Furcon Age Policies
What age generally do you have to be to go to a furry convention? Is there a set age or what exactly?
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Every convention I know of has an age policy. A typical one would be that if you are under 16 years of age you must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; if you are 16 or 17, you must have signed approval from a parent or guardian; if you are 18 and older, you're good to go. Sin City Murr Con in Las Vegas is, obviously, for 18 and older ONLY because of its very adult nature.
That is in the United States. Other countries are different. For example, I am led to understand that UK conventions do not allow minors at all. Same with Eurofurence in Germany and Furdu in Australia--you have to be 18. Asia cons can vary, I believe. For example, Furs Upon Malaysa allows furries as young as 13 to attend, but 13 to 17 year old furries must have an adult with them.
Anyway, you're likely only interest in U.S. cons, so short answer is you will need a parent to come with you. If you aren't sure, just visit the furcon's webpage and they will have the age policies posted there.
Autism and Comorbidity
I have noticed that over the years I have been rather emotionally dead inside. It seems I need strong stimulus to feel a little compassion towards others outside of myself. But this does not mean I am selfish per se. I seem caring on the outside. I am friendly with my friends I hang out with. I do chores for Mom as she has to go to work in the morning and I am home during the day. I hug her. I say I love her, but I never really feel it. When she would get home, she would have dinner and then sit on the couch [with] her iPad watching the news and relaxing while I was on the computer. I would occasionally spend some time with her on the couch, but I never really felt a connection with her doing that. Also, my intrusive thoughts would constantly make me feel bad and not happy. Too negative. Honestly, at night they make me want to commit suicide sometimes.
Sometimes I would just write my thoughts down on paper. Whatever thought popped into my head I would write down, and it is always very negative stuff.
Another example is the Thousand Oaks shooting. I was attending Moorpark College when it happened. However, since I only recently moved there, I never formed any real ties to the local area. Point is, after it happened one of our teachers talked to each of us individually in case we needed to talk to someone about what just happened. I personally never really felt anything towards the victims. I more or less went about [my business] as if nothing really happened. So when the teacher talked to me, I was rather nonchalant and did not seem very upset whatsoever. Later, I received an email asking me to [see] the Moorpark counselor. I did not understand why at the time, but looking back I think my teacher talked to someone about my lack of emotion. I went to see the counselor, but since I was perfectly fine that day, I was in and out in 5 minutes. Nothing wrong whatsoever. (Note, I was recently diagnosed with autism).
I do not actively go out and hurt anyone. However, I do not really go out and volunteer to help anyone. If it’s of any relevancy, part of the reason I am emotionally dead or think I am that way is because of a lot of trauma during my young adult years.
Recently, I got a lifeguard job, and [judging by] the first day alone, it seems like a good fit for me. That should help with my depression and give me encouragement as I now have a source of income. It seems really easy, a good thing for my OCD thoughts. (They are not as bad as they were many months ago, but sometimes they still bother me.)
I have to admit I am never happy. My day is boring day and day out, and sometimes I feel like I am far behind most people my age in their progress of life.
So, what are your thoughts? What do you think is going on, and how do you think I should proceed going forward?
Nicholas (age 26)
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I am sorry for the struggles you are experiencing. Thank you for writing.
To make a full assessment of what's going on, I would ideally like to know more about your background, especially details about the trauma you mention only in passing. That said, my initial feeling is that all of this links with your autism. You don't say where you are on the autism spectrum, but be that as it may, autism is often associated with other emotional conditions. This comorbidity may involve all of the other problems you mention, including OCD, depression, and your lack of empathy for others.
You autism, combined with whatever trauma you might have suffered earlier, may have brought up or exacerbated these other emotional issues. Let's talk about each of these in turn:
In short, I suspect strongly that all these things you are experiencing, including your reaction to the Thousand Oaks shooting, are connected to your ASD. Therefore, the logical thing to ask is this: Are you being treated for your ASD? Are you seeing a professional? Have you consulted a doctor at any time? (I don't think your 5-minute consultation with a counselor counts).
I suggest you start by checking out the Autism Speaks website as a good place to find information and resources.
Don't worry that you might hurt someone (doubtful) and don't worry about competing with others your age (everyone is different and progresses at their own rate). But if you do have thoughts of suicide again and they get worse, please call the 988 hotline, or you can also chat at the website.
