Last Sunday morning when I let the dog out of his bedroom in the laundry after a good night’s sleep, or at least what I presumed had been a good night’s sleep, he would not come out, as is his custom.
Usually he makes straight for the cat door unprompted and goes into the garden to do his business but this morning he would not leave his bed.
When I called to him after several prompts he hobbled out. He could not put any weight on one of his front legs and it looked to be broken. He managed to limp out and then flopped on the floor.
I panicked, consulted my husband and both agreed that we would need to take him to the vet despite its being a Sunday.
I rang the Lort Smith animal centre to make an appointment. The Lort Smith is miles away in north Melbourne but they provide seven days a week attention.
I sat in a queue on the telephone, the ninth caller. I put the call on loudspeaker and had time to make a cup of tea and to bring the dog some breakfast and water which he sniffed at but declined.
I was even more worried then and went out phone in hand listening to the prompts in an effort to distract myself. I was now sixth in line in the queue. I went to get the newspaper and when I returned there was the dog on all four legs eating his breakfast.
So there you have it: an emergency that converted into almost nothing in the space of ten minutes.
We decided the dog must have slept on his foot and his leg had gone numb, as sometimes happens to us humans. He would have woken up to a numb leg or to pins and needles and it needed time for the circulation to start moving again.
What a relief. And so it is. I tell myself. I can panic so easily and sometimes the panic is quickly resolved.
I did not panic when I went to meet fellow blogger, Isabel Doyle, on Saturday at 11 am in the cafe Moravia on top of the Bourke Road hill in Camberwell, but I was a little apprehensive. My husband had walked up the hill with me for company. He joked that I might ring him if it looked as though there would be trouble, ‘If you get kidnapped or anything’.
I had told him I was off to meet a writing friend whom I had not yet met offline.
‘How will you identify her?’ he asked. Isabel had emailed to tell me she would be seated close to the front of the café if not at an outside seat and she would be carrying a pink floppy hat.
And there on the chair at the second table as I walked in was the pink floppy hat hung over a chair like a flag, and there was Isabel.
We shook hands, not so timidly as I might have expected, but with some hesitation.
It was her accent that caught my attention first, beyond the sparkle of her eyes and a strange look of familiarity, although as far as I know I have never seen Isabel in real life not even in pictures on her blog.
Later, she asked if I had recognised her from her blog profile, a painting. Her profile features an abstract portrait and to be sure I could not recognise anyone from it, but after the event I could see similarities, something about the colours in the portrait and the lines.
They take in the dark of Isabel’s short wavy hair and the colour that seems to surround her pale skin, her bright cheeks, a white top and for me some sense of vermilion in the air, like sparks, or a fuchsia pink, maybe, the colour of her floppy hat.
I am not so good at recounting physical details, as I am at remembering her words and voice. We talked at length about Isabel’s accent, her ‘ou’ vowels that she told me her daughter, who is into linguistics, reckons gives her away. There’s something of her Canadian experience, something of her British background and something Australian all rolled up in one.
For some reasons accent matters to me. The sound of Isabel’s voice was charming. I could only apologise for my own broad Australian nasal twang. Long has it troubled me.
For the next two hours and twenty minutes we talked – as you do – about her life, about mine, details of which do not belong on a blog.
We were interrupted after a time by Isabel’s husband and son. They were on a mission to exchange the shirts that Isabel’s husband had bought the day before, but which were not quite the right fit.
Isabel’s son had come along for driving experience. They, too, father and son, had jokingly worried about their wife and mother being spirited away.
The idea is that it is dangerous to encounter people you meet online in person. It has become the new mantra, akin to the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ we learned as children.
I am wary but my instincts told me all would be well with Isabel, and it was. It was such a privilege to meet her and share something of our lives, our thoughts, our ideas, and our writing.
Isabel lives far from here and for this reason we will not meet except perhaps occasionally.
My time with Isabel reminds me of some of the lovely encounters I have made with women I have met at conferences. They walk into my life and then out again and we lose contact.
But at least Isabel and I have an ongoing hand shake through our respective blogs to keep our connection alive. A writer in exile who to my mind came out of exile briefly to share time with me and for this I am grateful.
We made a connection.
