How have you been? Merry Christmas!
I come to you with a question about an incident which has shocked me quite a lot. As you are probably already aware, this year's MFF convention suffered what many consider to be a 'terrorist attack'. Someone unleashed chlorine gas which caused the evacuation of the hotel, disrupted the convention and sent 19 people to hospital.
Now, I am perfectly aware that the fandom is not lacking in haters. I have even stopped trying to explain what the fandom is when asked, due to the fact that most people are already influenced by third parties to think that all furries are perverts and whatnot. The only answer I give nowadays is “If you are not part of the fandom, you won't understand. So do not bother.”
I, for one, am perplexed with my own reaction to non-Furries. A few years ago, I would love to explain the fandom to others. About a furry's fondness of anthropomorphic animals, cartoons, art, and others. But every time I go online nowadays I find myself intoxicated with hate messages. Messages saying that all furries suffer from autism, or have mental disabilities, or are zoophiles. And that makes me feel like a freak. Just because I love the fandom and I love to be a Furry.
In the end, these repetitive incidents made me a bitter Furry. I antagonize non-Furry people with ease as soon as I am asked about the Furry Fandom, for I immediately think 'Potential hater right here!'
And now, the attack on MFF only increased my bitterness, especially because I keep seeing people post comments such as “The guy who did this deserves a medal!” or “You only hospitalized 19? Try harder!” Only one thought flows through my mind. Revenge. If we are being attacked, should we not fight back? I do not mean that we should respond with violence (although I really want to), but should we not find some sort of deterrent to prevent possible future attacks? The best defense is a good offense, yes?
I need your help to figure out how to change my attitude to non-Furry people. How can I go back to being optimistic about non-Furry people instead of despising them due to generalizations and misconceptions?
Thank you, and once again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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Many furries know about the incident at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont, Illinois, but for those who don’t, please read the post on the Midwest Fur Fest site here: http://furfest.org/index.php.
I think this is a good letter to end 2014 with because we can talk about some serious stuff here. Let me begin by saying that we should never assume guilt on anyone’s part without knowing the facts, and the facts of this case (who did it) have yet to be revealed. The person who set off that primitive chlorine device could have been a mundane or another furry. Some furries, you know, can be butt-munchers. It might have been a furry being pissed off at other furries and doing something very stupid and harmful while in a drunk and stupid state of mind.
So, before you go out seeking revenge—violent or otherwise—don’t go off half-cocked.
Even if the perp is some nasty mundane person, violence and revenge are never the answer. Once you start down that path, the result is an endless cycle of hurting, revenge, more hurting. It’s easy to provide examples of this, such as what has been going on in the Middle East for generations and the continued racial tensions in this country.
Only a few great men, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, have advocated the real solution to the violence cycle, and that is organized mass nonviolent protest. Imagine, if you would, if people finally got fed up with the Koch Brothers, Congress, the Waltons, the Rothschilds, etc., turned off their TVs and all together refused to work, buy gasoline, go to Walmart, attend sporting events and movies, and just sat down and said, “We’re not going to be your wage slaves anymore. You must fix this broken government and stop giving every advantage to the 1% or this country will collapse under the united weight of the people.” What are they going to do? Bring in the National Guard? And do what? Start beating and shooting people who are just sitting around? Throw us in prison? Confine us in football stadiums like they did in New Orleans? Even though the powerful elite have the police and army on their side, less than 1% of the population of this country constitutes “law enforcement” and the military. We are the 99% and if we would wake up we could create a sea change.
Similarly, if you are upset with mundanes, violence is not the answer. Education can go a long way. For example, I am starting work on The Furry Book, which I intend to be a guide to the fandom for furries and nonfurries alike. I understand there’s another furry out there doing the same thing, which is fine. The more books the merrier :-) Even so, and even if such books help make people understand us more, there will always be some prejudice and misunderstanding.
That said, I must say this as well: compared to, oh, say, 400 years of slavery and another century and more of injustice that the black community has endured in this country, we certainly have nothing to complain about. Not to lightly dismiss the people injured, but a chlorine gas bomb and some people calling us furverts or retards or social rejects in no way compares to the incredible injustices perpetrated against minorities in this country. From African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics and Asians to women, the poor, and the LGBT community, U.S. history is a study in injustice slathered in a thick, sugary frosting of haughty self-righteousness and blind patriotism. Even so, incredibly, this is still one of the best countries to live in because we have, in many ways, improved over the centuries (although recently we’re seeing our progress take a step backward). The stability of this nation depends upon the wisdom of the Constitution, which must be vigorously defended. Our salvation rests on the hope that the populace will not remain apathetic to what is happening and that we will—hopefully soon—rise up against the current problems facing our nation, the most important of which is the division between a small, tyrannical, self-entitled, wealthy elite and the majority of our citizens.
The purpose of my digression here is to give you some perspective. The troubles of the furry fandom are minor, at best. By and large, acceptance of furries is growing. We have conventions all over the U.S. and the world, and mundanes are starting to see some economic advantages to this—and we all know that money talks. If you walk into a diner wearing a fursuit, you might hear some giggles, but the manager isn’t going to tell you he won’t serve you food, and there are no signs on bathroom doors or water fountains saying “no furries.”
I’m a bit puzzled, admittedly, by your apparent experience with hatred from the mundanes. I don’t know where you are going on the Internet to get such reactions, but I have not had such a negative experience myself. My experience has ranged from fascination and acceptance to, at worst, puzzlement, amusement, and indifference. No active hatred. I might suggest you take a look at the sources of this ire and develop a new strategy for how you interact with people on the Internet.
In closing, I disagree with your statement that the best defense is a strong offense, if you mean that the offense is designed to hurt other people. If, on the other hand, you mean a strong offense of education, love, and patience, I would concur.
As we close the book on 2014, let’s try to take a lesson from its pages. There is enough hatred in this world that we do not need to add to it. When we let other people’s actions harden are hearts and souls, when we allow them to make us fearful, bitter, or angry, then we have already lost the battle.
My wish to you and all my friends out there, furry and not, is that you find a way to fill your hearts with love. On the surface, that might sound naive and simplistic, but, actually, it is the most hard-won strategy of them all. A wise man once said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Over 2,000 years later, most of us still need to learn that lesson.
Love you all. Happy New Year!
First I ask that this not be published. Anyway, I'm in a situation that both bothers me and causes me to start to lose some confidence in the fandom. I will try to provide as much information as I can, so here it goes.
