Me: OK, you’re Tiger’ish. Why?
Tiger’ish: Because that’s who I am. Logan was the farm boy from Tennessee. Tiger’ish is something more.
M: Are you a tiger now?
M: Look, I don’t pretend to know how any of this animal-sex stuff works. I don’t know if you people think you are animals or like to pretend you are animals, so just tell me what you want me to know about the new you.
T: Well I do prefer an animal identity, but why would you guess a tiger?
M: Spell your new fucking name.
M: So you’re a large cat that is similar to, but not, a tiger…
T: I thought you knew me. I’m a wolverine, of course.
M: So where does the name come from?
T: My personality. I am kind of tiger-ish.
M: But, despite that, you are a wolverine?
M: Got it.
And from then on, he was Tiger’ish. At the time, it seemed harmless enough. He had recently experienced some indignities that I suspect began to teach him that no matter who you are on the farm, you aren’t anything special in the real world.
First there was the incident with CORE. CORE was a two-semester class that was required for all first-year students. Officially, it was intended to be a leveling field for all freshmen, where, regardless of prior education, every new student came to learn an identical approach to critical thinking and analysis. Through class discussion, the reading of texts, watching of films, and subsequent writing of essays examining those texts and films, each new year’s pupils would meet each other equipped with the same new knowledge, the same academic experience, and the same MLA style. Unofficially, it was an excuse to kiss the ass of every guest speaker to visit campus with a book to sell, and more importantly, it was a way to steal thousands of dollars from the freshmen class each year. Dozens of books were required for CORE, and they were always tied to someone the University was trying to please. If it wasn’t a visiting author, it was an author the University was trying to court. Or it was an alumnus who’d been published. Or it was from Oprah’s fucking book club. These books weren’t even the worst part. For whatever reason, each semester, a different essential reading packet was “published” and sold for $65.00. This packet was literally a couple dozen photo-copied pages held together with a rubber band. They were not bound in any way and yet the front page always carried the very clear warning:
UNBOUND PACKETS CANNOT BE RESOLD AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER! ALL SALES ARE FINAL!
This, as they changed the content of the packet anyhow, was just insulting. In my second semester packet, I received exactly 27 single-sided pages. These pages were copied from a book, whose author and title were conveniently blacked out at the top of each page. I would later discover that this was an essay copied from, and almost certainly illegally, a David Sedaris book. Which was also sold at our campus book store. For $25.00. For the entire book. Which was a full $7.50 at Barnes & Noble.
The problem was that CORE was a form of roulette in which, unless you had the same professor for both semesters, you never knew how closely the professor would adhere to the course-wide guidelines. Also, for the sake of diversity, you were prohibited from having the same professor for both semesters. So some people got professors who were just as disgusted at being forced to teach this crap as we were to “learn” it and would give their entire class an “A” if they attended at least half of the sessions, which would be unofficial study halls. Other professors, aspiring to be Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society would take the course as it was officially intended and try to inspire us to reach new academic heights. Other professors, resentful that all associate professors were required to teach two sections of CORE a semester would hijack the course and require their students to study Meteorology, for example.
I was lucky in my first semester. My professor spent the first class explaining the truth of what CORE was and from then on only asked that we play along enough to make him look good. By contrast, my second semester was taught by a woman who proudly told us that she was one of the first people in the world to obtain a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies and that no man in her class could obtain better than a “B” for a semester grade. She went on to decry the sexism from which all collegiate males have benefited, and vowed to fight back for women, one “B” at a time. To be honest, I don’t think she quite knew what feminism was. Either way, she was one of the teachers who very much did require us to have our reading packets and regularly assigned essays beyond the course-wide syllabi and were always in response to “gender roles within the text” and we were inexplicably required to include cited resources. If I am writing my own essay analyzing my own response to watching fucking GATTACA, why the fuck do I need to cite a resource?