58 thoughts on “Don’t talk to strangers”
I love your writing, Elisabeth. I am starting to feel already that I can sit back, relax and sink into the experience and I will not be disappointed. I'm relieved that your dog is okay. Nothing pains me like a dog in pain. And I felt a small pain when you said "things which don't belong on blogs." I had a small panic attack and decided that that would be almost everything I write. But I loved the experience of going along to meet Isabel with you. Thank you for sharing. And I'm sure I would find your accent completely charming xx
Your dog story sure got a laugh from me.
Yes, I think it was the same place!
Dear Elisabeth, first I apologize for my lack of visits, I seem to have a hard time balancing my off-line and on-line life these days.;)
Love this story as I can of course relate to meeting people face to face after I met them on-line. It is an experience almost through most of my adult life.
My first such an encounter was with a friend I met in a chat room in 1994. We met in RL (real life) in 1996. I have many relationships in my past, romantic or platonic, all instigated online and just like in real life, the outcome of these meeting varied. Some stayed in my life, some only crossed my paths.;)
On another note, glad your dog is fine and I recognize the panic, I am like that too. And I love that large ring on the picture, whether it is your hand or not.;)
A bit late but still, happy 2012 to you and yours dear Elisabeth and thank you for all your visits and lovely comments- I share with you the sentiments when it comes to amber.;)
Interesting post Elizabeth. I suppose there is always danger in meeting someone who one only knows on line (after all we could make a complete new persona for ourselves couldn't we?) but I have now met five people who I blog with (one even in New York, where she took us around for the whole morning) and each has been a super experience.
So glad it was nothing serious with your dog.
Must be nice meeting an online friend.
By the Way, my husband and I met online! LOL!
I think I'm a pretty cautious person in so-called 'real life' and have met bloggers after a lot of reading and commenting has occurred.
Even though we've talked before on this blog about how we all edit ourselves, blur some of our memories and write from our own points of view, a good sense of who the (regular) writer as a person is, comes through.
All of the bloggers I've met have been brilliant, and I'm glad that you and Isobel hit it off. Glad too that goggie just had a wonky leg from sleeping on it!
It is good that you made a connection with a fellow blogger. Several of us have talked about having a blog meet up. I like the idea in a way but then also like the thought of not getting too close and personal. Stuff that I have to consider.
you always bring disparate points into a story which might be dismissed as unrelated but i know you better. i don't think you write anything by mistake, and so i lift up the story of the numb paw and try to carry it into the story of our apprehensions of meeting people on-line. and just why is it that we feel on-line people are any more dangerous than real life people and just what is the difference? they are in fact, real life people and unfortunately, there are dangers with meeting anyone at any time through any venue. but how do we choose to live? reactionary and in fear? or do we push through our discomfort?
i have many times over again, thrown myself into intimate proximity with bloggers (and i don't just mean the obvious, although i have fallen in love with people in this distance, all kinds of love) and i have never come to harm, except the harm of living and learning:) anything might happen to my body at any time, no matter which sphere. i choose to rise in the morning and step out upon my prickly paws.
i always enjoy your writing, elisabeth and your investigation. i see you pressing upon yourself:)
Thank you so much for your visit. I've now had the pleasure of reading your post. I've also enjoyed meeting quite a few fellow bloggers, and even had the reverse experience of meeting someone "in real life" before realizing that she was a fellow blogger.
Happy New Year!
I'm glad ever thing turn for the better with you and your family pet. But the rule is still their," No talking to strangers when we are out of are safety zone". Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading what you wrote.
I can understand your family's concern at you meeting someone you had never met before even if they were a blogger that you felt you knew. Pleased that the meeting went well.
I think I'd be less afraid of being kidnapped by one of my readers than by them being disappointed at what I'm like in the real, as opposed to the virtual, world. For starters, I'm far less articulate in person than I am on-line. I also stammer quite a bit. Kind of like a cross between Popeye and Bob Newhart. I can hear the sounds of illusions shattering as we speak.
Glad your meeting went well. Also glad the dog is OK.
This is such a lovely paean to a different type of friendship. I, too, have met several of my online friends — it's been a wonderful experience all around. There's an intimacy forged here that some might disdain, but I have found it real and authentic.
I keep thinking that my dogs are dying but then they DON'T and I am more upset that they haven't then at the thought that they might because I AM SICK OF HAVING DOGS and that's just the truth and if that makes me a bad person, well, I am going to hell.
