Until two days ago, I had no idea professional cuddlers existed. Starting pay is $80 an hour. Less 15 percent that goes back to the internet clearing house that arranges the cuddle-ups. Still. That’s $68 an hour. Or $544 a day. Or $2,720 a week. Or $11,785.76 a month, take-home.
I am clearly in the wrong line of work, which is what I’m told daily.
Cuddlers have their own websites. The largest is cuddlecomfort.com. There, you can sign up to be a professional cuddler or obtain the services of one.
I know. You’re asking: “So what’s the difference between a professional cuddler and one of those smelly naughty ladies with the gravely voice, 12-inch heels and faux leopard skin mini-skirts whom you never see in church?”
The language on the website seems vague. There’s absolutely no kissing. Unless you both want to. There’s no petting. Unless you both want to. There’s no sex. Unless you both want to. There’s no, “When are you going to get your big, fat sofa lard behind off that recliner and take out the trash!?!?!?”
Unless she wants you to.
The site warns about touching in the “bathing suit areas.”
You mean, like — at the country club?
Most of the women with whom I “cuddled” were from the 19th century. Bathing suits stretched from chin(s) to toes. What the hell’s left to caress? I’d be limited to stroking my client gently on the nose and going, “Whooooaaa, girl…” while offering an apple slice on an outstretched palm.
Cripes. I’m sure in the Blue States, there are places you can visit to scratch such an itch.
One needs qualifications to be a cuddler of the pro ilk. For one thing, they require: “You are accepting of all races, ages, genders and sexual orientations.”
Cuddle a guy?
On a couch?
On Plymouth Rock? At center ice? Aboard an aircraft carrier?
Look at me.
And I will never touch the Swiss. Men. Women. Their Shetland ponies. They all smell of bananas and talcum powder.
I couldn’t cuddle incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I would have trouble hearing her safe words: “Can’t… Breathe… You’re… Choking… Me… … gurgle…”
There’s a good safe word. “Gurgle.”
Caressing is allowed. To a point. Unless you both agree otherwise.
CUDDLE-EE: “Don’t touch me there. I don’t like you that way.”
CUDDLER: “Sorry. I was just trying to guess your weight.”
Are there background checks? Psychological questions designed to trick you?
TELL US ABOUT YOU: “In the Steinbeck book, ‘Of Mice and Men,’ when the lovable but mentally deranged Lenny accidentally choked the puppy, did you: A) react with revulsion and sadness; B) grin while sweating profusely; C) stand, applaud and yell: ‘That dog had no right!’”
Cuddling. Could I sit through “Mama Mia!” and “Mama Mia 2!” even at $68,000 an hour? It says on the website that I get to be my own boss. If that’s true, why the hell are we watching “Mama Mia!”?
Would the cuddling industry accept me, or would I be penalized for my blackish sense of humor?
CUDDLE-EE: “I feel so safe when you hold me. Yet, you seem so distant. What do you see when you look into my eyes like that?”
ME: “I see a stabbing red lightning bolts. I hear opera. It’s the singing of dark angels, with black, broken wings, unbearable, damning, demanding. I see liquid, again, all red, thick. A melding into the cosmos. A draining.”
CUDDLE-EE: “OK, fine then.” (Reaches for her iPad and goes to the website.) “I’m going to have to give you a ‘2’ on your safety ranking.”
ME: “Say ‘gurgle.’ Say ‘gurgle like you mean it.”
CUDDLE-EE: “OK, fine. Let’s just change that ‘2’ to a ‘1’ then…”
The onsite “Cuddler Contract” is interesting. Like the “we assume no liability” disclaimer on an assemble-yourself grizzly bear trap. Both cuddler and cuddle-ee must agree to shower (privately) within 12 hours of the appointment. Which leaves out the Swiss. There’s a safety clause. It stipulates that the cuddler has the right to carry one (1) non-lethal defense weapon. Just one? That would leave out me showing up with both a sword and a Viking shield. I know. Cuddling is about trust. How can you trust someone who hugs with an 8th-century Norse weapon?
You earn their trust.
Heavens. Cuddling for money can’t be that bad. It’s got to be cleaner than government work or public relations.
Before we go, do, please, forgive me. I’ve painted a negative, worst-case scenario of professional cuddling. Surely it’s mostly platonic. People need human contact, even at $80 an hour. It’s not like it has to led to other things.
Like — marriage.
Which will cost you $85 an hour. And the remote…
John Boston is a local writer and cuddles mentally, but only to paid Signal subscribers.