AN ODE TO THE TEDDY BEAR
by Catherine Spinley
A long time ago, farther than my memory reaches, my mom tucked me into bed every night along with my beloved stuffed animal. “Every baby needs a teddy bear,” she said years later as we shopped together for a baby shower present. She was right. My childhood teddy bear became my friend, confidante, therapist, slayer of bad dreams, absorber of tears, and the safest of safe spaces.
As the years progressed my stuffed animal family grew but my Teddy was always next to me, the first in a long line of furry animalia filling the right side of my bed at night. Time marched along and, judgement be damned, Teddy went to college with me. He patiently waited on the top bunk for classes to end and was an early-morning beacon guiding me home after a night of drinking questionable purple punch from garbage bins.
Somewhere along the way Teddy and I grew apart. There was no defining moment our paths separated but one August day I left him propped on my childhood bed as I packed the rest of my belongings and left for the school year. Inevitably Teddy was “donated” (or, more likely thrown away) in one of my parents moves. Suddenly I was 22 years old, living with two roommates in a one bedroom Soho apartment and, frankly, needed Teddy more than ever. Without a safety net I was ripe for a spectacular crash. I spent more than a few pay periods with only a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and a jar of jelly, eating sandwiches for every meal and killing time ‘til payday. This was the era of shitty jobs, questionable men, and zero sunblock. Those times felt very difficult in the moment and, in hindsight, far more darker and depressing than previously imagined.
The glow-up began eventually but it was a slow, molasses-like process.
Thanks to a vindictive bowl of gazpacho, I broke out in hives all over my face and neck just a few days before my 28th birthday. I tried every skincare remedy (and, I know a few), but alas, nothing worked. Fearful my birthday festivities would be cancelled due to an allergy-induced, social suicide, my mind raced as I fell asleep that night. “I guess those navy, satin shorts were a waste after all,” I thought drowsily as I prayed they were also returnable. A lake of tears pooled on my pillow and rolled onto my sheets as I turned to my right side and reached for Teddy, an old habit that turned up nothing but Grade D, New York City air. I needed a hug; not from the stoic (read: emotionally unavailable), Swedish man-boy I preferred to keep company with during this period of my life, but rather from a teddy bear. My teddy bear. Teddy. Bearless, I’m pretty sure I sent a questionable, late-night text instead. Like I said, the glow-up was not instantaneous.
Fast-forward to the Fall of 2018 and what do we see in every shop window? The Teddy Bear Coat! It isn’t Teddy but hear me out because I have a theory.
The Teddy Bear coat is nothing new. A light internet investigation turned up a British company called Motoluxe, which specialized in producing lightweight coats perfect for travel. Why? Because before the 1930’s, cars didn’t have heaters. Motoluxe used an innovative woven alpaca fur fabric which was similar to the material used to make children’s stuffed bears! At some point in the 1920’s, these double-breasted car coats became known as....TEDDY BEAR COATS. If you want to know why it took that long for the coats to gain their iconic name it’s because stuffed bears didn’t become known as “teddy bears” until approximately 1902 (the story does involve Teddy Roosevelt, FYI).
So let’s review. Teddy Bears: cozy, comforting, soft. Obviously, there are some parallels. From that night way back when, bedridden with hives and in need of a hug, to current day, it should come as no surprise I am still in need of a hug. Badly. It’s 2018 - couldn’t we all use a hug? Each and every day is a new assault on our senses and sensibilities.
We’re faced with an awful lot to process. Last week, RGB fell and broke some ribs and the entire Eastern Seaboard began a prayer circle. The people of California are in need of massive relief from the fires. And, we’re all still processing a Washington Post article noting we only have a decade to get climate change under control.
Yet, when we need a hug the most, it’s just not socially acceptable to drag Teddy along from work, to therapy, to yoga (although a Savasana snuggle would be fantastic, no?) and home again. Instead, I’ve opted for the next best thing - The Teddy Bear Coat. My friend, confidante, therapist, slayer of bad dreams, absorber of tears, and the safest of safe spaces.
Here are a few I think give the best bear hugs:
Catherine Spinley is a sometimes-writer and photographer based in New York. When not stalking other people’s dogs or yelling at people who refuse to walk up the left side of the escalator, she works in the beauty industry and practices yoga. You can read more from her at Worepaint.com.