FurLife For Life

Over the weekend, I attended a meeting of FurLife, a Seattle-based group of furries. (For those unfamiliar with “furries,” click here for a Wikipedia entry about the furry lifestyle. For those too lazy to click the link and read the damn article, I’ll sum it up: furries like literature, cartoons, and drawings about anthropomorphic animals and adopt furry personas, sometimes including a full costume, for roleplay online or in real life; sometimes for sexual play as well.)

Having seen this Youtube video (watch it for the song, if nothing else) a few days before the meeting, I was a bit apprehensive about, well, going there and seeing something I couldn’t unsee, particularly sexual aspects of the fur life. I was a bit calmed by the knowledge that the meeting was in a public park, but still a bit wary; it was my friend G who told me that, if nothing else, I would at least get something interesting to write about out of it. That decided it for me.

Well, I went, and I honestly had a good time. The people I met and talked to weren’t super-obsessives (as I’d feared), they were just normal people with the hobby of occasionally putting on costumes or role-playing as anthropomorphic animals online. I unfurtunately (ha!) did not get a chance to conduct a deep interview with anyone; hopefully, that will come later. From the conversations I had, though, they’re just like anyone else with a hobby; really not much different from model railroaders (i used to be one), comic-books fans (of which I am one), gamers (one of those too), obsessive readers (me again), or people who spend way too much time online (starting to get worried about myself here. . .).

You know what? I’m probably not a good judge of what constitutes normalcy. Whatever my capabilities of judging such may be, I went, I had a good time, and didn’t get freaked out or hit on (to my knowledge. . .I tend to miss such things when they happen) by anyone in or out of a furry costume.

Here’s what I learned about furries, this group in general and the lifestyle in particular, with pictures (where applicable) from the meeting:

1. FurLife (also called “Seattle’s Fur Mafia”. . .think of that what you will) started last year, on July 8, and this was their first anniversary meeting.

the original FurLife members

the original FurLife members

2. The costumes are expensive as hell; a good costume can cost $1500 and up. Some people make the costumes themselves, which is arduous but cheaper and involves a lot of trial of error.

Treever and Hush, wearing about $4000 worth of fur costume

3. The costumes are hot; of the members that actually had their costumes with them, they didn’t keep them on for long.

You can't tell from this picture, but this guy sweated off about 10 pounds that day.

4. A “furpile” is, well, pretty self-explanatory; a bunch of furries get into a big pile. While the reasons for such escape me, I have to admit it looks like it would be fun if there were more women and fewer men involved. (I should note that personal boundaries are well-observed in such piles.)

Furpiles: an easy way to get some tail (sorry. . .I couldn't resist)

6. Some furries feel their hobby has been given a bad rap by the “Fur And Loathing” episode of CSI, which has its own Wikipedia entry. From that entry: “Members of the furry fan community felt the show deliberately misrepresented elements of their subculture for the purpose of entertainment. Complaints ran from the lack of any real (or fun) events on the convention schedule to the incredibly high proportion of fursuiters, participating in novel activities (the “furpile orgy”) which would lead to hyperthermia almost immediately. Several singled out Rocky’s projectile vomiting scene as particularly unrealistic, as well as the fact that his suit was lined with latex.” Having seen and felt those suits myself, I have to say: lining one with latex would be akin to climbing into an oven set on “broil” and locking the door behind you.

The "Fur And Loathing" episode of CSI

The "Fur And Loathing" episode of CSI

7. Being a furry does not automatically mean you have to be vegan or vegetarian; most of those that attended were omnivorous. Only one person asked my dietary preference, and I explained to them that I am becoming a “compassionate omnivore” (thanks to Solitary Vegan for that term) and then had to explain what that meant.

8. Furries are just normal, cool people having fun and indulging in their hobby/escape from reality without harming anybody. While I can’t say I have any desire to become a furry, I can say that I enjoyed hanging out with them and may do so again in the future.

Some random pictures from the meeting:

FurLife, The Furry Mafia

FurLife, The Furry Mafia

A furry with her fans

A furry with her fans (she's a girl under there; I checked)

Ummmmmmmmmmm. . .

Ummmmmmmmmmm. . .

