A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend who is in her mid-fifties and she was reflecting on being single after thirty years of a not very good or safe marriage. She said that many of her friends were unhappily married for a lot of years but are now enjoying their new lives free of the anxiety and violence that they experienced in their marriages. Then she said something that really caught my ear: “None of us are really looking to be in a relationship again — we did that already for years and it didn’t go so well — and most of us aren’t even looking for sex at this point. But you know what we do miss? Just having somebody to snuggle with. Somebody to curl up with on the couch with while watching a movie. Someone to wrap us up in his arms for a little while and just hold us. That’s what we miss.”
“I could be that person,” I thought to myself.
A few years before that, my son is only three years old and he has fallen and banged his knee. He comes to me, crying, and I take him up into my arms and hold him close to me. It doesn’t take too long and, what do you know, my son’s knee doesn’t hurt anymore. This works time after time with my children. With kids, even physical pain can be cured by an affectionate snuggle, a gentle hug, and some kind words.
“Maybe adults aren’t so different than children, ” I wondered. “Maybe instead of banged up knees, we’re all walking around with banged up hearts, and what we need to feel better is someone to hold us for a little while and be kind to us.”
It’s late at night and I’m in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I used to live and work there and sometimes, at night, I would walk the alleyways looking for youth I worked with and trying to be a good friend to others I knew in the community. I happen to run into some gang-affiliated young men I know from my work (I worked with street-involved youth in Vancouver for seven years). While I’m talking with them, another fellow I know from their crew arrives. He is visibly upset and is acting very aggressively, threatening to engage in all kinds of violent behaviour. The other fellows kind of step back and put their guards up. He gets up in my face and begins to talk about how he is the biggest, baddest, you-name-it, and he talks about how he doesn’t care anymore and how he’s going to kill somebody. I pause then say his name and ask him, “do you need a hug?” He stops and suddenly he looks like a young man who never really had anybody to love him or show him the way in life. His shoulders slump down, his hands drop, and he replies with one barely audible word: “Yes.” So we hugged. Nobody laughed. Afterwards, everyone was visibly relieved and much more upbeat and I called it a night and headed home.
There are many other stories, and much more to my decision than this, but these three events stand out in my mind as important factors in my decision to become a professional snuggler.