I hope this helps. Write again if you have more questions or concerns.
Tips on Picking a Fursona
Hey, Papa Bear,
I wanted to write this letter to inform that certain things have improved recently. As you can probably tell from the latter part of the letter, I do have issues to tell but things otherwise have improved in some meaningful capacity. I now have a volunteer job working in retail (food bank) and I’m really happy with the position and made new friends. Also, as of last year, I became an uncle. My sister’s baby boy is so precious to me. He’s turned 1 fairly recently and I cannot be prouder of him. I realised as I reread your response letter to me from 2020 that I’m simply not ready to be a dad. It’ll come unexpectedly but I only want to be the best I can be, learning from my own parents and of course, my nephew. But right now, being there for him is my priority.
Also, that horrible person who abused my mum was arrested after breaking AVO [Apprehended Violence Order, which is used to protect people against domestic violence] the following morning. I’m glad he’s out of my family’s (and my) life, but I’m left trying to cope with the last three years he’s been so abusive to my mum (and indirectly, my family). I was only indirectly affected (the night before he was arrested, I actually confronted the horrible man to get out and he did but I was terrified of him, I still felt the need to stand up to him and with a furious glare I told him to get out while my mum screamed at me to leave the room out of terror for my safety, but I claimed I wasn’t afraid of him, which was a lie), but the last three years left a mental scar on me which has left me trying to heal by talking with friends and being honest with my mum (also helping her with shopping), who finally cut ties with him for good. I hope he never returns as nobody in my family wants him around.
However, this is my question: was I stupid/reckless to confront him while trying to be brave while also trying to protect my mother and brother (he was also confronting him) knowing how cowardly and terrified I actually am, or should I have just not bothered out of a desire to live and to not be killed by that monster (he had no weapons but he was still dangerous having a terrifying abusive mental state)?
I understand this is a heavy question but I needed to know if I did the right thing. I have a disability (autism), but he has one, too, but that shouldn’t excuse his disgusting actions given how long this was occurring. Still, I don’t need potential PTSD in my life. A lot of horrible domestic abuse cases often end in either severe injuries or mostly death (I saw a lot of news reports of this and I hate how common it is), and I don’t wanna lose my mum due to my cowardice, so I had to be brave. Nobody got hurt physically, but I still feel stupid knowing he could’ve beaten me to death if he wanted to. The past three years have been rather traumatic. I just wanna know if I did the right thing or not. My nephew is one of my few bright spots in my life that remind me what is truly important: family.
I've really appreciated your helpful and kindhearted letters to me over the years, Papa Bear. I would appreciate it if you answered my letter soon.
Sam the Dog
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I'm glad you have finally extricated the problem from your family situation. It is a tough question you ask about whether you did the "right thing." If I were to give the standard police answer, then no, you should not have put yourself at risk like that and you should have tried to avoid violence at all cost, call the police, and let the police do the touch work for you.
In this bear's humble opinion, though, you did the right thing. You faced up to a bully, and he backed down. It worked. And you were brave to do it. And if you were scared, that just means you were even braver yet because, you see, the bravest man is the one who faces his fears and does what needs to be done. If you have no fear, then no bravery is needed.
Sometimes we have to dare to be brave because help is not on the way. The police are often busy or just don't show up. Sometimes, as you might have heard, they show up at the wrong place and kill or arrest the wrong person. Work within the law, but don't trust anyone, including the police. and know your rights. Hell, one time, the police wanted to arrest my mother on suspicion of killing my grandfather when he merely died in bed of natural causes. And they treated me like a criminal when I was trying to report a car accident (one in which I wasn't even involved). Another time, my house was robbed. The cops even admitted they thought they knew who did it, but they did nothing, and when I went to report missing items at the station, the cop was more interested in talking to his buddies about his planned summer vacation than taking my list of items stolen. I don't have a great history with police, and that's coming from someone who has never even committed a crime except for getting one speeding ticket. Sheesh.
Did you do the right thing? Is the jerk gone? Yes. Is your mother now safe? Yes. Are you okay? Yes. Given the evidence, I would say, yes, you did the right thing. You can't argue with good results. You have a right to defend yourself and your family, and you especially have that right when you are inside your own home. The law is on your side in this case, most definitely.
