Questions from respectful at www.cuddlecomfort.com.
You’re a self proclaimed geek girl! What are some geeky things you enjoy?
Haha, yes. Oh, man — this is going to be a long answer! If you’re not a geek yourself, you should probably just watch this fun video and skip down to the next question!
I consider myself an OGG — old-school geek girl. That is, I’ve been hanging with the geeks since before it was cool!
It started with video games. My dad got me an Intellivision when I was 4. It was amazing. I then moved on to Nintendo, the original GameBoy, PlayStation … and so on. I still game. Most recently I’ve played Persona 5 and Fallout 4. My favorite (modern) video game(s) are the Mass Effect series. But I like a lot of different types of games.
Then, starting in 3rd grade, I became a prolific reader. Like, I read a book a day! (I was an only child.) So, I started reading fantasy and science fiction novels when I was in grade school. I read A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising series, Alice in Wonderland, all of the OZ books … and then in 4th or 5th grade I started to read adult books. (Humblebrag: My 4th grade standardized testing scores showed that I had a 12th grade+ reading level. When my parents found that out they started to refuse to buy me chikdren’s books because ‘I read them too fast.’ Luckily, I still had the library for those!)
I specifically remember reading Jurassic Park the summer before 5th grade. I really wanted to see the (original) movie, but my parents thought it would be too scary for me. However, they agreed to take me if I could handle the book. I loved the book, so then I devoured everything by Michael Crichton (I remember particularly enjoying The Andromeda Strain and Sphere. So my love of geeky books just went from there! My favorite books that I’ve read in the past few months are The 5th Season by N.K. Jemisin and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
TV AND MOVIES
I was also lucky to be a child when there was a lot of awesome, geeky shows and movies. As a kid, He-Man and Transformers were my favorite shows. And I grew up loving ET, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and, of course, Star Wars. In the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed Orphan Black, Alphas, and The Handmaid’s Tale (I love the book by Margaret Atwood, too.)
COLLECTIBLE CARD GAMES (CCG)
Magic the Gathering came out in my later middle-school years, and I remember wanting to play it but I didn’t know anyone else who did … until my senior year of high school when I ‘adopted’ a bunch of 10th grade nerds to teach me. I played MtG a lot in the late 90s and early 00s. I still play occasionally. And, uh, I may have a complete set of the Base Set of Pokémon cards in binders, too. /blush
I read some comic books in high school. Most of them weren’t really female-friendly (e.g. there were few female characters; the female characters weren’t interesting; the female characters all looked like latex-clad Victoria’s Secret models), so comic books have never really been my ‘thing.’ But I love some Vertigo, Dark Horse, and Image stuff. The Sandman series is my absolute favorite. Recently, I’ve really liked Saga. Oddly, I’m not really into movies based on comic books.
ANIME AND MANGA
My MtG nerd friends got me into the world of anime and manga. The first anime I watched was Ranma ½. Because I liked that, I read the manga Maison Ikkoku (which was written by Rumiko Takahahi, who also wrote the Ranma 1/2 manga) and, a few years later I also picked up Inu Yasha from Takahashi.
My access to manga was pretty limited back then. I remember that, at the time (circa 1998-2000) Barnes and Noble had ONE SHELF of manga!
But I was lucky because I had really good access to anime (back in the VHS days and before you could download it!) — because I discovered Thomas Video, an independent cult video store, about half an hour from where I lived and they had 3 ENTIRE WALLS OF ANIME. My two favorite anime are Cowboy Bebop (of course!) and Haibane Renmei. (If you’ve only seen the dubbed version of Cowboy Bebop you have GOT to watch it with the original voice acting! It is SO.MUCH.BETTER!) I haven’t watched much anime lately — feel free to comment with some titles I should check out!
ROLEPLAYING GAMES (RPGs)
It was an easy jump from those activities into tabletop role-playing games. I’ve played a lot of systems: D&D, White Wolf, 7th Sea, GURPS, Nobilis …
And now I play a lot of ‘Euro’-type board games. I especially love Twilight Imperium and Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. But I have a whole bookcase full of games.
Has cuddling always been a part of your life?
No, not so much. I wrote kind-of a long blog post about this recently. But the tl;dr is that I had a pretty rough childhood. (Thus the escapism into books and video games!) I honestly found touch pretty scary until I was in my mid-20s.
You’ve been a professional cuddler for a couple of months now. How has it been so far?
