touch matters

Posted on November 5, 2012 by

This morning I ran across an article on The Snugglery, a snuggling service in upstate New York.  They provide nonsexual cuddles (usually spooning) for $60/hour.  Pajamas stay on, other people are in the house but not in the room, confidentiality is assured.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard of professional snuggling, but sometimes it takes a few pings before I take notice.  I’m taking notice.

Why?

Because touch saved my life.  Seriously, completely saved my life.

When I was 7 years old, I stopped touching people.  All I could say about it was that it gave me an icky feeling in my stomach.  You know the kind–it’s the bad-touch, oh-shit feeling, the one that makes you want to puke.  Nothankyouverymuch, I just stopped with the whole touch thing.  We didn’t have pets yet, so for a few years there was NO good touch in my life.  I got spanked.  That was pretty much it for physical contact.

We got a dog, and I wanted to be with her all the time.  I spooned her on the dining room floor while I did my vocabulary homework, I petted her, I sat next to her, I drank in the possibility of uncomplicated contact, and I started to breathe a little.

But it was so clearly not enough.

Then when I was 14 another pivotal thing happened.  I got a hug.

It was a hug from a boy I had never met before.  He was saying hello.  I knew nothing of a world where “hello” and “hug” had anything to do with each other, but I was about to find out.

Over the next few years I completely changed my attitude about touch.  Apparently touching people who were not adults was a whole different thing to my unsettled gut.  I loved hugs.  I loved puppy piles. And partially as a result I loved drama club and I loved church youth events. I didn’t know it then, but I had been starving for touch. Oxytocin changed my brain.  Because of touch I was able to survive the depression that would chew on my brain until I was well into adulthood.

And I have never confused touch with sex.  Sex is wonderful, deep, intimate, hot, fantastic.  And it is not the only thing that can happen with touch.  All that touch, all through high school and into college for me, was about contact.  We are beings made to be in community, and one of the fantastic things about being near other people is that you can touch them.

I

love

touch.

I believe in its healing power.  I believe in the biochemistry of contact, and I believe in the psychological benefits of closeness.  As I type this I have two cats pressed up against me, preferring this spot on the loveseat to the entire rest of the house.

But all of the science aside, it just feels good.

It feels good and has no harmful side effects.

I practice both reiki and massage, but even simple physical contact can make a world of difference.  Yesterday I had a friend parked in my driveway when I got home.  We sat and talked and snuggled for several hours.  It was wonderful.

I’m horrified that Jaqueline, the proprietor at The Snugglery, has been asked to stay out of her grad school program because she snuggles for pay.  What is her school thinking?  With all the rising information about the connections and importance of body-mind integration, her work should be considered a pioneering step in the healing world.

It only shows how far we have to go.

Meanwhile, I’m curious.  Would you use a snuggling service?  Tell me in the comments!