Monday, July 16, 2012

Cuddly Capitalism

A 29-year-old New York woman has opened up a 'snuggery' in her home, a place where clients can come snuggle her for $60 an hour. Jackie Samuel states that science has proven the health benefits of non-sexual human contact and that she is prepared to offer a safe, relaxing environment where clients can come and snuggle with her, thereby filling a need in society for calm and affection.

The cynic in me wonders if this is more than just cuddly capitalism. Health benefits aside, is there not something odd about cuddling with a complete stranger and paying them? The picture that accompanies this story shows a young woman lying on a couch in a clean white linen shift dress that makes her look like she's recently escaped an Amish community. The look on her face is no doubt meant to be inviting and kind, but one can't help feeling a bit creeped out that she's snuggling lots of strangers for a living. A living that could be quite profitable at a staggering rate of $60 an hour.

Consider the fact that snuggling requires no special talent, no matter what kids say about mommy and daddy being the best snugglers in the universe. It really just requires arms. Perhaps the rate is so high because a willingness to invite strangers to one's homes and arms is a pretty big deal. So it sort of amounts to danger pay or general discomfort pay. Fair enough.

Which then makes us flip the question around: what would drive a person to PAY a person for this 'service'? Have we really come to the point in society where we're so starved for human contact and attention that we are willing to pay for it? People have been paying for the sexual kind for years. But basic comfort? Basic 'I've had a bad day' sort of syndrome? In the past, would we not have learned to just handle things? Stiff upper lip, rolling with the punches, all that stuff?

Let's consider some alternatives and their pros and cons:

A teddy bear. Pros: it's warm, soft, sometimes it comes with memories. Cons: it's not a person, but it's also not a stranger. Cost: probably around $50 and no hourly rate.

A massage. Pros: The health benefits of this one have also been proven and it's covered through most health insurance plans. Cons: it still sort of amounts to paying a stranger to touch you, but at least it's medical. Cost: $50-$100 an hour minus the creepiness factor.

A drink. Pros: it makes us all feel better as a general rule. We can do it with strangers and not feel creepy or get too close, although we may want to later on. Cons: unless you're an alcoholic, there really are none. Cost: a tab and a cab.

You can take from this what you like. But I'm not a doctor after all. Then again, neither is the woman who runs the 'Snuggery.'

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