Americans Are Paying Good Money for Professional Cuddling

How much would you pay for an hour-long hug?

In the latest sign of the Apocalypse, the Wall Street Journal on Friday had an article on the growth of professional cuddling. That is, people who get paid to lie on beanbag chairs and chaise longues beside other people who pay them for the privilege. Of being cuddled. I know your next question, and here’s the answer: $80 an hour. And I know your next question: Yes, everyone’s clothes stay on.

The first line of the article is, “Kimberly Kilbride is a professional cuddler.” That made me check the date, just in case we had somehow leapfrogged ahead to the first day in April and the Journal was yanking my leg. The second line in the article — you really ought to read it — is, “For $80 an hour, or up to $400 for an overnight gig, the 33-year-old mother of three dons flannel pajama bottoms, puts away her family pictures and two pit bull mix dogs and invites clients into her bedroom in Highland, N.Y., to snuggle.” Personally, I think her family pictures and two pit bulls would only kick up the cuddling a notch, but then, I love dogs.

PEOPLE! WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?!?

Do you know what $80 will buy? A pretty damned fine bottle of wine, for one, and you can cuddle up with that in the comfort of your own home and watch tonight’s college football championship and not have to wonder whether Kimberly’s pit bulls are going to break down the bedroom door. Eighty bucks will also buy you a massage. If you insist on being alone in a room with a stranger who’s going to touch you, why not let it be healing touch? Oh, but Kimberly and her fellow professional cuddlers (is that what it says on their business cards?) would say their touch heals, too. So does the clientele. Per the Journal:

“I am a convert,” says Melissa Duclos-Yourdon, 35, a freelance writer and editor in Vancouver, Wash. She originally hired a cuddler after hearing about it from members of her book club, thinking it could provide fodder for an essay. Once cuddled, “I felt transformed,” she says.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 of my fellow human beings are cuddling and being cuddled by strangers for free, the Journal says. They’re the utilizers of a free app, Cuddlr, that hones in on would-be cuddlers in your vicinity, like a G-rated Grindr. At the website Cuddle Comfort, 18,000 of you have signed up to volunteer for nonsexual cuddling, hoping to be matched with compatible cuddlees. How could there be so many people who have no life?

Would you be caught dead at a place called the Snuggle House? Cuddle Up to Me? How about the Snuggery? (I know, I know; that one just sounds dirty.) The good part: No special training or licensing is required for professional cuddlers. The bad part: No special training or licensing is required for professional cuddlers. You could get a bad cuddler. You could be traumatized by a lousy snuggle. You could pay extra for tickling!

One of the women in the article — I’m not going to give her name, though the Journal does, because she might have children or a husband who don’t need that sort of public humiliation — is local, and “nuzzles clients on a bed behind a privacy screen in her Phoenixville, Pa., basement.” We used to do that when I was in seventh grade, but we grew out of it — and we damn sure didn’t pay for it.

There’s something seriously amiss in our society when we seclude ourselves from others all night and day, tapping away at our screens and making virtual connections and racking up new Facebook friends to the point we’re so starved for human touch — not for sex, not even for a massage, but just for another human being to lie down beside us for a little while — that we’re willing to pay big bucks for it. Either that, or the heavy hand of the government reaching into our bedrooms and college campuses to decree that just about any interaction between human beings constitutes a microaggression or sexual assault has turned us all to quivering asexual jelly. It’s sad we’ve been reduced to treating one another like puppies instead of actual, you know, people. Now get the hell over on your own side of the bed.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.

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