May 2019
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emotional/artistic work is still work / types of cuddles: giving, receiving, sharing, passive

icon: "nuzzle (a photo of two snow leopards, one facing the camera and the other in profile, nuzzling the first so much that the first one is leaning over)"

[been thinking about cuddling for a living]
I've been thinking about cuddling for a living since I found out that there is a service near where I live that is hiring. I posted on facebook asking people if they'd be interested or knew others who would be. Some said yes and some said "yes I want cuddles but I wouldn't pay for them" and I found myself getting really offended and upset about it. Even after working it out logically (I do understand that reaction and don't need it explained) it's still upsetting. It feels like people are saying my skills aren't valuable or worth me being able to live on, which really is something I get constantly about everything I do (except stats).

People do this about every skill that is emotional or artistic in nature. Sure, it is rewarding to make art or teach people emotional skills, etc. But it takes energy! no one has an endless supply of that. Further, energy spent on emotional/artistic work means less energy for making money. Money is a thing that can get me food and shelter. If you don't think my emotional/artistic work is real enough work to earn me food and shelter then no, I don't want to give it to you. And when I have put hundreds of hours into building my skills, no, it's not the same as some random person who has never worked on it. It is really unlikely that any random person can give the cuddles I do. Affection or connection doesn't cut it; this is a skill. I have worked on these skills consciously for many years on many people. Cuddle skills are not common and even the sweetest and most loving people often have very low cuddle skills.

I am really fucking good at cuddling. I imagine that most people who are uncomfortable with the idea of paying for cuddles have in their mind the idea that cuddles are automatically mutual. They aren't. There are four kinds of cuddles as I see it - giving, receiving, sharing, and passive.

  • Giving (one-way) - this is where you are actively giving touch, such as stroking someone's hair or rubbing their back, and they aren't actively touching you, nor is there any plan for them to.

  • Receiving (one-way) - this is where you are not actively touching the other person while they are giving you touch, and there is no plan for you to give them touch.

  • Sharing (mutual) - this is where you and another person are engaged in mutually active and emotionally-present touch, such as both stroking each other's backs while lying together, or mouth-kissing, or hugging, or holding hands. It is only sharing touch if you are both actively, presently, and deliberately giving: it is quite common for one person to give a hug and the other receive it - that may look like sharing but it isn't.

  • Passive (can be mutual or one-way) - this is where you are touching the other person, but in an absent-minded or inactive way. An example would be leaning against someone while you both watch a show, or hugging while neither of you are focused on it.

If you have never just received without giving, you can't imagine how rejuvenating it is*. Shared cuddles are energizing but just receiving is like three times that intense. And it takes at least three times as much energy to just give: it's a huge investment of energy to just give fully-present cuddles, which is why I don't often do it for long stretches of time. I often brush Topaz' hair for hours on end because that is a less-present kind of giving that doesn't take much of my energy yet energizes them a lot. It's kinda halfway between passive and giving, because I shift in and out of being fully present in what I am doing (we're usually watching a show during this).

With people who do not give in cuddles for whatever reason, I only give if I am in a place where I can handle that much drain, or if I feel confident enough in their honesty & ability of response to request something that will help refill me. Mostly people are willing to give back, they just don't know how, because this is a learned skill. Sometimes I will have only passive cuddles with a person because that is something I can usually do without drain.

I probably seem arrogant, and I'm afraid someone's gonna be like "actually your cuddles stink" but I think that's an illogical fear. Though I think maybe I suck at cuddling Heather partly because I have been lazy the last few times we've hung out and partly because I don't think I've ever made them sigh in contentment, and after braggin on myself I'm also looking at all my cuddles given and thinking about my flaws.

I came up with a list of essential qualities for being good at cuddling, but I'm going to post that friends-locked because I sent it to the two places I applied to and I want to keep it under wraps until I get responses. If you're reading and you don't have an LJ, message me and I'll email it to you.

