Move Over, Honey. Teddy Is Getting In.


By any standard, Scooter, 22, is a world traveler. After spending his early years in Weston, Conn., he moved to Syracuse, N.Y., for college before settling in New York City. He has also traveled to Hawaii, Dubai, Ecuador, South Africa and Australia.

Nearly two years ago, he ventured to the Maldives, Singapore and South Korea, accompanying a couple on their honeymoon. He even slept in their bed.

Scooter is not a person. He is the beloved stuffed animal — a brown, 16-inch-long Beanie Babies dog — of my friend Jaclyn Roth, an entertainment journalist in New York.

“It’s nice knowing something safe is with me when I’m traveling overseas or to an unknown location,” said Ms. Roth, 33, of the toy she received on her 10th birthday. “It just helps me sleep better.”

Stuffed animals can help regulate their owners’ nervous systems and provide comfort, said Jaime Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist in Ardmore, Pa., who specializes in anxiety, depression and complex relationship dynamics. “If you have a dog and you meet somebody, it’s not like you get rid of the dog, right?” she said.

Ms. Roth said her husband is “very supportive” of Scooter. “He loves him like his own now,” she added. (Nevertheless, her husband declined to comment for this article.)

When Lucie Blankenship, a global marketing professional in Dallas, married in Lake Oconee, Ga., in June 2022, her stuffed duck, Chicky, was in tow.

Chicky, who is more than three decades old, has matted fur, scratched beaded eyes and a hole in his head. Ms. Blankenship introduced him to her husband, Randy, within their first few months of dating.

“‘I’ve been keeping this secret from you,’” Ms. Blankenship, 33, said she told him, initially prompting some concern. “I pulled Chicky out of my closet and said, ‘I sleep with a stuffed animal.’ He just laughed.”

Nowadays, Ms. Blankenship said, she sometimes wakes to find Chicky in her husband’s arms. (He also declined to comment.)

There isn’t a recommended age limit for adults who sleep with “stuffies,” as they’re often called, Dr. Zuckerman said. She added that while an awkward moment or conversation might occur the first time a potential partner sleeps over, childhood playthings aren’t necessarily cause for concern.

“Let’s say you can’t find the stuffed animal, and because of that it causes intense distress and dysfunction, poor sleep regulation, insomnia and anxiety, and you can’t be intimate because you’re just so freaked out without it,” Dr. Zuckerman said. “Then, yes, it becomes a problem.” Otherwise, “I don’t see it as ever being an issue.”

In chaotic times, adults may feel safer in the presence of their stuffed animals, she added. “If those objects hold the same stimulus properties as your family upbringing, or your home, or when you were a child and it brought you comfort, then those stimulus properties are going to continue,” she said.

Victor Yang, 37, sleeps with a lightweight green-and-yellow “security blanket,” as he calls it, with a star-and-crescent-moon design. Mr. Yang said the 4-by-3-foot blanket was given to him by family friends about 36 years ago. “I’ve always had this,” he said. “It does give me comfort.”

Over the years, his romantic partners have expressed zero qualms. “For the most part, they found it pretty cute,” said Mr. Yang, a software engineer who lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It also has some practical purposes: He uses it to block the sun or to keep himself warm.

“I will just keep using it until I can’t,” he said.

For adults who are looking to let go of furry friends (or blankets), Maddy Ellberger, a licensed therapist in Manhattan, suggested exposure therapy, a treatment method used to help people confront their fears.

However, Ms. Ellberger added, it isn’t healthy to be pressured by a partner to ditch something beloved. “Being given an ultimatum is kind of a problem,” she said. “If your partner is like, ‘This is so dumb,’ that’s going to be a bigger problem than the actual bear.”

Hollis Tuttle, a fitness instructor, can relate. Her mother’s best friend gave her Ogen, a light brown stuffed bear puppet, as a seventh birthday gift.

“It was love at first sight,” Ms. Tuttle, 47, said. “He was my best bud growing up. I couldn’t sleep without him, so he ended up going to college with me.”

When Ms. Tuttle was about to marry at age 33, she said, her fiancé had no interest in sharing the bed with the puppet. So one week before the wedding, she brought Ogen to her parents’ house in Sonoma, Calif., where he still resides today, on a rocking chair in her childhood bedroom.

“To be honest, I wish that I kept him with me,” said Ms. Tuttle, who divorced in 2017.

Since then, she’s found other stuffed animals to fall asleep with. She recently retired Binkie, a stuffed unicorn given to her by a now ex-boyfriend. “There are too many emotions connected to him,” she said.

Ms. Tuttle now finds comfort with Donk, a stuffed donkey that she bought for herself.



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