By Claire Golden
There’s a scene in one of my favorite books, The Giver by Lois Lowry, that’s stuck with me. It’s a dystopian novel where every year children go through a different ritual for their age group. One year, they have to give up their “comfort object,” which is a stuffed animal they’ve had since they were born. The idea is that the children are now old enough that they shouldn’t have a stuffed animal anymore. This appalled me as a kid and continues to appall me today as a 23-year-old college graduate. See, I have more stuffed animals than ever and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Since The Giver is a dystopian novel, it’s showing a world that we shouldn’t aspire to. But in our own society, don’t we do exactly the same thing? I remember getting dolls and plushies from my friends on my birthday, only to start receiving clothes and makeup when we hit our teenage years. But I hadn’t stopped liking stuffed animals. It just wasn’t cool to do so anymore.
Maybe it’s thanks to my homeschool background that I managed to hold onto my stuffed animal collection rather than giving it away due to peer pressure. But I love my plush companions. They’re fluffy, soft, cheerful and comforting to cuddle with. I dream of meeting a kiwi bird in real life, but since that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, I got a plush version that I can hug. When my pet chicken died, I got a plush that looks just like her that I can hug when I really miss her. Some of my stuffed animals are over a decade old and hold lots of memories. I wouldn’t give them up for anything.
Since it isn’t socially acceptable to have stuffed animals in public, I brought plush keychains and pencil cases with me to create the illusion of what I thought was maturity. But the fact that I greet my stuffed animals when I come home has nothing to do with how functional of an adult I am. My stuffed pandas sit next to my desk while I work from home. I make my own doctor’s appointments…and then bring a fluffy alpaca to the hospital with me. (Pictured is Millicent the alpaca, first in a bonnet I made for her, and second, at my surgery consultation last week.)
I’m learning to care less about what people think. But you know what? Whenever someone sees one of my plushies, they usually think it’s awesome. Often they want to give it a hug, and they tell me about their own stuffed animals at home. It’s like me embracing my own weirdness gives them the courage to reveal their own. Sometimes it even helps me make a new friend. Life is too short to hide something that makes you happy, especially when it’s this fluffy and cute.