Why A Bear?

The short version, for those of you with attention spans like my own:

Bears don’t apologize for being bears.  They recognize what they are and go about doing what is necessary to fulfill their needs – even if that miffs a few salmon along the way.  There is something fabulous about finding frightening strength in total self-acceptance, and I’ve decided to give it a shot.

The slightly longer version:

I began writing Being a Bear at a time in my life when everything was changing.  I was 32, newly married, and had just graduated college.

I was shocked to discover that this did not make me feel like an adult.

I’d been waiting to feel like an adult for quite some time (you know, like, a decade), and was assuming that it hadn’t happened because I hadn’t yet ticked some important boxes off.  Not that I was ticking the boxes off in order to be an adult, mind you, but I figured adulthood would come alongside as a pleasant side effect.  

It did not.  Case in point: my assumption is that most adults do not habitually quack the Spiderman theme song when sorting the mail.  My parents certainly never did, anyway. 

Now the boxes are pretty much all checked, except for the “spawning” box, and I’m thinking about just spilling some coffee on that section of the form and forgetting about it.  But I still don’t feel like an adult.  And it’s because, in my head, there’s an extra little box on that form just for me.  And it says “don’t be weird.”  And I can’t for the life of me check that sucker off.

I’m slightly neurotic, very introverted, and generally quirky.  I wear pajamas as much as possible, eat ice cream for dinner, and make up little stories about talking Brussels sprouts to amuse myself.  None of this seems very adult-ey.  But you know what?  I’m 32 years old, people.  It’s difficult to be much more adult than this.

So here’s what I’ve decided: if you’re of a certain age (and I am), and you pay your bills and handle your responsibilities (and I do), then the fact that you eat hot fudge out of the jar with a spoon doesn’t disqualify you from adulthood.  So long as your cholesterol is fine (and it is).  And you know what that means?  It means I’m an adult, bitches.

So where does the bear come into play?  Here it is.
In the last few weeks of my college career, I was required to read Philip Pullman’s children’s fantasy novel The Golden Compass (and you should, too).   In it, a subplot deals with the armored bears, the greatest warriors in history, who are cut down to a pitiful shadow of their former glory.  When their king decides that they should set aside their bear traditions and act more like humans, the warriors get bogged down by rules of etiquette and how to properly tie a cravat.  Unsuited to human ways and confused, they become cripplingly self-conscious and unsure of themselves until they, once the world’s most fearsome warriors, are defeated by a little girl.  Their story is written as a tragedy, and it is one.

Which is why I looked up from the book and said “Holy crap!  I’m a bear!”  Which then required an awful lot of explanation to Mr. Bear before he stopped looking at me so strangely.

Here’s the point: I’m not an adult like most of you.  I’m a weirdo adult. Or, to keep the metaphor going, let’s say I’m a bear.   And I’ve spent a lot of time trying to act like “real adults” act.  I’ve spent a good number of years with the vague feeling that there was something wrong with me, that I could do better, that I should do better.

And all I was doing was crippling myself.  Because, let me just tell you, I am an AWESOME weird adult.  If I hadn’t been trying to rein myself in all this time, god only knows what I could have accomplished by now.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I’m just a bear.  And it’s time I lived like a bear.

This is called self-acceptance, and it’s something that most people learn at the age of eight or so.  Oh well.  Better late than never.