It wasn’t my first time with a professional cuddler — I’ll write about that in another post — but it certainly had been a long time since I’d allowed myself that comfort. I have zero income right now and saving pennies is the order of the day. But I’ve been working on my novel alone at home for months and these are extraordinarily stressful political times so I decided I deserve a cuddle. To book a session, I went straight to the web site for Cuddle Up To Me, the bricks-and-mortar realization of Samantha (Sam) Hess’s dream.
For anyone who wants to be successfully self-employed, her story is a jolt of pure inspiration. After doing several jobs that were a bad fit (to put it mildly,) she became a professional cuddler and made house calls before pulling off the significant achievement of establishing a business at 1015 E. Burnside. She got the idea for her business when she saw a man holding a sign that said “Hugs for $2” and twelve people waiting in line for their turns.
For various reasons my ideal cuddler right now is a (trustworthy) teddy bear of a man so I was thrilled to see Cam profiled in the staff descriptions; he’s currently the only male. Cuddle Up To Me has several certified cuddlers including Sam who did a wonderful job cuddling me many times. Before the session began, Cam and I sat down together while he went over some medical/protocol things which also served to break the ice.
The web site says about the sessions: “This is in no way sexual, but is intended to give you the feeling that you are not alone, and that the world is a good place.” (I’ll take it. I need as much of that feeling as I can get these days.) There are four cuddling rooms: Universe, Cascade, Ocean and Zen. Each is very nice but I chose the latter — I especially loved its lighting and decorations.
I can’t lie; of course I was nervous those first few minutes after we laid down. But when I got over this in a few minutes and we really settled onto the bed, it was nothing but bliss. We started out with Cam facing me as I faced the wall. I needed just a little distance at first to deal with the intensity of emotion that was stirred up — It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been held by a man. As I relaxed more and more, our cuddling positions changed many times. One of my favorites was the “papa bear” position.
Lying on the bed in the Zen room, feeling the warmth and strength of Cam’s solid torso and encircling arms, I looked up at the ceiling and loved the whimsy of the big, red, paper lanterns hanging there. I had my hair played with, my back rubbed, my hands squeezed, and felt the heat of Cam’s leg against my bare calf. It’s hard to explain how relaxing and liberating it is to get all this in a way that’s completely free of sex and all that goes with it. We talked and we didn’t talk. The hour went by all too fast. I found myself wishing I could have this experience twice a week. Sigh.
The power of touch: Sam is an expert on this and has written a book titled Touch: The Power of Human Connection. She says it’s a fundamental need and that “touch comforts us when we are sad and heals us when we are sick. We are not meant to live our lives in isolation. Cuddling enhances self-worth and promotes human dignity. My company is going to change the world.” I find it ironic that as a society we’re happy to blast out all things sexual through every conceivable social/medium and yet have a cultural taboo about non-sexual touch. If you doubt the latter is true, you should talk to Sam. Like many activists, she’s paid a price for her advocacy.
I’m very grateful that I live in Portland, a city with a business like Cuddle Up To Me. And I thank the Multiverse for Sam and her staff.