I went to a furry convention this past weekend is one of my former hometowns. While I do not know any furries there I thought it would be a good way to meet new people. Unfortunately I had a miserable time. I was lonely and had trouble finding anybody to talk to.
When I showed up on Friday evening I checked in to my hotel and suited up. I went do the con space and there were maybe a dozen people there. I tried talking to them but they were involved in their board/role playing games and not interested in meeting someone new.
The next day there were some 100 fursuits in the parade and photoshoot. However I do not know where they came from or where they went. There were very few fursuits out during the convention and when I was in suit I was frequently the only suiter.
I did get invited to 2 dinners which I thought would be a good place to socialize. On the first night I sat across from someone with a lot of drama who constantly complained and next to a guy that kept talking about his My Little Pony story. The next night I rode with some furries to a pizza joint 45 minutes away. During the car ride the couple in the back seat were talking so loud with each other the driver and I couldn't say anything. At dinner we had 8 people total. I ended up paying for the pizza for everybody (easy and quick) but despite that didn't have anybody talk to me.
Everybody was focused on the people they already knew and I get the feeling they didn't want to meet new people. I tried making small talk on many occasions, asking people where they were from or about their fursona. Got simple answers and could not spark a conversation.
The most ironic moment though was when I was at the restaurant across the street for a drink. Siting next to me at the bar was a furry (I could tell from his badge) and I tried to talk to him but he was not interested in a conversation. I noticed in Telegram he was complaining to the con chat how bored and lonely he was.
Normally when I get bored at a con I jump into suit and start shenanigans in the con space. However, this wasn't possible because there was seldom anybody to engage with.
In the group Telegram chat everybody was talking about what a fun and wonderful experience the convention was. My experience was very lonely and boring.
What can I do to make these conventions more fun and enjoyable? I tried everything I knew to get out and be involved but did not have any success.
* * *
What an outstanding question; thanks for asking it, and sorry your con experience was a bust.
I have been on both sides of this fence, I can tell you. Back when I was attending the University of Michigan, I was a horribly sad, shy, and lonely kid who was overwhelmed by being alone in a huge university. One day at lunch, I was eating by myself in the cafeteria when this stranger sat across from me. He was friendly and chatty; he asked about me and tried to strike up a conversation. I had never had anything like this happen to me before in my life; I was intimidated, suspicious of his motives, and gave mostly one-word replies and stared at my food a lot. In retrospect, I know that this kind young man probably saw I was alone and was trying to be a friend to me. I wish I could thank him for that now, but back then I was a terrified and painfully shy 18-year-old. I think a lot of furries are this way, too. It is very hard for them to come out of their shells, even in the friendly environment of a furry convention.
Fast forward some years to find me as a much more confident and outgoing bear in the furry fandom. There have been many times when I have been at a convention or meet or other furry function and could not break through. Sometimes it was because the other person was shy, but more often it was because the furry/furries already were there with friends and didn't want or need a new person to join them. You may have noticed that there are cliques within the fandom, many of which are not very welcoming to new blood, although some are.
You were doing a lot of correct things in your effort to find new furiends at this con (although I would not have paid for pizza for a bunch of unfriendly furs, but I know personally what a generous guy you are), so it's not your fault. The obvious first solution to this problem is to never go to a con where you don't know at least one other person you can hang out with. Once you have this base, you can endeavor to widen your circle, but even if that fails at least you won't be eating by yourself.
Another strategy is to try to project an image of welcoming to attract people to you rather than approaching them. This is why it can be hard to make connections with others when you are in your fursuit because many furries have been told that fursuiters often do not speak when they are in character and often do not want to be approached without being asked first (this applies to fursuiters who are a bit concerned about damage to their fursuits or to being startled when someone approaches them outside their narrow line of vision, as I'm sure you're aware.) So, you increase your chances of making friends, ironically, when not in fursuit. You can also bolster your chances by wearing a shirt that advertises one of your interests. For example, if you wear a cool Dr. Who shirt, you might attract some fellow Whovians. Or you might wear a custom shirt and get people to ask questions about that. I often wear shirts displaying my interest in the bear community, which tends to attract furries who are into bears.
Funny side story: one time, I was at MFF and wore my Bear Furries Forever shirt, which shows a bunch of bears around a campfire (colored yellow). A friendly young man approached me because he thought that the fire was, well, pee, and that I was into watersports. We both had a good laugh that broke the ice and that really helped us connect and we became friends. He's very sweet and very intelligent.