Tiger’ish coasted through first semester CORE with a professor who only required her students to show up once a week, and then, only long enough to take roll-call. She told them that being raped at the book store was payment enough for an easy course credit. This ill-prepared him for the idealist he was to find in his second semester class. The worst CORE professors to get were the ones from the English Department, because they were more or less teaching CORE for all the rest of their classes anyway, and also were careful to hold CORE as a sacred experience in the hope that when their asinine book of poetry finally got published that it too would join the required reading list. Tiger’ish got one of these idiots. Just shy of tenure and being able to stop teaching CORE, this professor had really deluded themselves into thinking they were that-one-teacher-who-changed-their-students'-lives. Committed to connecting with each student personally, the first grand act of compassion was to hand out index cards to each student and ask them to write a few things about themselves; where they were from, what they hoped to achieve at college, etc. The crucial question for Tiger’ish was: By what name would you like to be called? For whatever reason, Tiger’ish took this opportunity to display some of his knowledge from his first semester pre-med courses. Through the careful academic study of dozens of medical texts, Tiger’ish had come to realize that the Latin equivalent of any word was simply the word in English with “US” added to the end. Trying to impress his class with his knowledge, Tiger’ish wrote that he would like to be called Loganus.
The professor collected the cards in careful order and then went around the room introducing each student and sharing the information from their cards. When she got to Tiger’ish, she didn’t say Logan-us, instead she said Log Anus. Anyone who didn’t know about Tiger’ish from his first-semester misadventures knew of Log Anus by the end of the first second-semester week.
Again, knowing that “Logan” might have had some frustrating associations, I wasn’t totally shocked that he was looking for a new identity. His other indignity relates to his comprehension of Latin. Simply put, he had flunked all of his pre-med courses. Through the delightful workings of a well-oiled bureaucracy, Tiger’ish –as we all were- was instructed to sign up for second semester courses based on our expectations of passing or failing. Failing never occurred to Tiger’ish, despite his barely ever attending class or doing homework. As sure of himself as ever, Tiger’ish assumed he was enrolled in the second semester pre-med classes and even went to what would’ve been his first. This class was a biology lab, and each properly enrolled student would come to class and find a work table for themselves, complete with some exciting project. Tiger’ish ended up roaming from table to table, looking for his name. Eventually he had to ask for help and was publicly told that he wasn’t in the class due to his failure from the previous semester. Tiger’ish met with his advisor who explained to him that he had, in fact and in writing, been made aware of this circumstance and was left with no choice but to focus on general education courses until the next fall when he could start over. He was assured that he wasn’t the first pre-med to flunk only to restart with great success. He was encouraged to take advantage of his newly found free time and was reminded that most students in other majors would be kicked out of on-campus housing for not taking a full course load, but that an exception was made for the pre-med students.
Tiger’ish wasn’t in college for general education; he was there to become a doctor. It seems pretty likely that he thought he merely had to go to college and that would make him a doctor, but the real world was finally getting through to him. How could he go back to the farm without a medical degree? I suspect he didn’t much want to be Logan anymore. “Logan” was bound to be a disappointment to his family back home, and certainly didn’t fit in anywhere else. “Tiger’ish” however, was whoever he wanted to be and could define and redefine himself at will.
The whole world of furry porn was bad enough, but nothing could’ve prepared me for Tiger’ish and his total immersion in the furry community. What started off as a means to achieve an orgasm became an outlet to a community that, not only accepted his every peculiarity, but celebrated them. This community, however, only existed for Tiger’ish through the magic of the internet, which when combined with his vast amounts of free time and general dissatisfaction with the outside world, meant that I was left to face the insanity.
Furry porn led to furry chat rooms. Chat rooms led to AOL instant messaging sessions that comprised entirely of:
SirStallion: Neigh, Whinnnney, Neigh
Tiger’ish: Grrr, HOOOOOOWL!
It went on like that. Tiger’ish would breathily read these exchanges in real-time, trying to approximate the actual animal sounds being invoked, all the while laughing knowingly at the secret joke shared between the two animal identities.
Chat rooms led to another weird form of porn: licensed character porn. As a tangent to his usual proclivities, Tiger’ish became fascinated, if not aroused, by perusing fan-made drawings of things like Smurfette getting bukake’d by Papa, Brainy, and Vanity Smurf. (I admit that the last one surprised even me.) If it was a cartoon between 1980-2000, Tiger’ish looked at a porn derivation of it. Which is to say nothing of comics -both strip and book, video games, and toy-lines. Which led to his next horrifying hobby, dabbling with being a plushie.
An unfortunately well drawn depiction of some Care Bears engaged in an act that defies explanation but focused heavily on the theme “Golden Showers” captivated Tiger’ish like nothing else. He expressed his appreciation for the artwork to some online friends and in record time he went from wanting to be a wolverine to wanting to be in a character costume from Six Flags. Or more accurately, he wanted to be a wolverine dressed up like a cartoon unicorn. He began searching for tips on how to create your own plushie-wear, and lucked out when a friend offered to sell him some pants. Evidently, a fellow plushie underestimated their own girth and ended up with some plushie pants –good for whatever costume you desire! –and sent them to Tiger’ish after his check cleared.
