Monday, August 22, 2005

My First Cuddle Party!

Cuddle (kud'l), v.: To hug tenderly, hold in the arms, embrace.
Cuddle Party, (kud'l par'tee), n.: a non-sexual, judgment-free space to explore touch, intimacy, affection and choice, where your boundaries will be respected. A rave for lazy people. An opportunity to get out of your comfort zone--and into someone else's. A fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The Official Cuddle Party Scout Report, by Rachel Friedman:
1. It really isn't a euphemism for group orgy. Sorry to those who were hoping it was. There was no sex (rule #1), removal of clothing (rule #2), or dry humping (rule #7). Not really any kissing either, although it's technically allowed as long as a verbal request is offered and accepted. There was, however: massage giving, hugging, spooning (both with and without intertwined legs), back scratching, leaning against one another, holding, neck nuzzling, and other various enjoyable types of pj-to-pj contact. Yes, with people who I did not know before arriving there. No, it did not feel weird or skeezy (sp?) or gross. On the contrary, it felt wonderfully refreshing to be able to experience some physical intimacy without having the usual flood of racing thoughts--does he like me do I like him what are we doing where is this going what's the next step should I stop but wait I like this am I doing it right am I really attracted to him is he attracted to me what does this mean for us--preventing me from being fully in the moment taking place outside of my crazy head.

2. It *is*, however, a euphemism for "opportunity to practice being completely open and honest about how you communicate your desires for physical intimacy". During the Opening Circle, we all had to turn to a partner, pick an A and B, and A had to ask B, "Rachel (for example), may I _____ (insert kiss, hug, hold, etc.) you?" To which B had to respond, "No." Then we switched sides and practiced again. And then again one more time. Even though it was just a silly role play, I was surprised at how difficult I found both roles--it wasn't easy to do the asking out loud, and it was nearly as hard to have to say no without any explanation, qualification, or lame excuse. At the end of the exercise, we were all instructed to notice that (1) despite having just been flat-out rejected, we were all still quite alive and well. From now on, my self-imposed cuddle party homework is to be boldly and honestly expressive when it comes to pursuing my attractions and desires.

The bottom line: I fully endorse Cuddle Parties. Sure, it's a rather bizarre notion for all of us who live in this culture where physical affection among adults is assumed to be sexual; but although they are contrived environments, cuddle parties are proof that in the appropriate context, cuddling can truly be just that, and no more. I left the party feeling more refreshed, happy, and connected to humanity, and also bit dazed and loopy; it reminded me of the feeling of stepping out of the dark theater into the bright sunlight after having just seen a gripping, yet heart-and-soul-inspiring movie.


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