Sounds like you two had a real good natter for two hours+. Did you hear about the teenage girl who commited suicide because she was being bullied online it was on last nights news very sad indeed. It does pay to be cautious when meeting someone you've met online :-).
sometimes I wonder about people I have never met in the flesh, but have corresponded on line. They aren't really strangers, but even the honest to God don't know them from Atom or Gene I'll almost always pipe up with at least a "thank you"
otherwise I feel bad about accepting candy from from them.
We made a connection.
That's a lovely ending.
For me, I don't see that an appointment to meet an online friend in real life is any different than keeping an appointment for a job interview meeting, or exchanging conversation with the person at the next table and finding a new friend. Always making sure that such meetings are in a public place is important.
Only outsiders from Australia could enjoy my accent, India. To the locals it must be more of the same. The dog is fine. I too find animals of any type in pain painful. They cannot speak for themselves, rather like babies.
Finally, although I talked about the things that can't be put onto a blog, there are many things that we put on blogs, and some approve while others do not. Blogging is a subjective world as much as reading and writing generally.
Thanks, India. It's good to see you here.
Given you've just told us the story of your struggles with pain, Snow, the dog story would make you laugh.
If only your pain were so easy to expel with time. Thanks, Snow.
We synchronized well, Isabel, in more ways than one. I did not even think about the location at the time, other than it's a place I know well, and occasionally visit, but it shall from now be forever more etched onto my memory as the place where I met you and your pink floppy hat.
The ring is mine, Zuzana. I bought it from a shop not far from the cafe where Isabel and I met. I bought it because it reminds me of silver lace. Please don't stess about occasional visits. It can be hard to visit other blogs. I know myself. I rely on a few moments here and there and I am rarely systematic in my visits. I come when I can, and for the rest I hope people will understand.
It's interesting to read that you have et so many people in RL through the Internet. I expect it is as you say, just an extension of meetings in RL. Some take and some don't.
You've done well, Pat, five people met through your blog. It just goes to say, it may not be as dangerous as people imagine. Maybe it's like the old saying. There are more dangers enacted through those we know well, than with strangers, but still it pays to be wary in life, with everyone. Though maybe not too wary such that we miss out on opportunities for genuine friendship, sometimes where we might east expect.
How wonderful, Little sprite, that you and your husband met online. Again it seems it happens more and more. The internet becomes an introduction agency or a place in which to meet, thereafter the hard work of connection must happen for relationships to last, but it can start online as well as anywhere else.
There's something magic about being sixth in line …
As to meeting people with whom you've developed only an online relationship – happened to me a couple times, neither was dangerous, both were poets I knew from posting rough drafts on a comment board, one was a bust only in that there was no in-person chemistry, the other came to dinner with his wife. A couple years later the wife became a published Y.A. author and has since far outpaced in readership & earnings anything any of us poets can imagine.
Then there's this:
That's a link to a website about a documentary some NYC kids made about the online relationship one of them had gotten involved in. They end up discovering the girl he thinks he's in love with is not at all who she says she is, but neither is she a scary monster. She's somebody looking for a new life, and maybe the only new life she can live is a fantasy. It's worth seeing.
Our bird injured his wing a few weeks back. It was while we had this year’s murine visitors. I can only assume that a mouse was rooting around in his seeds and, panicking, he flew into the wall of the cage. Cockatiels are prone to panic attacks like that and it wasn’t the first time we’d heard a cry in the night followed by the flutter of wings in fact only a couple of nights ago while Carrie and I were up at about four in the morning being unable to sleep we heard this thud from the cage floor which, following his accident, Carrie had raised using cardboard boxes so he wouldn’t have so far to fall. This time he just looked confused and after some comforting words from me he clambered back up to his perch but we still left the cover off for the rest of the night. Sometimes when he’s like that I’ll take him out and let him sit on my shoulder for a couple of hours which seems to reassure him. But the night of the mouse was different. Following it he lost the ability to fly and would shriek every now and then in pain when he moved his wing the wrong way. I don’t think there’s anything worse than a sick pet, not even a sick kid. Cockatiels are hard-wired to hide weakness so it’s hard to tell when they’re injured or ill. Carrie did her best to examine him and in the process she thinks she might have adjusted the wing in such a way that it no longer hurt him because a few days after that he made his first attempts to fly again. They were sorry attempts and a couple of times he missed the mark and ended up down the back of the couch or in the middle of the carpet and the look of embarrassment on his face you simply had to see to believe. It took a few weeks but he’s back to his old self now I'm pleased to say but for days on end all he’d do was sit motionless on the top of his cage and there was nothing I could do for him. A cat or a dog you can pet but birds—at least our bird—don’t usually like to be handled that way. Scritches are fine, on his terms and when he’s in the mood but that’s it.
