As children, we're all about the cuddling. We melt into our mother's lap, make close-quartered forts out of pillows with friends, let our dog lick us on the face and mouth. But somewhere along the way we decide to reserve touch for our sexual partners or pay for touch in the form of a massage.
In response to a perceived need for more adult, non-sexual cuddling, there's a new phenomenon on the East Coast called "Cuddle Parties." These get-togethers are open to the public and allow adults to explore affectionate touch and conversation in a loving way.
Founders Reid Mihalko, a bi-coastal sex and romance coach, and Marcia Baczynski, a relationship and communication coach and writer, swear these touchy-feely affairs aren't orgies.
To prevent "funny business," there are many rules. First and foremost, sex of any kind is not allowed. All attendees must wear pajamas, bring pillows, ask before they nuzzle, have good hygiene, abstain from drugs and alcohol, and use polite, non-sexual language. Communication is key to a cuddler's comfort level.
Mihalko and Baczynski feel that cuddling -- although a fetish for some -- is a basic human need. The original e-mail sent out for the first Cuddle Party read, "Many of us aren't getting our Daily Recommended Allowance of Welcomed Touch."
Cuddle Parties usually cost about $30 to attend and have taken place in many places, including Hawaii. They are, quite possibly, the latest craze in the spirit of "flash mobs."
"We're already in discussions to hold Cuddle Parties in London and Germany, so maybe it's an international craze," says Mihalko.
There are endless ways to cuddle, from hugging one-on-one to a group "puppy pile" where everyone in the group piles atop one another and rests, like puppies do.
"I'm a definite 'spooner,'" says Mihalko. "Preferably somewhere on the bottom of a huge puppy pile."
"I like snuggling up with friends and having a great conversation about life, the universe and everything," says Baczynski.
Each Cuddle Party begins with a moderator explaining the rules and opening the floor to attendees with questions or concerns. Then, the cuddling begins with people asking each other's permission to touch, and the warm fuzzy fun usually lasts around three hours.
Although it might seem like such a hands-on event would attract creeps and that cuddling with strangers would be weird or uncomfortable, numerous "cuddlemoniums" on the Web site say otherwise. Perhaps it's because most attendees approach a Cuddle Party with curiosity and an air of irony. At one party, the group simultaneously started singing "The Rainbow Connection" in a tongue-and-cheek sort of way.
"The experience of a Cuddle Party, while fun, playful and even silly, also seems to be striking a deeper chord," says Baczynski. "The opportunity to really connect with others is something many of us are missing from our fast-paced lives, and I think the desire for that is something Cuddle Party is addressing."
So what do you say, Milwaukee? Shall we sandwich "Cuddle Fest" somewhere between Festa and State Fair next year?
Cuddle Party's Web site is www.cuddleparty.com
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.