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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Bodies » Heather--what's your opinion of cuddle parties?

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Author Topic: Heather--what's your opinion of cuddle parties?
concretejungle
Neophyte
Member # 67683

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Hey there!

You can check out the official website for this non-profit organization
here.

My mom read about this phenomenon in a magazine a couple months back and mentioned it to me. We both expressed skepticism about its legitimacy but I've recently revisited the topic and feel intrigued!

The movement was created by two relationship counselors, and has certified facilitators who lay out ground rules. This is all supposed to be nonsexual, consensual, and primarily based on boundaries and communication (like, you could go and just chat to people without ever touching anybody).

I guess I'm feeling intrigued because I'd love to learn skills for communication, especially around touch, and also because I'm craving touch lately. I have a demanding job and am dealing with a transition and honestly sometimes all I want to is curl up with somebody but I don't really have anyone to do that with. The only person I ever really enjoy cuddles and platonic touch with is my mother, who doesn't live with me.

When I do share hugs or an arm over the shoulder or just leaning against a friend it seems disproportionately significant. I literally experience tingles of nonsexual pleasure. It's the kind of comfort you imagine a pile of kittens feels when they're just zenned out together.

I feel like my access to touch has decreased as I've gotten older (I'm 19), and it's becoming distracting. I believe this is popularly known as 'skin hunger'.

Essentially I'm wondering if this could be an option to have this need met. Your thoughts on the organization/movement and on what's going on with me right now would be extremely appreciated.

Thanks!

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Hey there to you! [Smile]

I don't know about one of the founds, but the other, Reid, is someone I don't know personally, but have only ever heard good things about from other colleagues I respect.

I confess, I have noticed that as of late -- let's say the last ten years -- our culture-at-large has stricken me as getting pretty touch-phobic. I mean, for me, personally, for instance, cuddling and snuggling as something one does with friends and family and lovers (and pets, ex-lovers who are friends, etc.) is pretty common. It'd be weird, for me, for instance, to NOT have that kind of touch be a bit of a given.

And absolutely, the need for physical touch, just basic physical touch, is a long established human need from every corner of behavioral science. We know people need this: we know infants, for instance, literally fail to thrive without it.

So, I'd say that if access to what I'd think of as everyday touch isn't something someone can get -- or they can, but they'd just enjoy something more organized like this -- this sounds like a great avenue for that to me. I also agree with you that it sounds like a really good way for someone who feels they lack communication skills around touch to hone them. [Smile]

I am curious, though, just in general, about why you feel like experiencing emotional and physical pleasure from basic touch shouldn't be as significant as it is. I'm curious because, to me, it of course is highly significant, in that it's a pretty essential component of life, one of the most basic ways we connect with other people and bond with them, so this really isn't small potatoes in my book.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293

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HI concretejungle,

I hope you don't mind me chiming in here, but I just wanted to let you know that everything I've heard about Cuddle Party has been good. I know both the founders, at least to talk to, and they're both honest, compassionate, smart people. I've heard Reid talk about how they never expected Cuddle Party to take off the way it did, which certainly tells you something about how much it is needed and how much people loved their experiences with it.

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Robin

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concretejungle
Neophyte
Member # 67683

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Hi Heather and Robin--thanks for replying to my question!

How I feel about touch (which isn't necessarily in line with how I think about touch) is pretty confusing for me, though I can kind of see why I feel the ways I do.

I guess I'm just not used to experiencing the significance of physical touch and that's why, when I do, it's way more of a big deal than it probably is to others. Where I see some people totally chill leaning against a pal or throwing an arm over a buddy or even just gently touching someone's shoulder in acknowledgement or appreciation, when something like that happens to me, with people who aren't immediate family, it's kind of like, "holy-moly, what's that about??"

There've been times where, during a conversation with someone I've been developing a friendship with, they will gently touch my arm or shoulder or hand in what is a genuinely affectionate gesture. It's something I completely appreciate and usually am deeply touched emotionally by, more than I let on, because it indicates the emotional intimacy developing and in virtually every instance I've welcomed it...

But it still kind of freaks me out and I'm not entirely sure why. I mean, how many people remember in vivid detail every time some close coworker has touched their arm? Really!

