely sensitive to sound and there are points in each day at which I want to pierce my eardrums with a chopstick because I suspect that the sensation would be exceedingly preferable to the sound of them yelling at one another about whose turn it is to pretend to be a flying unicorn named Carly Anderson Butterfly Legs. So.

  • “Do twins run on your side or your husband’s?”

Okay. Biology 101. Doesn’t matter what runs on his side. Could not possibly, possibly matter less than it does, which is negative fifteen thousand units of mattering. Because it’s all about either (a) two eggs or (b) one egg duplicating itself. I’m sure he’d be flattered at the assumption that his sperm had anything at all to do with it. But no, his sperm is not just that badass that it hit my egg and fractured it into two separate future people. He can have anything dissolved into his gene pool he wants. Including antifreeze. I did this. Me. My body sprouted two human beans. He’s literally nothing more than the Miracle Grow.

  • “You’ve got your hands full.”

Literally, yes I do. Thank you for noticing. I’m having hourly existential crises over everything from how to keep them both asleep for more than twenty minutes at a time to how I’m going to afford two separate college educations while currently drowning in an ocean of debt at the bottom which I will die, still in debt, for my own college education. My hands are so, so full. But I’m more than willing to handle any money you want to put in them anyway. Because there’s always, always room for a hundie.

  • “How do you feed them both?”

I mean…you see these basketballs swinging pendulously from my nursing bra? Because I don’t really know how you could miss them. They’re literally giving me scoliosis as we speak. I’m about to quit breastfeeding, though, because my nipples are literally weeping just from the reminder that it’s about that time again. There is blood, and salve, and pain, and anxiety, and crusty scabs involved in every meal, because this one is a vampire and that one falls asleep every time she nurses. Which is precisely why starting next week my answer to the question “how do you feed them both” will be WIC and Food Stamps. Because damn. Can’t wait for the moral nausea that comes with having to buy formula with WIC, though. That’s not super conspicuous at all. And people love seeing 130 dollars worth of formula being paid for with welfare. They’re super supportive as they wait behind me in line for the cashier to figure out how to complete a WIC transaction. Oh, you mean like, the physical strategy? It’s called the double football. I’m basically a really angry linebacker who is hate crying excessively every single time I have to feed them. It’s so great.

  • “Do you get any sleep at all?”

That’s a big fuck nope, good buddy. Thanks for reminding me. I’d have thought my bloodshot eyes and my completely unintentional burgeoning dreadlocks would have given that away, but. Apparently you just couldn’t quite tell. Maybe the fact that I’m hallucinating a rainbow aura of dancing Grateful Dead bears around your big stupid face as my synapses literally dissolve into a thick sludge that’s pooling somewhere around my brain stem is an indication that it’s time for a nap I’m never, ever going to get. It’s a miracle I made it to the store at all without stopping for a quart of those roadside snozzberries on the way. You look well-rested though. How nice for you. Bless your heart.

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