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The Soldiers of Affectionate Play

by REiD Mihalko, Cuddle Cupid

February 28th, 2005 will mark the one-year anniversary of first-ever Cuddle Party. As the date fast approaches, I am blown away by just how far Cuddle Party has come in just 366 days (Leap Year, remember?).

The most touching moment of the past year came to me early one non-descript morning in August when I received a 7:30am call from a stuttery-voiced man asking if there would be any Cuddle Parties in St. Louis come February. I explained that we were planning to begin training people to be Cuddle Party Facilitators early in 2005, but that we didn’t even have an application process ready or anything announced. Perhaps, with some luck, someone from St. Louis would be accepted into the program, go on to become certified, and be leading Cuddle Party events by February, but no promises, I explained.

The man on the other end of the phone shared that he thought cuddling was a great idea and how much he hoped St. Louis would be cuddling up a storm by the time he got discharged. Discharged? I asked him where he was calling me from. There was an awkward pause and some static over the phone line. He said simply, Iraq.

Turns out he was an American soldier stationed in Iraq who had seen a story about Cuddle Parties on CNN the day before, and despite of the humorous ribbing from his fellow soldiers, he called to find out more. He told me it sounded like an excellent way to relieve stress when he returned home.

He hung up the phone before I could get his name, but I was moved to tears that morning. And I’ve been thinking about him often. Why? Because we successfully completed our first-ever Cuddle Party Facilitator’s Training Program in New York this January and are about to head to Los Angeles for the second round of training at the end of this month. Having read through the training applications people have submitted, and having met and worked with the first round of Facilitators in Training, I am blown away at the caliber of people whom the Cuddle Party phenomenon is attracting. People inspired such that they’re willing to fly and drive from where ever to get trained, all in less than a year! At this rate and with this caliber of people, St. Louis might be cuddling sooner than we thought.

The Facilitator Training and follow-up Certification Programs are heralding in the next “phase” of our Flannel Revolution of affectionate play for adults. The New York City Training, held from January 15th thru the 17th, brought us people from Alabama, Seattle, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. As of this writing, Los Angeles’ Training will be drawing people from as far away as Alaska, Oregon, Pennsylvania and all over California. With a few weeks left until training starts, who knows who else might show up.

Yes, our Flannel Revolution is spreading and these are our soldiers, our revolutionaries of snuggle. From massage therapists and psychology professors to meditation facilitators and successful entrepreneurs, we’re drawing amazingly qualified people who want to be trained and certified to throw Cuddle Parties. (We even had a 14-year old girl submit a rather stunning training application, seriously passionate to be facilitating Cuddle Parties for the boys and girls of her High School. We didn’t accept the young girl because of her age; however, we look forward to seeing more of her vision in the future.)

What does this all mean? It means that official Cuddle Parties will begin popping up around the world, no longer constrained by the limitations of where Marcia and I can be. It’s as scary a thing as it is an inspiring one, because it means that “our baby is growing up” and she’s not even a year old yet! Yikes.

It also means that we did something right this year in raising our “child”. It means that people are getting that touch isn’t just for infants and children, that touch is a basic human need regardless of age. It means that our conversation about the possibility of non-sexual, boundary appropriate touch between adults has sunk into the social consciousness. No longer are we fielding questions like “How is it not an orgy?” Instead, people are asking us how to spell oxytocin, one of the “feel-good” hormones the body releases during cuddling. Cuddle Party has grown from its crawling stage into a serious discussion across the globe, exploring such questions as, “Why it is that adults don’t touch one another more? And what does not touching do to a culture?”

Cuddle Party has learned how to walk and is beginning to run, and like a concerned parent, I’m worried that my little darling may fall down and skin a knee. I feel like I’m sending my kid off to pre-school, but having met and trained the first round of future Cuddle Party Facilitators, and about to train the second, I am comforted by their amazingness, their power, and their passion that welcomed touch and affectionate play for adults exists for everyone who is a Yes!

For those of you who will be attending a Cuddle Party this year, please let me know how my baby is doing, okay? And the American Soldier calling from Iraq? Well, knock on wood, he should be home in St. Louis by now, and, if all goes well this year, he should be getting his cuddle on soon!

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