Some people choose one special stuffed animal from their childhood to carry into adulthood, for sentimental reasons.
I didn't just keep one, I kept them all. The mere thought of getting rid of any has always made me very emotional. I have three big storage bins in my bedroom closet full of them. While they take up a lot of room, it's better than the alternative, which would be a very traumatic separation.
My collection continues to grow. The pile on my bedroom floor, which also contains a few stuffed animals from many years ago, gets bigger with new members with each passing month.
This has moved way beyond being just a sentimental thing. My stuffed animals aren't just a link to my childhood, a reminder of simpler times, though that's when this all started in the first place. I regard them now as housemates and family members, even though I'm 25, married, and soon to graduate college.
All of my stuffed animals have names and backstories. Manuel, the foul-mouthed, bacon-loving manatee, has quite the tragic story behind him. During World War II, he found himself in a star-crossed relationship with a Japanese manatee named Mimi, an eventual kamikaze pilot. Their love story came to an end when he was forced to shoot down Mimi's plane before she crashed it into his ship. He still deals with the conflicting emotions to this day.
Then there's Leo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, who happens to have a crush on my husband, Ian, much to the chagrin of Leo's tough-guy brother, Raphael.
Thomas, a sea turtle with a pleasant old-man face, has a penchant for eating mashed potatoes. Mr. Spider, engaged to a cow named Bovinity, tries to change my negative outlook on the entire spider race every day. It still hasn't worked.
Luckily for me, I was able to find a mate who didn't run screaming at the discovery of all this. Rather, my husband thinks it's “cute” and sweetly embraces it, joining in himself.
A lot of my stuffed animals watch TV with my husband and me. Some watch us cook, and sit with us while we eat. They go on car rides and play board games with us.
I'm not going to try and argue that what I do isn't even a little strange. Even when I was a kid, my attachment to stuffed animals went beyond the norm. I'd lock eyes with a stuffed animal in a store, and I would feel this instant tenderness and connection with it. The idea of walking away from it without bringing it home would evoke these images in my head of it crying. Sort of like an animal in a pet store, staring out from its cage with “Please take me home!” eyes.
I'd often cry and pout until I got to take home the new stuffed friend. As a result, my bedroom started to look like a zoo.
The thing is, I wasn't simply being a spoiled little girl, crying because I wanted more toys. It literally felt like I was letting the stuffed animals down if I went as far as to pick them up and comment on their cuteness, and then leave them behind. I was giving them false hope.
Needless to say, the movie Toy Story has always had a special place in my heart. I would often picture all my stuffed animals and toys walking around the house or having a wild party when no humans were home. I still do.
As a grown-up, I get puzzled expressions when I tell people about my “hobby.” I understand. I even catch myself laughing at the weirdness of it sometimes. When, for example, one of my other stuffed manatees, Manny, is engaged in a heated argument with my manatee tattoo, which also happens to be his wife, Moomen. Manny's stuffed flippers gesticulate furiously about as Moomen grows more and more hysterical by the second, and suddenly I'm thinking, "If I was doing this is public, I'd probably get carted away."
It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I do these things, but I do know that it brings me a lot of joy, it satisfies my love for all things cute, and it's fun, and that's all that I think really matters.
It all boils down to creativity and imagination, and everyone has their own ways of expressing theirs. I know there are people that probably assume I'm an immature, socially-maladjusted weirdo or something, but I don't feel that way.
It's true, I do prefer my stuffed friends over the majority of human beings around me, but it's not because I don't know how to successfully interact. Perhaps it's because I'm usually disappointed by those I come in contact with on a daily basis, or I simply just cannot relate to them. Stuffed friendships are so effortless and unexhausting! Maybe I'd be better off as a stuffed animal myself, I don't know.
I do know that there are kindred spirits out there. I'm convinced that the people at Squishable have the best job in the world. And my discovery of a cafe in Japan where only stuffed animals are allowed, and they're treated to food, entertainment, and an overnight stay complete with spooky ghost stories, has me thinking about starting my own version in the U.S.
You needn't turn your back on things deemed “childlike” just because you've reached a certain age where society now considers you an adult, and expects adult responsibilities from you; I'm able to do both.
Really, the “childlike” stuff makes all the mundane tasks of life much more doable, because you always have something to look forward to. It makes life a little more colorful.
In my version of “the perfect world,” stuffed animals would have a mind of their own, and they'd walk and talk and live among humans, as equals. Since it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon, it's up to me to try to make it as real as possible.
One thing is certain: My future children and I are going to have so much fun.