“Warm Hugs” signals the end of each of Marylen Reid’s emails. Reid is the founder of Cuddlery, Canada’s first platonic cuddling service. Already operating in nine cities across Canada, the Cuddlery’s newest market is Kitchener-Waterloo.
Reid is currently hiring local “cuddlers.” Candidates are interviewed over Skype during which she looks for caring and non-judgemental behaviour. Selected candidates are shown training videos on how to cuddle as well as self-defence, and when possible, Reid cuddles with them to test their skills.
“It’s interesting to know that a lot of people think they’re good cuddlers, but its harder than people imagine,” Reid said.
Reid moved to Canada from Slovenia five years ago to study law. Stress and a new environment led her to seek out physical connection, which is often reserved for intimate relationships in Canadian culture.
“Nowadays sex is more available than affection,” Reid said. Before starting the Cuddlery, she sought platonic, non-sexual cuddling on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji, but a few bad experiences made her stop.
Reid says that often people seek out sex and intimacy when they are really just looking for physical contact, which is what her business aims to provide.
“There is not one type of client, it ranges a lot, from a person who’s never had a significant other, busy people with no time to date, and grieving people,” Reid said.
Stigma is a big problem in the professional cuddling business. Reid says some of her clients are ashamed of using her service, and further, that Canadian culture perpetuates the belief that paying for affection is for losers. Psychological studies have shown that physical connection can improve an individual’s mood and quality of life. Reid says seeing a cuddler is like going to a specialist.
The profiles of cuddlers on the Cuddlery’s website are mostly women. Reid says that most of her clients are men seeking female cuddlers, which she speculates is because it is more difficult for women to seek non-sexual touch. Fears of safety are also a factor.
Safety of the professional cuddlers and clients is ensured by video taping every session. The videos are erased days later to ensure client privacy.
“If people would drop stigma and misconceptions, there will be a lot more happiness in the world and I think the Cuddlery can help with that,” Reid said. Arousal sometimes occurs during cuddle sessions, but Reid is firm that her business is completely non-sexual.
Reid does not know when exactly Cuddlery services will be available in Kitchener-Waterloo, it all depends on the number of applicants who meet the profile of a good cuddler.