Since the rise of cuddle cafes in Japan, the non-romantic cuddling profession has seen a recent boom: Now, plenty of people offer their services of being a big spoon for an hourly fee. But while media stories might portray the industry as simply an innocent need for connection, in reality, practitioners often have to navigate the murky waters of what's allowed. Do you wear clothes? Where do you touch? What is (and isn't) appropriate? And after the cuddle, how much do you tip?
We met with a 31-year-old professional cuddler to chat candidly about her work experience in the last year. And yes, as a note, she does give great hugs.
How did you get your start in the cuddling business?
"I got my masters in Fine Arts, and after a brief stint in New York I moved abroad with my partner and had a very comfortable life. We were on our way to get married, and I kept working, but I didn't have to worry about rent or car payments. But when that relationship didn't work out, I decided to move back to New York — and I found that at 31, it was really difficult to find a job. I teach yoga, I do theatre, but it's tough if you don't have New York experience. Even a restaurant job was hard to come by.
"I went and saw this play about a professional cuddler, and I was like — I could do that. I grew up with so much affection in my family, so I have a certain level of comfort with that. I went online and I found this website for professional cuddlers. I sent in a blurb about my background: I'm a yoga teacher, I do a lot of adjustments in classes, I’ve never been scared of moving or adjusting people — and they picked me."