This is not to say you should always behave forcefully. Sometimes the situation calls for it, sometimes not. For example, just a few days ago, I was at the library and one of the patrons was being forcefully removed by a security officer. He was kicking the officer and yelling at her, but I stood to one side. Obviously, people were already there to handle the situation, and if I had tried to help I likely would have just been in the way or gotten myself injured.
I'm not clear as to what the guy did, specifically, that caused you to toss him out, unless you had just had enough, but then you got the police involved and they arrested him, so all's well.
Again, take things on a case-by-case basis. You knew this jerk for three years, so you likely understood that he was really just a bully, and all bullies are cowards. You assessed the situation, faced up to the bully, got rid of him, and then reported him to the authorities.
My Final Word on Minors in the Fandom
Letters to this column have been on the decline, most likely because I can't afford much advertising right now, but the majority of the letters I do get have been from kids who all ask, in various ways, the same question: "I'm a furry and am afraid to tell my parents/friends/family." I don't post such letters and my responses because it's repetitive and doesn't add to the column. Past columns regarding "coming out furry" can be found here.
When I first started writing this column, my position on young furries (under 16) joining in the fandom was very different from what it is today. Back then, I basically encouraged kids to be furry, telling them a number of ways to broach the subject with their family and try to get them on board, or, if their family still didn't support their furriness, that they should still be furry but keep it quiet until they were adults and could make their own choices.
While I did stress to such letter writers that the furry fandom was conceived as a social group for adults and not children and that they should be careful where they go online, I still saw the fandom as an exercise in creative imagination that is important for children and that could be healthy for them, so, I erred on the side of saying they should be secret furries. That was wrong of me.
That was 10 years ago. Even then, there were dangers in the fandom for children, but these days I feel it is a much more sketchy world. In allowing their children to be furries, parents need to make one of two choices: either allow them to participate while being supervised continuously (monitor their internet and phone behavior and go with them to furcons or furmeets) or tell their kids that this is an adult fandom not intended for children and they will not allow their kids to participate any more than they would allow their kids to watch porn sites (parents need to give a clear explanation and not just say, "Because I told you not to.")
Parents, I must stress, not only have the right but also the responsibility to supervise and protect their children. Good parents stay involved in their kids' lives. But this means more than just saying "yes" or "no" to their children. Communication and involvement are essential.
Parents, if your kids want to be furry and they are, say, 10 or 12 years old, you should know that they aren't looking for sex and porn. Many of your kids write to me and emphasize that they know there is X-rated stuff online but that they just want to have a fursona and a fursuit. They are enamored by anthropomorphic animals. You need to understand that watching cartoons or movies like Turning Red sparks their imaginations and feelings of playfulness. Wanting to dress up as a fox or Husky is just creative play, not anything evil, anti-Christian, or nefarious.
So, if you wish to ban your children from the fandom, that is understandable. But, at the same time, you should also come to understand their interest in anthro characters. Play with your kids. Maybe even help them make a costume (fursuit), read them classic anthro stories such as The Wind in the Willows or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH or Redwall and share with them their explorations into stories and fiction. This is healthy, believe it or not, and not enough parents do it.
Kids, if you are underage, Papabear understands you aren't into the fandom because of porn. You just want to play pretend. I get it. But you need to understand that the online community can be dangerous. You might think you know, but you don't. Even adult furries can face attacks by some quite nasty furs on the internet. While most furries are good people, if you aren't prepared for what might happen, you could become a victim of pedophiles or worse. The furry fandom can be a wonderful place--and it usually is (it's not about furporn, which, while it is out there, is not the purpose of the fandom at all)--but you need to be careful.
While working with Tim Stoddard on his upcoming book, Furtannia, I learned that in England the furries do not permit minors to attend furcons and meets. In fact, the idea of allowing kids into such functions is bizarre to them. In America, where we have become very permissive of people's desires and privileges, we have perhaps gone too far and no longer recognize that not all things are for children.
The bottom line is this: The Furry Fandom is an adult fandom that looks like it is for children, and that can be a potentially dangerous combination for you cubs out there. Papabear does not recommend an active involvement in the fandom--especially online--for anyone under the age of 16 without parental supervision.
