College-guy-appropriate comfort objects?
March 26, 2009 2:48 PM   Subscribe

What sort of thing could a college-age boy use as a comfort object and stress reliever, in part to become less clingy? Is this an appropriate technique, given my age (19)? Real Dolls are out, and it would ideally be bigger than slip-in-the-pocket size, but not too big to put in a (fairly large) backpack.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had a friend who wore (or carried) the same hoody everyday during a really stressful time in her life. I'm not really sure if that's the kind of thing you have in mind, but no one who didn't know her realized that it was a "comfort object," and eventually she was able to overcome her need for it.
posted by odayoday at 2:53 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by genmonster at 2:57 PM on March 26, 2009

Hoodies are a good one, being soft and warm and huggable, all essential things in comfort. However, I would also suggest an egg of Silly Putty. I used this for quite some time as a stress reliever and for something to do with my hands, and it helped start conversations with new people when I went to college.
posted by Night_owl at 2:58 PM on March 26, 2009

in part to become less clingy?

Is this a suggestion/demand from a SO? Comfort objects have their place (granted, usually for children), but it's really not appropriate for dealing with your emotional needs or fixing a problematic relationship dynamic. A "comfort object" you could explore is therapy. If the question is simply "How can I deal with my emotions without needing another person all the time?" I would suggest any kind of activity that helps you unpack how you're feeling in a healthy way, like meditation, journal writing, or running.
posted by telegraph at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you need a blankie. I'm 36 and still have need of a blankie sometimes and am absolutely unashamed to admit it. Blankies absorb your tears, mute your cries, nuzzle your face and even hug you back. They can also smother the life out of anyone that makes fun of you for having a blankie.
posted by zerokey at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2009 [34 favorites]

wait - are you talking about something like a blankie, or something like a fleshlight?
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2009 [9 favorites]

My husband (47) carries a "worry stone" in his pocket.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:02 PM on March 26, 2009

I know this isn't exactly what you're asking about, but if you have a portable MP3 player, what about some music? Whenever I'm stressed I listen to an audio file of rain, mainly because I've always liked rain. Even the sound of thunderstorms can calm me down. I know someone else who does the same thing with some really slow, peaceful music.

I really like the hoodie idea as well.
posted by larkin123 at 3:08 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have the same question as By the Grace of God. I think the OP might be using extremely discreet language to talk about a different kind of "comfort object."
posted by Miko at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2009

Why do you think you need a thing? How about some relaxation techniques or meditation? You can carry those anywhere.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:55 PM on March 26, 2009

A hammerless short-barrel revolver, which you clean and oil daily, give a woman's name to, and keep always loaded, under your pillow while you're sleeping.

Just kidding.

Unless this is a sexual thing—and I'm assuming—comfort and stress relief don't have to come from a physical object. Religious people often use prayer for exactly the reasons you're describing, although recitation of prayers and mantras often go along with religious tokens (rosary beads, for instance, or holy medallions). Muslims do it five times daily, and it seems to work for them.

Me, I'm not religious, but I find recitation of secular mantras very relaxing. For instance:

"It well recalls our triumphs past, it gives the hope of peace at last. A banner bright, the symbol plain, of human rights, and human gain! Then raise the scarlet standard high, beneath its shade we'll live and die. Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the Red Flag flying here..."
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:07 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think the OP might be using extremely discreet language to talk about a different kind of "comfort object."

"it would ideally be bigger than slip-in-the-pocket size, but not too big to put in a (fairly large) backpack."
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In other countries, like Greece, grown men use Worry beads for this purpose.
posted by jeb at 4:24 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Clarification from the OP:
telegraph is going in the right direction; my SO tells me I'm not clingy, and I'm interested in becoming less so because I feel uncomfortable being so reliant on physical proximity. The Real Doll part was a joke about the other "comfort object", which I'm proud of you all for pointing out. And I like the hoodie suggestion a lot, although that's going to be tougher with the coming spring / summer heat.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:26 PM on March 26, 2009

My best comfort object at that age was a journal.
posted by desuetude at 4:28 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Confusing question yes?

I at first thought it was a sex object type question, but jaltcoh's right - strange to specify pocket <>
So if OP really means blankie/teddy bear object - no offense guy, but how can an internet full of strangers tell you what object you will love and cherish and will make you feel good ?

Nope - I'm going back to the sex angle again.
posted by Xhris at 4:35 PM on March 26, 2009

I always have a pen in my pocket. I unscrew the tip from the shaft and screw it back in again. Over and over. I don't know if it's security but it keeps my hands busy. Drives my father absolutely crazy, because sometimes I do it to his pens if mine isn't handy.
posted by sully75 at 4:45 PM on March 26, 2009

The Real Doll part was a joke about the other "comfort object", which I'm proud of you all for pointing out.

