This could be a good follow-on to my essay “What’s in a Hug?”, included in my book Did Jesus Have a Cat. I recently learned, on the ABC News on a Sunday morning as I was getting ready to go to my usual Sunday service of choice, that a woman is offering professional snuggling services. She says it is just snuggling, no sex, clothes stay on. For an additional fee she will spend the night. She says this is not prostitution. Some people disagree.
So of course, being a more than average “inquiring mind,” I tried to access the web site; www.thesnuggery.org. On my first try, I couldn’t get to the site – it was overrun by high traffic. Surprise, surprise. A million other viewers had done the same thing – immediately rushed to their computers or smart phones and tried to Google the site.
I‘d recently hit a dry period in my writing and was waiting for just the right stimulus or ping to get me going again. This may be it. According to the web site:
“Research provides us with ample evidence that physical contact with others has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. Yet, we live in a culture that does not sanction touch simply for the sake of touch. We’re afraid of touch. Studies have found that people in theUnited Statestouch openly less frequently and with less positive feeling than people in many other countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Central andSouth America. Consequently, we tend to be more agitated and aggressive, both verbally and physically, than people from places where affectionate touch is open and normal.”
The web site goes on to explain how, during touching, the brain produces more serotonin and endorphins. “Happy chemicals” are produced (duh – she’s not just whistlin’ Dixie here). Similarly, fewer bad chemicals that produce depression and suppress the immune system are produced. Her web site explains that a staff of snugglers are available to, well….snuggle with you. The snugglers are pictured on the site with their bios and it all seems very touchy-feely, therapeutic and beneficial to mankind.
OK, I understand the premise. And the idea seems well-intentioned, perhaps even noble, if you think about it from the perspective of an armchair sociologist. But the execution, the putting into play, the doing. Weell, that’s where I see it getting dicey. Couldn’t this turn scary for the snugglers? What if the client is a marine just returned from the Middle East, feeling alienated due to his horrific experiences, and unable to make meaningful connections in the usual way of social interchange. Or what if this is a convict, just out of the penitentiary? Or a recovering alcoholic or meth addict just a few months out of rehab? Would these needy individuals settle for just snuggling? Would they expect more? Do they thinking “snuggling” is just code talk for engaging in “vo–dody–oh–do” (as Laverne and Shirley used to use that euphemism). What if the client becomes enraged and violent because he doesn’t want to stop at snuggling? My vivid imagination can see this leading into the opening for a murder/detective novel, where a snuggler is found dead and a cast of dozens of clients and former clients are interrogated over 200 pages while the astute detective sleuths out the culprit.
There are FAQs on the web site too. Such as:
Q. What should I wear to my first appointment?
A. I recommend loose fitting, natural fiber clothing, but whatever you are most comfortable in is what you should wear. Pajamas are always a good choice. There is an area for you to change when you arrive.
Q. Do we meet before we snuggle?
A. We do meet before we snuggle. We will meet briefly to review policies and ensure the comfort of both parties prior to any snuggling.
Q. What if I become sexually aroused during my session?
A. Don’t worry, it happens! Although sexual activity is not permitted, arousal is perfectly normal and should not make anyone feel uncomfortable. [Say what?]
Q. Am I supposed to talk during my session?
A. It’s really up to you. Although some people find that snuggling makes talking easier, the benefits of snuggling are not dependent upon being verbal.
Q. Do clothes/pajamas always stay on for the duration of our session?
A. Absolutely! Nudity is not permitted.
Q. Are snuggling sessions therapy?
A. Snuggling sessions are not therapy but they can be restorative, rejuvenating, comforting, playful and fun. [I’ll say!]
They also offer a “double snuggle” where you can snuggle with two snugglers at once. Well, this ought to satisfy a few fantasies. Well, maybe almost but not quite. I notice I didn’t see any male snugglers pictured on the web page. That may be fodder a separate essay.
This just gets my brain going into over drive. Possibly yours too as you read this. And besides the sensual/sexual/lustful angle, what does this say about our society, about where we are in the early part of the 21st century, and how we’ve come to relate to one another (or not)? One the one hand, one might say that this is deplorable, that the all the novels and plays about alienation and the inability to connect in meaningful ways were absolutely right on. On the other, you might think that given that we are what we are, regardless of causality, right or wrong, or blame, that this is a good idea – that someone has seized on a capital idea and is seeking to right the wrongs of a society gone off the rails, in some small measure, and how noble is that.
And then let’s say you are at a party or a social gathering, or you go on a game show. And Pat Sajak or Alex Trebek asks you about your job? “Oh, I’m a professional snuggler.” Well that ought to raise a few eyebrows and solicit a few racy one-liners, no doubt some of them bleep worthy. I sometimes think I am beyond being surprised any more. I went for several months without writing because there was nothing I’d come across recently that was quirky or unusual enough to get my fingers typing. And I felt a little concerned, beginning to get almost sad, thinking I might have to write about theBoston bombings along with hundreds of journalists and screenwriters anxious to get the upper hand, the big scoop. I was so wrong. I have to say this surprised me. I’m still pondering. I just don’t know what I think yet. I’ll have to let the idea simmer. Then perhaps I’ll revisit the subject and let you know if I have any brilliant insights or have drawn any pithy conclusions. I guess, in the final analysis, if you can’t still be surprised, then that means you’re dead. So I’m happy to report that I’m still alive and kicking.