The XX Factor

Your Guide to Giving Gifts to Twins


This post is about a holiday conundrum, which is: How do you buy gifts for twins (like me)?

First of all, a disclaimer: With twins, as with regular people, it truly is the thought that counts. You can completely botch our gifts and we still won’t turn our evil supernatural twin powers against you (probably). That said, I can offer a few guidelines to help you singletons spread cheer (exactly equal amounts of cheer!) among the Mary Kates and Ashleys in your life without inflicting long term psychological damage.

Number one—and this may sound obvious—but do not get twins two of the exact same thing. We borrow each other’s stuff, so will feel cheated. Plus, it would be a shame for you to splurge on identical purchases, only to have one pronounced “better” for irrational reasons. Case in point: A grandmother once bequeathed my twin sister and me duplicate copies of Mad Magazine for our birthday. Though we didn’t understand any of the jokes or references—we were 7—my sister’s issue had a tiny crease on the cover, which, according to mystical twin cryptography, exposed me as the favorite. (Ironically, our interpretation in this case proved incorrect: Years after her death, my parents confirmed that Emmy was definitely that grandmother’s favorite. But I’ll save the details of that story for a different advice column.) Far better to go with one installment of Mad and one of, say, National Lampoon. That way, you don’t waste your money, and we at least have an incentive to read both journals in our search to suss out your preferred grandchild.

On the other hand, do not get us one gift to share! Unless it is very big or accommodates two people at once, we will fight over it. For instance, my sister and I loved the plastic jungle gym our parents installed in the basement the year we entered kindergarten. We did not love the endless rock-paper-scissors tournaments, dad-mediated negotiations and hair-pulling bar brawls that accompanied the single Talking Little Mermaid Doll another relative shipped us in the mail. Twins, also, are like bloodhounds. They are extraordinarily sensitive to the faintest whiff of a suggestion that someone may regard them as a unit. If you send one present for the both of us, you call our individuality into question. We may fuss over the gift out of principle—but we will also secretly hate ourselves for being Ariel-worshipping drones.

The practice of buying twins equivalent items—articles of clothing, say—in different colors opens up a gray area. While it works like a charm for elementary school kids, conveying a “separate but equal” vibe, siblings older than 12 may feel condescended to. Plus, the variant hues will spark a storm of speculation about the meaning of turquoise versus pink, especially if the association between color and twin persists for more than one year. (I was always turquoise, my sister always pink. Discuss.)

So you can’t get us each the same gift, you can’t get us one gift to share, and you can’t get us equivalent items with color or other minor variations. Which means that your only option is to get us each a similarly-valued but totally different gift. Mary Kate gets a balance bike and Ashley gets a scooter. Of course, we will rank those too, and tears will flow, but what else are you to do? I suppose you could just get one of us a gift and the other will make do. Email me for my address.