Confessions of a Professional Cuddler

10/24/2013 03:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

A Penfield, New York, woman has started a cuddle for hire business. She charges $60 an hour to snuggle.
-- CNN, July 2012

The Snuggle House, a new business in Madison where customers can cuddle with young staff members for $60 an hour, postponed opening this week after failing to convince city attorneys it wasn't a front for prostitution.
-- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 2013

Professional cuddling is coming out of the shadows. It's about time.

Perhaps now I can safely declare that I cuddle for cash. You might think that performing acts of cuddle for money is immoral, but it puts me through school. Yes, it's driving school, but I need to get my license back.

Some people call me a street cuddler. I prefer to be called a "comfort technician." Actually, I prefer to be called a Navy Seal, but the desist order from the Pentagon threw cold water all over that one.

Back to the point: America suffers from a Cuddle Gap. People don't get held as much as they need to. Yet those who offer to cuddle with strangers get laughed at. Or arrested. Or laughed at while being arrested.

Sure, small minds snicker now. But if we don't confront our Cuddle Gap, our children won't get the education they need, the economy will crash and the terrorists will win.

Let me help avert this crisis by clearing up a few things about our profession.

People often wonder, "How does someone become a cuddler?" I think I speak for all cuddlers when I say this was not my childhood ambition. My childhood ambition was to be a Navy Seal. Can we stop talking about it?

My story is typical: One afternoon I found myself comforting a neighbor who was upset about someone running over her dog. (Who knew you could lose your driver's license for that?) Holding her while she wailed on the couch for an hour seemed like sufficient penance. When it was over, she said, "Women would pay to snuggle like this."

I laughed. She cried again. Rats. Another 20 minutes of comforting later she said the same thing, and this time I feigned interest. Next thing I knew, she had set me up to cuddle one of her friends on rainy afternoons. Our business grew fast, as it was easy to find people in need of a snuggle: single parents; married parents; federal workers; Boomers who thought their 400 LPs would be worth something someday.

At first I resented doing all the dirty work -- sitting, holding, listening -- but my business manager treated me well. She bought me alluring outfits, like flannel pajamas. She fed me lines that got me big tips, such as "Whatever you want to watch," and "No, not tonight; let's just cuddle."

Another thing a cuddler needs is a good handle. "Cuddles" is used by a surprising number of hookers. So we have to conjure other names, like Fuzzy Blanket, Warm Puppy, Cozy Fire and, most popular of all, Let's Turn Off the Game and Talk.

I know this all sounds like wild fun, but professional cuddling can be dangerous. Because we're always dodging undercover cops, we must advertise our services in code: "spoons for rent," "commercial comfort for sale" or "holding company available." I sometimes stand outside Pilates classes and whisper, "Let's get some hot chocolate and watch The Sound of Music."

Another risk arises from thrill-seeking exhibitionists who fantasize about hugging in the back of a cab or even on the front stoop. Like most men, I charge extra for public affection.

Worst of all, some clients assume cuddling leads to sex. That's why I start every session by talking about my wife, my kids and our cat, and guess which one upchucks hairballs in the bedroom every night? Clients are surprised to learn that I'm not some kind of superman; that I'm a regular guy with a family, with obligations, with dreams and with fears.

I'm a man who needs 60 bucks. Look, winter is coming. Doesn't that make us sad?