I wasn't super comfortable hugging people (who weren't very close relatives) for a long time--not until as recently as a few months ago, in fact. Lately I've been working on intentionally asking myself what bothers me about hugging/leaning against someone/an arm around someone and then, if I see no compelling reason not to hug a friend I feel comfortable with, I'll go ahead and give it a try and would you believe it, Heather--nine times outta ten I like it! And I experience camaraderie and connection and all that other fun corny stuff.

I realize I'm totally rambling--sorry about that! Sometimes I just get the feeling, and I've only been recently able to articulate it, that I spend time chasing intimacy and then, once I get close to it, I hold it at an arm's length. And I feel like this probably stems from moving around a whole heck of a lot, both from place to place and job (volunteer gig/internship)-to-job and having friendships that typically last only a few weeks or months.

I feel like many of those friendships were/are super awesome, and have helped me learn firsthand that our culture's screwy idea that relationships have to last for EVERRR or else they're not worthwhile is a bunch of boloney. But I also think their ephemeral-ness is sort of frustrating, because I don't ever really get to know someone well enough to cultivate more intimacy, you know?

Thanks for listening Heather--and thanks for your input, Robin!

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Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293

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Heather is off for the day, so I hope you don't mind if I respond. [Smile]

Reading what you've written here, it strikes me that, because touch tends to be a taboo subject, we tend not to know how people experience it. So, it may be that some of what you observe as casual touch actually has that same physical and emotional feeling of significant to the individuals involved as you describe for yourself.

It sounds like there's a disconnect between what you believe, and your experiences--as in, you're concerned about touching people, but once you do you feel like it's good and right and natural. Let me know if I've got that wrong re the disconnect. If there is one, what do you think you could do to start to bridge it?

You mention chasing intimacy. There are a lot of kinds of intimacy. Do you feel like you're chasing them all? Maybe you could talk a little more about that?

I definitely hear what you're saying about the transient friendships, both the good and the bad. When you've been friends with these people, have you felt like touch was okay? Did you perhaps think that you hadn't known each other long enough to touch one another?

Each individual has a diferent need for and beleif about touch. The way I see it for you is that it would be helpful for you to figure out how your beliefs and needs interconnect, then figure out how to serve those needs. If you can find one in your area, A Cuddle Party may very well be the way to do that. [Smile]

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Robin

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concretejungle
Neophyte
Member # 67683

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Absotively posilutely, Robin!

I never really thought about what I perceive to be 'casual' touch as really having a whole lotta significance for other people too. I've never even really thought about the touch I give people, when I do, having as much significance for them as it does for me. I guess because I see others being more comfortable or accustomed to sharing touch, that being touched isn't such a big event for them, if that makes sense.

I totally agree there's a disconnect in my beliefs and my experiences and I completely see how illogical that is. I'm a naturalist so I'm used to thinking of people as animals so it makes sense to me that humans like touch, that it's good for us, and makes us feel good. I'm also used to observing how some non-American cultures are comfortable and sans-stigma when it comes to touch. And I see how Americans tend to be so ultra touch-phobic while at the same time hyper-sexualizing everything, which really bothers and annoys me. And I wonder if we as a culture are touch phobic because we're getting touch and sex confused a lot of the time.

I feel like that confusion, even though I see how dumb and wrong it is, still holds sway over how I approach touch.

As far as intimacy goes--I guess because my friendships tend to be transient, as you said, they rarely attain much depth. Because of this I sometimes feel like I have absolutely no one to talk to about a lot of things. I have my family which I value immensely but even my mom tells me I need to have people to talk to when my family is the source of stress or I just want a different perspective. Even admitting that I want non-family to talk to about very personal things makes me feel guilty, like I'm being disloyal.

But because it feels like I'm always in the getting-to-know-you stage of friendships I'm not comfortable going up to someone I've only known a couple months and being like, "hey, I have a bunch of convoluted things worrying and stressing me out, it's mostly going to be word-vomit, they're really not that bad but I trust you a whole lot and just want to talk; you down?"

And then as far as touch goes, mostly no--touch typically wasn't something I felt comfortable initiating even when I wanted to. As well as cultural taboos, I think a lot of time I overthink whether or not it would be appropriate, if it would be weird or be perceived wrong. There have been a few times where that hasn't been the case and it's been lovely to share a hug with a friend I care for deeply, but on the whole it's the exception and not the rule...

I really appreciate both of your listening ears and input! I'm going to be away for a few days so I'll ruminate on this and hope to hear from you again soon!

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