- Art of the Sentence
- Book Clubbing
- Book Tour Confidential
- Broadside Thirty
- Carte du Jour
- Correspondent's Course
- Das Kolumne
- Flash Fidelity
- Flash Fridays
- Free Verse
- From The Vault
- I'm a Fan
- Lost & Found
- Tin House Books
- Writer's Workshop
ORDER WITH USPS PRIORITY SHIPPING BY FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19 TO RECEIVE MERCHANDISE AND BOOKS BY DECEMBER 24TH
Tweets by @Tin_House
Sign Up for News, Sales
News & Events
John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Sex & the Single Squirrel
From our Sex Issue.
*No animals were harmed in the making of this essay (we think).*
Sex & The Single Squirrel
I have been a lot of very different people in my life—a cheerleader and a coke fiend, a good daughter and a bad girl, an exhibitionist and a shut-in, a religious seeker and a nihilist. It is my sickness that I can imagine doing, or being, just about anything. This is complicated by a desire to infiltrate the lives of people much unlike myself, to see how they really live. How else to explain why I would willfully dress up in a raccoon suit and let strangers grope me?
Unlike a true “furrie,” I don’t feel that my best and truest self can be expressed only through an animal alter ego, through sexual or nonsexual role-playing on-line or in person, perhaps through the adoption of furry ears or a tail, or a full fur suit. I don’t have an intense spiritual connection to the animal world, and despite an erotic fondness in my girlhood for a sheepskin rug, I have never had a carnal urge to possess a stuffed animal—or, not yet.
For the Anthrocon Furries of Myth and Legend convention in the King of Prussia Hilton, located just miles from the scenic battlefields of Gettysburg, I have chosen to make my debut into the “furrie fandom” as Miss Trixie, enchantress of the night. I am fabulous in my rented raccoon fur suit, which appears to have been crafted out of a 1970s midpile brown-and-black striped shag carpet.
Furrie fans have come from all over the United States, as well as Canada and Australia, to rub shoulders and noses with other lovers of Sierra Club calendars and Sonic the Hedgehog video games, not to mention their on-line furrie sex partners and chat room confidantes. They’ve come for the furrie workshops like “fursuit dancing” and “fursuit sewing,” roundtables on “furrie spirituality,” furrie drawing classes, an erotic furrie art auction and more. The furrie set is vast, encompassing many worlds: there are also sci-fi aficionados, computer wizards, Renaissance folk, gaylaxians, nerds, cat people, dog people, erotic art fans, born-again Christians, lovers of parade balloons, shamans, healers, animal rights activists, bikers, and curiosity seekers.
I have chosen Trixie, or Trixie has chosen me, because we share certain personality quirks. Like the Kinko’s employee I met who was a wolf—loyal, dangerous, a loner—or the substitute teacher who was a panther—sleek, brave, and feared—I, like raccoons, have a fondness for the dark and for dramatic eye makeup, plus a jones for spying on the neighbors, inciting the kind of commotion that causes people to throw on their robe and grab a flashlight. Trixie, masked and mysterious, like desire itself, plays to all my worst voyeuristic tendencies. Hidden behind her face I can move undetected, in the darkness of my suit, taking in all the action around me. It is hot in my head, and my breathing is heavy, echoing disconcertingly in my ears. It’s the same sound you hear in slasher movies, the frantic panting of the stalked ingenue hiding in a closet watching the killer, chain saw slung across his back, sniff her panties. Indeed, aren’t I the crazed maniac hidden in the shadows, just waiting for my moment to pounce?
Certainly I do not look scary. Sadly, I am not regulation human-raccoon size, so the suit hangs on my shoulders and bags around my ankles, giving me a kind of hip hop rodent look. My head is a huge plaster cast, fitted inside with what looks like a welder’s helmet. All breathing is done through a narrow slit scarcely big enough to accommodate a cocktail straw and through my big, sexy, heavily lashed eyes, which are made of mesh. Trixie’s wide-spaced eyes are cute, but render me walleyed. I keep bumping into people and furniture, paws out feeling for the walls, like a drunk in a Beatrix Potter book. I catch glimpses of people in bunny and tiger ears, and others wearing bear, iguana, and fox tails. But I have yet to see another fur suit.