In July I attended my first ever convention: Anthrocon 2014. With me was, at the time, my non-furry friend, who has, since attending AC, joined the fandom. While there we talked about getting fursuits together and attending Anthrocon every year that we can, which excited me greatly. I have always wanted a fursuit. Just the idea of bringing my fursona to life and making people smile as him makes me happy. So upon returning home I started my search for a fursuit maker. I researched, I priced, I was careful. I found a maker on Furaffinity; I researched her, found no bad comments about her, saw a couple suits she made, and so I proceeded to contact her and commissioned her to build me a partial,
She charged me $600, which I paid in full upon her request for me to do so. She gave me the completion date of September. I tried to keep in contact with her, which proved difficult every time. And when I did finally did get in contact with her I got an excuse why she wasn't providing pictures of the progress and was told that the completion changed to October.
I figured, okay, things happen, it's life. Then again, hard to get a hold of her, and again every time I did, excuses why I wasn't receiving photos of the progress, and again time change to November, and, yes, same thing again.
Now it's December and I have tried to be in contact with her and have not heard from her in over a month. I'm not sure how I should proceed as, honestly, this was my first-ever commission. I've never even commissioned art, and I am afraid if what has happened has truly happened I may never trust to commission again. So my question on this: am I wrong in thinking that I have been scammed? Should I cut my losses? And is there anything I should be doing that I'm not?
Thank you in advance,
* * *
Please do not “lose confidence in the fandom” because of the actions of one slow fursuit maker. One should never condemn an entire group of people because of one or two bad eggs.
That said, and although I have written on this topic before, this is a good opportunity to talk once again about contracts, verbal contracts, and your legal rights.
One of the things that has long frustrated this bear about furry businesses is that furries who sell goods don’t seem, for the most part, to understand a damn thing about business—whether you are a business owner or a client. I chalk this up to the culture of informality in the fandom. That is, we have established a chummy community within the fandom in which we believe—often falsely—that fellow furries will treat us fairly because they are part of one big happy family. Therefore, we do not take precautions when it comes to business.
There once was a time when “a man’s handshake was as good as his word” (or pawshake, in this context). That’s no longer true, whether in the mundane or in the furry world. I have to use two paws to count the number of times my mate has been f***ed over by business people who did not honor their verbal agreements.
I’ve encountered some of this myself (not with my fursuit maker, Beastcub, who is super-pawsome and worked very closely with me to deliver an outstanding result), but with a certain artist who took over two years to complete a commission I had wanted for a Christmas gift (hence, timeliness was important). While he eventually did get around to it, I will never commission him again.
And that is one thing many artists in the fandom don’t seem to get: if you mistreat customers, eventually the word-of-mouth will bite you in the butt. It’s bad for business.
In hindsight (too late for you right now, but perhaps helpful in the future), you should always get a written agreement with an artist or fursuit maker. If they refuse to agree to one, tell them “no thanks” and find someone else. Secondly, never never never pay 100% for the commission up front. The artist I work with for this site, Dan the Bear, for example, never demands I pay him until I am satisfied with the result and he has delivered it to me.
With fursuit makers, because they have to buy materials for your fursuit, the proper thing to do is treat them like a contractor working on your house. When I have a carpenter or plumber or electrician doing work, I pay him or her for all the supplies they need as soon as we agree on what’s to be done. Then, when they are done with the job, I pay for labor. The same should be true for any respectable fursuit maker. Get an invoice from them for the materials they need and pay for those. Then, when the finish, give them the rest. You could also pay in “milestones.” That is (and this can work for larger projects), pay for completion of certain steps. For instance, pay 25% for when the head is completed, another 25% for the body, and then the balance when it is all done.
The fact that the fursuit maker in your case refused to show you photos makes her, indeed, suspect. It might be that she was once reliable (as online evidence seemed to indicate), but people can go from good to bad sometimes.
Okay, so what to do from this point? Well, you don’t have a contract, but what Papabear is hoping and praying for is that you saved your email and any other correspondence with her. These are considered legal evidence of an agreement—especially if you have emails from her saying, yes, she received the $600 (or some other evidence, such as a PayPal receipt) and, yes, she was going to complete it by such and such a date.
While written contracts are best, verbal contracts are still considered enforceable. Gather up these emails, and if you have witnesses, get them on your side, too. With those on your side, contact the fursuit maker and tell her that you are unhappy with her lack of progress and want a refund immediately. If she refuses, tell her that you have email evidence that she received your money and agreed to make the fursuit, and if she still refuses tell her that she leaves you no choice but to take legal action—that is, you will take her to small claims court (tips on how: http://www.peopleslawyer.net/legal-topics/small-claims-court.html). Here’s some info to know if the person you are suing is in another state: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/small-claims-book/chapter9-2.html.
Another thing she might do is ask for another extension. If so, and you feel kind and generous, that is up to you to accept. BUT! If you do accept it, this time get a written contract that includes a date of delivery and a description of what, exactly, is to be delivered to you in satisfactory condition. Also include a clause saying you have a right to refuse the work if you consider the quality unacceptable (e.g., she hands you a wad of fabric with two eyes glued to it).
Don’t threaten to bad mouth her on furry forums. You can actually get into legal trouble yourself sometimes when you do that (she might accuse you of slander). But do tell her in no uncertain terms what you expect from her and when.
You’re in an unenviable place right now, but with some work—and if you stick to your guns—you can get this straightened out and, hopefully, learn from the experience.
* * *
Thank you for your advice. I will take it to heart and act upon it. I do have the emails and PayPal receipts. Update on the situation: this morning, after I emailed her twice in a week about needing to speak with her, I reviewed an email from her with only three words: "my laptop broke." And this upset me a great deal, so I am definitely going to be requesting a refund and searching for a new maker. And again thank you for the advice.
Hello, Papa Bear.
I'm impressed that someone from this subculture has taken up such a supportive role in the community.
My question is one of public display of our art, and of my own appearance. Firstly, in the legality of the matter, and secondly, one of tact.
Firstly, I carry a notebook with print-outs of art from certain furry artists I'm fond of, in the covers. These are not commissions, just works I've liked that I display on printer or photo paper. Call it a bit of security blanket.
While I'm not distributing these images, or doing anything deliberately criminal, I'm a little nervous about representing myself as a furry with other people's art. However, I have a bad past with art, and never learned to draw, myself. I'm not trying to be an art thief, and I understand that's a problem in the community. Is what I'm doing ... okay?
Secondly, I am experimenting in theater makeup, and am deliberating on a drag-analogy to fursuiting (latex prosthetics/makeup, with regular human clothing).
My question, if you can answer, would be; is this something I can do on a casual basis, without repercussions from school authority, for being disruptive? What about wearing such disguises in a public place (Wal-Mart, Gas Stations, Drive-Thru's, etc.)?
