The other day, a dubious-looking, bearded hippie bearing a "Free Hugs" sign leapt into my path. I recoiled. "Someone needs to learn how to cuddle!" he shouted after my retreating back. The Cuddle Club ethos has taken over the world.
I've never thought of myself as having intimacy issues. I like a cuddle as much as the next guy. I'm not even adverse to the occasional PDA. But intimate contact with strangers has never been high on my list. And so, to me, the cuddle party has always sounded like the eighth circle of hell. When I heard about it back in '04, I assumed it must be a passing early-auts trend, like wraps, or talking Trump dolls, or "moving to Canada," or those crinkly shirts hat got super-tiny and doll-sized when you took them off. But not only has it held on, six years on the cuddle party is expanding to other parts of the world.
Their aims are, of course, laudable. The movement was founded by Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, self-styled NYC relationship coaches, and to this day workshop leaders — at least of the official happenings — have to undergo training. Cuddle clubs — or cuddle parties, or cuddle puddles — all seek to encourage non-sexual, comforting human contact in a world that sexualizes everything. It's nothing if not benign — and if it brings people succor, who am I to argue with...cuddle-puppies?
If, like me, you need to be educated on cuddling, this is a golden age:
Cuddle Party: The original, and still the standard. Wear PJs, start with an orientation circle, get down to 2 hours of...cuddling. You can say no to any hug. The event usually culminates in a "puppy pile" of multiple cuddlers. Locations across the U.S. and Canada — and now, Australia, Denmark, London (where apparently attendees are "foreigners who miss the physical contact they're used to in their home countries and British people who claim to feel uncomfortable about touching." And, shortly, Sweden. (Where, humiliatingly, it's known as "a new way to socialize American-style.") They're sort of like franchises.
Love Tribe: "LoveTribe is engaged in a spiritual and ecological work that is grounded in our bodies, helping to germinate a new, more sustainable culture based on abundance, vitality and sharing. LoveTribe recognizes that we are all connected on a spiritual or energetic level, and is helping foster more heart-conscious, touch-positive communities that nurture our whole selves by creating gatherings where we can learn and practice skills for getting our needs for authentic connection, affection and play met in healthy, caring ways." Translation: "Snuggles and Cosmic Cuddles" cuddle parties — just be sure you don't wander into a "Sensual Romps" event by mistake.
Online. Any search of "cuddle party" or "cuddle club" will bring up the plaintive requests of strangers in hug-benighted parts of the country eager to start local cuddle-puddles.
But keep in mind, almost anywhere you go, there is that $40 fee. And as the Daily Mail's writer finds, "I can't get over the fact that everyone present was essentially paying for their cuddles, which made the experience a bit depressing." Oddly enough, though, "free hugs" aren't appealing either; I guess there's no pleasing some of us.
Swedes extend warm embrace to 'cuddle party' movement [TheLocal.se]
Would YOU Join A Cuddle Club? [Daily Mail]\
What Is A Cuddle Party? [Suite101]