Before I knew it, Tiger’ish was no longer spending his time at his computer bare-assed. Instead, he looked something like a faun, with offensively unconvincing fur. I won’t pretend to know materials make for a good plushie costume, but these pants were awful. The fabric looked like felt, plain and simple. In effect, Tiger’ish began wearing felt sweat pants. He seemed happy enough with them, so what do I know. His search continued for help in crafting a perfect unicorn costume, but to my eternal happiness, he never managed to get beyond those felt sweat pants.
In hindsight, I dodged a deadly, hollow-point bullet. One of the requirements for my theatre major was enrollment in a class called Social Influence of the Theatrical Arts. This class met four days a week, and when in class, time was spent studying how theatre and acting have been used for more than artistic expression or simply as entertainment. One example of this is role-playing in psycho-therapy sessions. Another example is when a play is performed to effect social change in some way. When this course isn’t in class, it is traveling as troupe performing just such an influential play. In my freshmen year I opted to not take the class simply because I didn’t feel like having a morning class four days of the week. Thank god I didn’t take it. I can only imagine what nightmares living with Tiger’ish would’ve caused me if I had.
The play that was toured throughout the tri-county area was a little gem called Little Bear. This play was performed for children, ideally in Pre-K through 2nd grade. In Little Bear, the children get to meet a fun and friendly little bear who simply trusts too much. One day, Little Bear meets Big Bear. Big Bear likes giving hugs and rubs and, despite Little Bear telling him not to, rubs Little Bear on her private parts and in general, sexually molests her. Not knowing what to do, Little Bear confides in Little Moose. They still don’t know what to do, so they ask Big Moose, who carefully tells the Little Critters (and the audience) about not feeling guilty or ashamed when you are abused and how to tell a trusted adult, be it a parent, or if need be, a teacher or even a police officer. Big Moose helps Little Bear confront Big Bear, and Big Bear leaves the forest, never to return.
Written by child psychologists, the play was lauded for not putting an allegorical or metaphorical spin on the act of abuse. The kids saw Little Bear get sexually abused. Unfortunately, many kids recognized the abuse from their own lives and after performances spoke to their teachers and the therapists who would travel with the show.
An aside: When I was in Little Bear, during the spring of my sophomore year, we got a healthy bit of local press for being the first known production of Little Bear to have Little Bear portrayed by a male actor. Just sayin’.
Because heavy genital and breast-groping was performed on-stage, the costumes for Little Bear were specifically designed to both protect the performers from one another’s gropes, but to also visually accentuate the buttocks/genitals, etc. of the costumes’ exterior. The care and maintenance of these costumes were the responsibility of the actors. This means, they were usually stored in the actors' dorm rooms. If I had taken the class as a freshman, Tiger’ish would’ve taken my Big Moose costume –which was absolutely a plushie’s wet dream –and done who knows what unspeakable acts to and with it.
Another aside: Although we opted not to distribute them, each group that paid the performance rights for Little Bear, was also entitled to cases of Little Bear coloring books, recounting the story. Inexplicably, there was a page depicting the abuse. You could color the abuse! Big Bear was simultaneously squeezing tit and kneading bush. And you could color it!
Dodged bullets aside, Tiger’ish was far more popular than Logan ever was. Nor was the popularity limited to cyberspace. Before long, Tiger’ish was sending out our phone number and spending hours chatting and growling with his new friends. This really pissed me off. Beside the fact that Tiger’ish couldn’t use the phone without turning the ringer off, these people were encouraging behaviors that I had to deal with. None of them knew the real him. I could only imagine that even in the subset of this particular fetish, he was unique. These people knew enough to hide their fetish in appropriate shame, Tiger’ish did not. These people could never guess that he truly believed in unicorns and leprechauns. Even being his usual candid self, they had to assume he was just playing the part. No one would dare get to know him with the level of intimacy that I had been forced to.
Then one day, while on the phone with somebody, Tiger’ish pauses his conversation to ask me a question:
Tiger’ish: Hey, I have to ask you something. Do your testicles hurt?
T: Your testicles. Your nuts, your balls. Do they hurt?
M: No. Why?
T: My girlfriend wants to know.
He then put the phone back to his ear and reported that I said no…