KimonoBoxFox (age 27, North Carolina)
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Please note that I do ask people to limit their letters to one question. However, I’ll make this fairly brief to save time.
First answer: It’s fine what you’re doing with the art. As long as you’re not representing the art as your own, and as long as you are not selling it or otherwise profiting from it, you’re okay legally. Even better if you make sure the artists’ names are clearly seen on the art. So, don’t worry about it. But, if you really wish to ease your mind, write to the artists and ask if it’s okay. They’ll probably say it is, given the circumstances, and it is very common for furries to print out art by their favorite artists, or to display it on their computers.
Second answer: You would have to check with your school about dress codes, but I highly doubt such fashion would be smiled upon by your school administrators. As for other public places, especially given that you’re in North Carolina, a rather conservative part of the country, I would be careful. It wouldn’t be illegal (as long as your face is not covered), but I think you would get a lot of disapproving looks; you might even get beat up. Although, not sure about Walmart, since I’ve seen pictures of some awfully funky outfits there. Try Walmart first LOL.
But, seriously, in your state of North Carolina, anti-mask laws were developed as a reaction to the KKK. However, they are still on the books and have been used in other cases. The laws state:
§14-12.7. Wearing of masks, hoods, etc., on public ways.
So be cautious in this area. And, again, you get a lot of derps out there just looking for an excuse to beat up people who are “different,” so don’t set yourself up for such a possibility unless you are well-prepared to defend yourself.
Hello Papa Bear,
I'm new to the furry community, so I haven't met any other furries yet. I would like to ask you if you got any advice for me [about] what I should do about my family.
The problem is I've told my dad that his only son is gay, so we had a short, violent discussion about it. Well, it ended with me in the hospital for a few days and he left the county (he is British so he went back a year ago). I've tried to talk to him this time. I´ve visited him in the UK just a week ago, but it ended just like the same (me a few days in the hospital again), but what hurts me the most was him saying, "You are no longer my son," so I went back to Germany.
The rest of my family doesn't even know that I'm gay, and my dad told me don’t to talk to anyone in my family about it. I am afraid of telling someone else about it because their reactions could be similar to my dad’s. I´ve lost most of my friends during my apprenticeship and so my family is the only thing I´ve got left.
So, please, would you give me advice on what I can do about it? I´ve started my technician school and after that I´ll try to emigrate to the USA to start a new life with persons who accept me as I am, but what should I do at the moment?
Sorry for bothering you with my problems.
Lucian the Wolf (age 21)
* * *
I am traveling at the moment [this was written a few days ago], but will be home soon and will respond to your letter in a day or so. And you are not bothering me with your problems. That’s what I’m here for!
Just wanted to say right away, though, that if I were you I would avoid physical contact with my father. Anyone who puts you in the hospital twice and disavows your being his son is someone to stay away from.
Secondly, don't listen to your father. If you feel that there is someone in your family that would accept the truth, then tell them. If not, then don't.
More soon. Take care of yourself.
* * *
Sorry for contacting you on this email address but I haven't told you the full story of what has happened after the first time I tried to talk to my dad (it has been my biggest secret I've kept; only 2 persons know something about it.)
And I really think I have to get rid of it (it's been the darkest chapter of my life so far) so I struggled if I should tell you or not, but now I think it could be necessary to tell you. I don't fear anymore to let anyone know it.
This is the missing part of my story I would like to tell you.
After my parents got divorced, my mom was heavily depressed, started drinking a lot, and finally they´ve sent her to the psychologist (my dad already moved into a new flat in a nearby town) and he told me he would move back to the UK.
So I decided to tell him about my secret of being gay because I thought it would be my last chance to tell him. (Well, you know how the discussion ended.) But the physical pain was nothing against what he said before I passed out (he smashed my head against the wall); he told me I have to, in his words, "keep your fu--ing mouth closed to everyone about your abnormal-against-nature behavior," and if I don’t stop my selfish behavior I would just ruin the life of my mother and the whole family. At last he told me that it would be better for me not to have feelings at all if I couldn't keep them (I just told him I've already been in love with someone from my school, but I knew he was straight, so I just tried to spend some time with him as a good friend). I can´t remember anything after this (just woke up in the central hospital).
I've been thinking a lot about what he said and my only question was, "Why did he stop if I'm the only causing problems?" So I made a decision (thought it was the only thing I could do to help myself and my family that moment because I don’t want to cause them any trouble).
I still was an apprentice in the chemistry and veterinary research agency in OWL [Pbear note: I believe OWL to be the Ostwestfallen-Lippe Hochschule, a state university in Germany], so I've gotten access to all the equipment I needed.
I thought the world would be a better place without me, so I decided to kill myself. I thought it would be easy to do so, but I didn’t want to leave a mess behind me, so I thought I'll leave the world the same way as an animal who needs to be prepared for examination.
I knew I could use any sedative, but it should work fine without.
I went to work late, so nobody would be around there and I injected myself with potassium chloride (causes cardiac arrest).
I never felt such a physical pain before; it’s like your whole body is burning (your blood felt like it's been exchanged for acid). I couldn't finish the injection, and my body dropped instantly on the ground.
However, the impact alerted another lab worker from the ground floor (I passed out at this time, but they reanimated me in the lab and two more times during the trip to the hospital.)
The person who found and saved me in the first place was a friend of mine (let’s call her Elly) who shouldn't have been working that evening at all. She visited me in the hospital (the only person who's been there at all) and asked me just the simple question "WHY?" So I told her what’s wrong with me and why I’ve done this. (At this time my mom was still with the psychiatrist to learn how to deal with her depression and my dad had left Germany).
Elly told my boss it was an accident (not a failed suicide ) so I wouldn't lose my job (I don't know if they believed her or not, but I´m still working there so it’s fine for me.) But the doctor at the hospital knows everything so he could do his job without any trouble.
Elly still keeps an eye on me to make sure I’m fine.
I still suffer from the adverse effects of this injection, but I can handle it right now.
I am sorry to let you read all this without a reason.
I just want to say thank you for being there to give some advice where it’s needed most.
And I would like to say thank you to the Radio Network Furcast; without you I would maybe never have recognized that someone like Papa Bear does exist.
If you got any advice for me about what I should do to keep on or what I should better change please let me know. And sorry for any spelling mistakes or weird sentence structure.
Thank you again,
Your Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Thank you for sharing that with me. I won't post this on my website unless you okay it. I do think that people can benefit from reading about other people's experiences, but I won't repost this if you ask me not to. [Lucian ok’d it; see below.]
I'm not sure what Radio Network Furcast is, but I guess they mentioned me, and that turned out to be a good thing.