VS – 7.9.08

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4 Responses to “FurLife For Life”

  1. solitary vegan Says:

    I have a few questions should you run into the furries again:

    Dressing up in hot, heavy cartoon-animal costumes is usually a paying gig, and not a very popular job at that to my understanding; what is the attraction of paying for expensive and uncomfortable costumes out of pocket to wear as a hobby?

    Do the Seattle furries participate in or sponsor charity events?

    Do any of the furries have children and if so, what do the children think of their parents’ hobby? Given that the typical parent’s behavior can be considered embarrassing to offspring, I would imagine that comments from teenagers might be particularly scathing!

    Are pet names all a part of the fantasy or are they used to disguise a furrie’s true identity?

    If I were to see someone wearing a costume such as this in my neighborhood or park without a child’s party in the vicinity, my initial reflex would probably be a curious stare; is this the desired response? In other words, how much of this hobby is purely public spectical to draw attention?

  2. furpetessake Says:

    A staff member of the event had this to say:

    “All hobbies are blood sweat and tears (even being a Ballerina is a
    miserable business), but it seems like you’re overstating the case
    just a wee bit for the sake of a good show. Much of the suffering in a
    hobby is what serves to make it a rare accomplishment. RC Helicopters,
    Horseback riding, Sports of all sorts … are mostly pain, but people
    do ’em anyway. It confuses me too 😉

    First up, Gigs – those would still be unfun, even without an animal
    costume. Being strange while doing it just reduces the boredom.

    Lumping all the rest in terms of how people react [kids, everyone else]
    As to why someone’d do it, answers vary: [ http://community.livejournal.com/fursuitlounge/424556.html ]. I do it
    because it makes other people happy (Asian tourists in particular
    would mob us and beg for photos… at both Halloween, and when we
    invaded Pike’s Place Market). I also do it because it makes me the
    center of attention for a bit. Sometimes, the audience is also
    internal – doing things to be appreciated by other fursuited
    performers can be rewarding too.”

    And I have this to say (and these views are my own and not necessarily shared by the other members of Furlife or its organizers or staff members):

    One quote sums it up quite nicely but I’m still going to babble for a bit after sharing it with the interwebz.

    The quote is: For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.

    Furriness, as is probably the case with fursuiting, is something that cannot be laid out in bits and pieces like a chop-shopped Ford Mustang in the hopes that a non-furry can see the sum of its parts and understand the attraction. One is either squarely (squirrely?) in the “into-it” camp or they are in the “don’t-get-it” camp. Furries, the “into-it” camp, generally do not look down on those in the “don’t-get-it” camp seeing as how they make up the majority of the planet’s population and we are not so blinded by our fandom that we fail to see a reason to coexist with non-furries. It is when we have the opportunity to commune with others of our ilk that we are generally the happiest because we can be what we wish to be — ourselves — and not have to worry about explaining or defending our behavior and/or being condemned for our harmless fandom — what we call “fursecution”.

    Regarding the charity question: While the Wikipedia entry has some statistics for funds raised at some conventions for animal-related charities, I cannot help but feel that the question is a loaded one. Should we, as a group, feel obligated to raise funds for charity simply because we congregate? Non-furries get together all the time outside of work and such and I have to wonder how many of them have been asked this question by you. If I say that we do not, are we to be labeled as a group without an ounce of concern for the problems of the world around us? If I say that I do as an individual but do not make an effort to rally the rest of the group to follow my lead, am I thoughtless? If I say that we do but only for animal-related charities, are we only interested in charities that benefit the subjects of our fandom and could care less about people? I believe that charity begins at home and that each individual person is responsible for their own charitable donations. Furries are no more or less charitable than any other person with a fandom and a disposable income. There are too many conclusions to be drawn from a pat answer of anything apart from a “yes” (hence why I perceive it to be a loaded question) and, at least where charity is concerned, we as a group are not required to live up to anyone’s expectations save our own individual ones.

    I have not met any offspring of furry couples who are also parents but I would imagine that they do exist. My guess is that it would depend on many things: particularly the age of the children and the parenting skills utilized in the rearing of said children. Your mileage may vary. I would hope that a child would love their parents — no matter what — in the same way that a parent would love their child — no matter what — and that communication and compromise would save the day if problems arose.

