IT WAS A FEW DAYS AFTER Halloween 1988 when the envelope—a plain white #10 with a Philadelphia return address—arrived. Inside was a single sheet of paper; on it, a drawing of festive cartoon animals. Not Disney or Looney Tunes celebrities either, but characters I’d never seen before. Someone’s personal creations.
There was something different about them. They were somehow more animalistic, yet at the same time more human than the ones populating standard Hollywood cartoons, sporting realistic yet expressive animal heads on accurately drawn human bodies.
The animals wanted me to join them at something called a “furry party” at the city’s annual sci-fi convention. I instantly knew, as if I’d known all along, exactly what the flyer meant:
I wasn’t the only one.
There were people out there just like me, adults who liked anthropomorphic animals, animals with human qualities—and I mean really liked them. Not just owning a VHS of Dumbo or a Bugs Bunny mug they picked up at Six Flags, but people who created their own characters and believed in them, identified with them and very often, yes, wanted to be them.
They didn’t call their anthropomorphic creations “cartoon characters” either; they called them (and as I soon learned, themselves) “furries.”
I knew I had found my peer group. I was one of them. I was a furry—and I’d been one all along.
I finally understood why I preferred the “funny animal” comics over the superhero books that lined the shelves of my parents’ candy store (that’s right, I was that kid in the candy store). Why, as a ninth-grader, I pretended to be going to the library when I was really heading to see The Sword in the Stone (because in that pre-Little Mermaid era, only babies went to Disney movies) and relish Wart’s transformation into fish, squirrel and bird.
Why, as a college freshman, I’d leave the dorm one night to see The Jungle Book without telling my roommates. (On my return one of them accused me of sneaking off to find a Times Square prostitute; was my furtiveness that obvious?) Or why, in my twenties, I enhanced the bottom of the shaggy brown socks I wore to work with circles of black electrical tape, took my shoes off under my desk, rubbed my feet on the cheap industrial carpeting and thought, “No one knows I have paws.”
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