Should I hide my childhood teddy bear when my family comes to visit?
November 17, 2023 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I have a teddy bear I've had since I was one years old. He's very special to me, and I have him on a shelf in my bedroom. However, I know my dad is a bit weirded out with it, not sure about other family members.

I'm a grown ass man in my late 30s, and I don't have any other stuffed animals. I remember when I was around 12-13, my dad commented on how I was outgrowing my teddy bear, and how I should stop sleeping with him. I stubbornly refused to listen because he brought me comfort, especially during my very difficult teenager years. I left him home during college, but when I moved to my own place, I took him with me. I always leave him on a shelf near my bed, because he still brings me comfort, and he's part of my life/history.

Two years ago, I was showing my family on Zoom my apartment, and when I showed them my bedroom, the first thing my dad commented on was that I still had my bear. He said it half-laughingly, half in disbelief. We moved on from that, but it bothered me a bit. I knew I didn't have to prove anything to him—I'm fully employed, live on my own in a high cost, expensive city, and have came a long way.

Still, I'm unsure. My whole family will be coming and staying at an AirBnB, but will probably come to my apartment from time to time, and I don't want anyone making any comments or feeling judged. I'm torn if I should just put my teddy bear away in my closet until they leave, or if I should just leave him on display and be proud of it. I've had a tough year and don't want to deal with feeling judged. When my mom came during my surgery earlier this year, she didn't comment on him at all, but she never really seemed to care.

I should note that my dad definitely comes from an old-school masculinity mindset (grew up in the 60s/70s) and had a traditional male-dominated job for many years fixing cars. We don't have much in common at all. One Christmas Eve, he called me a wimp when I was having a hard time putting a table in the dining room together (this was when I was having my stomach troubles), and he can sometimes be harsh, stoic, and abrupt. However, surprisingly enough, he didn't have a problem with my announcement of being gay back in high school (AFAIK).

So, what would your suggestions be? I know this seems like a little thing (a teddy bear on a shelf, so what?) but I just don't want to go through uncomfortable/awkward moments.

posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a grown-up cisgendered man and I usually have my two remaining childhood stuffed animals up on a high shelf in my office. (Currently they are in a box because I need a new bookshelf and I haven't bought it yet.) So I'm on team "display what is important to you" and if someone doesn't like it, too bad. But family dynamics are weird and I know it isn't always so simple.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:12 PM on November 17 [9 favorites]

My dude, display that bear prominently and proudly. Own that shit. Normalize men owning teddy bears, getting flowers, and generally doing whatever the hell they want even if, and especially, it is something normally considered feminine.

The only way future generations aren't going to grow up with dads like yours (and mine... 'cept he grew up in the 40s and 50s) is if we all help break that cycle.

That said, if it's just not worth getting teased about, or the stress of potentially getting teased about, you can certainly put it away while they're visiting.

If he's like either of my parents though, most likely your dad will find something else to criticize you for, so maybe giving him an easy target like the bear will distract him from anything else.
posted by bondcliff at 4:19 PM on November 17 [50 favorites]

There seems to be no downside to putting the bear away during whatever hours your family might be there (at least based on what you've shared), while there is a clear benefit of doing so - preventing at least one potential unpleasant moment with your dad.

But more broadly - I know from your previous posts that your family is not always respectful of you and your stated needs. I would set clear boundaries with your family before they visit - especially after all you've been through, let them know what type of behavior you refuse to tolerate (teasing, name-calling, etc.) and let them know what the consequence will be (e.g. you'll take a 24hr break from seeing them, or whatever you decide) or how strict you plan to be (e.g. do they get one warning or not? etc.) And then stick to whatever you decide. Good luck!
posted by coffeecat at 4:23 PM on November 17 [13 favorites]

If you don't want people to make comments or feel judged, then hide the bear. The bear won't care. If you don't want to fight the fight of, "I am a grown ass man and I kept my bear!" this year, you don't have to.

That said, I'm guessing your dad might also say, "So, you finally got rid of the bear, huh?" and then you still have the issue of commentary on your life you don't want. Bleah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on November 17 [26 favorites]

The world is sadly full of "grown up" people who regret the moment they abandoned the care of their favorite stuffed animal(s) because the world is also sadly full of judgy people like your dad. People can "grow out" of loving things but sometimes a thing is worthy of a lifetime of love.

Don't be a sad grown up full of regret. Your bear is a symbol of your eternal youth and you should always cherish him.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 4:26 PM on November 17 [10 favorites]

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." --- CS Lewis.

