A new survey shows more than a third of adults travel with a stuffed animal, including 25% of dudes. I'm a bit embarrassed to say so, but I can relate.
ABC's Scott Mayerowitz reports on Travelodge's survey of British travelers, which found that 35% of grownups still sleep with a stuffed toy, many of them because "the calming feeling of a [stuffed] bear hug helped them lower their stress level after a hard day." And apparently one in four men takes some sort of stuffed animal on business trips — "the stuffed animal supposedly reminds them of home and — some say — helps fill a cuddle-void left by distant partners." Mayerowitz talked to 34-year-old Scott Hardy, who takes his stuffed beagle Barkley with him whenever he travels — including on his "annual guys trip" (mancation?).
I have to admit to a certain double standard here — while I find male teddy-bear-cuddling kind of charming, and indicative of a rebellion against the strictures of traditional masculinity, I'm a little bit icked out by female stuffed animal love. To cuddle a plush toy well into womanhood is, in a way, to play into the infantilization of women in American culture. Teddy bears, pink, baby voices — all these things are hallmarks of the girlish cuteness that seems to be expected of women long past their childhood years. And yet: I own stuffed animals.
Three, to be exact. One is a horrifying red creature with detachable eyes whom I call "acid Elmo." My excuse for him is that he is the opposite of cute, and that my mother sent him to me with the message that often comes with her gifts: "Sorry I got you this." Another is a hedgehog, and honestly, I don't know where he came from. I actually recently found an enormous cache of stuffed hedgehogs at my parents' house, and I believe they may be breeding. Did this one stow away in my suitcase? Unclear, but whatever the case, it's not my fault.
And then there's Dr. Martini. He is a ferret, and he is the only stuffed animal to whom I am actually emotionally attached. He was given to me — and named — by a high school friend, and part of my affection for him has to do with nostalgia. A lot of it, though, is just habituation — I've moved a lot since graduating from high school, and Dr. Martini is one of the few items that's gone with me wherever I go. I don't sleep with him — he's been in a lot of boxes and cars and moving vans over the years, and I'm worried he might be kind of dirty. I'm also kind of embarrassed about him, and sometimes I make jokes at his expense. And yet, in my way, I love him. So I guess I'm a hypocrite. A hypocrite with a ferret, which is the worst kind.