Yearning for human contact but don't enjoy hugging subway hippies? Prefer to be the small spoon but always get stuck on the outside? Do you greet your Mom at the holidays with a firm handshake?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then it's quite possible you could benefit from the services of an unlicensed, unregulated, but totally legit touch expert.
One like professional hugger Samantha Hess, who just this week opened Cuddle Up To Me in Portland, OR, the country’s first “cuddle studio”. Essentially, Hess offers 15-minute hugging sessions (at a buck a minute) to customers who want/need/long to feel loved. Or, who are possibly just cold and want to warm up.
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But before you cynically discount the power of paid touch that doesn't involve an, ummm, ending, you should know that Hess isn't just gonna give you one of those cold, pat-you-on-the-back-to-break-the-intimacy bro-hugs. Oh, no. And she's not about to hug you on a street corner or in the sterile confines of some office waiting room. Nope, expect a warm comforting embrace in one of four themed rooms -- the Cascades (a local, forest aesthetic, of course); the Beach; the Zen room; and the Universe, which is adorned with cosmic flurries on the walls.
In fact, you may not even get a hug from Hess at all, as there are three other professional cuddlers on staff who've all undergone a rigorous 40hr training session covering topics like squeezing, spooning, and how to give those hugs where your privates don't accidentally touch. (Ok, we might've made that last part up).
“Anybody who is looking for more hug time in their world can come in and get a hug anytime”, said the 30-year-old Hess (pictured above), who has reportedly received as many as 10,000 cuddle requests in her first week. That's a lot of requests.
But she notes that CUTM only sells "platonic touch". So, no canoodling. “We don’t offer any sort of romantic services, and we’re not adult-oriented”, she said. “It’s for anyone who has a lacking of personal touch in their life and is looking for… a family connection.”
And while there might be beds in all four rooms (you know, for more comfortable spooning), all sessions are recorded on CCTV and monitored by a third party to ensure there’s no funny business.
Chloe Pantazi is an editorial assistant on Thrillist's travel team. Yes, that's a British accent. No, she doesn't watch Doctor Who. Follow her on Twitter at @ChloePantazi.