As you might know if you've read some of my columns, I attempted suicide myself when I was about your age. I first attempted cutting my wrist, which was, in a way, kind of fascinating because when the blood pools you realize that it really IS a tissue. I maybe bled a half pint or so but didn't cut deep enough and when it stopped bleeding I couldn't continue. Later, I overdosed on sleeping pills and ended up in the hospital, out of my mind for several days. Had some psychotherapy, but it didn't help much.
My reasons for doing this were mostly fear of life and being extremely lonely. Your reasons are different: you fear the judgment of your father and family. When it comes to that, I can state what you must already realize:
When you allow other people to dictate your life, it brings misery and, often, worse. Thank God you have Elly for a friend!
You are who you are. If you are a round peg, you are not going to fit into a square hole. When society and family try to shove you into that square hole, it causes great pain.
You are not an evil or bad person because you are gay. You know who IS a bad person? The "father" who slammed your head against a wall. THAT is a bad person. But you know what? Your father is also a victim of society, a society that feels that people can only be one way and, when they do not fit a definition of the right way, it is okay to use violence against them. To me, SOCIETY is the thing that is sick and twisted and causes suffering, pain, and death to people, like you, who are actually good, caring people.
My solution has been this: I give society a big middle finger. I have no respect for the social mores of a world that advocates violence on a colossal scale. That murders people by the millions for petty things like money, territory, and the insistence on forcing religious ideas on others.
People think that they are bad because society tells them they are bad. "Acceptable" and "proper" society is made up of a majority of the people who either subscribe to the dominant philosophy of the time or are too afraid to oppose it and pretend to accept it. These are the same people who once believed the earth was flat, the sun orbited the earth, and the world was 6,000 years old. In America, they are also the people who believe this nation is a Christian nation (completely wrong, as the US was founded by free thinkers who deliberately wrote a constitution excluding religion from government while advocating religious freedom for all).
My favorite passage in American literature comes from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck was raised in a society that believed blacks were inferior and should be slaves, but he becomes a friend to the slave Jim. This causes a great moral crisis in Huck because he's supposed to turn Jim in for escaping; he even believes he will go to Hell for not doing so because he would be partner in a crime. So Huck starts writing a letter to his aunt to tell her where Jim is so he can be captured, but he can't do it. He throws out the letter, declaring, "All right! I'll go to Hell!"
Was Huck wrong? NO! He was beautifully correct because he rejected society's incorrect beliefs and rose above them to declare what he felt was right for him. (Mark Twain was a great man who was ahead of his time.)
So must you. Your father is wrong to do what he did. Society is wrong to condemn you. Religions are wrong for saying you're evil. Your family is wrong if they feel the same way.
Hatred is wrong, and it is always wrong. Hurting other people is wrong. Violence is wrong.
Rise above the hatred. Be a loving person, the person you are, and you will find peace in your heart and your soul.
I feel very close to you right now, even though I am only typing on a keyboard, so I will sign off....
* * *
Dear Papa Bear
Thank you for your fast answer you gave me a lot to think about again and I'll try to assume as many as I can.
I'm fine with sharing my experiences and it’s ok for me if you post it.
I'm still afraid of what happened between my dad and me (he wasn't a violent person and never harmed me before but all changed in such a sudden.)
I fear the day when it could happen to me (I never want to hurt anyone but everything I've done seems to lead to the opposite).
So my final question for the moment is: Should I hide my feelings for the next 4 years until I can afford to leave the country?
Thanks for everything.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
I know how you feel. When I discovered I was gay, I was married at the time. I tried to hide it (for four years, as it turns out), but after a while I just couldn't do it anymore and confessed to my wife I was gay. It was very painful for both of us, and I still feel very guilty and also angry at myself for causing her pain that she didn't deserve. But it is important that you not live in the past....
But, again, we are who we are. Eventually, we have to be who we are. If we internalize this for too long, it eats at our souls and we die inside. Sometimes, as I've advised writers to this column occasionally in the past, it is wise not to come out right away. The best example is when you are a minor who is financially dependent on your family and that family is completely homophobic and unsupportive. Sadly, in such a case, it is best for the person to keep it a secret until they can get out and support themselves. (The streets of America are filled with young people who made the mistake of coming out to parents who were anti-gay and then finding themselves homeless).
I can't make that decision for you. Obviously, your father didn't handle it well at all; your mother, given her psychological state at this time, probably wouldn't be a good person to come out to, either. I'm not sure if there is anyone else in your family who might be supportive. It would be good for you to find someone--family or friends--whom you could lean on for support at this difficult time. Maybe, with luck and time, your father will come around and realize how wrong he is, and your mother will get better and be able to understand who you are.
If coming out is going to cause you harm (financial, physical, or otherwise) then I would advise you stay in the closet until such a time that you can be free. It is not selfish to not wish to get beaten up, yelled at, or rejected. You have to do what is right for your well-being at the time. Not the best situation, but the goal here is to be able to establish your independence, knowing that you will not remain in the closet forever.
I believe you will, one day, find someone to love who loves you back and loves you for who you are. That should be your goal. If it has to be delayed for the moment, that's okay, as long as it isn't put off forever.
* * *
Thanks again you really helped me its great to have someone to ask for advice.
I think I've taken enough of your time for now.
Keep up the great job the world need more person like you.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Hon, whenever you wish to talk, I am here. Please do not hesitate to write again if you wish to.
Papabear/Grubbs/Kevin (goodness, I have multiple personalities!)
Oh, I forgot to ask: did it occur to you to press charges of assault against your father? He committed a crime, after all.
* * *
I didn't do anything about it. I know I should but he is still a part of my family (if he wishes or not) and I've been afraid what kind of effect it will have to the rest of my family, questions could be asked I'm not willing to answer.
And I think after all I still would feel guilty to be a son who sent his own dad to prison.
But honestly I don't really know what I’m feeling about it; it is just such a mess I feel ... I really don’t know how can I explain my feelings.
I’m just sorry it’s difficult at last?
Sorry but I’m not sure if this part is off topic or something.
Besides leaving my mom on her own with such a problem like me He also left the country without any information where he went to.
So my mom has to pay for the credit they've had from the bank on her own (they've had a joint back account.)
So he took the car (not paid yet 23.000€) and, of course, my mom (lost her job because of the psychological problems) couldn’t afford the monthly payment. So they've put me in charge because the laws says I'm living in a common household with my mother (the reason why I couldn't study (chemical engineering fee 18.000€). So I have to do my technician (no fee) first, which is another 4 years of study, but all the money I've saved was gone. I've paid the credit off last month so it'll be fine from now on.
