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I present a true story from my past, modified only to condense the exchange mildly for sake of a more readable puzzle.

Alex's friends were curious about the modification of their lunchtime routine. "Why are you visiting him?" they asked me.

"It's Alex's birthday, can't I visit to celebrate my little brother's birthday?" I responded, as I handed out the last of the small batch of birthday cupcakes I had brought to the second friend.

"You're not his brother, who are you really?" came a skeptical response from the other friend, despite the friends having never met Alex's family before.

"Sure I am, just ask Alex! Why couldn't I be his brother?" I responded.

I got no response to this question. The children clearly still didn't believe me, but just as clearly didn't know how to respond to my question. After a few seconds of confused glances the two children appeared to decide it not worth further inquiry and let the matter drop, no child should look a gift-cupcake in the mouth after all.

I had spoken no lie during the exchange, but I admit I still did feel slightly guilty about the exchange. Only slightly though, I had a good enough reason for my reply and no harm was done. The three young friends and I enjoyed a pleasant and fondly remembered birthday lunch afterwards.

Can anyone explain the situation, or why the children were skeptical about my answer? What's unusual about this situation?

If you figure out the rest you may very well be able to guess my 'good reason', but I wouldn't call that a mandatory part of the puzzle, the rest hopefully can be explained.

In response to a very valid guess, but not accurate in this case, my parent's have never adopted or fostered a child. Nor do I have any step-siblings.

EDIT:

I clearly did not anticipate the number of valid answers to this question, I should have taken more time to exclude obvious answers. I've accepted an answer that was close enough, having realized with so many other answers that fit the question it was unlikely one would pick mine. However, below is the real explanation to the story:

Alex (not his real name obviously) was a 'little brother' in Big Brother's Big Sister's of America, with me assigned as his 'big brother'.
I visited Marshal every Monday during his lunch/recess hour, since I was only doing the in-school variant of BBBS, which caused his classmates to wonder why Alex got a special visitor every Monday when no one else did.
However, Alex seemed to prefer not to tell everyone he was in BBBS. Thus rather then having them pressure him into explaining my visits I sidetracked them with the conversation above. We were completely different races, clearly not sharing even one parent >!between us, thus the reason the children were rather skeptical of my claim >!that we were brothers. However, they were young children who were only >!beginning to understand the concept of being politically correct, and as >!such didn't yet know how to bring up the obvious discrepancy, choosing to >!let the matter rest rather then figure out how to touch on the subject of >!race. for my part I felt mildly guilty, both for misleading them with my >!'honesty', and for exploiting their uncertainty about race. However, >!knowing Alex would be far happier if the discussion of BBBS wasn't touched >!on I figured this was the easiest option, and no real harm was done.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Huh, it sounds like Alex wasn't actually at the birthday lunch $\endgroup$ – Areeb Aug 5 '16 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ When I was a kid, we were taught to avoid strangers handing out sweets or cake. $\endgroup$ – bg6471 Aug 5 '16 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ Are you sure you're not Alex's sister? He could then be your brother, but you could never be his brother.. $\endgroup$ – PeteCon Aug 5 '16 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ Given the wide range of guesses that have already been made, most of which are at least plausible, I've put this question on hold for now. Would it be possible for you to update it to significantly limit the possible scope of answers? Thank you! $\endgroup$ – Aza Aug 5 '16 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ Could you post your intended answer to the question, please? - I'm curious :) $\endgroup$ – Shuri2060 Aug 5 '16 at 20:57

12 Answers 12

8
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Maybe..

You (or Alex) are adopted and are of different ethnicities, so obviously are not related by blood?
Your good reason would be that you don't want to get into details about it, because this can be a very sensitive topic.

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  • $\begingroup$ very reasonable deduction, and a valid answer to a puzzle. However, not correct in this case. My parents never adopted or fostered. Care to try again though? $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 5 '16 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ The correct answer was only mildly different, so it's likely not worth expecting others to be exact, I couldn't think of a good hint to point to it. In fact he was my little brother only because his mother signed him up for big brother's big sisters of America, and I was assigned as his Big Brother. Otherwise your pretty much exactly correct on how it played out $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 5 '16 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ Aha, that does make sense. I appreciate the accept but you could always self-answer with that explanation if you'd rather :) Maybe with some additional story you could limit potential answers? I think it's a good concept for a puzzle, just too many possible interpretations as it's worded right now. $\endgroup$ – user812786 Aug 5 '16 at 21:01
7
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At no time did you say you were Alex's brother, so Alex is your nephew who shares the same birthday as his father, who is your little brother.

