It was an otherwise mundane Saturday at Costco.
With three kids in tow, I sauntered through the aisles, plying myself and the kids with free samples and piling up my shopping cart with bulk items, many of which I didn't really need.
We lined up in the checkout aisle and I took a deep breath before the final total was told to me by the cashier (it's always more than you think it's going to be when shopping at this particular store).
Making our way to our car, with my boys sitting together in the front of the shopping cart, we were stopped by what looked to be a kind-hearted woman. Smiling, first at me, then at the kids -- with a focus on the boys in particular -- she stopped me.
"Are they twins?," she asked.
"Yes. They're identical," I responded.
"Awww! They're so cute!"
"Thank-you," I replied.
Looking at both of them with wonderment and curiosity, I thought I knew what she was going to ask next.
She's going to ask me how I tell them apart, I thought to myself.
I was sure that this question must have been coming because it's often one of the first things that people ask when they see identical twins -- at least it has been in my experience.
Imagine my surprise, then, when she hit me with this doozy:
"Which one is the 'good' twin and which one is the 'evil' twin?"
She was serious.
My first thought was a mix of confusion and bewilderment as I tried to make sense of her question. "Good" twin? "Evil" twin? Was she for real?
Within a few milliseconds, my confusion simultaneously turned to anger and irritation about her presumptive comment.
How does one answer such a question? Was I to just respond -- in front of both of my twins, and my 11-year-old daughter as well -- "Oh, THIS one. THIS one is evil, this other one is good."
Was that really her expectation?
The mythology surrounding twins - particularly identical twins - is particularly fraught with the erroneous perspective that there is a "good" twin and, therefore, a "bad" one. Like Yin and Yang, black and white, opposites must co-exist and apparently this truth must be the case with identical twins. Its apparently not enough for some to accept that twins - identical or not - are not necessarily polar opposites. There is no "good" or "bad" twin any more than there is a "good" and "bad" set of siblings that haven't had the unique experience of being born on the same day (or just a few minutes apart).
Identical twins, by definition, are certainly similar in many ways. From the obvious -- how they look; to the not so obvious -- their thought processes, they way they relate to each other and others, and other quirks of their personalities. That being said, they are individuals, not "good," not "bad," just different. Yet there seems to be a desire amongst some to attribute polarities to each twin. This needs to stop.
As the parent of identical twins, it's hard enough to try to foster feelings of independence within them on a day-to-day basis. Imagine having someone who looks exactly like you? Of course you'd want to be seen as an individual. Kids will misbehave - whether they're a twin or not - it's a normal part of being a kid. So why is it when a twin misbehaves, they're automatically labeled as "bad" or "evil?" Ironically, they are perceived to be the same (particularly in the case of identical twins) yet opposites. How is this logical or fair?
Surely there are sibling rivalries that exist amongst twins, but the same can be said for any siblings, twin status notwithstanding.
There are no polarities when it comes to twins. No "good" one vs. "bad one;" no angelic child versus evil spawn, no duelling forces, vying for the top spot in their respective categories. There are just kids, warts, scabbed knees and all. Though the mythology and expectation of opposite-minded twin siblings is appealing to some, it is, fortunately, untrue.
To the woman who very rudely asked me which one of my kids was "good" and which one was "evil," and to the many others who believe in this false dichotomy, so sorry to disappoint.