I'd like to first thank you for your time in reading this.
I'm very very new to the fandom and I am still learning. My fiancé... mate, pardon I'm still getting a handle on the terms, of eight years has been very supportive in helping me as he has been a member of the fandom for many a year, but I feel like it is the one way we aren't connecting and for him this is major part of his life. I love him more than anything in this world and want us to be able to connect more. But before I get lost, I will get to my reason for this letter.
I have a very, as most would call, unfounded fear of fursuits. When I was quite young my father took to the midway that was in town for the weekend and while there I was approached by a man in a Pikachu costume. I'm not sure what it was but something about this encounter left me terrified of anyone in a mascot or fursuit. Maybe it was poor condition of the suit, the lack of gloves or that I couldn't see the person’s face, something about it unsettled me.
The reason this has become a problem is, as I said, my fiancé and most of my friends are furries and fursuiters. My fiancé has made his own suit and I'm trying my hardest to conquer my fear but I feel like it's one step forward and then a tumble off a cliff backwards.
In 2014 I will be attending my very first fur convention, VancouFur. What I’m asking, I guess, is what do you recommend I do to get comfortable enough with fursuits not to have a panic attack in the middle of the convention space?
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Thank you for your fascinating question. It reminds me of my fear of clowns, which is why I hate Stephen King for writing It. But this isn’t about me. First off, I must praise you for working so hard to please your mate by trying to get used to furry stuff and fursuiters even though you aren’t really furry. (Oh, and it’s okay to use the word fiancé; furries speak English, too. LOL. Fiancé would actually be the more accurate term if you are engaged.)
You should know, though, that you shouldn’t feel obligated to try and be a furry yourself if you really don’t want to. My husbear is not a furry, but he’s fur-friendly, meaning he’s totally cool with my dressing in a fursuit and going to conventions and such, but he doesn’t feel like he has to take on a fursona, commission a fursuit, and watch Kung Fu Panda I and II with me. That’s cool. As a couple, you don’t have to have everything in common. In fact, having some different interests spices up the relationship because you have different things to talk about. For instance, my ex is really into crafts like beading and cross stitch and quilting. I never was, but I was always supportive of that and it gave us something to talk about other than what we already did together. My current mate is totally into radio, TV, and Internet media, as well as Disco and television shows from the 1950s to 1980s. While I have some mild interest in those things, I’m not gaga over them, but it’s fun to talk to him about it, as well as hilarious to watch him break into a dance routine in a grocery aisle when Gloria Gaynor starts singing “I Will Survive” over the speakers.
I just wanted you to understand that was an option.
But to the question at paw: how to get over the fear of fursuits? Intellectually, you know that they are harmless, so, just as with my freaking out about clowns, you know this is an emotional response. These emotional reflexes stem deep within the more primitive regions of our brains, which influence us greatly especially in childhood. If you had encountered that Pikachu as an adult rather than as a young girl, you likely would not have this current fear because your adult mind would recognize it as a human being inside a cheesy costume. As a child, though, what you saw was this huge yellow creature with big eyes and freaky human hands looming over your little body. Yeah, scary.
The best way to overcome this is through behavior modification therapy. That is, slowly working on altering your behavior through various exercises and gradual exposure to those things you fear. Here are a few things to try:
1. Ask your fiancé to wear his fursuit around the house, but without the head and with the zipper undone so you can clearly see that it is your mate in the fursuit. Have him do that until you are comfortable, then have him zip up the fursuit and be completely covered except for his head. When you are comfortable with that, have him wear just the head, but not the rest of the fursuit (his face is now anonymous, but you recognize the rest). Then, have him wear the entire fursuit around the house, but have him speak in the fursuit so you hear his voice. And, lastly, the entire suit but he stays silent and in character.
2. Dress in a fursuit yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and strike silly poses. Try to laugh at yourself at how fun you look. Laughter is an excellent way of overcoming fears.
3. Look at pictures of fursuiters and fursuiters in videos, too. This is a good way to get used to them without feeling threatened because they are next to you in real life. Just as watching a horror movie over and over again can make us realize that we are not in any real danger.
4. After doing all of the above, test how you are doing by hanging out with your mate and his furiends again at a meet or other fursuit gathering and see how you are doing. Hopefully, you will feel calmer and, if you can do this last step, you should be okay to go to VancouFur.
If the above doesn’t work, you might need to seek some professional help to overcome your fears. You might even try hypnotism, which, I understand, can actually work for many people.
Hope this helps! You’re a good mate, and I hope your fiancé appreciates you!
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