I am not normally one to go looking for advice online, but I've been following your column on Twitter since I joined the fandom in September, and you have some legitimately good advice and I figured you might have some insight into my particular dilemma.
Okay prologue over, I should give you some background: I am very new to the Furry community, really only getting involved in September this year, but I've been prolific in my short amount of time and made a lot of friends, constructed my first fursuit, nearly completed a second and am well into designing a third so that I can open for commissions. I've been suiting for a solid two weeks now and enjoy it immensely. I've also organized a local volunteer group, led a few different events which have been pretty successful and above all I have been having the time of my life.
And this is where things get tricky. I never would have gotten as involved as I am without the encouragement of a friend of mine. He and I have been friends since high school and I knew he was involved in the furry community when we were in college a few years ago. So when I decided I wanted to see what the scene was all about I obviously went to him first. So he's been involved for a while and since he's pretty quiet and not very socially active, he hasn't made a lot of waves outside of his circle of friends and as far as I know he was uninterested in suiting or performing, choosing to stick more with the artistic side of things, something he is really good at!
The problem is, I had gained a bit of popularity amongst the locals even before I started suiting. I am outgoing and friendly and really like meeting new people. At the time I started picking up on a bit of resentment from my friend, something I decided to ignore, assuming it would pass as he got more comfortable with the idea of me in the community, plus I tried to stick with him at meets, introduce him to some new people and get him to talk about his art with others. But as I finished my suit, and started becoming a bit more well known, this resentment has grown to a level which is making me a little uncomfortable.
Mostly it comes down to him getting really sarcastic or angry anytime I want to talk about the fandom, or anytime someone recognizes me. It doesn't help that he keeps not getting recognized by people while I am. He was particularly upset when he was referred to as the "Guy" with me.
Lately he has taken to trying to emulate what I've done in that he's decided to take up suiting and wants to build his own fursuit as well, but doesn't want to take on the work behind it. I feel like I should be happy he's making a move forward to get to where he wants to be, but I feel like he is doing it all for the wrong reasons. I got into suiting because I love performing. I got into building because I have years of experience in crafting and it was applicable to something that I wanted. There is a lot of passion and love (not to mention work!) behind what I've done and I feel like he's doing it out of jealousy and keeps pointing out issues with my work, often times loudly and in front of others. I feel like this cheapens what I've done and makes me more than a little sad, because he's devaluing my work.
Now, while I know it is none of my business why he does anything, what I really want to ask is how you would go about dealing with this situation if you were me. Should I work on preserving this friendship, or just let things fall where they may? I want to be a good friend and open some doors for him, but I also don't want to get caught holding the door, especially when he is treating me unpleasantly for something I don't feel like I should apologize for. Should I keep pulling him along and endure his attitude in the hopes it gets better, or leave him to find his own way at the risk of seeming like a jerk? Maybe you can think of a third option.
Hope you can help,
One Conflicted Panda
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Welcome to the fandom! It’s pawsome that you are enjoying it so much and becoming so active, while having a lot of fun, too. I’m glad that we have you among our numbers.
As for your friend, he is the very definition of jealousy rearing its ugly head. From what you write here (and remember, I can only form an opinion based on what I have learned from you) he is definitely emulating you because he wishes to reproduce your success in his own life. He resents you for becoming popular (note: I’m not saying you’re a popufur, which is actually more like what your friend is shooting for) and is probably being nasty to you because he is thinking along these lines: “Hey, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be a furry. I’m the one who made you and you’re getting all the credit and attention!” That, of course, isn’t really true. Even if he was not your friend, you probably would have gravitated to furry on your own; he just expedited the process.
You have nothing to apologize for. He’s the one being the jerk. And he will be unsuccessful in his attempts to copy you because you and he have different personalities and skills. Therefore, what he should be doing is focusing on what he is skilled at, which sounds like his art, not fursuiting, public performance, or the more extroverted things you do.
I would never advise you to dump a friend without trying to keep that friend first. What I would do if I were you is find ways to encourage and promote his art, not try to help him be more like you. Use your own popularity to promote your friend’s abilities. Be his PR guy, in effect. He is clearly too shy to promote himself, which is why only a small circle of friends knows about him. You can change that. Don’t even ask permission. When you post messages on furry sites, mention his work. Paste samples of his art into your discussions. Ask your friends to pass the word along. Word of mouth can be very effective. And give him encouraging feedback about his art whenever you can. If the two of you are stopped in a hallway because a furry recognizes you, thank them and then make sure to introduce your buddy, adding, “... and he’s a really great artist, too! You should check out his stuff at FurAffinity [or wherever he posts].” Combine this with a neutral attitude toward any of his efforts to imitate you. Don’t criticize him for trying to fursuit, but don’t encourage him, either. Instead, always try to draw his attention back to his gifts as an artist and how wonderful that is. Perhaps act a little as if you were the jealous one (“Gosh! I wish I could draw as well as you do! You’re so talented!”)
With luck, your friend will find his own niche and his own success. This should stop him from trying to be like you and instead focus on being more like himself, which will stop the jealousy because he will have found his own success.
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