The Real Life of Twins at Communicating with Kids, by @cwknews

Cross-posted from: Communicating with Kids
Originally published: 15.07.15

I am an identical twin so I sat down to watch ‘Secret Life of Twins’ on ITV yesterday hoping that it would do something I’ve never seen before on t.v. by portraying the real life of twins, rather than the freak show entertainment we usually get.

But no, it didn’t; so here, for all parents of twins and everybody else in the world for that matter, is my critical response. I think I’ll start with a few requests to future t.v. producers of programmes about twins:

1. Would you stop getting twins to pose together doing exactly the same actions so that we can gasp at how amazing that is – they look AND act the same!

2. Can you stop the really patronising voice-over. Twins are not fluffy bunny rabbits.

3. Can you not act like the similarities between twins are the reality and the differences are aberrations. And please don’t sound SO startled when you mention those differences.

4. Can you get it into your heads that twins are TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE and start from there.

5. Can you stop talking about things common amongst any siblings (same mannerisms!!) as if they prove anything about twins, just because it’s twins exhibiting that characteristic.

6. Remember that any life events/interests/career choices etc experienced by both twins are proof of absolutely nothing unless measured against Coincidence, Chance, and Similarities Between Siblings and People From the Same Neighbourhood/Socio-Economic Background.

7. Stop getting only the twins that fit your cute fluffy theories onto programmes about twins – what about the ones who hate each other? Or never see each other? Or the ones who just shrug and say it’s not a big deal being a twin? Or the ones who have completely different lives and interests? Why do all your twins always fit the stereoptype?

8. Having an imaginary friend/sister is a very common phenomenon for children, especially if you are an only child. Please be aware that being a twin separated at birth gives absolutely no added meaning to this phenomenon and cannot be seen as ‘evidence’ for ANYTHING.

9. Next time, employ a psychologist to discuss the fact that when two twins are gushing enthusiastically about their close bond and the fact that they will be together forever, there is always one of them who looks slightly pensive about it.

I’m raging. What other group of people would be so consistently, relentlessly and ignorantly stereotyped (apart from women of course)?

For my fantasy programme The Real Life of Twins, I have a couple of questions:

1. Why is normal human psychology never applied to those born twins, as if twins were some kind of alien species? Fundamental human psychology tells us that every human being has a drive for self-identification: the question ‘who am I?’ is not mysteriously absent when you’re born a twin. Studies of twins seem to be interested only in the question ‘who are we?’ and if the professionals don’t consider us to be individuals what chance do we stand? I have a theory that this is why you get the extremes of twins who either dress the same for life (sometimes marrying twins and living together) on the one hand, or twins who hate each other and never meet on the other. Twins completely imbibe ‘we’ as their self-definition, so that you can never separate psychologically, or you have to completely reject your twin in order to do so.

Which leads us on to:

2. Why, in the case of identical twins, do we focus exclusively on genetic and innate factors and completely ignore the conditioning and socialisation we take into account for Ordinary People? To what extent are twins conditioned into their role by the whole of society? Everywhere twins look, the message is reinforced that we’re supposed to do telepathy, have a special relationship, talk a secret language and be the same. That’s how twins win approval from the world, and as children of course you have no idea that there is any other way of being, or that the world may be wrong.

So those would be the questions my Real Life of Twins would be based on. No, strike that; given that we have never before seen these questions addressed in any programme about twins, maybe it’s ‘Secret Life of Twins’ that would actually be the most appropriate title for my show.

Stephanie Davies Arai: I’m a feminist, mother of four and I blog about how we communicate with our children. Very interested in cultural influences and neuroscience. @cwknews

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