I've found out where he lived just a few months ago. The bill was nearly paid, so I didn't mention it at all (didn't want another reason to argue with him). I lied to mum and told her he paid me half of the money back, and I feel guilty because I lied again to her, but I didn't want her to worry about me at all.
Sorry I'm still adding things I shouldn't.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Please don't apologize, you poor man. You are a good son to your mother. You are a good man, a much more decent man than your father. Yes, you lied, but I’ve never been one of those people who believe there are no exceptions to always telling the truth. Sometimes, in fact, there are times when you should lie. The general rule for when to go ahead and lie is when telling the truth will cause more pain and suffering than good. You chose wisely.
Try not to feel guilty. Stop apologizing for being a good person.
Write me again whenever you feel the need.
* * *
Dear Papa Bear,
I'm sorry for contacting you again but I've been thinking a lot about the conflict I had with my dad. There is one thing I still struggle with to understand. I'm not a physically weak person; I'm taller than him and heavier. I know at least something about self-defense.
I know I still haven't got any chance to win against him (he's an ex SAS soldier).
But I didn't even try to defend myself. It's been obvious after he pulled his arm back that he's going to hit me, but I didn't even raise my arms to defend myself and I don't know why. Every normal person would have done at least something (I only closed my eyes).
And the second conflict was just the same, and on this time I really knew what he was going to do with me, and I just can't understand what's wrong with me. We've had self-defense in school and I was really good at it (OK, it was a bit uncomfortable for me to hurt someone on purpose but I could do it.)
I just don't know what's wrong with me (it should be the normal thing to at least avoid getting beaten or defending yourself.)
Hope you can help me another time to understand what's wrong with me and what I can do about it. And sorry again; you must be tired to answer all my silly questions.
Your Lucian the Wolf
* * *
1. Please stop saying "sorry." You don't need to apologize.
2. Your questions are anything but silly. They are quite serious.
Based on what you've told me, I would surmise the following. The first time you had the confrontation with your father, you were completely surprised by his physical violence because, as you stated earlier, he had never hit you before. So, you didn't fight back because you were shocked. The second time, though, I believe you didn't fight back because you considered yourself a bad person by that point because of what your father had said. You deliberately went to your father knowing he would hit you because, subconsciously, you wished to be punished for being, you believed, a bad person because you're gay.
What's wrong with you is that you keep defining yourself by the standards of a twisted society that believes in violence instead of love and kindness. What's deviant about you is that you are a good person who doesn't wish to hurt people in a society that thrives on backstabbing and killing and profiteering.
I celebrate your deviance. You, sir, are an evolved person, an enlightened spirit. You are better, much much better, than your father. The world needs people like you. You are a rarity. I wish I could clone you.
Be of good cheer. You are a saint among sinners.
Hello there, Papabear!
I've never written to you before—I enjoy reading your kind-hearted advice to other people from time to time when I'm feeling down myself though. Thank you for running this website and column!
Now for the problem.... I have a friend who is a survivor of some sort of sexual violence. This was sometime years before I met her. I completely understand her need to still talk about it and the angry, sad emotions that come with it as well as the painful process of healing, but I'm never quite sure how to react. She's never told me outright what happened—mostly she gets incredibly angry and tearful when talking about rapists and "rape culture" and toxic social norms against women, to the point of obviously making herself upset (close to tears). She sometimes brings this subject up out of the blue, doing a 180 from something pleasant like flowers to how unsafe it is for her as a woman to exist anywhere public. Although it makes me uncomfortable to talk about rape in general and see her upset like that, I know it's important for me to hear her out and support her in what obviously was one of, if not the worst experience of her life. My discomfort is FAR less than anything she experienced and that's the outlook I maintain.
My question, though, is how do I respond to this? I always try to make sure she can talk to me about whatever she needs, wants, or feels inclined to, but beyond that I'm lost. My inclination is to put an arm around her, but I'm afraid it would upset her more if she considered it unwanted. I'm all for feminism, equal rights, and making the world a safer place for women (as well as people in general), but I hate to agree with her when she so viciously attacks people (in general, usually no one specific unless it's a public figure) for things like enjoying "Family Guy" or "Friends" or "Playboy." So usually I just remain silent until I have to give an occasional "That makes sense" or "That's understandable," which feels a little cold and short. I can't claim to understand how she feels or the emotions involved in the subjects for her with what happened, but I do want to be able to help still since she obviously needs to get these things off her chest. But she doesn't seem to ever feel much better afterward. What do I do? Of course I'll continue to listen to her, but what can I do or say?
One more thing I should add is that she's been (and maybe still goes?) to counseling.
Thank you for your time! And of course, thank you in advance for your kind-hearted response!
* * *
Thanks for the compliment. You’re obviously a kind and compassionate person yourself. I’m very sorry for what your friend has been through and understand your frustration in not being sure how to help her. Professional counseling and/or group therapy is, of course, highly recommended for a person in her situation, and I hope she is still attending sessions.
Your friend has definitely not recovered from her rape. She is still very very angry, and she has not been able to overcome the terrifying feeling of a loss of control of her life, which is, really, what rape is about: it’s not sex so much as one person dominating, humiliating, and subjugating another. Because of this, she is projecting her fears onto everyone else. Everyone becomes a potential rapist, and she even feels society as a whole is against her, condoning such acts as part of a “rape culture.” With her in this mental state, it is very wise of you, indeed, not to make any physical contact that might in any way be construed as sexual or even merely intimate. You will have to be satisfied with comforting her in other ways until she is more emotionally stable.
She needs to overcome her anger and feelings of mistrust. You mention it’s been several years since the rape. If she is currently getting therapy and it hasn’t helped, she needs to shop around for a new therapist; if she has stopped therapy, she needs to return to it. A good place to start would be contacting RAINN—the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
As for you, if you are willing to be very patient and go down a very long road with her, the best thing you can do is expose her to positive people and situations whenever possible. One of those positive people can be you. You and others in her life must be very careful not to let her down or feel misguided or betrayed in any way. She also needs to be exposed to groups of people in non-threatening situations. If she is a furry, sad to say, I would not recommend her hanging out much in the young, rather oversexed furry crowd where she might run into people who will ignorantly hit on her without knowing what she has been through, which could set off an explosion.
Many people who have been raped turn to faith for strength. If your friend is a religious person, she might find comfort in that. There are several books written by rape survivors who discuss how their faith in God helped them to recover. She doesn’t have to necessarily follow an organized religion to find help in this way, however. If she is a spiritual person, she can find comfort in many other older belief systems that existed long before Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or other faiths. Getting in touch with her spiritual self and the Spirit around her could potentially be very healing, and maybe something you might suggest if she hasn’t tried it.
