For those of you who don't feel like clicking that link, it's a picture of four foxes cuddled into a pile.
People have a lot of different reasons for being interested in furries. This one is mine.
I'm perhaps fourteen, watching a syndicated sitcom, "Alice", about a waitress in a diner. Even now, I can't tell you much about this show or why I watched it: becuase it was there, I suppose. I watched a lot of TV when I was younger.
On this particular episode, the cook is involved in a romance with a brash, gregarious woman who wears loud clothes, and loves life, and hugs everyone. The character is transitory; by the end of the episode, she will be gone.
But I watched her and I thought, That. That's what I want to be like when I grow up. The sort of person who introduces herself with a hug, and who doesn't care how strange other people think she is.
The first person I dated, when I was seventeen, I felt no attraction to. I dated him because I wanted someone to cuddle, someone to hold and be held by, and it seemed like the only way you got this was by having a Relationship with a member of the opposite sex. I stopped dating him after a very short time because he wanted a Relationship: love, and romance, and making-out, and all I wanted was to snuggle.
There's a rule somewhere -- an unspoken Rule and not shared by everyone -- that romance/making out/love/cuddling/sex are all the same thing. If you want to do one of those things with a given other person, then you must want the whole rest of the package, or at least be seriously considering it. I hate that rule. I've never believed in it and I've never been able to follow it. I understand that it works for some other people, and that's fine. I've got no problems with people who don't like to be touched or hugged, or who set different boundaries over what's appropriate.
What frustrates me is that it's hard to find out who belongs to which camp. The assumption is that everyone follows the Rule, and some times even asking, "Hey, do you mind if I hug you?" is considered a violation of the Rule by its followers. ("You weirdo! I'm not gay!")
Furry, as a subculture, tends to go too far in the opposite direction. The Rule in furry is almost, "Everyone likes to be touched and it's always okay", which isn't true, either.
But what I like about the fandom is that it made the topic something I could talk about. It was all right to ask. And all right to cuddle with people who were friends but would never be lovers. Cuddling could be just about cuddling, and not about anything else. For me, anyway. I doubt that was or is everyone else's experience.
I always associated this very much with the appeal of being furry -- the tactile pleasure of touching fur. Most people are much more physically affectionate with pets than they are with other humans. When I meet a strange cat or dog, I greet it by offering my hand and, if the animal and owner appear to approve, petting it. (With owners, I ask in words.) Imagine if we greeted other people on a daily basis with, "Oh! What a good person you are!" *petpetpet, scritch behind ears* "Would you like to sit in my lap?"
And if you didn't want to be petted, you could growl and hiss and the other person would back off. Would that be so bad? :)
Oh, granted, even I might find that somewhat wearying. Much as I like to cuddle my friends, I've gone through phases where I've been burnt out on it and withdrawn. And I don't feel the same way about all people, or even all my friends. Some people are just more cuddly than others.
But I do find myself wishing this was a conversation I could have with more people. Something safe to talk about, without so much awkwardness and risk of misunderstanding.
Even as I write this, I find myself wondering how well I'll be understood.