Furry Isn't into Hugs
As I'm sure you're well aware, the furry fandom in general is pretty fond of being touchy-feely. Hugging, cuddling, snuggling, licking, nosing, etc etc. I fully identify as a furry and enjoy the fandom plenty, but the whole touching thing has always been uncomfortable for me. I consider physical contact to be an expression of intimacy and trust, and I frankly don't like or trust most people enough to allow even the casual touch-of-the-shoulder-between-friends, let alone what the furry fandom collectively does daily. This goes for both in-person (especially in-person) and online interactions. I'm not even very comfortable with shaking another person's hand, just to illustrate.
Now, I'm well aware that I need to communicate this with the other people and furries I talk to, both online and off, and believe me, I'm not shy about speaking up. Groups tend to pick up on it pretty quickly and leave me alone as far as touching goes. That's not really the problem. With furries especially, people tend to take my aversion personal, as if, say, I don't like them or don't want to associate with them. It tends to cast me as an angry jerk. I don't mean to be off-putting, but it's hard to communicate that I still want to talk and share humor after point-blank refusing a friendly hug (for instance). It doesn't seem to matter how I show or tell my aversion: I've tried calmly explaining how uncomfortable it makes me feel, I've tried simply ignoring the issue (this one really only applies to online interactions), and I've tried being up-front about the whole thing before anything happens. How can I avoid offending people that are just trying to be friendly and still avoid touching? I love the fandom, but I feel a little out of place amidst the touchy-feely furries.
Now, that's not all. I said before that I consider physical contact to be an expression of intimacy and trust. I am fully open with people I get involved in relationships with. I actually think that it's a sweet expression to place that sort of trust in another person to show my changed feelings for that person, and I'd like to think that those I've been involved with have seen it like that. Problems arise with exes. The breakup I'm thinking about happened a little over a year ago. It hurt deeply and was a sad occasion, but we agreed to stay friends and continue speaking. Convenient, since we shared the same interests and tended to hang around the same places anyway. As we were in a relationship (fairly long-term as well), I obviously had long-since extended the trust of physical contact and physical intimacy, but after we broke up, I felt that that trust needed to be taken back. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that I felt betrayed. As such, I no longer felt comfortable being touched by them, even casually, as furries are wont to do.
As I had previously allowed and even wanted it before, I think they have a hard time understanding that I am back to being uncomfortable with it now, especially since, well, furries. I know I've tried communicating this several times, but it still persists, and I don't want to object any stronger for fear of completely alienating them. I don't want to encourage getting back together (as, as you'll remember, touching is an expression of intimacy) but I don't want to lose them as friends either. Due to the standoffish nature that people assume I have, I don't make many friends. I'd like to keep the ones I have. How can I really get it through to them that touching is now a no-no, as it once was before, without unduly hurting their feelings?
* * *
Everyone has there own sense of personal space, and, yes, yours is not the usual for the usually touchy-feely furry community. This is not a bad thing; it’s just that you are not so free and easy with your affections because, for you, hugging someone or being close in a physical sense (or even being huggy online in an IM) means something more to you. You are the type of person who only gives his physical affections to someone who means a lot to you. Papabear can understand this.
In one way, this is actually a good thing for you because it leaves you less vulnerable to the kind of emotional manipulations and shallow “friendships” that can and have run rampant in the furry community. It also buffers you from the drama queens that are out there.
On the other hand, as you noted, people can easily misinterpret this as meaning you are an unfriendly person, which is not the case.
There are all kinds of physical ways to express friendship and love, and there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to do so, whether in public or private. Papabear is an affectionate bear, and I love hugs, but there are some behaviors I have seen in public that even I find appalling. For example, this dance move from Brazil is just too out there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oQ83rJ_RhE. I mean, seriously??
But I do think you have gone a bit too far the other way. Papabear is big on communication, and in the human world verbal language is only one part of that communication; body language is enormously important, as well.
You mention you don’t even like to shake paws. If you are in business at all, that in itself could have a negative impact on a career. A friendly pawshake and a smile can go a long way without being too intimate. (If you were involved in a business deal and refused to shake hands with someone, people would quickly think you are not dealing sincerely with them). Papabear suggests you try working on your pawshake and smile and that can really ease your images as a cold fish. Once you get that down, you might even practice what I call the “hetero hug,” which is a brisk, not-too-close-and-not-too-long hug with a vigorous pat on the back (one or two pats at most) to convey congeniality and camaraderie without appearing too feminine or vulnerable, as butch, hetero men often seem so afraid to do (I’m a little tongue-in-cheek here, furs, so please, no letter campaigns from the hetero community, thanks).
A little easier to deal with is chatting online. You can certainly be a friendly person online without typing things like *hugs* and *kisses* and such. Nothing wrong with a friendly :-) after all, is there? Surely that won’t break your fingers.
Finally, and most importantly, being a friend and finding friends anywhere, whether in the furry fandom or outside it, has more to do with actions than social interactions. What I mean is, be a friend by helping others, being there when they need you, offering companionship and support in a very real way. Papabear has a sense that that is the kind of person you are with your tight circle of friends, which is cool.
If you remain a furry of good character, never stabbing people in the back or being a false friend, eventually word will get out that you are a person of substance, which is worth a million shallow hugs in this bear’s book.
Hope that helps,
Leave a Reply.
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.