Unbagging My Boyfriend Is A Bear


My Boyfriend Is A Bear

Release: May 09, 2018

Bear meets girl. Nora has bad luck with men. When she meets an (actual) bear on a hike in the Los Angeles hills, he turns out to be the best romantic partner she’s ever had! He’s considerate, he’s sweet, he takes care of her. But he’s a bear, and winning over her friends and family is difficult. Not to mention he has to hibernate all winter. Can true love conquer all?

Did you know that you are 180,000 times more likely to be killed by a bee than by a bear?

I had encountered some, er, buzz about this graphic novel for quite some time, but hadn’t gotten around to picking it up until I happened upon it at an Ollie’s on Halloween.

All I knew about it was the title and that people thought it was good, so I went into with no real expectations, though I kind of thought that maybe the bear was a man who had been transformed by a spell, or that we had a Tammy and T-Rex situation, or that it’s some kind of world in which dating a bear is just a thing that happens sometimes.

But – spoiler – nope. He’s just a bear.

And as in our world, in this world, dating a bear is not just a thing that happens sometimes.

Except for this time.

While it is not the norm, and Nora, our protagonist, has to spend a great deal of time answering questions from friends and family, dating a bear doesn’t seem to cause quite as much of a stir as it might in the real world.

Ultimately, to varying degrees, everyone accepts the fact that Nora’s boyfriend is a bear, though Nora’s mother is none too keen on the idea of not having grandbabies.

Some questions still linger, of course. Particularly, the most obvious and indelicate question, and in answer to that, I’ll simply say that, other than a quick reference, it just isn’t an aspect of their relationship that the story focuses on.

The story that we do get doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion, as we start near the end, then work our way back to the beginning before moving forward to pick up where we started.

Nora and Bear’s relationship started as her relationship with a man named Ben came to an end, with the two of them making eye contact – which resulted in Nora running away in a panic – while she was on a terrible outdoor date with Ben, who was a terrible boyfriend.

After breaking up with Ben, Nora has a night out with her best friends and lets the universe know what she’s looking for in her next relationship.

When a drunken Nora returns home, she finds the bear going through her trash. This time, she doesn’t panic upon seeing him, and she notices that he is carrying something she left behind on their first encounter and realizes that not only is this the same bear, he was looking for her.

She invites him in and the two bond over a late night open refrigerator raid, and she falls asleep being held by the bear, feeling safe and loved. And so, after that pleasant first night, Nora decides to give it a shot.

While there is no magic in the story, there is a kind of magical realism, in that the bear does have more human traits than one would typically expect a bear to have, and he takes to the role of boyfriend exceedingly well. He proves to be handy around the house – which is useful, given how often he breaks things – he wears clothes, and even gets a job.

He even gets along with her cat.

And he proves to be all the things that Nora wanted, the things that no man could ever be.

The rest of the story focuses on the development of their relationship, achieving the varying degrees of acceptance from the people in their lives, Nora’s weird job, her continuing encounters with her ex (they work together), Nora’s insecurities, Nora’s friends’ insecurities, life in general, and all of it leading up to where the narrative began: the last dinner that Nora and Bear have before he heads to the hills to hibernate.

Much of the latter half of the book explores that looming separation and the anxiety it produces in both of them, though we really only get Nora’s point of view and her perception of how it’s affecting Bear.

The actual hibernation and how Nora deals with being separated from her boyfriend take up the remainder of the story. With the exception of a brief suspicion – planted in her mind by one of her friends – that he’s not really hibernating, she handles the separation as well as can be expected.

Even if it turns out that her relationship with the bear is over, the time they spent together helped make Nora stronger, and in the bear’s absence she finds that she can be braver than she thought she could, and she’s in a much better place than she was before she began dating the bear.

Of course, the fact that she’s doing fairly well on her own doesn’t mean she wants to be alone, and I won’t spoil the end, but she is certainly open to and eager for the bear’s return as the weather grows warmer.

Overall, it’s a fun little story that uses a silly idea to to explore a lot of different aspects of life, romance, and friendship In addition to the main narrative, we get a lot of little asides that call out some of the challenges of dating a bear, not the least of which is communication.

The art by Cat Farris perfectly suits the style of the story, as any style even a little bit more realistic would push the story of a woman dating a bear into the uncanny valley. There’s also a fluidity and adaptability that illustrate the mood of a given scene, becoming looser and more cartoonish during Nora’s tipsy night out with her friends, for example.

It’s also nice to see the contrasting watercolor style of the scenes of the bear hibernating while Nora goes on with her life as best she can.

If I had to summarize the story, I’d say it’s something of an allegory for, “Men: all you have to do is put in the least amount of effort.”

While it’s obviously not a realistic story, nothing Nora gets from the bear is unrealistic, and while she puts in most of the work, it doesn’t bother her because it’s appreciated and she’s not doing all of the work.

In one of the asides, Nora provides a long list of all of the things the bear has broken, but there is one thing that’s not on the list: her heart.

Honestly, that doesn’t seem like it should be so hard. After all, even a bear can do it.

Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.

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