Tell your dad to grin and bear it.
posted by SPrintF at 4:37 PM on November 17 [36 favorites]

This is weird, but I read a book on Feng Shui once that talked about things having "negative energy" and suggested getting rid of those things. I ended up interpreting this as things that I looked at and had negative feelings about – for instance, there was one item that I'd had a big fight with my mom about and I couldn't look at it without thinking about that fight. It obviously wasn't super important to me because I don't even remember what it was now. You don't have to believe in anything magical to realize that you have feelings when you look at things you own and negative feelings can add stress to your life.

It's cool that you treasure this bear and it's meaningful to you - I have my childhood teddy bear too. If you leave it out when your dad is there, this bear that is important to you becomes something your dad hassles you about – it sounds like it interferes with your enjoyment of the bear. It adds that extra "here is my bear that my dad criticized me about" instead of just "here is my bear that I treasure."

So I'm on team put it away when your dad is there because those negative remarks don't do you any good. Taking a stand on this is not going to change your dad in any way. It's just going to give you a reason to view your bear in a negative light and create additional tension when you visit with your dad. Treasure your bear, but don't fight with your dad about it. It will not do any good.
posted by FencingGal at 4:42 PM on November 17 [9 favorites]

Don't show anyone your bedroom unless they're going to be using it.
posted by kidbritish at 4:43 PM on November 17 [23 favorites]

GRIN AND BEAR IT is a spectacular comeback to any nonsense he may throw your way. Wishing you and your bear as hassle-free a visit as possible!
posted by avocet at 4:43 PM on November 17 [9 favorites]

Buy more bears.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:43 PM on November 17 [40 favorites]

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having the bear out if it makes you happy.

That said, it is also absolutely fine to decide you’ve had a hell of a year, you want your holiday to be as easy as it can be, and you are fine with tucking the bear away for a few days to avoid his nonsense.

There is no wrong answer here. (It would ALSO be fine to simply close your bedroom door during their visit but if you think they’d be weird about that too or disrespect the closed door, it might not get you anywhere.)
posted by Stacey at 4:45 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]

I just don't want to go through uncomfortable/awkward moments.

What does this mean to you?

Because of you can't let go of any kind of negative remark, it may be easier for you to put it in a closet. You can set boundaries, but your family isn't great at following them/understanding them (if we're being generous). So best way to enforce you boundaries is to minimize your family's ability to encounter them.

But if you can brush off stuff, then it's ok if you're dad is confused or doesn't like it. Remember, you aren't being awkward in this case, he is. It'd be a kindness to him if you let the moment pass without comment (although a pun wouldn't hurt anyone either). All you have to do is shrug and change the subject.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:49 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]

It is awesome that your teddy bear brings you comfort!

As for your family's visit, do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Would it make you feel more at peace to keep the bear out, or to sidestep the issue by hiding the bear for a few days? Whichever better aligns with your self-care needs at this time is the correct option. You don't have to prove anything to anyone else.
posted by splitpeasoup at 4:50 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

Your dad sounds like a real piece of work. This internet stranger gives you permission to do whatever will make you have the least annoying time around him possible. On the other hand, I would also encourage you to paint your living room a soft pink and fill your home with cute stuffed animals and make it a place full of comfort and good memories and offer a big fuck you middle finger to anyone who belittles that. Sometimes men who are so wound up about their masculinity need to have softness and empathy slapped into their faces and finally that’s what makes them respect it.
posted by Mizu at 4:50 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]

I've given this advice to friends who have been in a lot of different situations that have very little to do with yours, but I think it still fits:

You don't have an obligation to hide your true self from your family in order to make them more comfortable.


You don't have an obligation to share your whole self with your family if it's uncomfortable for you (or any other reason).

There's no wrong answer.
posted by lampoil at 4:51 PM on November 17 [57 favorites]

I've had a tough year and don't want to deal with feeling judged.

You have had a TERRIBLE year. This internet stranger gives you permission to do whatever you need to do to get through this visit with as little static as humanly possible.
posted by joycehealy at 4:54 PM on November 17 [12 favorites]

Is there any chance anyone would take or damage the bear? I'd be liable to hide it, just to keep it safe.
posted by meese at 4:58 PM on November 17 [10 favorites]

I, too, am a grown ass man (late 40s, if that helps at all), and my Pooh bear is on the night stand next to my bed. I've had him since I was 4, and when I moved to China for a year, he came with me. When I came to Japan, he came with me. He's been with me all this time, and is still a source of comfort. I'm sure your bear fills a similar role in your life, and I think it's awesome that you've managed to keep your bear with you all this time.

