I Went to a Cuddlist and I Loved It

A couple of days ago, I told my partner that I needed more touch – I needed an intensive massage or something. He’s been working third shift for a few months now and we have had some trouble finding the balance to hang out, much less cuddle or be intimate. We have made a concerted effort to steal away for date nights, but it had been a few weeks. I needed nonsexual touch.

Enter an acquaintance of mine: just a day after this conversation with my husband, she posted on Facebook. She was completing training to be a Certified Cuddlist and needed someone for a taped session. I laughed about it for a hot second – who would want to go to a relative stranger’s home and pay to snuggle? Then I stopped and realized that was exactly what I needed. It’s hard to place the need for touch on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but I knew I was lacking it.

Why not seek out someone who had training in understanding that need?

So I messaged her to arrange the session.

It. Was. Perfect.

I drove up to the house where our session would take place. I was wearing my best attempt at “athleisure” – some comfortable capri leggings and my favorite concert tee. She uses her living room to facilitate group meetings, but that day the lights were dimmed and she had made a pallet for relaxing in the middle of the room. She asked that I wash my hands and told me where payments and tips would normally be left. She had some snacks and water available. We met on her couch in the cuddle space and went over guidelines for the session.

Certified Cuddlists have a code of conduct: all touch within a cuddle session is to be non-sexual and consensual. There is no genital touching. My Cuddlist let me know that she would let me guide the session. I asked her if could start with her hands running through my hair – I find scalp massage extremely relaxing. I asked her to do some of the touch techniques that I use to comfort my doula clients, like brushing down my shoulders and pressing at the base of my skull and forehead together.  When something felt great, I could encourage her to keep doing that motion; when I did not like the touch, I felt safe asking her to stop or modify.

Just like when I get a massage or a pedicure, the hour passed quickly, but I left feeling so light and good about myself.

Seeing a Cuddlist is not for everybody, but I definitely see the value in this service. I did not need a counseling session and I did not want a massage. I needed to connect with another human in a respectful environment that allowed me to prioritize my desires for a short time. I liken my experience to having a doula: in providing non-judgmental physical and emotional support, I may not be providing a service that others could not, but I am uniquely positioned to focus only on those needs for parent(s).

In San Antonio, Janet Treviño is our local Certified Cuddlist. You can find more about her and the groups and classes she facilitates, at her website www.janettrevino.com. You can find other Cuddlists at www.cuddlist.com.

The journey to where I am now

It’s been a funny little journey through the last few years.  Five years ago, when I first set out to have a public blog (versus a journal), I was going through a really rough patch.

See, I had a miscarriage.  I hadn’t even been aware that I was pregnant.  And so much was going on at once – I was working three jobs, I needed surgery to remove several pilonidal cysts, and an extended family member had come to live with me through the end of her pregnancy.  I did not notice that my usually pretty regular period just did not flow.

Until it did.

And flow, it did.  I bled for days.  For nearly two weeks.  With terrible cramping and soaking through pads and tampons on a regular basis.  And it was not until about the second to last day of this terrible wave, as I sat down on that porcelain seat for the umpteenth time that shift, that I realized what was happening.  I had failed at keeping a pregnancy and I wasn’t even planning on having a child yet.

I was in such shock.  I even proceeded to go to my other job the next day.  Calls to my GYN group’s office resulted in a series of dropped calls.  When I finally spoke to a nurse, she told me not to bother coming in.  And I couldn’t believe it.  Here I was, a young person, a consumer, their patient.  And there were no kind words.  No concern to match my own.  Not even clinical follow-up by my doctor.  I realized that this was exactly how many American women were treated by doctors’ offices.

And in the ensuing weeks, I started to form this half-baked idea that if I ever wanted to be a mom, first I had to learn to be a “good” wife to my husband… and before I knew it, I was hooked on following blogs by Christian fundamentalist homemakers.

It seems so odd and naive now.  I latched on these proponents of “femininity” and gracefulness and God.  But it always felt a little sour to me.  Do not get me wrong.  I love my husband.  I respect that there is a Creator – God, to me.  But the in-your-face “pious”-ness wasn’t who I was inside, or really who I wanted to be.

But something good came out of reading those blogs.  I learned that there were alternatives when it came to birth.  And as I did more research, I learned more about reproductive justice and how that played into my personal politics.  And I learned about doulas.

And I realized that I had to be one.