I love it! I have learned SO MUCH about other people as well as myself. For me, it feels like a very fulfilling intersection of social work and body work. I really feel that it has healing effects. I think it complements other types of therapy really well. Having had a rough childhood, I’ve done a good amount of psychotherapy. And I really think psychotherapy helps rewire your brain. (And, of course, there’s a good amount of scientific evidence for that.) But I think that body work is missing from traditional therapy. I think that cuddling fills in some gaps, and that it can rewire your mind and body in positive ways, too.
Business-wise, it’s a lot like any new business: slow but growing. Since I live in the Midwest, there is quite a lot of education that needs to happen with regards to cuddling. It’s not something most people know about. However, I’m completely open about being a professional cuddler and I’ve had almost entirely positive feedback when I explain what I do to people!
You mentioned that being a professional has had a positive effect on your marriage. Could you say a bit more about that?
When I first started, my husband was worried about two things: 1.) my safety, and 2.) my being touched-out from cuddling. One of my husband’s love languages (according to the book The 5 Love Languages) is physical touch. I know he still worries a bit about my safety, but the second concern … well, I think cuddling has had the opposite effect. I think it actually makes me want to connect physically with people MORE, not less (there are exceptions to this — sometimes a session, for whatever reason, IS draining — but that’s true of any job). And I think my cuddling skill is improving. And my husband benefits from that!
Being a professional cuddler has also made me care about my appearance a little more. Not that I was slovenly before or that I’ve suddenly become a girly-girl. (Despite all appearances, I’m quite the tomboy.) But I make sure to get my hair cut and dyed in a timely manner. I do regular foot masques and pedicures … stuff like that. It’s stuff that I would normally do but before I’d feel a little guilty spending the money on myself, so I wouldn’t necessarily do it as often. Now I feel like it’s a necessary work expense, so I keep up on things. And I’m sure my husband, if I asked him, would say he doesn’t care about that stuff. (But I think he likes it).
There’s also the benefit that I find this work really fulfilling. So, you know — happy wife, happy life.
One comment in your karma is that you are “serious about cuddling,” which is an interesting way to say it! What is a professional cuddler’s job description from your view?
I can’t speak for other professional cuddlers on this one, but I feel that a professional cuddler’s job is to make a client feel safe, heard, and loved.
I think a feeling of safety comes from things like having boundaries and good communication in place. I also think things like hygiene, cleanliness, warmth, and non-judgement add to a feeling of safety.
Some clients are very chatty and some don’t really want to chat at all — my job is to follow their lead. Listen to what they have to say, converse when they want to, and be okay with being still.
Loved — I feel like I’m going to get in trouble for using this word because love can mean so many different things in the English language! But, my goal is to make a person feel unconditionally loved — in a detached way. We all need to feel unconditionally loved and lovable, I think. Some of us get that from our parents or family growing up, but too many of us don’t. Some of us get that from our religion, but some of us don’t. I think most of us WANT to feel unconditionally loved by our significant other, but in the real world, I think that’s a pretty lofty goal (even for me and I have a very happy marriage!).
So my goal is to be a vessel of that kind of love. That’s where the detachment part comes in. If I wasn’t detached, it wouldn’t be a very good professional relationship. But I feel like I can transfer some of the Universe’s love to a person. (I’ve been practicing loving-kindness meditation for around 15 years, and that’s where this idea comes from.)
You’re planning to do some Cuddle Sanctuary training. What is your motivation for doing that?
Well, I’m a researcher and a bit of a perfectionist! I did a lot of research about professional cuddling before I even started. When I heard about Cuddle Sanctuary, I felt that their ‘type’ of professional cuddling was exactly in line with my own beliefs and desires for professional cuddling. I want to be the best professional cuddler that I can be.
I also want to bring professional cuddling to more people — which requires education of the masses and access to professional cuddlers. I don’t know exactly where my professional cuddling ‘path’ will take me, but now that Cuddle Sanctuary offers affiliates … who knows? Maybe there will be a Cuddle Sanctuary – Detroit in a few years!
What kinds of things have you learned through cuddling?
Well, I’ve learned new cuddle positions! I’ve learned a lot more about people’s bodies and how different they can be (which is fascinating to me). It’s helped me become more accepting of my own body; it’s helped me to live in my body more. I kinda’ consider myself an intellectual, so up until recently, I feel like I’ve mostly lived in my head. I think integrating my head and my body is really wonderful.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that I can ‘love’ people (see my definition of love above) with whom I might not normally associate in my everyday life. That feels very powerful in a country that’s going through some major growing pains in terms of how we think about race, gender, sexuality, and the like.