    The pet names is another YMMV issue. Personally I have yet to meet a furry who actively used his or her fursona as a means of keeping their identity safe from non-furries such as family members, co-workers or whatnot. Rather, I feel that a fursona name is just another facet of the fantasy. Why remain boring old Kevin Jorgensen when you can be Reginald Snowtail the Third? Note: even furries who do not have suits opt for a furry name – some furries have an easier time of remembering a fantastic name (particularly if it contains something indicative of that furry’s species) than a mundane one. I feel that the last part of your question has a bit of vinegar to it. It seems to me that you’re implying that furries engage in activities of which they might be ashamed which would necessitate a disguise. It is my opinion that a closeted furry is not as happy a furry as he or she could be amongst other like-minded people. But since you’ve spent time loading questions, golly gosh, yes, we’re all terribly ashamed of what we are and never want our real names to get out and have our secrets be discovered. U_U

    For the last question, yep, you guessed it: YMMV. Some furries enjoy causing a stir. They crave the attention and hopefully it will be from a positive good-natured crowd of mundanes. And if multiple suiters get together – the more, the merrier. Suiters will wave to passers-by and some mundanes will ask if they can have their photo taken with them. It’s like being a celebrity-by-proxy, if I’m using the term correctly. Ordinarily, no one would pay attention to me if I walked down the street. However, if you put me on that same street wearing a cute kitty or puppy costume, I’d be an instant curiosity because one does not see that sort of thing every day. And if I act the part in a clownish manner (gnawing at fake bone or scratching a tree) mundanes would know that I mean to entertain… and people do so want to be entertained, particularly since we’re walking on the street and we’re not charging Disneyland-level admissions for photo ops. Oh, and the desired response, above all, is respect (read: no tailpulling). Add to the fun by multiplying the number of suiters and it becomes a spectacle in earnest. Still, there’s also something to be said for entertaining one’s contemporaries with one’s suit (or one’s skill at fursuit construction).
    Tricks and tips are passed along cheerfully and without reservations with the common goal being to help others improve their own suits and making others happy.

    I’ve got to go now.

  3. vagabondsaint Says:

    My first question, and maybe I somehow missed this is reading sacredscribe’s response, is: what does YMMV stand for?

    Oddly enough, as I was thinking about it, sacredscribe called and explained that YMMV stands for “Your Mileage May Vary.” That’s my new thing learned for today, I guess.

    I love the quote, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.” I’ve had great difficulties trying to explain my beliefs and/or idiosyncrasies to people before, and, while I was previously ignorant of that particular quotation, I can definitely understand the feelings and frustrations that it speaks to.

    As far as charity goes, I have to agree that I don’t feel furries are any more indebted to do charity work than, say, model railroaders or anyone else on the planet. That said, I also think that everyone should do charity work of some sort. I can see how the furries might enjoy being laughter and smiles to people. . .wouldn’t it be great to put on the costumes and accoutrements and go through the children’s ward of a hospital? They need the smiles and laughter just as badly as anyone else, if not more so. Just a suggestion.

    About children. . .I don’t know. My daughter would probably think it was cool and beg me for her own suit, but let’s remember that she’s only 7. If she were a teenager, I’d probably embarass her just by breathing, so I don’t see a fur suit making much difference at that point.

    I don’t know of any furries that really hide what they do, but then again, my circle of friends here is so open-minded and accepting of people as they are that there wouldn’t be a need to hide it. That said, I can understand wanting to keep an identity secret for fear of persecution or not being accepted anymore. I think, and I say this without knowing anyone that is a closet furry (to my knowledge), that keeping an identity secret would be more about fear of public ridicule, alienation, and mocking than it would be feeling ashamed of what they do. But, again, that’s from the perspective of an overly-analytical non-furrie.

    Are furries just seeking attention? I can’t answer that, based on my knowledge. But if they are, they’ve found a pretty benign way to do it, compared to all the other ways I’ve seen people that want attention try to get it.

    While I wish to thank both Solitary Vegan and sacredscribe for commenting, I have to say that scribe’s response seemed a bit defensive, but I can see how someone might feel that way from the questions. I can also see how the questions were intended purely for informational purposes and seeking to understand, not insult or attack. Pretty lively debate, though. *s* Any other furries want to chime in?

    VS – 7.22.08

  4. solitary vegan Says:

    Thank you, furpetessake, for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck to you!

    sv

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