But this doesn't mean you cubs can't do furry stuff. After all, the main reason we older furries love the fandom so much is to share our interest in movies, TV shows, novels, and comic books with anthropomorphic characters. You can still do that. And you can write stories and maybe make your own fursuit, too.
Parents, stop stressing about whether or not your kids are getting A's and are going to integrate into "normal society." Imagination and creativity should be encouraged and not suppressed. Don't call your kids "weird" or worse because of their interest in furries. They're just trying to be playful. You should try to remember, perhaps, what play is and how healthy it is for mind, heart, and soul.
Above all else, parents and their kids need to talk to one another. Parents, don't just "lay down the law" and forbid them from being furry; kids, don't try to hide your furriness and be sneaky with your phone and online behavior because, believe me, your parents will find out and then you will damage their trust in you.
Being furry can have many benefits for children. For example, parents, did you know that being a furry can help kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder? It's true! Watch this video for more.
Even more, being in the furry fandom can foster skills such as drawing, writing, sartorial skills (sewing is a valuable skill!), and even computer programming and the digital arts. On a less technical side, being furry often is a side effect of a person's love of animals and nature. These days, kids can feel very distanced from Nature, and caring about domestic animals and wildlife can be good for them. So, there can be many academic and social benefits.
As with anything in the modern world, being a furry can be complicated. There are both good and (some) bad things about it. As kids, you need to be aware of the dangers; as parents, you have the right to protect your kids, but don't be lazy about it by just saying "No." Get more involved in your children's lives. Find out why they like furries. Ask questions. And let them be kids. Being a parent is hard, no question, but it can be much more rewarding if you connect to your kids rather than just regulating their lives.
Questions? Feel free to write me and I am happy to answer anything you would like to ask!
I am new to the furry/fursuiting community and have suddenly risen to popularity in a little over a month. It has been a great opportunity and has really made my life amazing. My only worry is not knowing what to do with it all. I worry that I soon will be labeled as a popufur and not be seen as the person I am but instead for my fame and name. I don't want that. I just was a simple person like the rest of all of you. What do you think I should do? It's impossible for me to talk to all of my fans, but I also don't want them to feel ignored and used. Thank you for the time.
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Interesting question, and thank you for posing it. To address this issue properly, one must first define what a "popufur" is. If you ask 50 furries what a popufur is, you will likely get 50 different answers. Like most things in the furry fandom, crystalline definitions are nowhere to be found. Heck, furries can't even define "furry" to everyone's satisfaction.
So, let's just go by Papabear's definition: to be a popufur, it is not enough just to be popular and have a large following; you must also be full of yourself, crave attention, behave in ways that are designed to attract attention, get angry when you don't get that attention, and, basically, be a furry for the reason that you are obsessed with being validated. This, as you might imagine, makes for a rather unpleasant personality. Popufurs are in the fandom because they discovered a subculture that, unlike in the mainstream, gives them attention and validation, and not so much because they love the anthropomorphic arts in their own right. In other words, they tend to be narcissists.
If the above does not describe who you are, then--at least, to this bear's mind--you are not behaving like a popufur. So, the question might next be: Why are you suddenly so popular? My guess is that you have either made or purchased a pawsome fursuit and that you are a good fursuit performer (since you mentioned fursuiting specifically and not, say, being an artist). This likely means that furries glom onto you for the very superficial reason that they like your fursuit. If, therefore, you wish to take a little attention off yourself, take the fursuit off and attend furmeets and furcons sans suit for a while. You can then more easily gauge how much people like you for you.
This is not to say you should quit fursuiting. I mean, I love fursuiting myself because I think it's wonderful how it breaks down barriers and people like to give me hugs and pose for pictures, which are things they would never do if I am just strolling through a hotel as myself. Fursuiting is great fun, so don't quit. What I do recommend for you, though, is that you spend more time exploring other aspects of the fandom, such as literature and gaming and movies. Diversify.
Meanwhile, when you DO fursuit, don't let it go to your head that furries give you so many compliments. Just thank them kindly and go on with your life. Don't try to "brand" yourself, don't strive to increase your following, don't be a media whore (forgive my French). Just be your fuzzy self and enjoy. Be gracious, be kind, be humble.