The mood in the hotel lounge is that of a homecoming reunion. Clearly, judging from all the snuggling and canoodling going on in the lounge, the delighted yips and coos of recognition, most haven’t laid eyes or paws on one another in months. And, unlike at home, where no one suspects that the junior lawyer likes to dress up like a wolf and crash through the forest with other guys dressed as wolves, here they can be out. We’re here, we’re deer, get used to it.
For others, it’s the first time they’ve met snout to snout, and so there is the requisite uneasiness at discovering Big Ben is a petite Jewish woman who wears glasses, and that Kitten with a Whip is not a bossy dominatrix but an obese and meek manager of a health-food store who rode twenty hours on a bus to get here. It intrigues me that there is so much psychic fallout when you find out that the on-line partner with whom you are engaging in frisky fun isn’t the gender you imagined them to be. That a person doesn’t mind having virtual sex with another species but doesn’t want that person to not be of their gender, or to be of their gender, seems odd. Oh, the slippery machinations of lust.
In the lounge there is a bulletin board on which people leave messages searching for furrie friends, offering hugs, or noting who gives the best back rubs in Canada. Stuffed animals are in abundance. I recognize some men I saw in the lobby earlier, middle-aged, solid industrial types, buttoned-down Republicans, I’d guess. The Willie Lomans of the animal kingdom, here they are talking animatedly about hikes they’ve recently taken and books they’ve read, petting the stuffed badgers and otters they hold in their laps like children. While many furries carry and love stuffed animals, most are quick to distance themselves from the “plushies,” also referred to as “Gundies,” “plushisexuals,” or “stuffies,” whom they consider a subspecies of furrie. Plushies are folks whose primary preference for sexual satisfaction is boinking stuffed animals. Their motto: In plush we thrust.
Not unlike other feared or misunderstood minorities, plushies have developed a vernacular all their own. See if you can follow: You’re feeling yiffy, so you’ve lit musk-scented candles and put The Chipmunks Do Barry White on the stereo, because tonight is the night you and Paddinton are finally going to boink.
Tonight, Paddington gets baptized. Paddington is a talented plushie, meaning you won’t have to open up a seam to create an SPH (strategically placed hole), in which one could insert an SPA (strategically placed appendage). Paddington can pose with its legs spread and its ass in the air, begging. All day at the office you can’t stop fantasizing about Paddington’s boink-space, the place on the plushie that is the most rewarding and enjoyable to poke. One of the great things about plush sex partners is that you never have to send them flowers or call them the next day! Which is good, because this morning, walking past FAO, you got a plush-rush just seeing the new plump Gund bunnies—tomorrow after your lunch hour two saucy Flopsy bunnies will be yours. Can you say, plushgasm? Buy pairs for spares. Did I mention plush lovers never get jealous? Your biggest concern is the carpet burn on your crotch.
Later that night, after Paddington is asleep, sweet dear, you feel yiffy again. It’s only nine so you drag piglet out of the closet. Piglet, the old whore, is plushpile gray. While plushplunging Piglet you grab his handle bars, meaning you are gripping his arms or legs in order to give a meal or a gift to Piglet. Soon Piglet will be retired, seeing as he’s almost too worn out to be soiled with spooge to be a regular partner. Give Me Gundies or Give Me Death!
Okay, weird, but is it any weirder than what “mundanes” (non furries) do? What furries disdainfully refer to as meat sex?
A downside to wearing the fur suit is the fact that I have to keep drinking water to keep hydrated, and thus have to keep taking off my suit to go to the bathroom. Washing my hands in the sink, I happen to find myself sink to sink with a dominatrix skunk in fishnets, high heels, a black bodysuit provocatively pinned together with safety pins, and the coup de grace: a black thong over the bodysuit.
