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By Nina Pajak
I’ve never been a particularly “huggy” person. I mean, I’m not afraid of physical contact, but I’m just not the girl who feels the need to embrace every time I see someone or deliver or receive a piece of news or get drunk or just feel happy. Sometimes, just not always. Can’t that be enough?

Apparently not, according to Jacqueline Samuel, founder and chief snuggler at The Snuggery, an upstate establishment which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. No British-isms or euphemisms to be found here: one goes to The Snuggery to snuggle. C’est tout. (Actually, I feel like it ought to be The Snugglery. No?)

On her website, Samuel explains her services:

“Research provides us with ample evidence that physical contact with others has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. Yet, we live in a culture that does not sanction touch simply for the sake of touch. We’re afraid of touch. . . . Consequently, we tend to be more agitated and aggressive, both verbally and physically, than people from places where affectionate touch is open and normal.”

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So she offers platonic cuddle sessions at 45, 60, and 90-minute intervals, for what amounts to $1/minute. Better than your average phone sex hotline, and with none of the shame and possibly less of the satisfaction! Or more! Who knows? Who calls phone sex hotlines anymore anyway? That’s what the internet is for, I’m pretty sure.

Personally, I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable. I mean, perhaps it’s my uptight American upbringing, but I’m already incredibly ungainly when I have to hug everyone hello and goodbye all the time. And now we’re paying for awkward embraces with strangers? When does it end? Sure, I’m into therapy, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are people out there who find the idea of confessing your problems and innermost thoughts to a random professional to be violating and excessively intimate. But to me, lying in a bed and spooning with someone I don’t know blows way past my limits. It’s like the weirdest massage parlor ever.

Of course, I don’t see anything inherently harmful here, either. But there are always naysayers, and some are even saying that professional hugging is akin to prostitution, despite the fact that Samuel describes the experience as “distinctly non-sexual touch.”

Come to think of it, consider the slippery slope here. First thing you’re cuddling in a non-sexual way, next thing you know you’re chatting about your day and your annoying coworker, and before you know what hit you, you’re reading side-by-side before nodding off with the lights still on. And then what comes next? Money for shared naptime? Back alley dealings by women offering five bucks for a friendly handshake, ten for a firm yet tender shoulder squeeze and a few words of support?

Luckily, it’s clear that Ms. Samuel is not out to get rich here. To whit:

Because Jacqueline appreciates the value of goods and services over money, she is eager to trade snuggles for select items and services. These include but are not limited to:

1. Organic, local produce and free range eggs
2. Deep tissue massages from experienced massage therapists
3. Legos
4. Jeffrey Campbell shoes
5. Trade services such as plumbing, painting, electrical, hardwood floor refinishing, and HVAC. Must be from experienced professionals.
6. Acupuncture
7. Automotive Services
8. Dryer (gas)- installation included
9. Lawn mowing/plowing/landscaping

Next thing you know, girls will be hanging out on street corners, going up to men in car windows saying, “A carton of eggs’ll getcha five minutes of hugging. For the Lego Star Wars Darth Maul Sith Infiltrator, I’ll throw in some back patting and ten extra heartfelt squeezes. If you can replace my struts, I promise not to fall asleep while we spoon.” Filthy, filthy shame.

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