Hope that helps.
Just Enjoy Music, Don't Analyze It
Dear Papa Bear,
I just turned 23 on July 27th! Here's my question: I'm not a huge fan of Iron Maiden, but being a Christian, I decided to do some research and I found out that not only is their drummer a Christian (for real!), but their song "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" is a Christian song ... allegorical it may be! So, since I enjoy a variety of music, how do you know which rock/metal - or other genres - bands to listen to and which ones are just plain trashy like Slipknot?
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If you mean how do you tell by the lyrics, then the simplest thing to do is go to a website that posts music lyrics, the most obvious one being lyrics.com. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell just by lyrics, though, especially when you get some very poetic or symbolic or abstruse or, as in the case you cite, allegorical lyrics that are difficult to understand. Often, lyrics are very personal to the artist, self-referential, and hard to get unless you know the artist well.
If you're truly concerned as to whether a song is "Christian" enough for you, there are plenty of Christian rock bands you can listen to, as well as plain ol' church music. GodTube.com lists what it considers the 20 best Christian rock bands here.
As for mainstream rock, pop, and other genres, my thought is that you shouldn't worry about it. Just listen to what you enjoy. If you are a Christian in your heart, accidentally listening to some "bad" music is not going to make you turn Satanic. Music is to be enjoyed, not analyzed.
I began dabbling in the furry fandom when I was 19, and in college (early 2014ish). I went to a small college, and I didn't know a whole lot of furries (though I did know a lot of bronies), so I hung around with other furries on the internet. I have never been to a convention, though I've always wanted to go, but didn't have the money, the opportunity, nor my parents's approval. I have never owned a fursuit (the closest thing to one I owned was a Kigurumi until I donated it due to my parents continuously mocking me over it). Then, I got a really nice engineering job in Jacksonville. I thought I was set, and could participate in conventions, meet actual furries in real life, not just behind a screen, maybe acquire a fursuit. But due to the sensitivity of the job, I had to undergo an extensive, and highly intrusive "background investigation" (i.e. list every social media post, alias or "identity" I have ever held, credit card history, list people I was close with, etc.). I panicked. I wasn't sure if my association with the furry fandom, let alone having a secret fursona, was going to be a liability, or even prevent me from holding the job. In a frenzy, I shut down every furry/fursona-related account I had and disappeared off the internet, I didn't even tell anyone why.
Many years have passed, and I managed to make normal friends IRL (still single though). And to this day, no one in my current circle of friends knows about my past furry life. Making it more complicated is the fact that most of the people I know have a very net-negative view of furries (one of them even jokes about how he used to bully furries on 4Chan). But that is a separate issue. I want to meet people who share my interest in furry stuff. And now that the social stigma around furries has (sort-of) lightened, and become more mainstream, I figured I want to get back into it.
Over the past few months, I started to contemplate jumping back in to the fandom, and find people who actually share my hobbies and enthusiasm, but it has been years. Everyone I knew before online has run off. Most of the furry groups in this state are now defunct, save for Megaplex and maybe Gainesville Furs. And most of the surviving groups seem to be geared towards much, much younger (just barely out of high-school) furries. I want to create a new local-ish group to meet, but I'm afraid no one in the fandom even knows me, and I have no clue what a good furry meet would even look like. Is there a way for me to start over, despite being out of it for so long and jumping in kind of late? Or has my time passed and I should just close the door?
Tactical Furball (age 27),
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Dear Tactical Furball,
The past is the past and is, often, best left there. My advice to you would be to start anew as if you had never before dabbled in the fandom. You don't have to change your fursona name if you don't want to, but just start creating accounts on various social media and gaming (if you like) sites, reintroduce yourself and have fun. If someone recognizes you from the past, simply explain what happened and that you are coming back to the fandom. Most furries will understand the circumstances that led to your earlier decision to leave and will be glad you returned.
As for furmeets and running them, they can be whatever you like them to be. I would suggest setting up a page on MeetUp.com and see if you can attract some interest there. Meetups can be anything from movie or game night at your place to bowling or bar meets (for the older furs), going to parks or beaches or the lake or camping. Whatever you wish.
