By Randall Adkins
I reluctantly dragged myself and what was left of my dignity into the conspicuous retails space on Burnside and SE 10th. Bright colors and a gift shop, I am right at home. The woman I was here to see sat typing away on god knows what for a minute pretending not to see me, but soon after came in for a cozy welcome. I was offered tea and told to fill out some papers while she sized me up. Ms. Hess is not just any professional cuddler, she is the gold standard to which all other cuddlers aspire. Founder of Portland based Cuddle Up to ME. She believes in the healing power of touch and even wrote a book about it. If you are feeling down and need some touch for $1/min you can, knock yourself over the head with a silly stick, sing, dance, play games or lay in one of 4 cleverly decorated rooms to cuddle her fucking brains out. But don’t get the wrong impression this is all above board. No touchy in the naughty spots.
The cuddle rooms are in the back next to the play room. Her parents painted them to look like the kind of place you would want to be in after taking too much acid – they are amazing. Each has an inviting bed, dim lighting and a side table with some kleenex for when the customers have a break down. I chose the beach themed room with yarn tentacled jellyfish on the ceiling. I felt anxious and tried to cover it up with small talk, but undoubtedly she could smell the fear. So I might have blacked out or entered some transcendental state, but before I knew it i was completely at ease. She had the kind of confidence only 50,000 minutes of professional cuddling under your belt can bring. I felt it was only appropriate to bring up my childhood and the middle school bullies that tormented me as we stared into each other’s soul.
We retired to the play room for the interview. its normally for hosting inner child workshops so colorful chalk and over sized teddy bears were scattered across the carpet.
Me: Tacos or pizza?
Ms. Hass: Bacon
Me: Wrong, tacos.
Me: If we sent professional cuddlers to the middle east instead of bombs do you think that would bring peace and if so would you volunteer to cuddle with isis soldiers.
Ms. Hass: I would absolutely cuddle with anybody who needed it. the type of unconditional love we provide leaves no room for discrimination, but as far as the war is concerned, no our global culture is not one that is yet accepting of touch as a source of healing and I think that is sad. touch can’t end world hunger or put a stop to wars, but it can make a difference in individual lives.
Me: What advantages does your service provide over apps like spooner etc.
Ms. Hass: Safety, We have stringent background checks for our employees and a 40 hour certification program that allows us to custom tailor each session to the individual They are in control of what happens to them when it happens and where. They know exactly what they are getting and there are no surprises. Our retail space is a safe neutral location and convenient as opposed to meeting a stranger at a park or coffee shop. We have people walk through our door for a million different reasons. some have trauma like PTSD or ALS or Autism other are here just for self care, but none leave feeling the same as when the they came in.
Me: What services do you provide other than cuddling
Ms. Hass: we have an inner child work shop, I do some life coaching, couples counseling, and a lot of consulting for online dating. I’ve actually become somewhat of an expert at online dating.
Me: Online dating?
Ms. Hass: Yeah, I help a lot of my clients set up their dating profiles, I give them feedback, help them take pictures. For example making sure the client doesn’t have his phone in the picture instead of putting it on a timer. You don’t want it to look like you don’t have anyone in your life to take a picture of you. Basic stuff, don’t lie about who you are, diversify your profile, don’t just talk about sports etc..
Me: Do you offer cuddle puddles, cuddle parties.
Ms. Hass: We do plan on offering platonic snuggle parties, but not cuddle parties. Cuddle parties is actually a trademarked term and is a concept that I am super against for myself because they allow for more than what I consider platonic touch. they are a company that has been around for a decade or so, probably more and they train people to do their specific style of cuddle parties.
Me: Who would you not recommend for your service
Ms. Hass: People who are looking to replace their romantic partner. If the reason you are coming here is because you want a romantic partner you will only be frustrated and disappointed. we do not give off that kind of energy. We are much more like a family concept. so like if someone comes here wanting to think of it in a romantic way, they will be disappointed. We don’t judge or share information this is a place for everyone, but our service is limited.
Me: Has this job affected your personal life
Ms. Hass: i am so not a jealous person so I could never date someone who was, so no issues with that, but for the first time in two years I am finding myself single at the moment which i am not looking forward to, but thats something that is part of life and is ok. I don’t know, I am very upfront about what I do. It’s on my dating profile and it does open me up to criticism, but I don’t care about that because the people who are going to care about that aren’t the people I would connect with anyway.
On a personal level I really admire this woman. she had a dream and followed it. A lot of her critics think she targets emotionally crippled men for a quick buck, but I don’t see it. The business model may leave a bad taste in your mouth, thinking about the poor soul that has to pay for what you think everyone should just receive freely, but that’s just not the reality of the world we live in. Some people just want to feel better and don’t care if they have to shill out a couple bucks to get it done. Anyway, who are we to judge?