People stare at me, often. When I’m with my sibling, people stare more often. We’re identical twins, and when we’re together people at us constantly. Never do I hear about microaggressions directed towards twins, though they are common.
People other us, and the nature of many questions and comments we receive suggests people see us as siblings who are in competition with one another. “Who’s older” suggests a power binary, as does, “Who is the evil one?” Only recently have I come to understand that the extent to which people pay attention and infantilize us is due to our neurodivergence. We present unlike most people, yet carry similar mannerisms.
Neither one of us masks our autism anymore, not that I’m sure of the extent to which we either of us ever masked, but both of us wears facial masks whenever we leave the house. Despite the masks over our mouths people still shout and stare. I couldn’t have predicted that the masks would make our twinship more fun for people. People in passing cars stare; some shout from open windows, reminding us about our twinhood, either by asking us if we’re twins or simply shouting, “Twins.”
People seem to think we were created for their entertainment, or that we want their attention. “If I pinch you, will you feel it?” is another common question, as if we’re the same person. These questions make both of us feel unsafe, especially since we’re experiencing a pandemic and people do not physical distance when they approach us. I also feel unsafe when people refer to us as cute, as if we’re five rather than thirty-five. Writer Nancy Park Hong captures my feelings of being called cute this way:
(1) One has an overwhelming desire to eat what is cute, writes Sianne Ngai, and therefore cuteness is ideal for mass commodification because of its consumability. Cute objects are feminine, defenseless, and diminutive things, provoking our maternal desires to hold and nuzzle them…But they can also unlock our sadistic desires to master and violate them.
All my life, I’ve been told by many people, strangers and otherwise, that the attention my sibling and I receive for our twinship is flattering, a good thing. though they can’t possibly know this. What I know is that I don’t feel safe or flattered when I’m othered as a twin. I don’t see how anyone could feel safe when stared, shouted, and laughed at, when treated like a plaything.
(1) Quoted from Nancy Park Hong’s 2020 essay collection Minor Feelings.