“Great outfit,” I say, taking in her ensemble, the gloves, the whip.
“I have to have someone feed me my french fries,” the sex skunk says, reapplying red lipstick. “Not that it’s a problem.”
“Of course,” I say, drying my hands. She looked like a real pro. I’d read about a furrie convention in Los Angeles where they sold animal dildos, horses, cows, and best of all—the corkscrewed meat muscle of a pig. I wonder if she might know about such a thing. That would be something to see: I wonder what it would be called: The Poker? The Happy Hambone?
“Hey,” I say, as off-handedly as possible. “You look like you might know the answer to a question—um, do you know where—if—they sell sex toys here?”
She looks annoyed. “I am a pissed-off skunk, low on money.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. Then, “See, what I am looking for is a kind of dildo.” She stares at me like I’m an idiot. “Um,” I say, “a pig dildo—do you know if they even exist?”
The skunk just looks at me and shakes her head with disgust. “Here? I don’t think so.” She looks at me, Miss Trixies, with disdain. Her? The polecat slut! Then it occurs to me that she thinks I am one of those despised zoophiles, who actually engage in intercourse with animals. A miniscule and dark subculture of furries I hesitate to even mention.
Before I can explain or offer some obviously spurious excuse—It’s not for me, it’s for a friend—she bolts. I suppose I should be thankful the bitch can’t spray.
Outside I walk slowly and gingerly. I could take off my head and see just fine, but I cannot. If the fur suits could be said to have a philosophy, it would be: Don’t take off your head. Don’t take off your head or you will scare the crap out of some kid. Mindful of the innocent, furrie is about fantasy, trust, and play. In truth, no one wants to see my face. I am not important, what matters is my animal other—my own best self, the most me part of me—Trixie. The fun-loving, happy-go-lucky little troublemaker. The furries want to know Trixie, they want to play with Trixie. But mostly, it seems, they want to hug Trixie.
I hear them before I see them. “Ohhh, how cute!” they cry, and then appear like a pack before me. “Do you like hugs?” someone says.
I freeze, as if in the headlights of a barreling school bus.
At first I can’t tell how many there are. But I think I make out four, perhaps five large, docile, flour-white strangers wearing soft-soled shoes, with plushy teddy bears snuggled inside their overalls. I panic as they move in for a hug, a giant squeeze. I can see polar bear key chains girdling a man’s waist, pins that announce: I (HEART) BEAR HUGS, and EVERY TIME A MUNDANE DIES A FURRY GETS ITS WINGS. Off balance, I’m overwhelmed by claustrophobia. My breathing echoes in my ears, like in 2001. Open the pod doors, HAL … and my head rises up off my shoulders. I can’t even run—my ankle is still tender from my slip in the garage last night. I am close to shrieking when, as quickly as they appeared, the gang of huggers tuck off with a kindly wave.
I rush to the “fursuit walking” class. My brothers in furs are lined up against the wall as if at an obedience school mixer. While I am grateful to see my fellow fur suits, I am also a little alarmed. It isn’t the big red dog who earlier was posing for a drawing class, or the uncostumed French boy with winged-back hair chatting up a man who is a dead ringer for the guy who slices cheese in our deli. It’s the hyenas.
Instead of wearing a huge plaster head like me, the hyenas (I think they are cousins) have affixed long latex snouts to their faces, wear fangs, and have painted their faces with red, orange, and black face paint. They’ve also glued realistic brown and orangey fur to their arms and legs. Their feet, in Birkenstocks, flaunt their black toenails. Their necks strain against their leather collars. They remind me of the ubiquitous tubby guy at football games who has painted his torso in his team’s colors, the logo scrawled across his poochy man breasts.
They look me over hungrily; my heart beats fast. They are predators, right? The worst kind, they even eat dead things! In costume or out of costume, you can just tell.
I am thrilled and repulsed at the same time. I don’t think I’d like to be ravaged by dogs, or at least not these dogs.
