I've been following your column for quite some time, and I love it.
But see, I've had a bit of an issue lately. I'm still in school, and have never had issues with bullying. I've always gotten along with other “normal” non-furries at school. Should anyone ask my sexual orientation, or about my hobbies, I'm honest. I never been much of a liar.
However, I've noticed that when I go out in public, adults treat me poorly. I dress fairly normally, besides the fact that I dye my hair, and I try my best to be kind. I'll be walking along at the mall, minding my own, when I'll overhear a middle-aged woman whisper to her friend things along the lines of "Mall freak." This has always been a shock to me.
People my age, the newer generation, I suppose, have always been kind to me. I know that there is a bit of a generation disconnection between older people and younger ones, but why would a mother set such a bad example for her children? I guess what I'm trying to ask is, why are adults seemingly crueler than teens when you try your best and are nothing but kind?
At this time, I've learnt that I'm simply “different,” and there's not much I can do about it. (Took me a while, but after watching the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox several times I came to the realization.)
Thanks papabear! <3 have a nice day!
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Always nice to meet a loyal reader of my column :-) Thanks for the compliment.
I believe what you are experiencing here is the typical generation-gap problem, but also other things. The older generation always thinks the younger generation are a bunch of lazy, irresponsible freaks, especially when they dress differently, have fun with their hair (it’s just hair, geez), and listen to that damn young people music (shakes his cane at you). Oh, and get off my lawn! Damn kids. Naturally, people your own age are easier to get along with; they understand you and relate to you and like many of the same things you do (and they don’t talk a lot about their gall bladder operations or how gas used to cost 29 cents a gallon).
Now, just because older people tend to be less comfortable around you doesn’t give them free license to behave badly by calling you names (and whispered insults under one’s breath betray a cowardly nature Papabear finds putrid). As you noted, this is especially poor behavior when they do it in front of children, thus teaching them the lovely lesson that you should hate people who are different (sigh).
It has not been this bear’s experience, though, that treating others badly is limited to the older generation. You may be lucky so far, but I have seen plenty of misbehavior among young people, as well, and all you have to look at is examples of the “popufur” phenomenon to see that some furries treat other furries as if they were inferior or who otherwise “don’t belong.”
Chalk it all up to human nature. Or, if you want to be strictly biological, to animal nature. Animals tend to reject those that are different for genetic reasons, because when it comes to procreation you want to only mate with those who are similar to you and who seem to be healthy, “normal” examples of your species (leading to human phenomena such as racism and homophobia) as well as territorialism (leading to nationalism and war).
There is some hope for humanity, though, as expressed in attitudes such as your own, Matty. Some humans are becoming more enlightened and have shrugged off the shackles of base biology to reach a higher, spiritual plane in which one can look beyond the surface and recognize our shared humanity (furriness).
The best way for you to battle this type of bad behavior in others is what you are already doing: As Kurt Vonnegut said, “There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.” Evil and intolerance have no defense against love and good humor. That is why comedy is such a wonderful weapon against ignorance and hatred.
So, if you are ever confronted with such despicable behavior face-to-face, simply smile and say, “I love you, too. Have a lovely day!” If someone calls you a “freak,” reply, “Thank you! I cherish my individualism, and freaks are the epitome of individualism!” If someone calls you a “mall rat,” say, “Cool! Did you know rats can literally chew through steel? Wouldn’t that be a great superpower to have!” Or some other clever response.
Remember, snarky remarks can only harm you if you respect the other person’s opinion.
Go forth, Matty, and drench the world with your splendid brand of freaky kindness.
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