Growing up, I had a little stuffed brown bunny-rabbit as my imaginary companion. His name was Benny, and unfortunately to this day I don’t remember how I got him. I do know it was sometime when I was 3, and he was my inanimate source of comfort for a good chunk of my childhood since then. My grandmother gave me a Snoopy and Woodstock pin a year or two later which I shamelessly re-gifted to Benny for his “birthday.” Besides that, the only other thing I remember specifically is loving when the Easter decorations came out as a young child because it meant Benny’s “extended family” was visiting for awhile. There was a matronly rabbit permanently fixed in an armchair whom I deemed to be his grandmother. The rest had some vague familial relationships that young-me never really sorted out. Years later I got another Brown Rabbit whom I deemed to be his mother, Bianca. They’re pictured above in the header photo.
Teddy bears, or (my preference) “teddy bunnies,” are literally the most important inventions ever in human history. Ever. Because we all need someone to hug, and lonely people in the world often use animals (stuffed or otherwise) to fulfill this intrinsic longing for companionship. Pictured below are the ones I keep around now, for comfort and warmth when I’m upset and my girlfriend is away.
The brown one, named Brenda Quinley, is my favorite. Unlike the others, she was not a gift; I rescued her from a horrible goodwill store where the merchandise was badly mishandled. Everything was kept in these blue containers, and items as incompatible as kitchen glasses, VHS tapes, clothes, single shoes and action figures were tossed in carelessly. The customers greedily pawed over everything, tossing around whatever they didn’t snatch into their carts. Every now and then the ornery employees would scream at us to get out of the way while they wheeled in a new plastic bin of thrown together junk. The customers would immediately swarm their new trough like a bunch of gluttonous hogs, just pulling and tugging at everything within reach. Seeing this adorable little bunny in that awful place, I knew I had to save her. It was like finding Princess Leia in Jabba’s Palace–she’s better than that.
While taking Brenda home, I realized something; I really like openly carrying a stuffed animal around in public! It makes me look cute, and squeezing something soft all the time is very comforting. That night, my girlfriend and I were walking around and some guy was approaching from the other direction. I was kinda nervous for the obvious reasons: very late, no one else around, two women alone and in a not-so-nice part of town. So I’m thinking “please don’t catcall /grope /hurt us…” But instead he just said earnestly “I really like your rabbit!” and continued on. That simple little moment absolutely made my whole day 😄 I later took her to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the local theater with us on Christmas Eve, and while the concession stand employee stared at her, I couldn’t have cared less. I’ve also taken her and/or Beatrice to parties and found it makes a great ice breaker for other people to approach me and start talking. Bunnies bring people together. 💕
Stuffed animals are a cute look for anyone. It shouldn’t even have to be a childish or feminine thing either. Think about it: a stuffed animal provides comfort, support and a “friend” to little kids. The idea is you’re supposed to outgrow them and become adults who don’t need that kind of “placebo” to get thru tough times anymore. Except…we do, some more than others, but even the most hardened masculinized adult could use an emotional pick-me-up more often that they admit. As it is now, we rely on other people (mostly relationships) and/or pets to give us comfort, a sense of belonging and a reason to wake up. And that’s great–humans are social animals and this is the way we were meant to live. Loneliness is painful and cuddling makes people happy.
Unfortunately, in the real world some people, through bullying or loss or whatever else, wind up lonely sometimes. Even when you have a support network, people let you down or aren’t always there when you need them. Guys can be adverse to hugging other guys due to social conditioning. Women hugging a not-so-close guy friend might give the wrong impression and cause unintended unpleasantness to both parties down the line. Sometimes, we just need something to snuggle with. It’s scientifically proven cuddling reduces stress. Even monkeys in the wild have sticks they cuddle with in their youth. So when you consider all of that, it’s kind of amazing we invented something so simple that satisfies such a complex need in people. On some level, a little stuffed hippopotamus is a nice holdover for those who can’t always get the real thing or just want a pick-me-up in between intimacy with their significant others.
One individual person can’t have it together all the time. Even George Bailey was worn down and needed help after fighting Mr. Potter for so long. If we could all just be more in tune with our vulnerabilities, rather than pretending we outgrow them (or never had them at all,) maybe we could come together with our pink kitties and blue puppies and green salamanders…and all share one big group hug. Whatever someone needs to get through the hardships of life is no one else’s business, as long as they’re not directly harming anyone else.