Aside from all of that, it's kind of crossing a couple too many lines for me to have family members giving opinions about how you decorate your bedroom, or what you have there. It's *your* space, and not really up to them what you do with it, or for them to make comments on it.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:02 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]

My dad, who was a very high ranking army general, kept his bear all his life and the bear was right in the middle of the daybed in the downstairs living room. No-one ever suggested that there was anything wrong with that. My dad also loved wearing women's clothes.

What I'm saying is that in my view, men who are open about their feelings and desires are strong and powerful, because that is my experience.

My own teddybear is here somewhere, but during covid, I hid him away because I moved to our farm while the kids created a bubble in our city-apartment. He'll return to his former status when I sort out my life again.
posted by mumimor at 5:08 PM on November 17 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry. Your dad is being a jerk.

If I were you, I would hide the bear. Not because it's embarrassing to have a teddy bear as an adult (not at all). I have one, too. Most of my friends have a stuffed animal they still love. I read a survey recently that ten percent of adult EU-citizens take a special stuffie on vacation!

But, that said, there just doesn't seem to be an upside to displaying the bear to judgy people. You won't gain your dad's respect. It's not like with a partner, where you'd have to stand up for them. Bears don't care - they like to hibernate, right? If it would bring you peace of mind, I'd hide the bear.
posted by toucan at 5:10 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]

Get yourself a fancy-ass display case and frame it like a cherished piece of art, because that's what it is.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:31 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

I'm 59 I still have my bear - he is older than I am, I think he's a German bear and he emigrated to New Zealand with me. Don't apologize for the things you love.
posted by unearthed at 6:04 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're torn up about this. It sucks and I wish I could hug you. Like so many of us, you have the bad fortune of having some people with unkind hearts in your family.

Some tidbits about my life that you can take or leave as you care to:

I'm a lot older than you and my bear is on top of a cabinet in my kitchen in plain view of everyone, and it's cute. My grandma gave him to me a very long time ago. I remember that morning. She's been gone a long time. I have only happy memories about the bear (and my sweet grandma) and I'm glad he's in my home and didn't get lost somewhere along the line. Like you, I used to sleep with him every night, but now he's just around.

That being said, I have much more personal items in my bedroom, and the door is closed. That's not a place where visitors go. If someone asks for a tour of your bedroom, you can just say no, because it's private. Tours of bedrooms are not a thing. That's your personal space. Especially if you think the person is wanting to find something to be mean to you about! Fuck that!

I also have a strict rule of not letting people in my home unless they're loving and kind. No meanness is tolerated here. Home is sacred! My home is not where people are mean. You can also decide that your home is a place for kindness and not meanness, and act accordingly.

It must be hard to be like your dad and be so insecure that a stuffed bear is a threat of some kind. I have sympathy for those kinds of folks, but not much patience for them.
posted by fritley at 6:21 PM on November 17 [9 favorites]

More important question: is your Bear ok with seeing your Dad?
posted by EllaEm at 6:36 PM on November 17 [34 favorites]

More important question...

Not to make light of your question, but along with EllaEm, I was thinking what would Bear tell you to do? Do what makes you and Bear happiest.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:45 PM on November 17 [4 favorites]

To be clear.... your dad is the one behaving inappropriately about the bear, not you. That being said, putting your stuffed bear away might reduce the amount of fuel for the fire.

However, if you wish to regain control over the narrative, upon or before their arrival you can let your guests know that the bedroom is off limits. Leave a different toy bear that you have no attachment to out in your bedroom. Perhaps one that will read less feminine / less juvenile. If your father gives you any grief, state the following, "I left the bear out as a test. I asked nicely for guests to stay out of my room. You would not have come across the bear if you stayed out of my room. This reflects worse on you than it does on me." You need to stay calm and non reactive. Or set an alarm in your room that will alert you to any trespassers. If pressed, state that you got said alarm to make sure your landlord didn't try any funny business.
posted by oceano at 6:53 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

I just want to second lampoils excellent comment:

You don't have an obligation to hide your true self from your family in order to make them more comfortable.


You don't have an obligation to share your whole self with your family if it's uncomfortable for you (or any other reason).

If things are a bit more stressful than usual and you don't want to have to deal with your family's comments, there's nothing wrong with hiding your bear.
posted by Zumbador at 6:57 PM on November 17 [4 favorites]

I would hide it.

Not out of shame.