"It's Alex's birthday"

True

"can't I visit to celebrate my little brother's birthday?"

Of course you can visit to celebrate Alex's father's birthday

"You're not his brother, who are you really?" came a skeptical response from the other friend, despite the friends having never met Alex's family before.

"Sure I am"

You certainly are the brother of your little brother - how dare they say you aren't!!

"just ask Alex!"

Your nephew will attest to the fact that you are his father's brother

"Why couldn't I be his brother?" I responded.

There's no reason at all why you can't be Alex's father's brother.

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4
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Perhaps...

You and Alex go to church together, and are in a covenant. You are 'brothers', even if you are not members of the same family.
Admittedly, I don't know how much sense this makes from an actual covenant's perspective, but it's my best guess.

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4
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I will warn right now that this answer is a spoiler for a book as well as for this puzzle. So if you have not read the book:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

then you may not want to read this answer:

Is Alex a chimpanzee? Your parents have never adopted a child but they may (in the 1970s) have adopted a chimpanzee and raised it as a human child.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is very good, because it explains why the OP didn't speak lies. $\endgroup$ – svavil Aug 5 '16 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe not even the part about the adoption, just the similarities between our DNA. This answer would also explain why he keeps referring to "visiting Alex," and why Alex is not speaking for himself here. $\endgroup$ – C. Woods Aug 5 '16 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ It might actually be less of a spoiler if you remove the first part of your answer. Nowhere in your actual answer to the riddle do you refer to the book in question, so no one would have any reason to think they're being spoiled for something else if you didn't bring it up first yourself. $\endgroup$ – C. Woods Aug 5 '16 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think the answer would seem implausible without a reference to say that this stuff really did happen in the 1970s (especially referring to them as brothers). I guess I could have linked to another reference about it that didn't mention the book. $\endgroup$ – Vicky Aug 6 '16 at 17:21
4
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Perhaps you and your brother look nothing alike.

On rare occasions, when two people are mixed ethnicity, their children can happen to look very different. Here's an example of twin sisters who look very different: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBDusvtonWQ

Update:

Alternatively, you could be much older. A difference in age of up to 20 years is not impossible, but would look highly suspicious.

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  • $\begingroup$ Plus young kids tend to vastly overestimate adult's ages.. one of my friends was recently told that she must be "like 45" since she was out of college (she's 26) :P $\endgroup$ – user812786 Aug 5 '16 at 17:50
4
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Because

You aren't Alex's brother. You're someone else's brother who shares the same birthday.

That's why you never were really lying, but the statement could clearly be misinterpreted.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was ninjaed because of my slow typing :( $\endgroup$ – YowE3K Aug 5 '16 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @YowE3K, yes slightly slower with the correct answer. That's something. Or at least I think it's correct!!?? $\endgroup$ – John Aug 5 '16 at 19:55
3
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You had spoken no lie because

You are Alex's brother

The children are sceptical because

You looked like a girl (maybe just long hair, maybe transvestite - an unusual situation for some young children I imagine)

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3
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I think it's because:

You're much older than Alex. Kids sometimes believe someone significantly older can only be a parent or ancle/aunt.

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2
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Is it maybe because

you are a girl? So you two are siblings, but still you are not his brother, but sister.

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought of that, but according to the narrative, the children are the ones who assumed the narrator was male, but couldn't be Alex's brother. $\endgroup$ – user3294068 Aug 5 '16 at 18:52
1
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Is it because

Alex is your younger sister's husband. He is actually a brother-in-law. The kids confusion could be for several reasons. Perhaps he was a different ethnicity or was a much older person (yet perhaps physically "littler").

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1
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You and Alex could be from different races of parents and noticeably different looking in appearance. You asked the children "...Why couldn't I be his brother?" to see what they would say about the difference in appearance which also led you to feel slightly guilty.

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0
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Alex has a brother that know, and you aren't him. Since they haven't met you and Alex hasn't mentioned you, they assume Alex only had one brother.

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