Furry Impressions

There are always key moments in any human relationship, whether said relationship is rooted in business, romance, politics, or pretty much anything else. When I was an adolescent, one of the most current memes in society was that a person’s first impression of someone or something was the most crucial moment of all. While of course I can’t recall all this in encyclopedic detail, at that time the market was flooded with books on how to improve your first impression, and said books were filled with charts “proving” just how vitally important this was to success in life’s endeavors. The principle was even carried over into academics—kids were given “fun math” to do on their first day in school, to improve that vital initial impression. I recall this pretty well because, being a teen at the time, it provided me with my first-impression of the self-help book industry and, well… We all know how lasting a first impression can be, no?

At any rate, it’s inevitable that furs coming into the fandom tend to undergo a whole series of “firsts”. One of these, which was often life-changingly profound to people of my own age, was the first discovery that there were other people as crazily in love with anthropomorphic art and stories and costumes and such as we were. Perhaps the power of this moment has lessened with time; in my own case I discovered the fandom at an age in excess of 35 because of the simple fact that until then there was no Internet access where I live. After over three decades of isolation, well… I was practically turning somersaults with joy! I was also even more socially awkward than I am now and had no idea whatsoever how to handle myself online at all, much less among furs. A handful of individuals (to whom I remain eternally grateful) helped me along, were patient when I wrote them too-long and too-personal e-mails, etc. These people formed my first impression of the fandom; had they brushed me off it would’ve just about broken me.

My next “first” was meeting other furs in person. In my case I met two on the same night. It was their first time too, and clearly we were more than a little scared of each other. But the event was a success overall, mostly because we all worked at making it so. More happy memories, more growth as a fur.

After that, there was really only one “first” left, and that was my first furmeet. It happened to be Mephit—I’m not certain but I think it was #3 (counting the infamous pizza party as #1). That experience really pushed my limits, but it also made me certain that I wanted to be part of this fandom in the long term.

While I didn’t sit down to write an autobiography—my original planned title was “Going to your First Furcon”—the more I remembered my early days as a fur. Which in turn reminded me of how tremendously grateful I am to those who held my hand, who listened to me prattle, who put up with my poor social skills and generally made me fit to become part of this wonderful society. I’ve always tried to remember how much I owe these folks—some of whom I’d be embarrassed to meet today—and have attempted to “pay it forward” by taking the time to chat with newcomers to the irc channel I frequent and actively try to get to know lost-looking people wandering around the corridors at cons. Because they are me, you see—me as I was, and me as I’d have remained had I decided that I couldn’t possibly fit in with the furry crowd and ought to go off and be alone again. Sure, sometimes it backfires—the chemistry can’t always be right. But I try to help, and it’s through my efforts that I honor those who helped me.

So, here’s my challenge to both of the readers who I expect will still be with me at this point in the article…

Remember that you too once wandered the chatrooms and convention halls as an awkward misfit, if only because you were a teenager and all teens are awkward misfits. Remember that you were too shy to hug the fursuiter, and sat and ate your lunch all by yourself because no one sat down at your table with you. Remember that its entirely possible to be lonely in a crowd; indeed, it’s inevitable until someone lets you in and makes you part of the crowd. Remember that you sat in the panel afraid to raise your hand and ask what you really wanted to know. And as you remember these things and see them reflected in the eyes of a stranger standing by himself in a corridor and looking a little dazed, remember that he’s forming his first impressions of our fandom. His most powerful impressions, in fact. The ones that he’ll carry with him and judge us by forevermore.

I was damned lucky to get such a wonderful first impression of furdom. Or perhaps not—as I said, numerous individuals went far out of their way on my behalf. But at every furmeet and convention you ever go to, there are first impressions being formed all around you at every moment of every hour. I do my best to make them good ones, as I’ve said, as much as anything in an effort to honor those who did the same for me.

Do you owe the fandom any less than I do?

About Rabbit

Rabbit Is the author of over thirty published furry novels and novellas as well as numerous columns and articles in other furry venues. He's a retired Tennessee auto worker.

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13 thoughts on “Furry Impressions

  1. Indeed! I was encouraged by a couple of people who kept checking up on me to make sure I was OK the first time I attended a con. And, admittedly, it was weird at times (still is, though.)

    Once you have enough friends, it gets easier, just as with anything else you do in life. Fortunately, furry fandom in general is not too cliquish to let newcomers in. At least not yet.

  2. My first meet. Over 16 years ago now was a revelation and furry in microcosm. Fun, silliness, angst, underage sex. Art vs porn. Meet the feebles. I loved it and it left me utterly confused but happy. Made wonderful friends. And met my husband. Do I owe furry? Yes, Very much. Regrets, just the ones we have lost and wondered what more we could have done.