In the end, she needs to recoup her faith that not everyone is out to get her, that danger does not lurk around every corner. Yes, there are bad things in the world, including rape, but obsessing over them and allowing herself to feel only hatred and fear will destroy her from within. There may be a number of reasons why she is still so angry. Perhaps her attacker was never caught or justice was never served; perhaps she was abused by a close family member and no one believed her when she told others in her family. I don’t know, and neither, apparently, do you, but she likely has many unresolved feelings that are eating her up inside. It would be very helpful for someone to know what happened, exactly, which would help with treatment. It would also help in understanding why certain things seem to trigger outbursts of anger. Without this knowledge, you will need to tread very lightly around her psyche.
I wish I could be more help, but I hope what I have written here might give you ideas that will eventually assist you and your friend. She is lucky to have a friend like you in her life.
OK, there's this particular artist that I got into an unmentionably bad event about a decade ago, about which she still has not let go of the grudge from such event and holds to it so dearly that an apology of any kind is never going to be accepted. Now I moved on for the most part from that incident, finding love, a life, and my own way, but the last string attached to that closet skeleton is that women’s art. Strangely enough, I still enjoy it. But from a distance. I like it so much that I want to mimic her style. But getting references from someone who hates your guts and likewise is not that easy, though we stay out of each other’s way for the most part. So to the point. Would learning to and being able to draw like her be considered plagiarism or imitation? Given imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I’d rather not have an army of lawyers come down on my head. So I'm a bit lost. What should I do?
Confused from Orlando
* * *
There is nothing wrong with learning to draw by imitating another artist’s work, and you’re not going to be sued just for doing that. Many artists learn how to draw by practicing this way. You will see a lot of furry artists whose work is reminiscent of Disney artists, or the work of Don Bluth, or the many anime creations out there, for example.
The only way you might be sued is if you create art that basically copies the other artist and then try to make money off of selling it, pretending it is her work. That is definitely a no-no. It is also copyright violation if you create a work that is not only very similar in style but also in content to the point that it looks like something the other artist would do and could easily be mistaken as such. In the 1992 Louisiana court case Mistretta v. Hunt et al. an artist created works based on Mardis Gras posters by another artist. The new works were so similar in style and content that they looked like the work of the other artist, and so it was ruled a copyright violation.
In your case, I would avoid copying characters she usually depicts. For instance, if she draws a lot of otters wearing swim trunks and sipping tropical drinks by a pool, you should avoid drawing things that are similar. In the court case above, the defendant not only emulated the artist’s style, but also the Mardis Gras elements she commonly employed in her work. The other problem was that the defendant was trying to make money off these basically plagiarized paintings.
So, Rule #1: Do not attempt to make money off anything you draw that is strongly imitative of the other artist’s work; and Rule #2: Do not emulate both the style and content of the other artist’s work (art that imitates content but not style is typically called “fan art,” and there is nothing wrong with that).
It is perfectly fine to gain experience and knowledge of drawing techniques by trying to draw like another artist does. As I said, many people do this. But, ideally, you should limit this to practice.
The other phenomenon about drawing practice is that, in most cases, you will find that after you have figured out how to draw well you will begin to develop your own style. Everyone has little quirks about themselves that lend uniqueness to their own work. You might also try experimenting with other media. Say she does work using spray ink pens and brush pens; you might try colored pencil instead, or maybe even acrylics or watercolors or cut paper. Each medium has different demands that will, of necessity, influence your style. In addition, try selecting not only art by this particular artist, but also pick two or three other artists that you enjoy and try drawing like them for a while.
Force yourself out of your comfort zone a bit, experimenting as you go, and you will eventually develop a style all your own.
Hope that helps!
This is a nightmare...
Well, this isn't a very common furry question this time, but I have a huge harassing problem.
I have a blog and I decided to make some judgment against intolerance, after some small issues, a horrible drama website decided to post my blog info and made up crap about me, using no real critique, etc., etc.
They also make fun of the term "Autism" and now, I feel like I have no power to stop them from doing more crap. They even posted an offensive "ad" on the side saying something about "Autism?" and when clicked on: It goes to my blog. No joke.
I think it all started when I posted some slight non-taking-serious graph about some "fandom" based off a reaction that actually happened. Then it all started when this brony a person decided to post more news about my blog in the most crappiest way as possible. But there was another before (and I made a response to it) that compared random stuff to "bestiality" or something.
I am very worried about this. I fear so much that an even MORE horrid site will notice this and post even more offensive crap against me.
Do you know, if there is ANY legal way to stop them from posting current or future content from my blog? Or perhaps any talk about it? Is there any secrets, or trick to slide through the legal system?
I know there is copyright, and even though I hate copyright, I did try to abuse my own will and tried putting notices for it, but they think I "can't" do that. And yet, I have no idea how to file a copyright complaint off to a whole different website. Sadly, the website may not be connected with Google like mine is.
The only other thing I could do is try to "ignore" them, but that may stop me of my rights to criticize intolerable crap. I also tried modding my own URLs to avoid being clicked on but that bully keeps on updating the damn link to the new URL.
I wrote this kind of fast, but I am in great fear of what will happen the next day!
Note: By the time I send this, I may change the URL of the whole blog, mainly to prevent them from linking to them. And make it more hidden.
There is ANOTHER problem. They found away to link to a old captor of my blog. No joke!
Ever heard of the Wayback Machine? It's a website that captures old websites, and sadly, my blog was at least captured once. If you have any ideas on how to delete the wayback machine problem, you can post that too.
Anyway, my blog is a blogger, which is part of Google.
* * *
This is a complicated but important issue you are bringing up that touches on a lot of issues. Let me try and reply to your letter in a clear and logical manner. I have a very Germanic process on such things, favoring numbered lists for clarity, but a Q&A might work best here.
Without even going into the problem that the people who are harassing you are jerks, let’s see what can be done.
Q: How can I block websites from linking to my website or blog?
A: This touches on the issue of hotlinking, which usually refers to people linking to images on your website without your permission. Disregarding copyright issues, the problem with this practice is that if a lot of people are pulling images directly from your site rather than downloading the images and then reposting them to their pages is that they are using your bandwidth, which can really gum up the works on your site, causing it to slow down or crash if the images are really popular.
Hotlinking can also refer to accessing other files, such as css or other program files, and it can refer to accessing the URL itself. There are ways to block specific sites from linking to you, but it can be a little complicated as it involves adding lines of code to your .htaccess file. (cf. http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Preventing_hotlinking and
Since you are using Google Blogger, I would contact the people at Google and see if they can help and/or post on their forums page to see if you can get advice, as well.
