On Twitter, barristers and publishers piled in to defend their stuffed pals. Isabel, 38, a high-flying banker, still sleeps with her leopard, Tigger, every night.
“My husband thinks it’s a bit odd, but I think he likes to tease me about it more than he’s bothered that Tigger is in our bed,” she says. “I’m not really sure why I need him … but I’m so used to drifting off to sleep hugging him.”
So why are so many of us unwilling to relinquish our grasp on our furry friends? For me, it comes down to comfort – something I think we all crave. The Scandinavian hygge interiors trend is no coincidence: you might not curl up with Mr Panda, but do you have a faux-fur cushion or a hot water bottle with a fluffy cover? One colleague who expressed horror when I told her about Becky (never Rebecca), admitted that her furry blanket was the “best thing in my life”. Well, add 30 years of emotional investment and a cute little face and you see my point.
We are increasingly placing value on the soothing power of touch. Searches for ASMR (Auto Sensory Meridian Response) on YouTube – which produces 13 million results – have doubled since 2018, as the physical reactions produced by watching videos of people whispering into microphones, or smoothing pillows, help us sleep. There is evidence of the benefits of toys in helping dementia sufferers, which Dementia UK says can “create pleasant feelings of reminiscence or affection”. Meanwhile, a 2013 study by the University of Amsterdam found that cuddling a teddy can lower stress levels and help us come to terms with our mortality.
A third of students take their soft toy to uni – like Sebastian and his famous bear Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited – suggesting that, by our late teens, they have moved beyond the mere object attachment attributed to young children and taken on enough significance to provide protection against loneliness, homesickness and hangovers.
Inevitably, there is another strand to this debate: how often a teddy should be cleaned. According to the survey, the average time between washes is seven years, but I urge caution: five years ago, I popped Becky in a pillow case and set a “gentle” cycle. Reader, she was decapitated. So traumatised was I that, aged 30, I had to ask my mother to sew her head back on.
Am I embarrassed? Yes – just as I am mortified when I come home to find that the cleaner has placed Becky, with some care, on my pillow. Or when my Dad mentioned her in his father-of-the-bride speech.
My husband, at least, isn’t fazed. “When I first saw her I thought it was a joke,” he tells me. “Now it’s kind of nice she’s there, in a funny way.” With that answer, he can stay in bed with me too – for now.