A solid squeeze has the power to lift your spirits and lower your blood pressure. Once thought as something only to be shared between lovers and friends, some have stepped up to provide cuddles to those who desire it while making a few extra bucks themselves.
I waited patiently as my cuddler put on a CD – a mixture of old R&B and jazzy soul. She lit a thick orange candle and asked if I wanted to cuddle in bed or on the couch. I quickly chose the couch with a sigh of relief. After all, this was my first experience and I didn’t know what to expect.
I questioned whether I should hire a man or a woman but, in full transparency, I knew only a big momma-type could satisfy my need for a great big ol’ hug. That’s what she did. I found her on a professional cuddling Facebook page; her name was Ma Dear – “blk woman, late 60s, teddy bear type.”
I was sold. We exchanged numbers after I paid the initial one-hour minimum fee and we spoke about what was expected in our cuddle exchange. When I arrived, her barking dog greeted me at the front door. It was a modest home with Christmas lights still adorning the door – not what I’d expect from of a professional cuddler, though, I didn’t really have any expectations other than an hour-long warm and fuzzy feeling.
Hugging has gone out of fashion. Even before greedy politicians, manipulative R&B singers and sleazy Hollywood honchos started exposing their horrid secrets, cuddling was kept behind closed doors and used as an appetizer to love making. Professional cuddling has since become a viable career path for some.
WebMD experts suggest that when you cuddle with someone you care about, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin that calms you and makes you better able to deal with stress. It can also lower your blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Professional cuddlers like Ma Dear understand that the body needs to be cuddled, and they take full advantage of that need.
“Most times we forget that the body is wrapped in this organ called skin. This organ must be nurtured, coddled, touched,” explains sexologist and Detroit native Frenchie Davis. “When we deny the need of this organ, we socially-emotionally endanger ourselves. The body needs the human touch. There are certain times of the year like ‘cuddling season’ that this fever for touch is more insistent.”
Davis adds, “Seasonal depression is very common during the colder, darker seasons. So, we have to love on ourselves, give ourselves the touch it needs and deserves. And it’s important to remember that touch is a necessity, not a desire. Hugging, touching, sexing are cures for mild depression. We increase our oxytocin levels with the gentlest touch. Allow yourself that happiness – skin hunger is real. Feed your skin, you feed your soul – just feed it with the right things.”
In the student dorms at Spelman College where I went to school in the ‘90s, girlfriends regularly hung out in their rooms lying on each other’s beds, sometimes offering hugs to console depression or breakups or offering back rubs after long study sessions.
Sometimes that led to something more, physically, but more often than otherwise, the touching and cuddling were platonic. This was, of course, long before the #MeToo movement. I don’t remember anyone of my dormmates expressing concern about body boundaries.
Now I live in Detroit and it’s not such a warm and fuzzy city, and 2020 isn’t a particularly warm and fuzzy time – and women, especially, are highly conscious of boundaries. If you’re looking for a professional cuddler, the internet is still the best place to start.
According to the parameters established by cuddling websites like CuddleConnect.com or CuddleComfort.com, nothing happens that both people don’t agree to in advance. Professional cuddling isn’t sex work.
While with Ma Dear, I found that she was able to set the mood and the tone of our one-hour session. We just sat, faced each other on her burgundy-colored couch and embraced in a hug. Or, maybe, I was being hugged. I talked first, saying that I wanted to be let loose.
Then we sat back on a couch pillow and she pulled me into a spooning hug, which at first felt forceful. I needed the nudge to relax. This was the position that we sat in for what seemed like forever. There was only soft music playing in the background and her breathing. It was quiet and comforting.
After a few minutes, I closed my eyes but was jolted by a buzzing iPhone. It was mine. She reminded me to shut my phone off. It was the first time I’d heard her voice since we’d sat down, and I was curious about her life and how she’d became a cuddler.
I peeked at the time – 23 more minutes. I sank back into her cuddle, putting my legs up and letting my feet hang over the edge of the couch. This was starting to feel good, engulfed in the heat of her 250-pound frame. I asked her to tell me her story.
A mother of four, she came upon an advertisement in Detroit Metro Times looking for women interested in being a cuddler. She called the number and worked with a woman who was starting a local service. When I asked Ma Dear what she was making when she started her body tensed, and I stopped asking questions to listen to the quiet again.
In the silence, I looked around her home which was obviously once-filled with kids that have long moved out. I can imagine that Ma Dear had been cuddling people on that burgundy couch for years before ever being paid for it.
I took it all in and thought that when I got my first client, I’d make them feel this way. Safe and comfortable. “This will always be a safe space for you,” says Ma Dear. “I know that you’re not getting hugged and cuddled like you need to, so whenever you need me, I’m here.”
Follow the leader
When our session was over, I was even more motivated to search for the perfect cuddling partner for me, first going through the certification needed to solicit cuddle buddies, then creating just the right advertisement for the service I was providing. My first ad on CuddleComfort.com simply read “First time cuddler hoping to a warm experience.”
For many days, there were no responses. Then there was one. An older man in Dearborn, mid-50s and retired. I immediately responded wanting to get it over with, and we scheduled time later in the day to talk. I must admit, this part of the cuddle process can feel a lot like romantic dating, what with questions to your potentional cuddle buddy about his profession, need for companionship and ability to finance our meetings.
Ed (not his real name) knew exactly what he wanted, and that was affection. I first declined his offer to meet when it became apparent that he didn’t understand what professional cuddling was all about. He didn’t understand that cuddling wasn’t meant to be sexual in any way but rather a way to feed a human need for touch.
I explained that, in my research, cuddling can calm stress, derail depression and curve anxiety. Ed understood and persisted in meeting me, feeling that we had made a connection – and I conceded. We agreed to a public meeting. I set a price of $60 for an hour and decided to meet at AMC Star Southfield to catch a matinee. We both felt it was a perfect place to hug and still feel safe.
Ed looked exactly like his picture and greeted me with a long hug. He took out three $20-dollar bills and placed them in my hand, which immediately made me feel cheap. Had I charged enough? We decided not to go to a movie but to instead just sit at a booth inside of a Mexican restaurant, leaning on each other as if we’d been friends for years. Ed was what we’d call touchy-feely, but I didn’t mind. After all, he had given me $60. I figured I owed him some warmth.
After asking that I move into the booth next to him, he put his head on my shoulder and squeezed my waist. He stroked my hands as he told me about the flower shop that he owned with his family over 20 years ago, and I shared my dreams of being a world-famous author
And when our time was over, we hugged again, this time a bit longer than the first – we felt connected. He left saying that it was one of the best hugs he’d ever gotten. I had fulfilled the duties of my job. There might actually be something to this professional cuddling, after all.