Our teacher, a tall lithe man in black ballet shoes, calls us into four lines and sends us across the floor in pairs. Our first walk is a rocking side-to-side march where we swing our arms like jolly teddy bears. I try not to look at my fellow furries, to just stay in my “Trixie head,” but I can’t help it. I’m embarrassing and uptight. I’m not a gamboling teddy bear, I am a spaz. My hands fly up to steady my rocking head at least once every pass. I must look as though I have a toothache or am reeling in a state of perpetual shock. All these pups for me?!
Nevertheless, those in costume seem to do much better than those in their street clothes. The orthodontists and optometrists, Cub Scout leaders and college debate kings aren’t as loose as those of us in character. Some blush, others actually duck out of class while we furries ham it up, wiggling our heinies and flapping our arms, giggling out of a mix of freedom and silly embarrassment.
After the regal walk, the hyenas converge on me, just as I feared they would. I press myself flat against the wall. What if they have rabies, or, worse, herpes? I catch myself. I have to be cool, think furrie. They begin stroking me, petting my arms, and scratching my back. When one of them starts to enthusiastically massage my right breast—I advertently or inadvertently—I yip and sort of wave my paw menacingly at them, baring my teeth. Miraculously, they back away. Despite more than a decade of bumping hips on the New York subway, I find I am squeamish—no, scared—about being touched my strangers. My heart is beating in my mouth, and I can’t breathe. They sniff at me curiously. I fight to stay still, reminding myself, I am Trixie, I am Trixie, dammit. Trixie is fun loving, Trixie is playful. The boys peer through my eye holes (truly the windows of the soul) to scope me out. Do they think I am a man or a woman? Does it matter? In desperation, I growl. They growl in return, and snarl, rubbing my ears and nuzzling at my neck with their snouts. I want to scream, but instead I growl louder, and they stop and cock their heads with suspicion. My mother’s admonition to never pet a strange dog runs through my head. Obviously animals have different personal-space issues—strange dogs pile up together and lick each others’ balls; squirrels cram into hollow trees like frat boys in a telephone booth. I am just waiting for someone to actually bite me.
I have to confess, I have always been a biter. Always. Even now, I occasionally want to bite people, out of anger, desire, fondness. Sometimes I do. Years ago, when I heard Sylvia Plath had, the first time she met Ted Hughes, but him, I took it as evidence that biting was a sign of genius—not just lunacy. I saw a wolf in the lobby earlier. I think I’d like to bite me. I know, though, that I do not wish to bite or be bitten by these foul hyenas.
The highlight of the “furssuit dancing” class comes when our teacher, Coco, the portly mascot of the Hershey, Pennsylvania, hockey team, announces, “A time may come when you want to go to a furrie dance, or a furrie rave, or at some time you might wish to slow dance with your heart’s desire.”
Absolutely. While I’ve adopted the Pogo as the official dance of raccoons, if tonight at the furrie ball, the opportunity to get down with a sulky wolf-boy or a buff gargoyle arose, would I not want to be ready? Or what about my “fursuit walking” teacher who had, for this class, slipped into his tiger suit?
“Everybody find a partner,” Coco says.
Everyone pairs up quickly, leaving me, the only girl alone. Spurned, I am forced to ask Le Tigre to dance with me. He nods his assent though it is clear that dancing with a raccoon and, worse yet, a girl, is beneath his station. It’s all so Jane Eyre!
Despite being a decent dancer, I plod all over Tiger’s big, expensive padded feet. “dip me,” I whisper, “dip me,” after all, I am a lady. Reluctantly, halfheartedly, he does so, which is good as I have to grab my head to keep it from rolling across the floor. For our last dance Coco calls us all into the middle of the floor and instructs us to hold hands in a circle around him. “Know your limits,” he warns us. “It’s hard to dance with big feet and get funky.”