Humor aside, what you need to try and do is connect to some kind of SIG: Species Interest Group. For me, it's bears; for you, dragons. Try and connect to your fellow dragons instead of randomly picking out someone. That way, you immediately have something in common to form a foundation for fellowship. It doesn't have to be a species commonality, of course. It could be a number of things, such as a greymuzzle meet or a meet of people into World of Warcraft. Oh, and if you wish to get in on a game, it is best to try to do that before the game actually starts. Once you approach a group that is already involved in a game, yeah, it's difficult to break into that circle if they are really into some RPG.
So there you have it: when looking to make new furiends at a con or meet, try to find a common foundation to build on. This will increase your chances dramatically in connecting with other furries.
Hope your next furcon is a lot more fun!
I have a question abour fursonas. I see many people have their fursona based on an existing character, or maybe just 80% or more. When I look at that OC of them, I think maybe they love that character so much, and I never approved that those OCs are worth being called "original." Like, they clearly just copy the details, ideas, and they just call that their fursona.
But now, I do the same. I basically love a monster in a game so much that I made him an OC of mine. Then I feel bad because does that make me a thief? Did I steal the character and make it my own? Would people think the same as I did before? I have a concern about that. It's bugging me a lot lately.
That's my thought for now. Thank you for reading my letter.
* * *
There are two issues to deal with here: 1) creating a fursona based on a copyrighted character, such as a character in a TV show, movie, comic book, or video game; and 2) creating a fursona based on another furry's OC.
Let's talk about #1 first (makes sense!) Copyright law (to simplify things greatly) basically says that you can't make money off someone else's original idea. A good example of this is making a music video of some artist's song and selling the video for money. That's a copyright violation and you are going to get your fuzzy butt sued if the performer, studio, or agent finds out. Another example would be wearing a Mickey Mouse costume in front of a used car dealership in order to draw in customers for the big year-end sale (and you're implying that Disney endorses your business, which they might not). That sort of thing. If you are doing it for free, that is generally okay. For example, you can invite your friends to your house and perform your favorite songs on the piano for them without having to pay royalties.
On occasion, I do see furries wearing copyrighted fursuits at conventions. For example, I've seen Minnie Mouse and Brer Fox costumes. Again, this is okay because they are not paid performers; it's like wearing a Goofy costume for Halloween. Not a problem. Where Disney does get upset is when some people draw pornographic images of their characters, and sometimes they prosecute for that. But I digress....
The point is that if people are taking a character from some other media source and adapting it for their fursonas, that's not illegal. I guess you could call it "stealing," except they aren't making money on it. What it is, however, is very unoriginal. One thing I adore about the furry fandom is that almost everyone creates their OC's (it's not unheard of for someone to ask others for help in doing this), and many of these are very fanciful, beautiful, and creative. So, if you wish to, say, steal a Pokemon character, adapt it a little, and use it for your fursona, that's okay. But it is rather meh.
On to #2. This does happen in the fandom from time to time, and while you are unlikely to be sued for stealing a furry's fursona, it is the most uncool thing you can possibly do in the fandom. If a lot of people find out, you will lose a lot of respect and may be subjected to considerable shunning and banning. So, don't do it unless you enjoy being a jerk and getting people to dislike you.
Anyone who uses an existing character--even if they adapt it slightly--shouldn't call it an Original Character (OC) because it certainly isn't, by definition. It might be their fursona, but it is not original. Papabear considers such a practice to be lazy and uninspired, but even worse than that is that the furries who do it are missing out on a big part of what is fun in furry: self-expression through your fursona. Your fursona should be, ideally, an extension of yourself--perhaps it is an idealized version of you, perhaps a truer version of you, perhaps the kind of you that you would like to be. That's what is so cool about being a furry and what distinguishes this fandom from the people who attend Comic-Con or Wondercon or places like that. Sure, it's fun to pretend you're Wonder Woman or Rocket Raccoon, but you are just borrowing someone else's fantasy. Furries, in this bear's humble opinion, are a step above all that.
I encourage you, therefore, to seek out the inner furry in you and come up with something more original. Explore, create, and express yourself!
I have a bit of dilemma. A convention is coming up and I was texting my room mate to be to work out some last minute details. It was then he dropped a bombshell. It seems that I won't be getting ONE roommate, I'll be getting SEVERAL, as my roomie to be suffers from multiple personality disorder. I know what MPD is (I've read books on people who have had to contend with MPD) but I'm still wary of still taking on this guy as my room mate. I somehow have this vision of him (in the guise of one of his other personalities) trying to strangle me as I sleep. What to do? I'd love to call this whole thing off and room alone but the convention is less than a week away and I already said I was fine with him having MPD. How do I handle this?