As far as meeting online friends in the real world the only time, for me, was when I went to Marion McCready’s poetry book launch where I met her, Colin Will and a couple of other poets from online. It took a great deal of effort for me to go. Since I stopped working I really have become quite reclusive and I had to push myself to go. I’ve met a few of Carrie’s friends—four, I think—two have been to the flat (one even stayed with us a few days), one we met in Dublin and another when we were in the States. Others have suggested we meet up but I’ve never done anything to encourage them to formalise their plans. Oh, and then there’s Carrie—how could I forget her?—who I met online and ended up living with about thirteen months later; I still have no idea how that happened. And that’s been fifteen years now.
I have spoken to one person from online over the phone. I was helping him with his poetry collection and it seemed stupid to try and communicate via e-mails so I looked up his phone number and gave him a call. And very enjoyable it was too mainly because we had an agenda so there was no awkwardness; we exchanged pleasantries and then got down to the business in hand. I hate small talk. I never do anything to talk about. The first thing my daughter asked me when we did our late Xmas this year was, “What have you been doing today?” and my mind went a complete blank. What had I been doing? “Getting ready for you,” I finally opted for.
I think it’s highly unlikely that you and I will ever meet. A part of me would like to meet you. I know you’re real in the same way I know that Australia is real—I don’t feel any pressing need to get on a plane and go check—but I still think I’d like to confirm that reality. Then I start to think about all the practical considerations and the more I imagine everything that could go wrong—no I don’t think you’re secretly an axe murderer—the less I think that it’s that important. The odds that we would disappoint each other are high at least I’m convinced I would disappoint you.
I thought that you might appreciate the story on two counts, Kath, given your recent encounter with Plastic Mancunian and your love of dogs.
There is quite a difference between the real person and the blog identity, Kath, and yet there is also some overlap. I had an image of Isabel in my mind, and she did not materialise as I had imagined, and yet in someways she did. Now it's hard to get back to my past imaginings because everything has been overtaken by the so-called reality.
I read Isabel's blog now very differently from how I used to read it, as if some of the gaps are filled, though of course there are still many left to my imagination.
I'd be wary of too much meeting up with other bloggers, Syd, however much my experience with Isabel has proved beneficial to us both.
I can also imagine a not so good experience as well with someone else perhaps and there is only so much time in the week for such meetings.
You have to trust your instincts in this. It also unsettles your family who can feel excluded unless they're included to some degree, otherwise I think it can become divisive.
But I suppose that applies to any relationship.
The harm of living and loving is a good way of describing this thing called relationship, erin, whatever, however and whenever it occurs.
I'm glad you see the link between the two aspects of my story here, because despite your confidence in me I did not see it at first.
I write about what presses in on me and then see where it takes me. I had intended to write about my encounter with Isabel in the morning but my experience with the dog jumped the queue.
Now, with your help I can see a clear connection. Just as our dog was not hurt, so, too, I have managed to withstand what others might panic about – an offline encounter with a fellow blogger. Obviously it has happened many times before and will continue to do so.
How extraordinary, Frances, to meet some in real life and then to realise you know them from the blogosphere. That I came close to in New year's eve when I met a woman who introduced herself as Pandora and i was about to say, are you the blogger Pandora when she turned to me and said hello, sixth in line. Quite a shock, a very pleasant shock as it turned out, but we never intended to meet.
It happened by chance. With Isabel it was planned so I had more time for misgivings.
It sounds as though your offline blogger encounters were all good. So far most people I've talked to here seem to experience as much, though clearly there's the odd person who's had his/her fingers burned.
It's good to see you here, Life line. I know what you mean about staying safe. Your blog title itself suggests as much. But I was careful and stayed safe. Thanks.
I'd be nervous if one of my family were to encounter a stranger from online, but I too would want to trust their judgement, now that they are all adults.