As the song “I’m Too Sexy” begins to shake the room, we set off in a manic ring-around-the-rosy around Coco as he spins, grinds his hips, does the Travolta point, and whirls, then he tags one of the boys. “This is your chance,” he yells over the music, “to just go wild and crazy. No one is going to judge you here!”
Indeed, we cavort wildly. Like a bunch of schoolgirls hopped up on Baby Ruths and RC, we circle fast, fast, faster, while shrieking, I’m too sexy for my shirt, too sexy!!! When I am finally tagged for the solo (last of course), I don’t care, I go wild in the center. I am the masked mistress in the cage. I am go-go coon.
The Furrie Ball is the highlight of the first day. By day’s end I am starting to get used topeople grinning at me, looking me up and down, and taking my picture. I pose like a Vargas girl and I wave coquettish as the calendar girl sexpot I once dreamed of being. I am special, after all; I am a living plush toy. Probably never in my whole life have so many people wanted to get in my pants and had no idea, or even cared particularly, who I was, literally, inside.
I spot a couple who’d taken my picture earlier. They are not in costume and seem to be furrie connoisseurs of some kind, although they don’t wear costumes themselves. Instead, with their longish, frowsy hair, purple-and-turquoise natural-fiber scarves, and hemp clothing, they look like people who run a candle shoppe and make their own cheese.
“Hi,” the man of the couple says.
“Mrow,” I say. I go back and forth between what I can only imagine to be raccoon noises and actually speaking.
“Ooh, what happened to your tail?” the man says, turning me around so he can ogle at my butchered bottom. I had hoped no one would notice that my tail was missing. But perhaps it’s a turn-on.
All day long no one has mentioned it, and now, suddenly, right before the dance, it’s all about the look. I knew it.
“Farmer cut it off with a shovel,” I say. They seem nice enough.
The man winces, then laughs. “Uh-huh,” he says.
“Must have hurt,” the woman says, moving her dark hair away from her face. She licks her lips and laughs.
“Terribly,” I say. Not to flatter myself, but I think they’re flirting with me. They’re both looking at me in the way people do just before they kiss.
“Want to come sit with us?” the man says, gesturing at a recently vacated couch. I wonder how much animal hair is in that upholstery. The girlfriend leans in to me and begins caressing my shoulder. I let her.
“It’d be fun,” the woman says, dropping her head onto my shoulder.
“Maybe later,” I say, suddenly nervous.
“I am looking for a friend, a mouse, or maybe he’s more of a mole. Have you seen him?”
They both shrug, it’s all casual. Why can’t I be more casual?
“We’ll look for you,” the woman calls out as I scurry away. I’m embarrassed at how flustered I am, then later am miffed that my first real invitation to join a threesome has come while I am in Trixie. After they leave, I think, I could have threesome in a raccoon suit, right? It’s a titillating idea. For me, the whole add-a-lover dynamic has always seemed overwhelming and vaguely hilarious; an orgy is just one step away from hairy naked people building human pyramids. I know I would laugh, but in Trixie, as Trixie, wouldn’t that all be okay?
When the ballroom doors open, eager furries pour through the doors. Inside it’s dark and rainbows bounce off a large disco ball. A friendly coyote hands out Cyalume sticks, and I am thankful to have something to do with my hands. No one smokes. No one drinks, unless of course they’ve poured rum into the Coke cans. It’s murder. Insidr, a cheery, older, bland-looking British gentleman I imagine to be a podiatrist or a vicar nods to me. Poking out of the top of his Sansabelt trousers is an appallingly worn looking Elmo doll. Elmo appears to be in either ecstasy or great distress, or both. I can see it now, the gotta-have Christmad gifts of 2003—Come on My Face Elmo and his pal Bend Over Grover.
I cannot tolerate the strobe lights, so close my eyes to dance. I think perhaps this is a good thing, perhaps I will be more graceful undistracted by undulating furries. I enter the throng and manage a jaunty, lead-footed Rex Harrison sort of jig. I attempt the jolly Winnie-the-Pooh-style fanny shake we practiced in class today but lose my footing, staggering blindly into the crowd. I scan the crowd for Coco. Oh, Coco where are you? Rescue me from Old MacDonald’s Mosh pit!
