How Many Stuffed Animals Is Too Many Stuffed Animals For A Grown-Up?

Asking for a friend.
Publish date:
August 15, 2013
growing up, childhood, stuffed animals, lamby, stuffed animal jail aka the closet

Here on xoJane, we like to tackle the tough issues. Sexism, fat acceptance, addiction, abuse, politics, careers, and just about anything and everything that affects us during our journey through life. My fellow writers approach the crazy things thrown our way with a sense of openness and honesty that’s hard to find. And not only is it hard to find, but it’s inspiring. So inspiring that I’ve decided it’s time for me to tackle something difficult. To take on a topic that’s bound to draw lines in the sand. To stretch my mind and bare my soul. To ask the hard-hitting question:

How many stuffed animals are too many stuffed animals?

Not, like, for kids (because the answer is infinity) but, you know, for grown-ups. Which, as much as I hate to admit it, is probably something as a person who supports herself and whose eggs have (likely) committed suicide, is kind of what I am. (Don’t tell.)

I mean, truth is: I AM a grown-up. I pay the rent on time. I go to therapy. I try to make good life choices. I never get a gift without sending out a thank you note within three days. My couch is from Restoration Hardware for f’s sake. Does it even GET more grown-up (or ripped off) than that?

And yet, I still have stuffed animals. And it’s not even that I have them. It’s that I still sleep with them. Because they are soft and I love to hug them. Or, you know, cause I don’t want them to feel left out, or whatever.

We all know -- and I feel comfortable admitting this here only because none of my stuffed animals read the Internet -- that my favorite stuffed animal (and the only one who is really, really, really REAL) is Lamby. Some of you have followed along with him as he’s comforted me through tough times, rooted for the 49ers, and during that horrible week when he was admitted into the Stuffed Animal Hospital for emergency surgery. Lamby is my best (stuffed animal) friend. The one thing, over everything I own, I’d grab in a fire.

But what I think maybe you don’t know is that Lamby has friends. He has Chewy Alfred Brown Bear and Panda and the three lambs who sit on my bookshelf. He has Puppy and Pony (I mean, I’ll probably end up naming my Saint Bernard “Dog” I’m so terrible at naming things) and he even has his very own stuffed animal, a miniature Boo.

And it doesn’t stop there. When things got really dark last year and I realized that I could no longer sleep with Lamby, or even really hold him tight, since his fur was worn so thin and my fingers kept popping through it (I can’t even type that without getting upset), sweet, sweet Marisa who I've never even met in real life sent me the best present ever.

I named him Monster. He sleeps with me every night. I love him.

So yeah. Now that I got the confession out, the real question is: Is this crazy? I mean, I’m old enough to have babies -- fine, toddlers -- fine, angry, surly teenagers of my own, and yet I sleep with and speak aloud to my stuffed animals. Sure, most of them are hidden away in my closet (and YES I feel guilty about that), but they’re still there. And I’m still attached to them in a very real way.

But is this actually a problem? It’s certainly not hurting anyone. And sometimes I even share them, like with two little girls who come to my apartment. They love to hold my big bear and watch my brother put on a show with Panda the puppet. (They don’t get to play with Lamby though which is heartbreaking for all three of them.)

I mean, they’ve certainly never questioned why their grown-up neighbor has awesome toys. And as far as my friends go, Lamby’s more popular than I am. Everyone who comes to visit says hi to him. (I think it’s because he’s a really good listener and also quite handsome.)

I guess I’d say I wonder what dudes might think except that I don’t actually care what dudes think. I somehow can’t see a guy getting all the way to my bedroom, taking one look at Lamby, and running in the other direction. Because who in his right mind would run from Lamby?

And if anything, fictional dude might have a favorite stuffed animal of his own. Travelodge did a survey last year and found that about 35% of British adults sleep with teddy bears. Even better: 10% of the women polled said they treated Teddy like a good friend and 25% of the men said they bring their bear along on business trips. (That last one shocked me; I’m not gonna lie.) Of course, one in 10 guys admitted they hide their furry friend when their girlfriend stays over, so we’ve still got some progress to make in that arena.

Surveys aside though, I’ve talked about Lamby with my therapist and he sees no problem with my attachment. It makes sense, he thinks, since I was left to fend for myself a lot as a child. Lamby was one of the only constants, as well as something I could love that I felt loved me back. A psychoanalyst in 1953 even said that for children, a favorite stuffed animal can help, as it “parallels the developing ability to feel a strong specific attachment to particular people.” I just only developed feelings for Lamby though and left my mom out of it. Oopsie!

But it’s not just my therapist who says it’s kosher for adults to have stuffed animals and that it’s not infantile or insane. They’ve done studies on this (shout out to science!) and according to the September 2012 Journal of Adult Development, “There is no association of adult toy ownership with [psychological immaturity].” Nope, it’s not my love of stuffed animals that makes me immature; it’s the fact that I like to eat cookies for breakfast and watch "The Challenge" on MTV.

In fact, it’s possible that we even get increased oxytocin levels when we cuddle our stuffed animals, the same way we do when we hug a person (ew) or pet a dog (yay). I mean, maybe that’s pushing it, but there’s something to be said for the fact that hugging a stuffed animal can be calming and comforting. You know I’m right.

And get this insanity: Adults are less likely to cheat when there’s a teddy bear in the room. I guess the wives of those husbands who bring their bears on business trips can rest easy.

The thing that’s most interesting to me about my stuffed animals who’ve been with me through thick and thin (Chewy, but mostly Lamby, since Chewy was too big to go to summer camp and boarding school and college) is the attachment I feel to them. If something happened to either of those guys, I’d feel a profound loss. I’ve tried to think about life without Lamby and it is truly very difficult for me to even imagine.

Sure a stuffed animal that’s been loved so hard he’s threadbare and worn doesn’t have any monetary value, but the emotional value -- there aren’t words.

So is it weird to have a stuffed animal? Something you grew up with, that you’ve carried with you through life, who when you hug at night makes you feel safe and comforted?

I just asked Chewy and Panda and Monster and Puppy and Pony and they all said “NO!” Lamby just giggled and told me I was silly. And then asked me if tonight if we could cuddle 'cause he misses me.

Of course I said yes. Have you seen that face?

Follow @daisy on Twitter for more about her stuffed animal friends.