For the past few days, I've been volunteering for a charity. This has mainly involved fundraising, which means standing just outside the shop (not on the street) and holding a bucket (which you must not rattle). In a bear costume. From this, I have come to learn several important life lessons for anyone who might one day be called upon to dress up as a bear. Here they are.

  1. 99% of kids love bears. This inevitably means you will be hugged. Lots. Appearing too happy about this angers parents. Try to keep hugs to a four second maximum.
  2. 1% of kids are terrified of bears. The classic signs of ursaphobia are wide, unblinking eyes, a wobbly bottom lip, and trying to hide behind the nearest older relative. If one of these children is made to approach you, DO NOT TRY TO PLAY PEEKABOO.
  3. Some parents will inevitably use you to punish their misbehaving children - “Mr Bear is very angry with you. No, he isn't going to give you a hug. No, you can't see Mr Bear again , he's very disappointed.” If a parent tries to use you in such a way, there is nothing you can do. The best option is putting your humorously oversized head into your comically large hands and hiding until the bawling stops.
  4. Avoid dogs.
  5. Anyone between the ages of 13 and 16 wants you to suffer. They will demand hugs, photographs, or dancing, or worst of all your collection bucket. At this point, if you have a great deal of faith in your ability to outrun them, do so. If not, take it. This is what you get for dressing up as a bear.
  6. The sun is your enemy. A slight breeze is the only thing keeping you from heatstroke – when one comes, cherish it.
  7. Old people will shake your hand for no damn reason.
  8. It is surprisingly hard to pull a stupid face at someone whilst pretending to be nice Mr Bear.
  9. If your head falls off, children will scream.
  10. Do not wave at girls who are out with their overprotective, dumbfuck, unstable, macho boyfriend. He will threaten to kill you, with absolutely no sense of irony. Beware the man who would threaten a charity bear, for such a man is inevitably on the edge of psychotic breakdown. The correct response is to break character and say something along the lines of “Dude, I'm sorry, didn't mean anything, I'm just a volunteer, please don't hurt me.” The incorrect response is to put your arm round his girlfriend and ask if they want to take a photo.

Of course, the way this is written makes dressing as a bear seem like a chore. It's not, at all, in fact it's brilliant fun. The tragedy is, at some point you have to get out of the bear costume and resume your normal identity. And on that note, here's one thing I learned whilst no longer dressed as a bear:

  1. Bearlike behaviour is not acceptable without a bearlike appearance. No longer will small children scream in delight at the sight of you, no longer will old people stop to talk, no longer will you be able to pull faces at people whilst right in front of them.

It sucks not being a bear.

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