You’re probably thinking two things: what exactly is a cuddle party and why would I want to go to one? Well…I decided to sign-up because I was curious (and if you’re wondering, I found the group on Meet-up) and because the thought of cuddling with strangers in a non-sexual way felt really scary and let’s face it, kinda weird.
When I walked into the party, I immediately felt my guard up. Normally, when I walk into a room full of people, I’m extremely open, friendly and full of smiles. But here, I was the opposite. I felt cold, distant and generally, bothered.
A woman invited me into the kitchen. ”How many letters…” “Excuse me?,” I said, as I was expecting a different welcome response. “How many letters in your name?” “Uh, I dunno, I can spell it for you…” As I spelled my name, I got a peek into the living room. Blankets on the floor, pillows in place of chairs and two couches pushed towards the walls. I started to wonder what I got myself into.
Once she handed me my name tag, I escaped to one of the couches and sat as close to the armrest as possible. Arms and legs crossed; a “Hello…My name is…” sticker on my long-sleeved, zippered-up hoodie with absolutely no cleavage…I was as open as you could possibly imagine. Alright, cuddle-monsters, let’s get this party started!
According to the cuddle party rules – which were announced at the beginning of the 4-hour session – a cuddle party is a playful social event for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection. How can touching and hugging and spooning be non-sexual? That’s what this “cuddle party” promised. The rules explained…
First, you must ask permission AND wait for an answer before you touch anyone. Second, a “Maybe” is really a “No” meaning, if you’re unsure, just say “No.” Third, you have every right to change your mind while someone is touching you and tell them to stop. Cuddling is about staying present and honoring what feels right to you. (I was beginning to like these rules and wondered if could steal them for some of the guys I’ve been dating). Fourth, you don’t have to participate in any of it; you can read, sit and talk, meditate, if you want. And, if you wanted to leave after the rules were read, you would receive a full refund.
The next statement piqued my curiosity: Laughter and tears are welcomed. I started to think about this one. Was this silly? Yes. Could I imagine myself laughing? Yes. But, tears? As I eyed everyone in the room, I started wondering about these people. What if you are someone who has never been cuddled before? Or you were socially awkward and never received a hug, or loving touch before? Or what if you weren’t attractive by societal standards or you had intimacy issues or were just plain lonely? I realized in that moment how this group was needed.
We then did a bunch of role playing. I turned to the guy next to me and we practiced asking, “Can I kiss you?” and our reply was, “No.” We did this twice as to practice what it felt like to say “No” and to be told “No.” It was also explained that while it is normal to feel attracted to someone and as a male, even get “excited” while being touched, we just couldn’t act on it. It wasn’t one of those parties…if you know what I mean 😉
After the rules were read, I ran to use the bathroom. When I returned, seven people were off spooning each other; others were giving each other back rubs; one was getting a foot massage; and…where was I? I was in conversation with two other people…who weren’t touching anyone.
I realized this experience was about me exercising my “no.” If someone asked for a massage, or to spoon behind them, I kindly said, “No, thanks.” While I certainly enjoyed the conversations I was having, I just didn’t feel the need to touch or be touched by anyone. I decided in that moment that I just wanted to leave.
When I announced to the group I was ready to go, one cuddler said, “Oh, why don’t you stay a bit longer…C’mon, be fearless.” (I told them about my challenge and why I was there). I replied, “Oh, just being here and witnessing all this…is fearless enough!”
I was a bit annoyed that she used my verbiage to try and coax me into staying. But, then I remembered…this isn’t about her, it’s about me exercising my voice and saying “no” when I mean “no” and leaving when I wanted to leave.
Even though I didn’t actually participate in any of the cuddling, I received the biggest lesson of all: how fearless it is to walk into a situation and mid-way through realize it’s not for you and ACTUALLY leave; how fearless it is to say, “No” consistently and honor that. And how absolutely fearless it is to learn what you feel comfortable doing and what you don’t.
And, I realized I like to keep all my cuddling…private.