You can’t deny it.  You have one too.  And I don’t mean your Uncle Charles whose cats outnumber his terrible nicknames for you.  I don’t mean your little sister who spends her weekends crocheting tampons.  I don’t even mean that cousin of yours who eats dandruff but refuses anything with chocolate.

I mean all of those bizarre men and women you add to your human menagerie as you wander through life.  The goth girl from your pre-school who became your (secret) best friend and is now an exotic botanist.  The boy next door who forced you to drink the potions he made in his basement and is now a gay monk in Nepal.  The crush who broke your heart in junior high and is now a forty-year-old aspiring graffiti artist.  You know, all the people who make you feel just as awkward and embarrassed as your biological family, but without the blood connection.

These people make you stop and think What would my real friends think if I ever introduced them to these oddballs?  And then you realize two things: 1) these oddballs are your real friends and 2) you would never have gotten through that basket-weaving class/plane ride to Mongolia/audition for West Side Story/conference call with Richard Branson/freak gasoline fight accident/job as a dental floss salesman without them.

So let me introduce you to my weird little family.  There’s the angry Mancunian who goes out of his way to antagonize people but is one of the smartest and warmest men I know (on a good day, anyway).  There’s the uptight Brit who screamed bloody murder when his boss asked him to move desks and is now my boyfriend (he was just fighting for what’s right, after all).  There’s the ex-rocker father of two who gets a thrill out of the short skirts his son’s girlfriends wear who is now, well, still pretty pervy (every family’s got a dirty uncle, don’t they?).

There’s the American Irish nationalist who single-handedly made me a smarter at my job than I ever would have been otherwise.  There’s the loner professor who taught me in seven years everything I needed to know about confidence and self-belief.  There’s the failed-state refugee who showed me how to combine worldliness with godliness.  And of course, there’s the chain-smoking globetrotter who primed me to relish the unknown.

I love this weird little family of mine – and you haven’t even heard about half of them – but I live in fear of them, too.  Or at least of what would happen if they ever met each other, knew each other existed and shared the same real estate in my heart.  I mean really, what would the Israeli entrepreneur say to the Palestinian aid worker?  What would the Irish bartender do to the English socialite?  What, for the sake of all that is good in the world, would the kept housewife say to the village school teacher?

It could be great.  They might find common ground.  Might see the things I see in each of them in each other.  See that people who are nothing like what they’re used to can be fun too.

Or it might all come crashing down and end with barstools being thrown across the room, tears and blood mixing freely on the floor, war erupting along previously agreed international borders.

The eternal pessimist in me is inclined to believe the latter.  Which is lucky, in a way.  Because it means that I get to keep this weird little family, my weird little family, all to myself.