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Cuddle Parties
NECC Professor mark Palermo

What a mess the world is. Here in the United States alone, 6 million children are on antidepressants. Ten million alcoholics. Probably as many drug addicts. Crime. Violence. Terrorism. What in the world is wrong with people? We seem to be on a collision course with hell itself.  In 600 BC, the Chinese sage Lao-Tse taught that men and women must move in conscious interdependence and interaction with nature. Failure to so results in disharmony and unrest.

 Today I read where 600 pounds of plutonium may be “missing” from Los Alamos. Perhaps this time some nutcase will succeed in an act of destruction, and we will be forced to start over again: living in forests, cutting raw logs and growing pumpkins, cooking and heating by fire. Maybe then we will reintegrate the ancient, elemental values: the family circle, honesty, hard work, reverence for God and nature, harmony- and of course the human touch.

America is a great country, and we long ago established our place in the world as the purveyors of popular culture and values to the rest of the world. It’s what we do best. We market products and services to quench every possible human need. And when people run out of needs to quench -or never had them in the first place, we stimulate and develop new “needs” for them.

I had a Russian woman as a student a few years back who told me about community centers in the old Soviet Union where mothers, if they were not well or not producing milk, could take babies and young children for breast feeding by public wet nurses. I asked how much the wet nurses charged for their services, and I was surprised to learn that they did it for free- as service to the community and duty to Mother Russia.

In a capitalist system, such services would be financially compensated, which caused me to wonder. Has anybody ever marketed the human touch? I am not referring to the world’s oldest profession, but rather the human touch differentiated from its sexual context. I came across a magazine article about a concept called “Cuddle Party.”  It works like this. You pay thirty bucks and you get to cuddle other people at a special cuddle party. 

It’s not an orgy. In fact it’s supervised by a facilitator who goes over ground rules, puts it on a high level, establishes a safe environment, and explains how to respect personal boundaries. The rules are listed on the website: Ask permission before cuddling. Mind your personal hygiene. Pajamas stay on the whole time. You are not obliged to cuddle anyone at any time. And no sex. Cuddle rules are enforced by “cuddle lifeguards.” (bouncers?) Sexual feelings are OK if they arise, but “no dry humping.” (cuddleparty.com)

 Imagine you are a young, ambitious twenty something. You have recently left behind your apartment in Ma and Pa’s basement and followed the yellow brick road to New York or LA. You work hard at your career. At the end of the day, you go home to your apartment and have a nice meal. But then what? Another night of TV?  Barhopping- trying to hook up with strangers? Occasionally your aspirations come to fruition and the desired full contact is achieved. Even then, however, given the anonymous and uncaring nature of today’s passionless hookups, the insistent hunger for human touch may yet be unsatisfied, perhaps even exacerbated. But for thirty bucks, your need can be answered.

I asked my wife- who is from Latin America- her take on cuddle parties. The concept wouldn’t work there she says. Latin Americans get touched and hugged all the time. Gestures of affection are so natural and spontaneous they don’t even think about it. It’s a bigger problem for them to find something to eat or acquire even a subsistence-level job.

At first I thought it was a touchy-feely, infantile idea. But then I read an article someplace by a social worker who said there are emotionally isolated people, many but not all of them elders,  that go months or even years without ever touching another person or being touched. That is tragic. So it’s time for bold action.

To be honest, cuddle parties are not for me. I have a fulfilling life, and I don’t trust strangers that much. But if one is needy, is cuddling with strangers any worse than wasting time and money looking for fulfillment in nightclubs, roadhouses, wakes, and ham and bean suppers at the church?

Bold new ideas are still incubated in America. New “needs” are still nurtured. After you have identified what you really want, you can make it happen here. There’ll be Cuddle Party franchises soon. Karl Marx would call it decadent late stage capitalism. This is going to be big.

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The December Edition of the Valley Patriot
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