If you like, I invite you to join my Facebook Greymuzzle group. Over 2,000 greymuzzles there, and I'm sure you'll meet some in your state if not more locally. (Remember to answer the questions to join or you won't be allowed into this closed group).
Finally, as for your coworkers and nonfurry friends, that goes on a case-by-case basis. You should know your friends well enough to figure out which ones are cool and which ones (like that guy who torments furries online--you should dump him) are not. Tell the ones who are cool and don't tell the ones who are butt munches.
I've been talking to this guy, and he's really sweet. I'll call him Jay. We've been chatting online every day, and we plan to meet each other at MFF later this year. He seems like he genuinely cares about me, and I care about him.
I'm a freelance furry artist, and I have a day job working retail. My life isn't glamorous, but I make enough to support myself and do some fun things here and there. He's a civil engineer and can afford to travel across the country to furry cons multiple times a year. This wealth discrepancy between us has unearthed some old feelings within myself I thought I was starting to overcome.
I've struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and for a while I felt like a worthless loser, regardless of how good I'm actually doing in life. Authority figures in my life told me I would never make it as an artist. Consciously, I know they're wrong, but I still can't help but remind myself of their words from time to time. It's not that I envy Jay, either. I know I would be miserable working in a field like that. I guess my problem is that I feel out of his league in that regard. I don't feel good enough for him, even though he's never talked down to me. I worry that if we did get into a serious relationship, I wouldn't be able to pull my weight financially, and I would feel like I'm just taking advantage of him. I value my independence, and I don't want to feel like a parasite.
It's no secret people in STEM tend to look down on people who work in creative fields. Not all of them do, obviously, but if you spend time in those circles, you'll come across it from time to time. Jay has never said anything like that to me, but I live in fear he might secretly feel that way.
Again, I consciously know I'm overthinking a good situation. But these old feelings of inadequacy are coming back to haunt me.
Is it better to just not? Should I nip this relationship in the bud, or should I just go ahead anyway despite my insecurities?
Thank you for your time.
* * *
Thank you for your poignant letter that, I am certain, speaks to many of my readers.
I will start by saying what you likely already know: A person should not be judged by the contents of their wallet or purse but by the content of their heart.
We live in a world--especially in America--that values money and beauty over heart and character. That is sad. And, I know, it is easy for me to speak in cliches, but I want you to know I do empathize with how you are feeling. I have been on both sides of this coin: Sometimes, I have been the one earning more than my partner, and other times I have earned less. For the most part, I have been the one doing the supporting, and I have taken great pride in that. The times when I earned less, well, you can give in to this sense that it is emasculating.
Right now in my life, I am earning less than my husband, Michael. This is largely because I am going through a transitional phase in which I am getting away from my freelance editorial work and starting my own business, which, currently, is not taking in any money. So, I have had to lean on Michael to handle a lot of the bills. A big reason this bothers me, I'll admit, is the stigma I often see in the gay community about a young(er) male who seeks out a sugar daddy to support them. Such people are often considered users who only glom onto their daddy bear in order to get their money. This is rather like the gold digger stigma some young women endure.
Of course, Michael totally understands why my income is currently low and is completely supportive of my starting a new business venture. That's because he's a great guy. That's why I married the big lug.
Here's my question to you: Do you consider yourself a good judge of character? In other words, do you think Jay is a good guy who likes you for you and not for how much money you earn or that you don't work a STEM job? If so, then give the man the benefit of a doubt that he is not going to be an elitist snot and dump you because you're an artist who works in retail. Those feelings of inadequacy are not coming from Jay; they're coming from society and your own insecurities.
Don't screw up what could be the love of your life because you don't think you're good enough. That is self-defeating.
Glomp onto Jay and allow yourself to love him. And, importantly, talk to him about your life and relationship, but don't say things like, "I think you might dump me because I don't earn much" (that would be insulting to him). Say things like, "I think we complement each other well--you're the engineer and I'm the artist--and I think we're good together and I care about you. How are you feeling about our us?" In other words, acknowledge your differences, but never ever do so in a way that might make him feel you are insecure or jealous of him. If Jay is a man of character, what he will want is a partner to share his life with, not someone who has a hefty bank account balance.
I hope things go well when you finally meet in person.
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.