Q: Can I have my old site versions excluded from the Wayback Machine?
A: Yes. To do so, you need to place a robots.txt file on your site (cf. https://archive.org/about/exclude.php). If you can’t do this because you’re using Google and can’t get access to code, contact the admins at the Internet Archive at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for their assistance.
Q: How can I prevent people from quoting from my blog or using other information and files on my blog without my permission?
A: As with authors of articles, books, etc., when you write something on the Internet and publish it, it is automatically copyrighted. However, it is very difficult to make a case about this without registering your copyright. The folks at LegalZoom advise that in some cases it might be best to register a copyright: “Copyright violation is always illegal, but it can be difficult to prosecute offenders without copyright registration, which establishes a public record of ownership. In addition, owners of registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation against infringers.”
Remember, though, that there is a thing called “fair use” rights. Fair use means that people have the legal right to quote a portion of your text (general rule of thumb is no more than about 10% of the text) without your permission if they are doing so for such things as writing a review. Also, satirizing a book, film, or even a website is legal because it is protected under free speech. If this is really irksome for you and is causing you financial damages (which I doubt in your case), you could consult with an attorney to assist you (cf. http://www.whoishostingthis.com/resources/student-copyright/ to learn more about copyright laws and your rights.)
While the people who are harassing you sound very unpleasant, and certainly their apparent mocking of sufferers of autism is in very poor taste, they, like you, are entitled to their rights of free speech, even if that speech is very ugly (but not to the point of being a hate crime or Internet bullying).
One thing you might try is this: On your website, put a prominent notice about the website that is harassing you, stating that you find their practices hurtful and in poor taste and whatever else you feel like saying (within reason). Have this notice appear on the page to which they are linking from their site so that people can see it easily.
When it all comes down to it, if you are confident in what you write about on your website and that it has value to those who read it, then others mocking that content are making themselves look bad more than they are hurting you. Indeed, as my partner, Yogi, says, there's no such thing as bad PR. These people are drawing attention to your site, giving you the opportunity to step up and show everyone who visits you what an awesome blog it really is despite their puerile attempts to make you look silly.
I hope this helps! Good luck!
Dear Papa Bear,
I have to say that finding your advice column may prove to be a great boon for me.
My current problem is actually several problems compounding into one. I’ll begin with my accident in November; it left me with some nerve damage in my left shoulder and hand as well as a spinal injury. Jumping ahead a couple months, on the night of January 5th, I woke up to find my mother dead on the kitchen floor. Since then it’s just been me left to deal with all of the fallout: I made the arrangements for the wake and funeral without any help from my aunt (her sister). My aunt spent my mother’s wake complaining about me inheriting everything to anyone who would listen.
After the funeral my aunt got into my mother’s safe deposit box and pulled everything from it including a copy of her trust. My mother had named my aunt as her successor trustee and set up the trust in such a way so that it could care for me and the house. Now my aunt has been extremely reluctant to work with me and has since hired an attorney for the trust however this attorney is looking out for his and her pocketbooks rather than the trust and my wellbeing. They call me uncooperative when in reality it’s my aunt who is unwilling to cooperate. She says that I’m constantly partying and should instead be looking for work however the extent of me partying comes down to one birthday party thrown for myself and attending Fur Squared. As far as job hunting is concerned there is not much that I’m allowed to do with my current injuries and my doctor has even chewed me out for doing basic house chores (ie: garbage, vacuuming, etc.).
Following a call in which the attorney that my aunt had hired decided to yell at and insult me, a few days ago I received a letter from him which was further insulting and unprofessional. Although in that letter he stated that both he and my aunt are getting paid for their services from the trust, this is important because in the trust it very specifically states that an individual trustee cannot take payment for their services. Furthermore in this line of issues the aforementioned attorney has claimed that bills including but not limited to the utilities for the house, food, and insurance are “estate debts” and as such are my sole responsibility and that the trust would not pay for them. However, he also claimed that the mortgage payment and property taxes are issues of the trust and will be paid from it, yet this month my aunt failed to make the mortgage payment.
Meanwhile, I’ve got two overdrawn checking accounts and no more food in my attempt to keep my house afloat. I don’t have a support network to lean on aside from people whom offer to “talk if I need to” which is nice but not what I need. I realize that I have forgotten to give my age, I’m 22 years old as of last month and despite my usual ability to be the adult of most situations I find that I am far from equipped to deal with even a quarter of what is now on my plate. Neither my father nor any other relatives are willing to help me in any way and I’m drowning in a sea of confusion, grief and unknowing. I honestly don’t know what to do and don’t know if I can continue to go through this alone but one thing I know for sure is that if this continues the way that it has been I will be homeless before the year is over.
I apologize for the massive block of text but I’m not of the mind to attempt to better separate things at the moment. I humbly ask for any advice you can pass on to me in the hopes that it can help.
Starving and worried
* * *
My condolensces for your loss, hon. At 22, you are of legal age, so you do not need someone else to administer the trust, but I guess that's what your mother did. I would very must like to have a look at the legal documents and see what they say exactly.
Because I can’t do that and because I am not an attorney, I would strongly recommend that you seek out legal counsel. Many lawyers will take a case for no advance payment (on contingency) if they feel they can win the case (and there's money in it for them). You definitely need a lawyer on your side. Your aunt is being a conniving so-and-so who is trying to wrest power and whatever money she can from you. Again, you are an adult and it is none of her business what you do with money that is legally yours, especially since she is not your legal guardian or spouse. (Is there some reason your mother made your aunt trustee and not you, the beneficiary?)
You need to get a copy of the will and the trust. (I hope you can get those). And find a local attorney. If you don’t know one, ask people you know whom they might recommend. If that doesn’t work, you can try a site like http://www.legalmatch.com/. Go to the Estate section and click on the for Contested Wills and Probate and answer the questions they have there. This will hopefully give you some leads you need.
My understanding of the law is that, generally speaking, if there is no will, the spouse of the deceased inherits the estate. You don’t mention your father or other siblings, so if you are the only living child, you would get the estate. If you were deceased, your aunt would probably be next in line, hmmmm. Anyway, it sounds like your mother did leave a will and left you with everything. Your aunt should have absolutely no legal standing in this issue—again, you are not a minor and she has no rights over you. All she has been asked to do is administer the trust.
Again, this is a legal matter and I’m no attorney. Get yourself some representation!
