Please Touch Me

I admit it, I don't like to be touched.  At least by strangers!  But a whole new industry has developed to do just that.  Cuddle. And spoon.

It's turning out that we don't touch much anymore.  But people need it and this whole new profession has sprung up -- they're called, naturally enough, "cuddlers" -- who claim to bring peace and contentment to others, for a price. 

No, it's not what you're thinking.  Clothes are on and there is no sex involved, just two people, a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman (don't think they've done the man and man thing yet), and the cuddler puts his arms around the customer and for 60 minutes (and 60 bucks), they lie that way, on a bed, spooning or just cuddling, for an hour.  Or you can do it standing up, with hugs.

There are even "cuddling therapists," as I saw on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.  It is a little odd to watch, but there they were, a man with his arms wrapped around a woman, lying on her bed together, not moving, the woman with the most contented, euphoric look on her face.

Even the reporter, Mo Rocca, tried it at the end of the piece, looking distinctly uncomfortable.  Guess you have to be in the mood.

Anyway,  professional cuddlers "are tackling the demands for non-sexual touch," says Rocca, especially for those who are single.  But it's not cheap. 

As one therapist puts it, we pay for our food, we pay for our babysitters, so why not?  We barely touch each other at all.  In Latin America, a study found people touch each other 100 times in a specified amount of time.  In the U.S., it was two.  In England, it was not at all.

And touch matters.  Even in sports.  A study found the more teams touched each other -- high fives, slaps on the backs, even hugs -- the better the team played, to the point of winning the season, sometimes.  And touch carries health benefits for everyone.  If someone touches you before a stressful situation, our cortisol -- or stress hormones -- go way down.  

True, it isn't for everyone.  I'm not sure I could handle it.  But as one therapist puts it, it's not about sex at all.  "It's like the nurturing a mother would give a child."

Still, the thought of lying on a bed while a stranger ran his or her fingers through my hair or rubbed my back, or just enclosed me in a tight hug, is not something I would find enjoyable. Just give me my husband and his occasional (about once a year) casual touch, holding hands, and that does it for me.  


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