I have developed a general reflex of not assuming stuff like that is a joke on AskMe.

Also, I've seen a lot of "comfort devices" of the sexual kind, and the size specs given don't rule them out. All I'm saying is it was a fair assumption for a question that was sort of vaguely worded.

On topic then, your age doesn't really matter. There are people of all ages who calm themselves down using all sorts of methods. For me, I always appreciated carrying a small blank book and some colored pencils. During quiet/unoccupied moments, you can pull them out and sketch whatever you're looking at or something from your imagination, or just make a list or do a small amount of writing.

Not only is it centering and comforting, it also makes people think you're doing something interesting.
posted by Miko at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2009

People with sensory issues often play with "fidgets." Any of those appeal to you? They'd keep your hands busy, and also could be conversation pieces. (I make no claims, good or bad, about that particular store.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:08 PM on March 26, 2009

Not really cuddly and smaller than you're thinking of, but jewelry of some kind might help. I wear a shell on a ribbon around my neck, an old guitar string I turned into a bracelet, and a hose clamp on my pinky finger. To anyone else, they're just off-beat jewelry, but for me they have reassuring associations and they're something to fiddle with when I'm anxious.

Similar to the hoodie suggestion, you could get a nice soft pashima or scarf in a dudely pattern. I know a couple guys close to your age who wear them, and they're nice and soft and good for wrapping around your head when you need to.
posted by hippugeek at 5:24 PM on March 26, 2009

With me, "comfort items" depend a lot on having something that came from a special time I shared with someone, a time that makes me happy to think back on - so I've got a tiny spoon from the cafe a dear friend and I visited on the first day of one of THE best, most friendshippy trips I've ever taken ... I also have a keychain that another friend had offhandedly bought me on the last night of the OTHER "most friendshippy/bonding" visits I'd ever taken ... they're things that really wouldn't be noticed by anybody else but that are important to -me- because they were THERE at those warm moments, with those special people, and so in a way they keep those moments "eternally ongoing" for me - no matter where I am or what's going on, I still have those little things that somehow connect me to those really wonderful moments in my life ... do you have anything like that from one of your times with your SO that could fill the same gap? If not, I'd highly encourage you to find one, if you can, the next time the two of you have one of those "eternal moments" - to me it doesn't seem that 'what' the object is really matters all that much, so much as the thought that it was there, and in some ways was briefly significant, at a time and place that remains special to me ...
posted by DingoMutt at 6:09 PM on March 26, 2009

I'm 26 years old and I still sleep with the same stuffed animal (a whale) that I've had since I was 5. When I was little, he used to go on trips and to camp with me. He went to college with me, and now he's around to listen to me cry about the stress of grad school. I obviously can't carry him around like I did when I was little, but putting him on my pillow when i leave my bedroom--sometimes giving him a kiss goodbye--and then going during the day knowing hes there to hug when I get home if I need it, helps.

I dont think its uncommon for young adults and adults to have such comfort objects. I read an article once many years ago about a study that claimed that students who go to college with a stuffed animal are more relaxed and get better grades than those who dont.

(sidenote: as much as I love him, he does get retired to my dresser if a boy is spending the night ;) )
posted by CTORourke at 7:10 PM on March 26, 2009

Bracelet. I used to have a made with coarse copper chain that was beaten to have a rectangular crossection. It was a comfortable weight to have on the end of my arm, and I could finger the links (like roasary/worry beads).

iirc, some of the more famous diamonds/large gemstones used to be carried as a 'lucky' stone, which their owners would play with in their pockets. I don't want to endorse anyone, but skygems on ebay occasionally have really underpriced high carat gem/flawed-gemstones, and I haven't been disappointed buying anything from them. A 25-30 ct cut gem quality quartz is about the size of a giant almond and might fit the role. The 28 ct one I got was for a few bucks from them.

