Skip to comments.Gimme a hug! (The 'Cuddle Party' is New York's newest feel-good-about-yourself fad)
Posted on 07/12/2004 5:08:07 AM PDT by Area Freeper
As any rush-hour subway rider knows, being rubbed up against by dozens of strangers is nobody's idea of a good time. So why would perfectly normal people pay $30 to cozy up to complete strangers on the floor of another stranger's upper East Side apartment?
Say hello to the "Cuddle Party."
The latest entry in the self-help revolution, the cuddle party is a way "for adults to get together and explore affectionate touch and communication without it becoming sexualized," said its founder, Reid Mihalko.
Mihalko, 36, plays hosts to the weekly snuggle fest at his fifth-floor walkup, which he fills with comforters, pillows and stuffed animals.
As many as 20 pajama-clad people pile into Mihalko's one-bedroom apartment for the 3½ -hour Sunday-morning cuddle parties to nuzzle, spoon, hug, chat and, occasionally, smooch.
He says people come - and return to - his cuddle parties because as adults they don't get their "Recommended Daily Allowance of Welcomed Touch."
After a session of cuddling and non-sexual affection, they feel good about themselves for the rest of the week, he says.
The parties are also a profitable venture for Mihalko and his business partner, Marcia Baczynski, 26. The $30 fee more than covers overhead, which chiefly consists of complimentary bagels and sparkling cider.
Mihalko also hawks T-shirts, buttons and gift certificates.
At the outset, participants form a circle where they establish their personal boundaries - "I won't touch you anywhere adult, if you don't touch me anywhere adult" - and then the cuddling begins, with little interference by the host, who plays New Age tunes from his laptop.
The cuddling, mostly back rubs and spooning, rates PG-13 at its most hardcore, and the event ends with a "puppy pile" and group hug.
Mihalko, a sometime model, actor and masseur, says the idea came to him in January as an offshoot of the popular massage parties he'd been organizing.
"I saw it as a way for adults to find more nonsexual intimacy in their lives, so that the person on the street might say, 'Maybe I should go home and cuddle my kids,'" he said.
Cobi, a 34-year-old psychology student at the New School who asked that her last name not be printed, has attended about eight cuddle parties because they have helped her to become "more touchy-feely," she said. "I like the environment - it's a good stress reliever, and there's lots of stress in my life," she said. "It's a new way to meet people, and better than going to a bar because people don't have to use alcohol as a crutch. They are free to be themselves."
But not too free.
Playing by the rules
Cuddlers may do whatever they please, for the most part. They tend to cuddle in pairs or in threes, although there are larger group cuddles, too.
To prevent an "orgy from breaking out," Mihalko enforces a set of 16 rules, posted on www.cuddleparty.com and on the walls of his apartment.
Rule 1: "Pajamas stay on all the time."
During his opening talk, Mihalko stresses the importance of respecting people's boundaries and reminds cuddlers that while it is natural to experience arousal, sex or anything leading up to it, is a no-no.
Mihalko and Baczynski also prohibit risqué clothing and alcohol, and stand watch as "cuddle lifeguards" during the parties.
The supervision was a source of comfort to Todne Texeira, a jazz singer from Boston who attended a recent session.
"I was glad to see there was no one there from out in left field," she said. "It was a calm, relaxing environment."
Indeed, Texeira, 34, felt so at ease she serenaded her fellow cuddlers with a rendition of Etta James' "At Last."
According to Baczynski, the cuddle Web site averages 500 hits per day, and Mihalko recently added a Thursday-evening get-together. Cuddle parties have sprung up in Canada, Los Angeles and Austin, Tex.
The proprietors also trademarked the cuddle-party name, in part to ensure that "it doesn't become a sex party," said Baczynski.
Also in the works are training sessions for hosts across the country and themed cuddle parties, like ones for the gay and lesbian community, seniors and women only.
"All the cuddlemonsters are coming out of the closet," said Mihalko.
But not everyone thinks cuddling makes the world go round.
"It's tailor-made for the already-converted," said Chase, an Manhattan-based filmmaker who declined to give his last name.
"It's a great drinking story, but there's something uncomfortable about being in some guy's apartment touching with strangers."
Wow, is that all a hooker gets these days?
Then the "Takes a bath once a week" cabby shows up.
Hope that they are not leaving out the homeless because they really need to cuddle.
just the thought of this is making my skin crawl!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
I nearly choked reading that! *LOL*
Creepy and very sad.
"Perfectly normal people" don't pay $30 and hour to cuddle to with strangers.
I always like to do the morning coffee back through the nose.
It's only a matter of time, until an orgy does breakout at one of these parties.
What a bunch of losers.
More metrosexual yuppie CRAP... just when I thought I heard it all with 'speed dating'.
geez, i thought the headline was referring to the kerry/edwards campaign.
I bet Kerry and Edwards go to these all the time.
Why doesn't someone just create hugging booths and charge $30.00 for a hug...
In NYC you'd get rich.
In no time they will have "professionals" telling us of all the therapeutic effects this has and how the NEA plans to incorporate it into the public schools, then they will have evidence that grades go up because of it, business productivity increases and there will be discrimination of employees who refuse to cuddle with other employers. Which pajamas will be appropriate for the workplace? a whole new area for clothing designers to explore. Sick and sicker!! Dear Lord please help us!!!
""All the cuddlemonsters are coming out of the closet," said Mihalko."
What are they, two years old?
Seriously, though, touch and intimate, sexualized relationships forced on these kids at an early age via tv, radio, music, movies has created people who experienced sex, but not love and affection. Hooking up, aka, slutty, indiscriminate sex does not equal a deep, loving, committed marriage.
Even friendships between men and men, and women and women have been tinged through the media's view with homosexual overtones. Is it possible for these young people to look at two men in a lifelong friendship anymore and not wonder? The idea that everyone is fodder for one's genitals is always presented by Hollywood.
Until these young people relearn respect for themselves and others, the true meaning of intimacy and sexual relations, and the idea that friendship does not equal indiscriminate sex, expect to see more infantile behavior.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.