*I am sure that not all of this is true for all people, especially those who are not nourished by touch (less common, but certainly existing). Please take this with a grain of salt - I phrased it boldly because I feel strongly, not because I really think it is true for all people.

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delicatexflower ══╣fly╠══

oh sweet bel, my reaction wasn't telling you your skills are NOT enough or look an incredible hugger. i hope one day to be hugged by you so i can feel your good energy flow through me. you can't put a price on that--that is WHAT i meant. if you want to do it for a living, you know i support it. people get paid for being a massage therapist, right? again, i'm so sorry my comment on facebook made you feel so bad :( hug? *open arms*
belenen ══╣giving╠══
aw, don't feel bad, I understood logically what you meant, it's just a common thread that got plucked. *hugs close*
kaceyjane ══╣╠══
Just keep in mind that your demographic likely won't touch your own group of friends. :)
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
as in, it's likely to be a privileged group who can afford to purchase cuddle time? I agree. I think that would be the hardest part for me, but I also think it would be good for such people to get a little empathy practice which hopefully I could create.
xprincessdoomx ══╣╠══
Hey. Just wanted to stop and leave a comment letting you know, I saw your posts in a few "add me" type communities and you seemed very interesting. :)
hardigrin ══╣╠══
So this was fascinating, because it made me realize something I hadn't thought out before--I would find setting up a plan to receive and not give cuddles stressful and honestly kind of draining. I think it's mostly association based; the only times I don't have a strong desire to reciprocate cuddles is when something's pretty wrong.

There were a lot of times in my past before I got good at boundaries that I wasn't up for touch, but didn't know how to say so, and just accepted the even if it was meant generously it felt terrible.

I also will not want to reciprocate touch if I'm really, really upset, and emotionally drawn into myself. It will still be positive to neutral to have someone touch me, but there's no way I can give back.

But yeah, any other time someone's touching me with affection (which to me is the difference between cuddles and massage) I want to respond and move with them and touch them and make them feel good (even if it's kind of passive or just moving into their cuddles) just feels bleh to me.

Which, maybe that difference in perception is why we haven't had amazing cuddles? I wouldn't say you suck at cuddling me, but there hasn't been an extraordinary time. I'd be totally down for finding a time we both have spoons to have a dedicated cuddling day where we play with different approaches. <3

Also, *offers lots of hugs* for the feeling of having your emotional and artistic skills devalued. That sounded like it hit you hard. I really really respect and look up to the work you've put into those, and while it's harder to find people who understand the value, they definitely exist.

Good luck with the cuddle jobs! :)

(Dunno if I said before, but I personally probably wouldn't be okay with paying *anyone* for cuddles, not because I don't think it's worth the money, but because I have a lot of hangups about people pretending to like me. Paying for sex or cuddles would pretty much literally be paying someone to act like they like me regardless of how they actually feel and that sounds really upsetting. The only way I can see it being worth the emotional minefield is if I was really isolated somewhere and going stircrazy trapped in my own head due to lack of touch.)
eristic_writer ══╣╠══
Hey, it's Zawn. New livejournal :-)

I'm not surprised that people think this is a service that should be provided for free. In fact, I think it's pretty likely that if you get a job as a professional cuddler, people will start asking you to do it for free. You know, because you're their friend. And a good person.

I don't think it's just caregiving work, though. My job involves almost no caregiving (at least not as a requirement), and people generally expect me to work for free, especially if we're friends. Conversely, Jeff's job is highly caregiving intensive, but also assigned a lot of social value and also is a basic necessity to people in trouble, and people expect that work for free.

It's challenging for people to empathize with others and imagine what their lives or days might be like. So when they don't see a clear result to someone else's work--a physical object created, a prescription--it's more difficult for them to accept that it has value.

If I ever needed cuddles,though, I would expect to pay for them and you would be the first professional cuddler I'd call ;-)
sylvanfae ══╣╠══

It sounds like a dream job to me! Healing work that I would also be good at. I support this adventure and look forward to reading along about what you learn, if it happens.

on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.