Still it was wise to have back-ups in the form of others who knew where I was going.
Thanks, Cheshire Wife.
Disappointment with our fellow bloggers when we actually meet them is, as you say,Kirk, a far greater likelihood than getting kidnapped.
But isn't it funny how we rise to the extreme fantasy and ignore the deeper possibility.
I hope I would not be disappointed meeting you, nor you me, Kirk, despite our respective vocal defects.
I agree, Elizabeth, our blog connections can be as real and authentic as any of our real connections, only they are different.
We do not have as much to go on. We rely on words and images and sometimes even sound, but it's not the same as face to face.
Technology is a great help but it also comes between us. It also allows many more connections than we could otherwise possibly enjoy in real life.
I'm very grateful to have both in my life: the real and the virtual. To me both can become their opposites: the real can become virtual and vice versa.
I get sick of our dog from time to time, Ms Moon and then I love him to bits. It's an up and down thing.
I don't think you're at all bad for being sick of your dogs, especially when they are multiple and when they give you trouble over time.
Ours is less troublesome as he ages, but he too can be demanding and when he piddles inside, I too find I can't stand him, but I have to forgive him otherwise what's the point of having him. Though truth is, he's not my dog. He belongs to certain of the daughters.
Thanks, Ms Moon.
Cyberspace bullying is a significant problem, Windsmoke, particularly among the younger folk.
I can only hope it doesn't happen to me or mine, or to you and yours.
Somehow it seems to me it's less likely to happen to older folk, though that said, perhaps it's more of an issue for lonely and vulnerable folk regardless of their age.
I suppose all our offerings on line can be like candy, Who, and therefore can be seen as a seduction or as a generous offering. I suppose it all depends on the motive behind the offer.
Hopefully, it's a good one, and when we offer our comments to one another we do not do so to corrupt or falsely seduce, but to extend the hand of friendship and an empathic listening ear.
Thanks, Dusty Who.
I agree River, in such circumstances, it's important to meet in a public place, otherwise who knows what might happen.
As you say blog encounters are not unlike other meetings with so-called strangers.
As soon as we meet for the first time, after only the first few minutes, we are no longer strangers.
I'd heard of Catfish but it was good to see more about it through our link. I might try to get hold of the film. It's certainly made me curious as to how the encounter ended.
My experience is so much less exciting I believe but perhaps more pleasurable as sometimes the gentler life experience can be.
The story about your dog gives a new perspective on telephone queues! I loved reading about your meeting with Isabel. Sometimes we just have to trust our feelings and take a chance.
Dog saved you from a hefty vet bill.
Once my son, then 3 years old, fell, couldn't move his hand, a whole day in the hospital A & E, after a giant bill, and Xray, 5 hours later, he found he could move his hand.
Great post, we get to meet so many lovely people in the blogging world, thanks for your kind comments
Disappointed? Me,Jim? Never.
I used to think the same of Gerald Murnane, that he or I would disappoint one another if we were ever to meet.
I'd never want to meet him, I thought. Better simply to write to one another. But then we met, a number of times now, at book launches, at talks, at his wife's funeral, and it hasn't altered our relationship or our correspondence.
That's because our relationship exists through writing to one another. And that's because Gerald's like you.
He has his friends, he has his way of life and that's enough. In some ways I'm that way inclined, too.
I listened to my third daughter last night. She was over for dinner following a visit to Sri Lanka for a short holiday. She talked on and on to her father about all the amazing sights they has seen, she and her boyfriend and her friends, the ones who had traveled with them. She raved about all the experiences they had shared.
My husband listened, enthralled. He too loves to travel. He'll be off with another daughter, the oldest and her small family, to Thailand and Cambodia in a couple of weeks time.
I will stay at home, happy for my own small world.
'You should travel more,' my daughter says. 'You should not stay cooped up as you do' Not that I am cooped up.
I work. I travel locally, but unless I have a task for which I might travel further, a conference or some such other event, I'd much rather stay at home.
I'm sad to hear about your cockatiel.
You tend to anthropomorphise him so, but then why shouldn't you? He's been your constant companion. Our dog less so.
It would be good to meet, perhaps, but ever so hard. It's good therefore that we live on opposite sides of the world.
As you say, it's unlikely we will ever have the chance to disappoint one another in that way.