I decided a long time ago to stop sharing my little joyous moments with my parents, because they always found something to criticize. The things that make me happy are just for me, they don't deserve them.
posted by phunniemee at 7:23 PM on November 17 [39 favorites]

61. Still got my bear. Ms flabdablet is 51 and hers is on the shelf next to mine.

Your dad is weird.
posted by flabdablet at 7:31 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]

Some of my kids had bears, (one bunny tho).

Think we have one and one child has the bear.

When I was a child, I had Tiger-Cat. Left in a motel room in Limon, Colorado, long closed but still was recognizable last time I went through a decade or so ago. I miss Tiger-Cat. If I still had him, I think he would still be my bud. But, if you fear for the bear's safety, just hide it. Don't let your dad mess that part up.

We all have things that give us comfort, regardless of how unusual they are. That's what makes us all people. KEEP YOUR FRIEND SAFE!

Sorry to seem glib. But, fuck what other people, even family, want to judge you for. We all here seem to be on your side as best we can...
posted by Windopaene at 7:36 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

From what you've said in the past, I recognise a lot of my family in your family - and I would absolutely not put it past my family to find when they've left my place that the bear is gone.
posted by Adifferentbear at 8:49 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]

One option is to have it both ways; put your special bear out of sight when dad is around and bring bear out when you head to bed every evening and tell bear about the day, and the bear will listen without judgment and will be a reminder that you are kind to yourself.
posted by mightshould at 3:13 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]

I am 64 and Teddy Edward (who will be 60 this Christmas) is still an important part of my life. Like your teddy, Teddy Edward was a great comfort to me as a young teenager going through a very difficult childhood - he was the only thing I could safely be physically close to, and the sense of security he gave me can't be underestimated.

So, yes, love your teddy, and if your dad has a problem with that, he's the one with the problem, not you.
posted by essexjan at 5:05 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]

Fuck this guy specifically. Keep the bear out and if your father makes a comment you can tell him to shut it. Who cares? Free yourself from other people’s expectations and judgments. What’s he going to do, grab the bear, set it on fire, and push you down a flight of stairs?

This guy sucks.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:06 AM on November 18

I think lampoil’s suggestion is best.

One thing I will say is that sometimes statements like, “I can’t believe you still have X,” are an awkward way of trying to connect across a rift in time. I don’t get the impression that your family is very skilled at connecting with you, which is why I bring this up as a possibility. I don’t think it should change your behavior, but I thought I’d bring it up in case the idea resonates — if this doesn’t actually reflect your father disapproving of you, but rather your father trying to connect the successful grownup you are today to the person you were when you were small and in his care, it might help to know that.
posted by eirias at 6:09 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

I have been following your posts and though there is nothing at all wrong with your bear, your family is....tough. I suggest protecting yourself, which means tucking the bear away and reducing the risk of their unnecessary comments. I appreciate those who say to tell your dad to stuff it, but reading your posts, I don't think that's who you are or that you'd feel comfortable with that. I think instead you'd spend a lot of time feeling bad about having done that, churning over the judgmental statement and your response, and create a lot of angst for yourself. Sometimes family is just not great, and you have to build boundaries in to protect yourself.
posted by Toddles at 7:04 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

You're the only one who can tell which of the comments' perspectives feels true to you, so I'm going to ask a question from a different angle: do you think your dad might have been taken aback because he was wrong? For someone who was raised to think the things we loved as children are best given up and our hearts are best hidden away, seeing someone else openly acknowledge their tender heart and still be a strong person can be a little bit of a jolt to the foundations, because it implies that maybe they could have held on to the things they loved too.
posted by Lady Li at 7:20 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, very good perspectives here.

After some careful thought, I think I'll just tuck my bear away in the closet when they're here. It'd just be simpler. I don't have the emotional bandwidth right now to deal with any potential comments or judgy looks. One thing I do know—my dad can be a jerk, but I honestly very much doubt he would take the bear or do anything to it—I don't think he's capable of that. He could easily have done that when I was a teenager, but he didn't. So, why would he now? I wouldn't worry about that personally. If he notes the bear isn't there, I'll just say that he's hibernating as a half-joke and change the subject.

And yes, Lady Li and eirias bring up good possibilities. That could be true, too. Who knows.
posted by dubious_dude at 7:50 AM on November 18 [14 favorites]

I'm a 52 year old man and have one large bear keeping us company in the lounge, four more stuffed animals by my bed and a dozen or so up on a shelf where anyone can see them, all from my childhood. Having these things is fine.

