So, I’ve always been a fan of stuffed animals since I was young, probably because my older sister banned me from having any when I was a baby which caused me to develop a borderline unhealthy obsession with my friend Brian. Brian is soft, light brown Jellycat Bumbly Bear with an expressionless face that is yet somehow so expressive. Though I received him as a gift from my first ex-boyfriend at sixteen, I feel like I’ve known Brian all my life. To me he is a reminder of the simpler times of my childhood, even though he wasn’t actually present for any of that period of my life.
He’s my furry friend, my cuddly companion, and I’m not ashamed to be a twenty year old who still carries her teddy around the house.
March 2020, lockdown hits, and little did I know that COVID would signal new, deep developments in mine and Brian’s already flourishing friendship. Each morning I’d swiftly roll out of bed and into my desk chair at 8:57 AM ready for 9:00 AM registration, and each morning Brian would join me. He’d perch on the corner of my desk staring at me, his soft expression reassuring me that I could get through a day of endless learning about post-war British politics and Bowlby’s Theory of Maternal Deprivation. Brian couldn’t help me when I was struggling with my maths homework but somehow his presence made it easier. In fact, I got 3/27 on my first in-person mechanics test back at school – I think it’s because Brian wasn’t with me.
Lockdown was tough for everyone, but I was grateful to have Brian by my side. Gradually, I began talking to Brian. We’d chat about all sorts of things, classmates who were testing positive for COVID, when I thought lockdown might end, what we should make together during our next lockdown baking session. After weeks of sitting at home and undertaking zero physical activity, I asked Brian if I should start jogging. He said nothing, just stared blankly at me, but I knew what he would have said if he could talk.
The next day I downloaded Couch to 5k, Brian knew what was best for me.
Eventually things returned to relative normality, and I was off on my way to UCL for my first year of university. The prospect was daunting, especially considering I’d been at home 24/7 for the majority of sixth form and had had a pretty rough summer. As I navigated my way through freshers, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed and homesick. But each time I reached for Brian, I felt the comfort and familiarities of home. His soft fur and friendly face brought a sense of calm to even the most stressful moments, and his constant presence was a reminder that I was never truly alone. Brian saw me through my first history coursework essay that I left to the last two days before the deadline, and through my first year exams that I hadn’t even caught up on the weekly lecture recordings for. He’s been a stellar study buddy.
That summer Brian came on holiday to Croatia with me. My family thought I was silly for letting him take up space in my suitcase, but of course I wouldn’t put Brian in there! He snugly fit into my backpack and sat quietly under my plane seat for the duration of the flight. Luckily we were staying in an AirBnB, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about any judgemental stares when I brought Brian to enjoy the sun by the pool. He reclined outside, sporting my borrowed bucket hat and sunglasses and guarding a bag of ready salted crisps. We were living life.
Brian has even acted as a wingman at times. Introducing Brian quickly to potential future boyfriends might sound silly at first, but it’s actually a proven indicator of a guy’s good or bad nature (in my experience). Will he be accepting of my bond with Brian, or will he belittle our friendship? Maybe he would even be jealous of him? Reactions to Brian’s presence have ranged from punching him in the face (a major red flag), to a friendly “hello.” My current boyfriend didn’t let on that he was slightly weirded out by the posse of stuffed animals occupying my cramped single bed when he first entered my room in Ramsay Hall, but now he’s fully accepting and supportive of mine and Brian’s friendship.
I get that it’s probably a bit strange to introduce others to Brian so swiftly. Most people probably stuff their bears away in their wardrobe, embarrassed and ashamed of their attachment to an inanimate object. But in my opinion, that’s pointless. You might as well weed out those who make fun of you for “being too old” to love you stuffed animal right away.
There’s certainly no reason to be ashamed of your love for your stuffed animal, even if you are an adult. In fact, there’s something special and heartwarming about the bond between a person and their favourite stuffed animal. They represent a time in our lives when everything was simple and innocent, and holding onto that connection can be a source of comfort and joy in a world that can often feel chaotic and uncertain. So if you still love your stuffed animal, embrace that love and hold onto it tightly.
There’s no shame in finding comfort in something that brings you so much joy.
by Katherine Marlow