By: Olivia Visser, Staff Writer
I was browsing Instagram reels the other day when I came across a video of a young adult excitedly buying a weighted stuffed animal. The comments were littered with people mocking them simply for finding solace in a harmless object.
“Life doesn’t get easier sweetheart. Might need to upgrade to a bottle of wine,” said one commenter. Sure, because substance use is a much preferable coping mechanism to owning Squishmallows and Tamagotchis. Another added, “She may want to consider working out and maybe getting a hobby.” Mind your business, bud.
Let’s be honest, no one believes the people who tell us they don’t enjoy stuffed animals, or at least find them cute. One UK study found that 25% of men take a teddy bear with them on business trips, while 51% of British adults reported still owning their childhood plushie. There’s something to be said about the power of comfort and nostalgia. Studies, even. I don’t think we should be embarrassed about that.
“Childish” is an arbitrary term. And yet, we see it used on the regular to bully people with comforting interests outside of the mainstream. Social simulation games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon are often the subject of criticism from people with gatekeeping attitudes. I’m sure most people who call these games childish have fond memories of playing Pokémon on their GameBoy Advance. Gaming, like most hobbies, should be about having fun, not competing for a moral high ground.
Elitism permeates all hobbies. For readers, those who enjoy graphic novels often face backlash for perceived childishness. Historically, comic books have been associated with children or “uneducated” consumers due to their cheap cost and ease of distribution. This contributed to the presumption that comic books were a passing phase that would be abandoned in adulthood — but you don’t suddenly stop liking things once you turn 18 (unless I missed out on the memo).
For those that grew up reading comic books and graphic novels, their passion is sure to continue into adulthood. Something being different doesn’t make it less enjoyable. Comic books grapple with some of the same mature and intense themes that traditional novels do, and they do so with impressively illustrated pages. Maus, Watchmen, and Persepolis stand out as graphic novels that were groundbreaking for me. Are we really at a point in society where it’s shameful to make reading serious content more enjoyable?
Judging people for enjoying certain hobbies also plays into toxic hustle culture — a notion that promotes relentless work and self-improvement at the expense of mental well-being. Adults are allowed to have fun — heck, adults need to have fun! Recent psychology studies have emphasized the importance of “play” for adults, suggesting that it provides a much-needed escape from relationship and work stress, on top of contributing to productivity and emotional improvement.
It isn’t your place to decide what people are and aren’t allowed to find comfort in. There’s no such thing as an “adult hobby” — adults can and do have a variety of interests. Myself? I go to the gym, climb mountains, and also have an adorable pile of stuffed animals at home. I escape into the world of Animal Crossing for feel-good vibes. I’m not a child, I’m an adult who’s secure in my own interests.