Suddenly I am so tired I am staggering under the weight of my head and I have to go to bed. I share the elevator upstairs with a guy who is wearing parachute pants engorged with Beanie Babies. In fact, his pants are so weighted down with Beanie Babies he is in danger of losing them. I recall a chat board where people swapped stories of wearing Swampy and Mystic in their underwear like furry benwa balls when they went to work.
Back in my room I shuck off Trixie and lay her carefully across an armchair, her head facing me. I brush her fur and examine her for spills, stains, gum. I am starting to feel attached to her. I fall asleep that night counting Beanie Babies struggling over a fence. Good night, Cuddles, good night, Sparky.
I start my morning in the Dealer’s Den, a treasure trove of furrie collectibles and goodies, comics, art, and toys. At first glance, it looks like any convention, with your average-looking joes in Coke bottle glass hunched over cases of classic comics, the occasional dude in camouflage selling war medals and postcards. Upon closer inspection you notice that almost all the comics feature animals or stuffed animals—even the erotic art and porn. Whether its Oui or Bluboy, whether one prepares for a date by gluing faux fur to one’s body and slipping on a dog collar, or splashing on Canoes and slipping into a pinstriped suit, clearly humans are keyed to react to the same kind of stimuli. We are pretty consistent in what turns us on—the only real difference I see between furrie porn and human porn is that furrie porn has more of a sense of humor. Witness a Gulliver’s Travels gang bang: a chained lion overwhelmed by an army of sadistic Beanie Babies wielding dildos. In another pictorial a teddy bear is exploded by the force of a fox’s jism.
Of course, there is the traditional locker room fantasy featuring a huge killer whale with a hard-on, preparing to snap a towel at the ass of a smaller, but equally endowed, baby beluga whale fairly dripping with innocence. Then there are the ubiquitous soft-core spreads—the sort of layouts celebrities do in Playboy. There are rabbits in naughty nigligees. There is a slinky, pink-nippled mouse bathing in a martini glass—very forties—and besotted squids and octopuses doing things only eight armed creatures versed in the Kama Sutra can do. There’s Rudolph in the midst of a seven-reindeer orgy; a wide-eyed reindeer lass in bells being taken from behind by a creature who appears part lion, part wolf, the gift tag around her neck reads, Don’t Wait Until Christmas, while another reindeer, alone on a tropical beach, looks shocked as wild dogs go down on her. Don’t you hate it when that happens? There are foxes with pierced nipples chained to walls, and a mouse engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation with a giant boa constrictor—a little something for everyone.
The implications of interspecies sex are amazing. Forget a utopian society where every human married someone of another races—imagine dogs and cats living together in sin. In fact, not surprisingly, there are also domestic-bliss shots, drawings fit for a close-mated couple’s Christmas card, such as the portrait of two middle-aged male huskies sharing a pizza over a six-pack. It might just as well read, Season’s Greetings, Larry and Carl.
I peek my head into the Diversity in Fandom meeting long enough to get the gist of the antimundane patter. The discussion is being led by trickster, a twenty-something guy whose long dark hair hangs down to the middle of his back. I recognize him as the wolf boy I was lusting after earlier in the lobby. He’s all in black, including, of course, a black dog collar.
“I see people in the fandom who are not dealing with mundanes,” says a man in a tie-dyed T-shirt and a studded collar. Some people nod.
“Fuck that, we should isolate ourselves from the outside the world,” quips one of the men who earlier established himself as being particularly well versed in the human-genome-trans-humanism business; part of the fandom clings to the dream that one day the DNA of animals will be successfully grafted to that of humans, allowing for the creation of a true race of lizardmen.
There are murmurs of agreement.
“Hey, on the whole we are more accepting than the general population,” he reminds us. Which seems true, overall–maybe this is why I like them.