* * *
Formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a complex psychological condition that is still not well understood by doctors. What IS known, however, which you will find comforting, is that people with DID are no more violent than the general population. So, you are no more likely to be attacked by someone with DID than by someone who does not have the condition. One thing I have read--in the interest of more information--is that those with DID people, when they DO show signs of antipathy, are most likely to direct that hostility inward toward one of their other personalities. For example, one personality might be a selfish mother type who is angry at her "lazy son," who is another personality; that sort of thing. Since your roomie is obviously a furry, perhaps he has one or more furry personalities? That might be interesting.
You are in for a bit of a wild ride, though, and it is very fortunate you know this person has DID ahead of time so you can prepare for it. It's going to be confusing because personalities can switch without warning, and a reaction that worked well with one of these may not work so well with another. Probably the best way to deal with that is to, as you put it, treat your roomie as several people instead of just one. Treat all of them with kindness, consideration, and respect, and you should be fine.
I think it would be a mistake at this point to pull out of the agreement to room with them. That would cause a lot of harm to them and would be very unkind. DID is caused by a trauma of some kind--some kind of physical, emotional, or mental abuse--and you could aggravate that by reneging on your promise and making them feel rejected.
Rooming with a person with DID might be more complicated, but it is no more risky than with anyone else. I think my mild admonishment toward you would be that it is not really a good idea to room with a complete stranger. You should get to know them first and only then take a leap like rooming together in a hotel. Whether or not they have DID, always be careful in dealing with strangers.
Have a good furcon; let me know how it goes.
To learn more about DID, check out the National Alliance on Mental Health webpage.
Okay, so, I'm writing because a friend of mine needs help.
Make a long story short, he's become the sole emotional support of several friends of his- several of whom are suicidal- who either can't afford therapy or have parents who won't let them go to it.
And it's wearing him down a ton.
My first thought is that said friends need a proper network of emotional support instead of just relying on him. Problem is, neither of us knows how to make that happen.
Any help would be appreciated.
* * *
What you and/or your friend need to do ASAP is that if some of these people are suicidal you need to tell them to get professional help. None of us here (not you, not me, not your friend) has been formally trained to properly counsel someone who needs this kind of support. If they do not have a counselor already, urge them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The call is free to any who needs to use it.
I don't know the ages of these people, nor where they live, but depending on the state, teens can receive certain medical services (including mental health) without a parent's consent. Here is a link to a PDF that covers services for minors, how they vary from state to state, and what they include (STIs, abortion, contraception, emergency medical, LGBT counseling, and mental health services are all listed.)
It is disappointing that some parents resist helping their own kids (although, I also suspect that the people you are talking about might just say their parents aren't helping when, in fact, it could be they are too embarrassed to tell their moms and dads what is going on.)
So, who pays? Well, minors should be covered by their parents' health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows children to remain on their parents' health insurance up to the age of 23. If, as can be the case, the parents do not have coverage, there are assistance programs (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) of which many people are simply unaware. Here is a helpful link from Mental Health America that can help. Oh, and don't forget that if they are still at school, many schools have professional counselors, free of charge. That is a good place to start, and they can even help with the next steps.
There are a lot of troubled people in the world, and when they find someone like your friend that is kind enough to listen and try to help, they can latch on like leeches and be difficult to extricate. The quandary for the good-hearted soul is to realize when enough is enough. Empathetic people can get sucked into this trap very easily, and yes, it is very draining and can even make you ill.
Sounds like your friend is a little like me. What I have learned is that you can offer some support and encouragement, but if there are any serious issues (medical or mental conditions) you should always refer them to a professional. Even for less serious issues, if you are constantly asked the same things over and over and over, it is likely that these are people who are simply desperately lonely and are looking for sympathy (an extreme form of this is called Munchausen's syndrome) in a desperate attempt for validation. Such people are poison, really. They are like saplings on a tree, sucking out nutrients and giving back nothing until the tree sickens and dies.
Your friend should not feel guilty about pulling away from such people. Once it gets to the point that they sound like broken records who are unwilling to listen to advice to fix their own problems, that's when you say, "Maybe you should seek professional counseling." One reaction he might get is the outraged, "I thought you cared! But you don't care about me, do you?" This is often followed by weeping. Response, "No, I do care, but I'm clearly not helping you. If you really want help, you should get counseling."
Now, I'm talking about people who only talk to your friend to complain and threaten suicide. That's different from a good friend with whom you share a lot of activities but who, occasionally, may ask for advice. I'm not saying block these latter types; I'm talking about those who are bottomless pits of need; they are "emotional vampires." Toxic. Avoid them.
Bottom line: it's not your or his job to find them other friends for emotional support (in fact, that would be mean of you to do to those other people). Know when to say, "No." Know when enough is enough. Learn to recognize toxic people. And don't feel guilty about it. Being kind to others is a great attitude to have, but not when it comes at the expense of your own sanity.