  3. This post comes at an appropriate time for me, as I just attended my first furcon last weekend (FCN). I was one of those lost, wandering souls for a good portion of my first day, until I made a connection with another fur over our shared love of fighting games. Then, that cascaded over the next couple of days, where I met more people and formed new friendships, and in the process really redefined the way I view the fandom as a whole and my place in it.

    Now that I’m back in Real Life, I’m still trying to square the euphoric high I felt over those 62 hours with my day to day existence in a world that’s obsessed with decorum and appearances. But, I know one thing: I can’t wait for the next con! :)

    1. There’s a magic to this fandom that I’ve been trying for over twenty years to put a name to. I’m glad to know that others have experienced it as well, and even gladder to know that it’s still working today.

  4. My experience with conventions is a bit unusual I think – I’ve been active in the fandom for 12 years attending only small furry gathering in my country (Italy) before attending my first actual convention, which was Eurofurence 2008. I had no idea what to expect since I only had rumors and accounts to go by and I had the most conflictiong opinions about conventions.

    As soon as I was there I began to notice a lot of people had little habits and gestures which reminded of my own a fe years before. I guess I especially noticed the newcomers because they were more striking to me. The way they interacted, the things that their clothing and displays of “furriness” revealed about them, even the way they sketched or took notes between the events really resonated with me. It was a quite enlightening experience.

    In spite of all the well known flaws of the furry community I’m glad an environment like this exists. Compared to all other fandoms I’ve been into this one is the only one which feels like an actual culture and not just a shared hobby. I think a lot of people (and especially older fans) who bash it from the inside don’t realize how much difficult life can be nowadays for people who have social skills even slightly below the expected social norm… the fact that the fandom gets bashed right because it offers a second chance to such people just shows how little mental health and actual empathy are valued in the mainstream society.

    1. “the fact that the fandom gets bashed right because it offers a second chance to such people just shows how little mental health and actual empathy are valued in the mainstream society.:”

      Amen.

  5. My first con was only MFF 2012 last year, and it was certainly overwhelming for me (fun, not to lessen the experience); I did get to interact with a lot of furries that I had heard about, but I didn’t make any new friends, to be honest. I am making new furry friends through smaller meets in my area, and this has proved much more fruitful and rewarding than only knowing a couple of furries, then deciding to plop myself down @ a 2000+ attendee convention. hopefully I will have an even better experience, (knowing more furs) when I go again this year. Great post, Rabbit!

    1. I’ve also found it a lot easier to make new friends either online or at small gatherings. There used to be a group in Chicago called LAFF that I thought very highly of. I don’t know how near you are to the Windy City or if they’re even still a functional group, but if so I’d give them a try.

  6. While I agree with this fully — ah, memories — I have to say that the Furry convention experience is not very different from the s-f fandom convention experience.
    I discovered s-f fandom through the local s-f club in Los Angeles in 1960. Back then, fan conventions were very few and far between! The next convention back then was in Boise, Idaho; definitely too far to go to. But the next one after that was the 1961 World S-F Con in Seattle. Several members of L.A. fandom planned to go, and they offered to take me along with them…
    And my first fannish con was just like the first Furry cons described here! Well, without the Fursuits. But, yeah; it was weird but wonderful. These were my kind of people. In fact, to an extent they still are even more than Furry conventions (I am still hung up by being sneered at during a Furry convention that I wasn’t a REAL Furry fan because I did’t have a Fursuit). Furry fans should also try out their local s-f conventions.

    1. I once wrote a column on this very subject, Fred, largely agreeing with you. Perhaps I should dust it off and submit it as a reprint…

      Thanks!

    2. I tried mine a couple of times, but it just didn’t have that spark for me. In fairness, it was a pretty old one, so it was hard to relate to much of the crowd. I’m also not as much of a sci-fi fan as I was in my teenage years. The filk was a nice interlude.

      The whole “real furry fans have fursuits” thing seems a little weird. I guess I could see that in the UK, where the proportion attending with a fursuit seems to be high, but still . . . I think you just got a bad egg. I’d be less surprised if they said you weren’t a real furry fan because you didn’t have a fursona, as that is near-universal (though not entirely so).

  7. I discovered your site via Ursa Major Awards, and this was the first article, of yours, that I read. As one of those “awkward teenagers” I was never going to go to a furry con. But after reading this I’m now want to go and see if I can get one of those lucky first impressions to!

    1. I hope you have a wonderful time, and if I’m by chance around at whatever con it is please feel free to look me up!

      One good idea for a first furcon is to try if possible to already know someone there and have some time with them planned. Other good ways to get to know people include the gaming room, attending panels (and getting into conversations with people you meet there afterwards) and volunteering.

      Best of luck!

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