It sounds like you're doing what makes you feel most comfortable and that's the right thing. Your bear will understand completely.
posted by fabius at 8:30 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]

According to Psychology Today, your beloved bear (BTW, my 42 year old son has had a beloved stuffed moose, "Moosie" for 40 years so far - and I love Moosie, too) is defined as a "transitional object":

"Transitional objects continue through the course of our lives, as 'sacred keepsakes' which pull us back to 'a place and time of great solace and memory.' It is the dependence, identification, and attachment to objects outside of the self — photographs, wedding bands, mementos, music, art and culture — which define both nostalgic memorials, but more importantly, and astutely, define a state of connection and presence in the world."

Whether you tuck bear away or do not tuck bear away, bear will continue to love you and you will continue to love bear - unconditional love.
posted by SageTrail at 8:43 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]

I’m with Iris Gambol on this one. The most enjoyable thing to do in this situation is to lean in hard. Get a bunch of coffee table books about bears on eBay, buy bear art, get bear soap dispensers, etc. And then decorate like it’s the Bear holidays for your family’s visit. Then instead of “oh, you still have that?” It just becomes “wow, um you really like bears…” to which you can nonchalantly respond “yup”
posted by donut_princess at 9:01 AM on November 18

Also: obligatory xkcd
posted by flabdablet at 10:50 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]

I’d take the opportunity to take the reins back a bit. If/when he mentions teddy, I’d feel it’d be satisfying to say something along the lines of “Ahh, yes. Good old Sir Theodore Ursus! A truer friend you’ll never find!” And that’s it. Most people have ordinary childhood mementos adorning their spaces. Childhood stuffed animals, blankets, a special toy, some sort of trinket, anything really - that brings them some fond feelings, nostalgia, and comfort. This is no different than the knickknack I have sitting on my shelf reminding me of my grandmother. Or the creepy doll sitting on my bed that I got when I was little. Or the teddy bear my big brother gave to me when I was 6. I even have some old Barbie doll clothes FRAMED to display and remind me of those days. I bet your dad has a few such items in his space as well. It is completely normal and I’d find it odd and/or sad if someone didn’t have such an item to bring them comfort or remind them of a different time.

And if your dad follows up asking why you still have Sir Theodore Ursus, it’d be fine to explain that people often hold on to mementos that remind them of different times in their lives. And perhaps you can think of some such items that dad has from his childhood and you can remind him that you hold on to teddy for similar reasons.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:58 PM on November 18

I'd hide it. It's no one's business and definitely no one's business to comment on. Why not avoid it? It's not shameful but it is easier to shunt off comments.

Leaning into it is provoking a comment, but you seem like you'd rather avoid.

I'm telling you there's nothing wrong with avoiding this ugliness. Or with having a bear! :)
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:55 PM on November 18

I might bother putting it somewhere else if I knew my parents were going to go into my bedroom, but I'm also of the opinion that my bedroom is completely off-limits to guests unless I invite them in, and that includes family. If that's not a boundary they will respect, or it's otherwise unavoidable, then I guess that's that then. I'd really recommend making it a boundary though; life's a lot nicer when there's a space you can completely own without having to worry about people coming in uninvited.

Kinda side with the whole "owning it" side on general principle, but you know your relationship with your folks better than I do, and if you'd just rather avoid an avoidable confrontation or discomfort there's no shame in that.
posted by Aleyn at 11:11 PM on November 18

My childhood teddy bear lives on a shelf out in my house, and anyone who doesn't like it can, kindly and absolutely, go eff themselves. I like that teddy bear more than I like most people.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:49 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]

I'm a guy almost 40 too, and I never really had a teddy of my own, but through my work I have been inside thousands of strangers' bedrooms, and it always brings me great joy to see stuffed animals proudly on display. Especially so considering I work as a photographer for real estate listings, when people's houses are (in theory, anyway) supposed to be looking their very best and then later published on the internet.

I also just thought of a very nice truck driver guy who used to come fill up at the cardlock I worked at many years ago whose passenger each day was a giant teddy belted into the seat next to him.

Anyway, just wanted to register my support for adults with teddy bears :)
posted by wats at 8:49 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the kind answers and suggestions! I'm happy to report that I stored my bear in the closet for the duration of the visit and no questions or issues ever came up. Normally, I would have kept it out, but I just wasn't in the mood for any questions or judgment.

Appreciate all the validation and help, though!
posted by dubious_dude at 11:30 AM on November 25 [7 favorites]

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