I think, though, that just obtaining something to serve this role may not be the best way to go. The object in question may be more effective if it has meaning or something behind it. Maybe a gift from the SO or something associated with what your interests are or something that you've accomplished?
posted by porpoise at 8:23 PM on March 26, 2009

This is almost so small and insignificant it becomes mental, or meditation, but--get some Guatemalan worry dolls, and take one (just one!) and put it in that shallow pocket on the right-hand side of your jeans. Just wedge it in there. Think of it when you need to, forget it the rest of the time.
posted by Tufa at 9:01 PM on March 26, 2009

sidenote: as much as I love him, he does get retired to my dresser if a boy is spending the night
A test of my lovers has been how they react when they are introduced to my grey stuffed seal, Sealy.
posted by Tufa at 9:03 PM on March 26, 2009

For me it's video games, but your millage may vary.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 9:32 PM on March 26, 2009

Nthing the stuffed animal. I've had them my entire life. Even now as an adult, I have one, and my current comfort creature is Andreas, the Most Awesome Stuffed Reindeer Ever.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:24 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have an old dead computer processor that floats around my desk at work, but which I will often pick up and carry around with me and use as an interestingly shaped object that gives my hands something to do. It's about two inches square.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:15 PM on March 26, 2009

I have a small rubber doll on my desk at work which I fidget with - I tended to break necklaces this way. I'd recommend something like a lego keyring or a twisty toy like the fidgets.
posted by mippy at 3:55 AM on March 27, 2009

Stuffed animal!

I actually really missed having something to curl up around, until I got Draggy, my rather cheapo (but soft and squishy and awesome) stuffed dragon. He chills out on my pillow most days, has been subbed in as a pillow, and is great to curl up around.

For something to carry around with you -- maybe a beanie baby-type thing? There are billions of little palm-sized stuffies. (Ooo, oo! Get one that's a miniature version of a big one you keep in bed!)
posted by kalimac at 4:11 AM on March 27, 2009

PILLOW BOYFRIEND! Or, in your case, Pillow Girlfriend.

I am not particularly fond about sleeping alone. When I can't have my significant other around for spooning and sleeping, I steal/borrow a mildly dirty shirt that smells like him, and dress a pillow in it. I actually look forward to getting into bed so I can snuggle with Pillow Boyfriend.

It's even a joke with my boyfriend that Pillow Boyfriend is going to smother him in his sleep so that he can have me all for his inanimate self. Sometimes I creepily stage-whisper "It's OK, Pillow Boyfriend, just be patient. Someday we'll get rid of him and it'll just be me and you, forever."

Oh man, I am such a creepster.

When I was a punk rock high schooler I wore an old plaid shirt every day and tied it around my waist when it got too hot. It'd be less steamy than a hoodie, though you might kind of look like you're channeling early nineties Seattle.

I think it's pretty awesome you're looking for something like this, actually. Sometimes, everyone needs a terry cloth mom or a pillow boyfriend.

"Monkeys who had soft, tactile contact with their terry cloth mothers behaved quite differently than monkeys whose mothers were made out of cold, hard wire. Harlow hypothesized that members of the first group benefitted from a psychological resource—emotional attachment—unavailable to members of the second. By providing reassurance and security to infants, cuddling kept normal development on track."

posted by Juliet Banana at 7:41 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Harlow was a bastard.

Worry stone is a good secondary idea. As for worrying about the hoodie getting too hot, you can always just carry it with you "in case the building is cold".
posted by Night_owl at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Me too. Here is a possible list:
  • small toy car
  • egg of Silly Putty
  • stress ball
  • unusual object or keychain attached to keyring
  • glass or stone marble
  • smooth pebble or "worry stone"
  • a couple of ordinary dice
  • a small metal or wooden figure or animal
  • tactile keypad pulled out from a broken calculator
  • your own thumbnails
  • hooded sweatshirt
  • pair of socks, gloves, or mittens
  • sunglasses
  • Koosh ball
  • miniature Slinky
  • small metal spring (round the ends off)
  • a good ink pen
  • pack of chewing gum
  • anklet, neck chain, watch, or bracelet
  • rosary or worry beads
  • piece of telephone cord
  • Monopoly game piece
  • metal bottle cap
  • shampoo bottle top
  • rubber bouncy ball or other small object from children's vending machine
  • packet of small round candies
  • Livestrong or other similar "cause" bracelet
  • strip of cloth
  • empty cigarette lighter
  • Swiss Army-style pocketknife or pocket toolset
  • lump of sea glass
  • smooth-worn seashell
  • ankle jogging weight
  • toy figurine
  • one preferred paper clip
  • small eraser
  • guitar pick
  • mini-flashlight or LED keychain
Props to The corpse in the library for mentioning fidgets. Many online autism/LD/ADHD/etc. stores, as well as brick-and-mortar ordinary teacher supply shops and science toy shops, carry a large variety.

Be careful, however, if you get attached to one particular object. Losing it can make life difficult. It is much easier to simply not need a "comfort object," but humans have carried talismans and other soothing charms on their persons for millennia, so don't worry that a small and inconspicuous one makes you strange.
posted by jeeves at 5:29 PM on March 27, 2009

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