In closing, Trickster reminds everyone, “When you talk to mundanes be nice. After all, mundanes are the future furries.”
I am so hungry I could eat an entire can of garbage. On my way to the snack bar I stop into a meeting of “The Herd,” which is being led by two cowboys, one outfitted with sinister-looking gold incisors. Some of the men in thr group hold homemade or mail-order hooves in their laps, or stroke a horse tail, tilently nodding as the cowboy talks as if to a bunch of reluctant alcoholics at their first meeting.
“I don’t wear tack and stuff,” says the cowboy they call Whitehorse. “I’m not that tacky. I think it’s a fetish. And, I get my manes from a Hitching Post. I don’t wan to think where it comes from,” he says, “but isn’t it better for the horse to be another new horse instead?”
The men nod.
“Listen, guys, this is all about building friendships,” Whitehorse reminds the Herd. “After all, we’re all horses.”
I am getting better at walking and balancing my head. On the way to the lounge I can even lower my arms almost completely to my sides. I still can’t turn my head, or really ascertain where my body is in space, but I can walk confidently in a straight line. I am forced to stop and turn my head, though, when I hear the loud coarse peal of a woman’s laughter nearby. Sitting at a table are three people. On one side is a nervous and emaciated little man with a sad frizz of coppery red hair and a lion T-shirt. Across the table is one of those classically cute guys whom girls only want to be friends with. Beside him in his lap really, is a big-boned blond in a white tiger suit. She nuzzles and nips at the guy beside her in such a way that is unabashedly, desperately carnal. No one in the lounge can keep their yes off her; it’s like seeing someone hitting their children in public or watching a minor fender bender that could at any moment escalate into someone pulling a gun.
She is dangerous, and because I am not me, I stride right over and say, “You are so beautiful you could make Siegfried and Roy weep.”
The tigres turns her attnetion away from the man and onto me.
“Well, hello,” she says, sitting up straight. “I’m Tigress.”
“You’re gorgeous,” I say. The red-haired man nods in agreement, beaming at Tigress, and then it dawns on that in fact she is his wife.
“Sit down,” she says, pointing to the spot beside her husband. I sit down carefully.
Both of them are wearing wedding bands, and while the lion husband is trying to seem nonchalant that his wife is nibbling this other man’s ear, he fidgets, swallowing and stammering, and trying on occasion to get her attention by reaching out and stroking her arm–which she ignores.
“Male lions have sex like two hundred times,” she says with a laugh. “Twice a month, and then nothing.” She rolls her eyes, “Nothing.” Her little lion husband attempts a faint smile and shrugs. “What do you expect?”
The taking of many sexual partners–having sex whenever you feel like it and with whomever you feel like it, regardless of species–is for some furrie the most appealing feature of the furrie lifestyle. After all, most animals aren’t monogamous. Sure, swans and scarlet macaws and some apes may mate for life, but as for remaining sexually true? Ha. Not to imply that all furries are horndogs–no, many are happily close-mated, but neither is necessarily the only one the other will mount.
Suddenly, I lock eyes with another raccoon. The first I’ve seen! And it’s a boy! Ranger Rick is dark and pretty in a tight, striped top and black shorts, and he, he has a tale! A big long bushy one. I swoon. Instinctively my hand flies back to touch my stumpy rear, ashamed, thinking for a moment, that I feel a tingle in the spot.
I excuse myself and stride right over to him and introduce myself. “Hello,” I say in my most chipper Miss Trixie lilt and lay a paw down on his shoulder as thought we’d been kits together, nestling in a log, not so very long ago.
“Hi,” he says politely. “Can I take your picture?”
“Sure,” I say and pose like Betty Page. I can suddenly imagine Polaroids of me as Miss Trixie at the center of a furrie circle jerk, and I shudder with a mixture of horror and delight.
“So, you want to get together?” I ask I am Miss Trixie, I am bewitched by her magic.
