Tuesday, June 24, 2014


"Twincest" was a term I first heard at Smith College where it was used to describe couples who were attracted to each other based on similar physical characteristics. I cod see it there: girls with pixie haircuts holding hands outside of Neilson Library; ultra-femmes with long, silky hair sharing a shake at the Campus Center. But in China, the term took on an even more literal meaning.

A couple in matching monster shirts in Beidaihe.
Predominately in crowded public spaces, but also daily life, couples and friends wear corresponding or identical outfits. We've asked our foreign friends, our students, and some Chinese adults we've met and are entertaining several of their theories regarding this simultaneously awkward and amusing tendency. One Chinese adult told me that she and her friends do this to show everybody else how important they are to each other. Several of my students suggested that it was just so cute. Our Chinese boss' Chinese son hopped on the racism train and suggested that "we can't tell each other apart either."

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that this has been an endless source of entertainment over the past year,
Three friends proving that it takes
 more than trust to make a lasting friendship.
particularly as I'd assumed that, outside the demographic of middle school girls, everybody actively sought not to dress identically in public. 

What people wear ranges from matching or complementary shirts to whole identical outfits down to the shoes, and I'm assuming, he underwear. The outfits (underwear, too) are available for purchase as a set for men and women and for the Chinese nuclear family. As far as I can tell, twinning is considered pretty normal. Until white people do it.

The family outfits on store mannequins. 
Jake and our friend Jess have twin birthdays, so, as a joke and a tribute to where we are, I bought the three of us corresponding shirts; different colors, same handsome monkey. Over the course of about 20 minutes, we had to pose for three pictures (not including our own), one in which we had to pose with a baby.

A couple walking down the street in QHD.
Having our photographs taken isn't new; we're local celebrities and people snap photos of us frequently, some more blatantly than others. But I have to wonder what becomes of these photos. I can only imagine that the one of three white people in matching monkey shirts and a Chinese baby is going to end up in some family photo album with the caption, "White people do the darnedest things."

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