Would You Pay $100 for a Hug?

Staring at the stenciled moon and stars mural on the wall I sense the weight of Hess on the bed as she lies down beside me before I feel a strange leg drape over mine and fingertips lightly caress my back. And I find that I am asking myself the same question that I imagine every client of a professional cuddler asks themselves when they first find themselves in bed being lovingly embraced by a fully dressed stranger: How the hell did I get myself into this?

[Note: This is a short except of a piece originally published in Marie Claire. You can read the whole piece here.]

 

I am lying on a strange bed in a darkened room, and Samantha Hess is trying to seduce me.

Not — and I want to be absolutely clear about this — that she is seducing me in any sexual way. Quite the opposite. Hess, an attractive, vivacious, twenty-something sprite bills herself as the world’s only Celebrity Cuddler, and today she is attempting to persuade me that hiring a fully-clothed professional to embrace you in a loving but platonic way is a healthy, and by no means creepy way, to spend $60-80 an hour.

I have already filled out the requisite pre-cuddling paperwork. In addition to listing emergency contacts and ways I like to be touched, this paperwork included a signed agreement stating no sexual contact will be allowed from either party. I have had my required half-hour pre-cuddling interview, where I answer questions I am told will enhance my professional cuddling experience. (Included among these: “Is there a kind of cuddling that you long for that your wife just won’t give you?”) I have even dutifully gone through the pictures and names of the official hundred-plus different and distinct cuddling positions available to clients, which are captured in a book that is entitled the Cuddle Sutra, because of course it is.

Today, Hess asked me to choose three to five of these positions to try in my session, but honestly I found that I couldn’t. For one thing, there are just too many to choose from, and secondly, many of them look identical to my untrained eye. When I tell Hess that I can’t see a difference between the Big Spoon Position and the Rock Star Position, for example, she points out that in one my left arm would be at a 90-degree angle from my body, while in the other it would be at a 110-degree angle. This didn’t really seem enough to me to qualify for a different position, but then I was not the professional cuddler in the room and so I just nodded dumbly. Eventually I just asked Hess to choose five positions and surprise me.

And so now here I am, face down in a small room at the back of Hess’s Cuddle Up to Me, wondering how exactly I am going to explain all of this to my wife.

Cuddle Up to Me is the storefront boutique where Hess and her employees do their cuddling. In their publicity photos, the shop looks like the kind of a chic salon that serves you complimentary champagne while your highlights set. In real life, however, its furnishings are drab and Spartan. At the back of the shop are several makeshift rooms, maybe ten foot by eight foot and each with its own bed. The walls of the cuddling rooms decorated in a various nature themes with glow in the dark paint. The overall aesthetic is clearly meant to be soothing, as if I’ve somehow been whisked away to some warm, serene forest bed; instead it makes me feel like I’ve been transported to the back of a circa-1975 porn star’s van.

Staring at the stenciled moon and stars mural on the wall I sense the weight of Hess on the bed as she lies down beside me before I feel a strange leg drape over mine and fingertips lightly caress my back. And I find that I am asking myself the same question that I imagine every client of a professional cuddler asks themselves when they first find themselves in bed being lovingly embraced by a fully dressed stranger: How the hell did I get myself into this?

 

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Please read the entire article here.

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