I am no native English speaker, but still I do know enough of the language to understand some of its quirks.... With that in mind, having heard the term "ostracized" now and then, it being synonymous to shunned leaves me rather perplexed by it's playful implications. Would a furry which feels correlated to ostriches feel weirded out by such term?
Darkaos (São Paulo, Brazil)
* * *
LOL, the word "ostrich" and "ostracized" have no relationship. Ostrich is from the Old French word "ostriche," which just means "bird." Ostracize is from the Greek word "ostrakon," which means shell or a piece of pottery. In ancient Greece, when someone was to be banished, their name was written on a shell or piece of pottery (potsherd).
The English language has an interesting history, drawing from languages that include Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, and Nordic tongues, as well as other languages. Anyway, I assure you that no furry who has ever felt ostracized would even think this has anything to do with ostriches. There are no "playful implications" about it, I'm afraid.
Your English is coming along great! I know a little Spanish, but no Portuguese, so you have me at an advantage for sure.
Thanks for a fun question!
P.S. Here is a word for you to learn as you study English (or any language): etymology. Etymology is the study of the origins of words. It is a fascinating field.
Well, my friends figured out I am a furry and they told me they would tell everyone if I don't do a list of things by next month. They are very embarrassing things and I am scared that they would embarrass me in front of my whole class. I really don't know what to do, so can you please help me?
Adeptclaws (age 10)
* * *
I'm sorry you're going through this. Papabear was bullied as a kid, too, so I understand what you are going through. Here is the short answer to your problem: do not do what these bullies ask you to do. Know why? Because even if you do them, they will still tell you to do MORE embarrassing things for them because they will still threaten to tell your classmates you are a furry. Therefore, it makes no sense to do them because that won't end the bullying.
So, what do you do? What you have to do is eliminate the threat. That is, eliminate being embarrassed. If you are not embarrassed, they will have no power over you. The question then becomes, "Why are you embarrassed to be a furry?" If they say that furries are into porn (X-rated pictures and movies), well, first off, you're ten years old. I doubt you're looking at pornography. Secondly, you could play innocent and say, "I don't know what you're talking about with 'furporn.' What are you looking at on the Internet? Maybe you are the one who is a pervert?" Embarrass them back.
Even more effective would be to beat them to the punch. This means, tell your class before anyone else that you are a furry. Tell them that this just means that you like furry movies like Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda, and if they like these movies then maybe they are furries, too! If kids say you are weird because you want to dress up as an animal, tell them, "Well, don't you dress up for Halloween? It's the same thing! It's just something fun I like to do." People dress up all the time for all sorts of things. People dress up at Comicon, at Sci-Fi Conventions, at Mardi Gras parties, at costume balls, and more. Furthermore, only about 1 in 5 furries actually has a fursuit or a partial fursuit.
Movies and TV shows featuring talking animals are common, AND they are very popular (if they weren't, you would never see them!) I bet a lot of your friends and classmates like the movies mentioned above, as well as TV and video game characters such as Bugs Bunny, Winnie-the-Pooh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Max Goof, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mewtwo, Crash Bandicoot, Fox McCloud and many others. Ask your classmates: "Do you like these fictional characters? Well, so do I! What's wrong with that? Maybe you're a furry, too! Furries are just people who like these kinds of characters in movies, TV, and games." Again, if they keep implying or saying that you like furries because of the sex, tell them this: "I'm not the one bringing up sex, you are. Maybe YOU are the one who is obsessed with sex, because it sure isn't me. Maybe YOU are the one who should be embarrassed about what you are looking at online because I am not looking at adult stuff online. My parents watch what I do online; maybe your parents should be watching you!"
Is there furporn online? Yes, there is, but online behavior of furries is similar to that of the general community. In other words. teenagers and twenty-somethings who make up a large part of the furry community browse X-rated material online at a rate similar to that of non-furries. Recent research shows about two-thirds of young men in the United States admit to looking at porn online (and probably many more do who do not admit to it); that's about the same as with furries (actually, furries probably look at it less, percentage-wise). The only difference is the exact nature of what they look at, and since furries like anthros, it is hardly surprising that the X-rated stuff they look at are anthros, too. (I hope this is not upsetting, but I am just trying to give you all the information you may need).
Bullies are kids with low self-esteem who look for other kids to make fun of because it makes them feel better about themselves. Don't give them that power and you will be fine. They will be like soldiers whose guns have no bullets in them. Also, do not feel ashamed to go to the principal's office at your school to complain about bullying, or to go to your teacher, or to your parents. Bullying is a big problem, and the only way adults can do something about it is if they know what is going on.
Big Bear Hugs,
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.