Ranger Rick looks surprised. “I’m sorry?” he says.
“I mean, you want to go outside and run around,” I say, “do some crimes? Maybe tip over some garbage cans? Play chicken on the highway ….”
He laughs uncomfortably. “Maybe, uh, later.”
I feel so ridiculous standing there in my little rented suit. Maybe if I had a nice suit, a good suit, he’d like me more. He just had to get to know me.
“Sure, later,” I say, my face burning red. “Of course, okay.”
As I walk away I think, Thank God he couldn’t see my face! Then I start to feel aggrieved for Trixie’s sake. I wish I’d said, Listen pal, there are plenty of people here who’d kill for some Trixie loving! How many people have come onto you?
Well, I suppose he could sort of count me.
I’m starting to feel depressed, and it’s hot and stuffy in my head, so I head outside to get some air. It’s clear and dark, but not too dark to spot a gang of previously meek-looking furries furiously beating a pile of beanbags with sticks as though the beanbags had enraged them. Later I learned that these “beanbag rats” are created solely for this sort of abuse. I think I could do with a few of them, if only to defuse sexual energy.
When I return, the Costume Ball has begun. It isn’t really a ball in that there is no dancing, only a show and a photo op with entertainers (furries love a photo op).
It quickly becomes clear that the appeal of most of the skits–dogs joyously, awkwardly rocking out to “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”–is of spying on someone gleefully boogieing down in their rec room. Kick out the jams, Curious George! The crown erupts when the belly-dancing cats–about as exotic as hummus–begin their sweet gyrations, then grows silent when a dour warthog in green army fatigues skulks on stage, the scene darkens, and he goes into a creepy lip-synched rendition of The Doors’ “The End.” Afterward, I am actually happy to watch a pair of spunky foxes in spandex and headbands aerobicize to “Let’s Get Physical.”
Everyone in the audience is enjoying themselves, clapping or singing along, two-stepping with their stuffed animals, just living it up. The chemistry changes as soon as the cowboys from the Herd group appear onstage. The cowboy with the golden teeth leads out his buddy “Whitehorse” and chews out the horse for losing the race, calling him terrible things. When the cowboy turns his back, Whitehorse steals his lariat and lassos him, or rather attempts to lasso him–it must have worked in practice a hundred times, but this time the lariat has gotten caught on the cowboy’s ear. After a terrible second, the crowd begins laughing, and you can just feel the man inside the suit seething. After he finally manages to disentangle the rope from his head, he attacks his buddy, knocks him down and in ten seconds flat, has him hog-tied. The room is silent, the rage and humiliation scarily acute.
For the finale, a drag queen, Lola Bunny, appears like a cartoon Venus. She is a vision in her purple microminiskirt, tight pink sweater (balloons pinned on for tits), and black fishnets. Lola would bring down the house regardless of who she followed, but the release of tension from the cowboy’s masochistic miniplay makes her act the perfect climax for the conference. If I could remove my panties and fling them on the stage, I would happily surrender them.
As Lola begins to croon “Fever,” her hips all a-swivel, the crown becomes unhinged, standing on their chairs, waving their stuffed animal pals, some screaming “I love you!” I feel gleeful. After the show, people swarm around me taking pictures, and then the music comes on again, and we all start to dance. I dance the way you can only when no one you know is watching. I dance like I shall never dance again, for this is the last time I shall ever dance as Trixie.
This is what I remember when I am back at the costume shop with Trixie lying limp in my arms like a swooning lover. I have put off returning her for two weeks, band now I have no choice but to either rent her again for a month or say good-bye. I don’t completely understand my reaction. It isn’t that I have a profound desire to zip her skin up over mine and become her: I don’t. There is just something, some–the freedom the suit gives me, the idea that I will never be Trixie again–that strikes me as so sad, and I think, as I hand over her skin, that I might just cry.
Elissa Schappell is a co-founder and editor at large of Tin House, as well as the author of Blueprints for Building Better Girl and Use Me, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award .