Sometimes you need to follow your inspiration, no matter how many years it takes for it to make sense to you. Inspiration is exactly the story behind Teddy and the “Single” button.
Teddy was technically not my bear, and his name is technically not originally Teddy – it was Freddy. The story goes like this. I never had an actual teddy bear during my early years, that I remember, anyway. Freddy belonged to my little brother, eight years younger than me, who named him Freddy because he had another bear already named Teddy. Freddy was clearly second fiddle for my brother, but he soon became first fiddle for me. When my brother pulled his eyes off, I sewed on two big buttons from an old sweater, and patched up the tear under his left eye where stuffing was falling out. I grew so fond of him that I stole him when I went to college ten years later, and since then, Teddy has lived on every bureau that I have ever had for over 40 years. Good old steady-Teddy, he is my longest lasting mate!
But that’s not the whole story, because the whole story has to explain the “Single” button. That part of the story happened when Teddy was about 30 years old. At that point in my life, I found myself single, and, true to my old form, looking immediately for a mate. Needless to say, I was frustrated that there was no clear way to identify myself as “single” to others, or for them to identify themselves to me. I hatched a “single”button plan with a dear friend from Raleigh, NC, named Peter Leary. Pete has now passed away, but he was a REAL character, as anyone who knew him would testify, and any plan with Pete was always a delightful enterprise.
Pete had an infectious laugh and a silly sense of the world. When he wasn’t performing original songs at open mic nights, he also doubled as Santa Claus. His favorite gig, however, was to don the special green suit he had had specially made for himself just to walk with in the Raleigh annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade – delighting the children and adults alike as a large joyful leprechaun.
That’s just one of the reasons I loved Pete. But what Pete did for work, however, is where the buttons come in. Pete ran his own buisiness creating what he liked to call “political chatchka” – you know, the buttons and posters and bumper stickers necessary to get anyone elected to political office. What would you do if one of your friends was a button maker? Just what I did. Together, after complaining about the above problem, Pete and I hatched a plan that he would make me 1000 single buttons.
At the time I had the buttons made and paid for, I was looking to use them as a quick pathway back into a coupled relationship. That was then, but now I see my single buttons as a small but perfect token of a new identity that I embrace – being self-partnered! I am singing a solo in this world duets. I am happily single.
Now, over 15 years later, I am not sure where those 1000 buttons all went. I hardly ever wore them for their original intended purpose. I vaguely remember handing them out by the fistfulls at bars with friends. I have hardly any left so if you ended up with one, I hope you are wearing it with single pride!