Dear Papa Bear,
First, I'm fully aware my grammar sucks, but at least, I have good spelling and thank you for your time :3
For a few months now, I've been thinking and bothered by a robbery that happened to me—or, more like who robbed me. I got back most of stuff (only missing three things), this happened in my home town; it's a small community, so it didn't take too long to find a few people to question, but while I was playing inspector, trying to find who did it, everything I found pointed to very close friend. Me and him were close, we have nicknames for each other (I was Chief and he was Apple). We always walked side-by-side, we know each other’s favorite color, we grew up with each other, we taught each to fight, we shared our money, we even showed each how to get in our homes, took each other to restaurants. We grew up in a bad environment (drugs, alcohol, bullies, etc.). We always told each other that one day, we would leave and find a better home. As we got older, my little brothers were born, which caused me to grow into a guardian-like personality (gay, straight, bi, I don't care, they're my brothers, and I'll protect them). My friend, on the other hand, gave in to the drugs and alcohol, and I never did. We became exact opposites, but our friendship never faded or weakened.
So I was very resistant to believe that he was the one to rob me. When I told my dad, who trusted Apple as much as me, of what, I've found, my dad was more than angry. My dad told me to strike Apple for stealing from me, or if I wanted my dad would hurt Apple for me. But I told my dad that I'd handle it. For the next few weeks my stuff would randomly appear by my window, which without a doubt confirmed it was Apple who stole from me (years ago, I told him, if he had anything for me, but I wasn't home, to just leave it by my window). I tried to confront him, but I could never find him, till one day another friend of ours got Apple to see me while I was doing yard work for my dad. We talked, and apparently Apple was drugged by his older brother (who was recently in jail) and tricked into robbing me. When the drugs started to wear off, and realized who he robbed, slowly he stole my stuff from his brother to return to me. He didn't want to see me till all my stuff was returned.
I told Apple that I'm very grateful that he was bringing back my stuff, but he should have told me. We could have gotten everything back together. He said he didn't want to get his brother in trouble (who's back in jail for stealing).
This is the only thing he has ever done wrong toward me. If I asked anyone else in real life they'd tell me to just hit him and carry on without him, I'm not sure, if I should forgive him and act like this never happened, or forget our friendship and continue my life without him? what would you do?
Hale (age 19, Alberta)
* * *
Some people say that you should always forgive someone and turn the other cheek, no matter what. My philosophy is to take it on a case-by-case basis. There are certain parameters I use to decide whether or not to forgive someone, including:
A bad example of this comes from my husbear’s past. Yogi had a partner who was a crackhead. He started stealing and selling Yogi’s possessions to buy more drugs (fails test #1). Eventually, Yogi kicked him out of the house. Years later, this guy contacted Yogi again, asking to be friends again. He never apologized (fails test #4), nor did he offer to make financial amends for the thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff he took (fails #3). I imagine he failed #2 as well, since he was not high at the time he stole stuff because he was stealing in order to get high again. Yogi, basically, told him to piss off, and I agree with that decision. (Apple’s brother is likely stealing to pay for drugs, just as Yogi’s former mate was).
In your case, the answer to all the above questions is “yes.” This was the only time Apple stole from you; his mind was clouded by drugs; he returned the stolen items; and he apologized (correct?) I think we can both understand his behavior, and I believe the cause of it all is his brother. The solution offered by your father and some friends (to hit him and move on) is both unconstructive and ape-like in its lack of intelligence and compassion.
Hale, you should forgive Apple (at least for now), but that should not be the end of this story. Apple needs help. Now that you have forgiven him (or I hope you will), the next step is to be a true friend. You need to get Apple away from the bad influence of his brother, first and foremost. You also need to save him from a life of drugs and alcohol before he ends up like his brother. The theft he perpetrated is an alarm, a call to action that his problem is becoming worse.
To start, check out Alberta Health Services, or also Addiction Enders in Alberta, and see what you can do to find a rehab program for Apple.
It is time to be a real friend, Hale. Your friend needs you. His stealing from you should not be taken as a personal offense so much as a cry for help. You should help him while he is still your friend (which he showed by his behavior) because if you wait too long the drugs and alcohol will eventually rot his brain and change who he is. At that point, you are at risk of losing the person Apple really is forever. And that would be tragic.
I wish both of you luck. Please write again if you need further help.
Hi. I have a problem with my boyfriend ... or ex-boyfriend ... or what ever I can call him due to legal reasons. I'm sure you are confused by "legal reasons." You see he currently turned 18, and I am 14. When my mum and dad saw that I was in a conversation with him they flipped and scared him into no longer talking to me. He tells me that it's because of the law and that he would if he could. I just want to help him in any way at all but cant. Do you think you can give me any advice?
From, a saddened, little fox
* * *
Dear Little Fox,
Well, there are legal issues about this situation—something called the “age of consent.” The age of consent is a legal term meaning there is a certain age that, if you are below that age and someone has sex with you, it is considered a crime, often punishable by imprisonment. You wouldn’t be imprisoned, but the older guy could be.
Most states have a legal age of 18. There are a few where it is 17 or 16, but you, being 14, would fall below legal age in all 50 states. Furthermore, even if, say, you were 17 in a state that defined age of consent as 16, you could get in trouble with federal law, which says it is 18. This means that if you and he were in separate states and communicated sexual messages (photos or text with sexual content), it could be considered illegal. What is even MORE complicated is that even if you were both in the same state and that state allowed the age of consent to be 16, but the server which helped to transmit an email or other electronic message was in another state, that would be considered interstate activity and, again, there would be trouble with the feds. Lastly, it is a federal crime for an adult to take a minor to another state in order to have sex with him or her.
For you, though, it is less complicated because you are definitely under legal age anywhere in the United States. So, your parents are right about the legal complications. I would suspect, though, that their concerns aren’t just about legalities, but more about the fact that you are really too young to have a boyfriend who is 18 or older. You might think, hey, it’s only 4 years, but the difference between a 14 year old and an 18 year old is quite profound when it comes to both sexuality and maturity. These are the years when those things are developing, and you really have quite a way to go before you are considered an adult (this is very different from, say, a 20 year old having a relationship with a 24 year old).
Now, you might protest that you weren't thinking about sex in your case, but, honestly, any relationship that is on a level above mere friendship is bound to, sooner or later, have a sexual component, even if it doesn't involve rounding all the bases and heading for home plate.
Little Fox, I know our modern American society is pushing you to be an adult already, and also pressuring you to have sex, but Papabear says you have plenty of time for all that. Enjoy being 14 and hang out with people your own age for a while longer. The same advice goes to your would-be boyfriend, who should really be looking for clothes that fit in the age-appropriate section of the department store.
Hon, please take Papabear’s advice. It might not seem like it, but sometimes your parents do give you wise advice, and in this case I would agree with them.
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