I recently saw a post on social media about adults wanting to carry stuffed animals.
The original poster said something like
One person replied saying they did an experiment where they carried a stuffed animal around for a week. There were some “double takes” and weird stares, but nobody was mean. Some people asked why they were carrying it, some people complimented the stuffy, but nobody said they should stop or called them any names for carrying it. Their message was
I then read another Reddit thread about it that wasn’t *quite* as friendly. Keep reading if you want to know more. But first:
Meet Our Stuffies
As you probably know, Kbel and I have quite the rich and vivid world of stuffies. Our stuffies have personalities, voices, friends, worries, anxieties, wants, and needs. They have hopes, dreams, and goals. They even have little toys of their own.
We got Steffy right before we got married. Her name is “Steffy” because it sounds like “Stuffy” but we also call her “Elstephant.”
Kbel got me Stella on our first Christmas together as husband and wife. Her full name is “Stellaphant.”
I just saw this stuffed Narwhal at Target one day and bought it.
Why Would Two Adults Need Them?
We have a lot of little reasons, but they all tend to fall into three main categories.
1. It keeps us creative
If you have ever struggled with writer’s block, or artist’s block, you know that creativity needs practice, creativity needs variation, and creativity needs reflection.
If creativity is a muscle, we are constantly strengthening it by making up stories, developing character and relationship dynamics. It helps us to remember things that happened to us when we were younger, and how we felt about them, and what was important to us. This is vitally important for someone writing characters who are younger, or someone making products that might appeal to young people.
Artist block is particularly difficult when you have to do a lot of steps to create one thing. Or if you need to spend a lot of time perfecting something before you can move on. I know I can easily get unmotivated. Sometimes you need to take a break from your creative work, but still do something creative. This is where variety can help. You can still be creative during your “breaks.” Sometimes if I need a break I might make a little hat for one of my stuffed animals, or shoot a short video.
It is not easy to reflect on something you are creating, and other people are not always there to give you feedback. This is where having a stuffed animal can help you. If you need to explain something to someone else, but nobody else is there, you can explain it to your stuffed animal. This is similar to rubber duck debugging.
2. It helps us communicate
This one is a little more serious. Throughout our relationship, we have come across times when it is difficult, for a myriad of reasons, to express how we are feeling.
It might be easier to say how the other one’s actions made Steffy feel. Even though I know rationally that I am allowed to feel however I want, I really believe that Steffy is allowed to feel scared, unable, sad, and anything else I am not comfortable admitting I feel.
Also, any time we have to explain something complicated to each other, but the message is not being received, we can try to explain it to Stella. After living with each other for so long, it can be easy to forget that the other person does not have the same thought process and understandings that you have. Having to break it down for a third “person” can get us both on the same page.
Also, doing something nice for the stuffies is doing something nice for the other person. It’s a love language.
3. It is Fun!
This is the easy one. They are cuddly, cute, and fuzzy. They are comfortable to lean against. We like to look at them, and we like to play.
It’s like all the fun of elf on the shelf without all the horrible trauma.
Okay, that’s all fine, but do you have to carry them around?
We don’t take them everywhere with us, but they live with us, and go on any big trips with us. I don’t have to carry them around, but if I did, would that be a bad thing? Some people have to carry their phones, sunglasses, inhalers, scarves, lipstick, etc. etc, everywhere. Like I’ve already explained, stuffed animals are useful, and some people might need them.
I like to have them sometimes. They make me feel better. I can understand how someone would not feel comfortable leaving the house without wearing mascara, even though I don’t feel that way myself. So I really believe that, for the most part, other people don’t care if I carry Stella around. I agree with the message of the post that adults should feel free to carry their stuffed animals.
But I also understand the original poster. It still feels like people are going to care.
Why does it feel like we pressured to act a certain way, even if we aren’t?
It is coming up to our 3rd wedding anniversary. Despite marrying at exactly the mean average age to marry in the US, it still felt like we married “late.” (Maybe because we were slightly older than the median average, and that number has been increasing over the years.)
During these past 3 years, I have decided in my mind to say “we are planning on not having kids” or even “planning on remaining childless” instead of “we are not planning on having kids.” This was an extremely important distinction to me. I believe that deciding to remain childless is as hefty a decision as deciding to have kids. It is just as difficult, and has just as many factors. One decision is not more active than the other.
Just like they say you are never really ready to have kids, you are never really ready to not have kids, either.
I have snapped and “yaaas queen”ed when I saw other women advocating for their decision to remain childless. I have championed people being proud of that decision, first pointing out the factors that made them make it, but then slowly realizing that they don’t have to. I have shared the plea to stop asking women when they are going to have kids.
A few very close friends in the beginning asked us if we wanted kids, but even that died down fairly quickly.
But I still feel like people are expecting us to have kids. Even if I rationally know that people are happy with our behaviors and actions, that doesn’t mean my subconscious isn’t yelling at me that I’m wrong.
People don’t have to actively ask insensitive questions for people to feel uncomfortable. That brings me back to the Reddit thread I saw. This thread was on the “unpopular opinions” page and their post was called “carrying stuffed animals as an adult should be normalized.”
This got a little bit more push back. Some people said things like,
- “Why would adults want to carry stuffed animals around? I don’t want to.”
- “I think you’re making a big deal about this. Nobody cares what you do, regardless of what is ‘socially acceptable.'”
- “I wouldn’t say anything to you, but I would think there is something wrong with you.”
- “If you carry it because you want to that’s fine, but if you carry it because you need to, that’s a problem.”
- “There is definitely some mental illness here.”
- “Kinda weird. You do you.”
- “It’s childish. I wouldn’t trust you to be able to do adult things.”
- “Would it be okay if I had to wear a diaper to work?”
- “Just become a furry.”
It was obvious that despite most people not giving anyone a hard time for carrying around a stuffed animal, they still have negative opinions about it. I know if I were to say, “It is weird for adults to carry around a stuffed animal,” people would accept it. I don’t know if people would accept it if I said “It is okay for adults to carry around a stuffed animal.” That is a big difference when it comes to feeling comfortable.
There were some people saying that as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, there is no reason not to do what you want. That’s clearly not true. Even if everyone on reddit had that opinion, it still wouldn’t matter. There are many reasons not to do things. People will disrespect you, it will be harder to get the bigger things out of life that you want, people will make assumptions about you, etc. Any comfort you might feel by having it will be negated by the discomfort you have by carrying it.
We are taught shame
I will never feel 100% comfortable with having stuffed animals, and I will never feel 100% comfortable with remaining childless. I will never feel 100% comfortable, period.
Even if today, everyone started accepting everyone for how they chose to act no matter what, I would still have 35 years of people telling me otherwise. Sure, I have been taught I can be whatever I want to be, but I was also taught 1001 reasons why I shouldn’t. I was told not to offer my jacket to a boy if he was cold because girls don’t do that. I was told I shouldn’t create things because it made too much of a mess. I was told I couldn’t work a lot of jobs because they weren’t good enough. I was told I should become a mother after I got married, and I was told I had to outgrow stuffed animals.
Being told all these things by people I know as well as people I didn’t (strangers I meet, as well as in the media) for my whole life makes more of a difference with how comfortable I feel than what anyone can say today.
So do we have stuffed animals to replace the kids we won’t have?