It was strange to queue up on the telephone on a Sunday morning early, Juliet, and to think of all those animals in distress.
I'm glad we did not get to the point of needing to go to the Lort Smith centre, at least not his time, and that i met with good fortune too, as in my meeting Isabel.
At the risk of underestimating my dog's experience, Ann, I think it must have been far worse worrying about your son for a day. A whole day in hospital before whatever it was that ailed him passed. Good thing that it did. Pity about the bill.
Fascinating post. The first bit sort of falls into the "aint life funny" category.
It's the second that is fascinating – but what would you have done if your blogger friend had turned out to be an octogenarian man carrying a pink floppy hat?
I enjoyed this your style is a pleasure to read.So glad that your dog emergency wasn't! Meeting Isabel obviously was a really positive experience which is so good.:)
I'm not sure what I'd have done in the circumstances you describe, Dave. Smile and chat I suppose. Even octogenarian men holding pink floppy hats can be fun.
Well Cuby Poet, the dog's still fine and the sky hasn't fallen in a week after meeting Isabel. So presumably all's good there too.
glad your meeting went so well…. better safe than sorry……I did text a friend with the architect's name, phone number, business, time and place of meeting etc…….just in case!!
Although I have blogged for over 5 years, apart from graduating from blog comments to letters I have yet to meet any of my fellow bloggers in person. My daughter, who began when I did, has met many and even taken trips to New York, Florida and Jordan to meet with them. All were thoughtfully undertaken and were very successful. I'm glad you got to meet Isobel and hope one day you will meet again. I'm glad too that the dog is well.
I write at the end, Elisabeth, so that if my comments sound contrarian, most readers won't be aware.
I thought that hand was yours, Elisabeth, because I could not see you with a plump hand. I was surprised at the amount of jewellery that you wore: I hadn't thought of you thus. Just interested: I have a friend who wears a ring -(with an expensive stone or 2) on every finger. It just doesn't suit me: but it intrigues me.
I notice how your fingers curl around Isabel's hand, but hers don't reciprocate. I assume that you won't become best friends.
I have been surprised how little comment there has been on your very revealing photos. I think, for one, of your brother, embarrassed but loving, brushing his little sister's hair. That wouldn't happen nowadays, and it suggests that good things were happening n your family, despite.
It's probably good you took precautions, Young at heart before meeting that stranger, your architect whose intentions were perhaps not so honourable. At least you could look after yourself in that instance. What a pity it did not work out so well, though.
It's good to see you here, Young at Heart. Thanks.
One day you too might meet a fellow blogger, Sheila, that is if you'd like to do so. Clearly your daughter has relished the experience.
It's not a requirement for blogging I'm glad to say, but only an occasional perk if you so desire it and can 'meet 'someone who feels likewise. I certainly won't be meeting fellow bloggers every day.
It's interesting how you see the handshake, Frances. Isabel initiated it, which might be why my fingers appear to curl around hers. There is a story behind the shape of her arm and had, as there is behind mine. I'm very partial to silver jewelry and wear it most of the time.
As for the dearth of comments on my more 'revealing' posts, I can't say. I don't experience one post as being more revealing than the other, though I am aware that sometimes I raise subjects that are more discomforting for some from time to time.
I meant photos, not posts, Elisabeth.
For example: the large wall clock in your mother's room is unusual. Does it have a history?
I understood you meant, photos, Frances, but it seems not many people analyse them closely, not like you. But they can reveal a lot, and at the same time they can be deceptive and tricky.
And, yes, for all the difficulties in my family of origin, there were also pockets of great warmth, love and affection, especially between us siblings.
As for that clock, it has quite a history but I only know about the fact that it entered our childhood lives in Australia from Holland many years ago and that rumour has it my mother intends to leave it to one of my brothers, who, as far as I know, has never expressed an interest in owning it, while one of my sisters who has long expressed the desire to have it left to her, will miss out.
Funny that. But it hasn't happened yet, so who's to say? The future and the past can be muddy.
Thanks again, Frances.
Yes, I think that I detected that warmth, Elisabeth.
Even that family photo was taken, presumably, by someone who valued the family. Sad, if he was also the destructive element: it's not a role any parent would elect, I think.u
I am reminded of Alan Bennett's comment: "Every family has a secret: the secret is that it's not like other families."