By Michael Deeds, Idaho Statesman
Boise, Idaho (AP) – I know what you’re thinking, but don’t have a stroke.
Get a stroke.
Gently, across your furrowed forehead.
Snuggle Buddiez, the city’s first cuddling business, is finally up and running – or, should I say, down and spooning.
For $80 an hour, a professional “snugglist’’ will squeeze the loneliness right out of you.
“I know there’s so many people out there that need this service,’’ owner Charlotte Lindsay tells the Idaho Statesman . “But they just don’t know it’s available.’’
Snuggle Buddiez had a short-lived soft launch in late 2017, offering male cuddles to female clients. I wrote a column alerting Idaho men to the employment opportunity: “Need a hug, ladies? Book a Boise cuddlist. (Dudes, they’re hiring! $40 an hour!)’’
Two hundred men applied. “I brought on about 20,’’ Lindsay says. But Idaho women, who are mysterious, did not embrace Snuggle Buddiez. Over a two-month period, not a single session was booked. “It totally blew me away,’’ Lindsay admits. So she shut down to re-evaluate, fix some things and recruit female cuddle power.
A year later, Snuggle Buddiez has fully opened – with a woman’s touch. A group of females recently completed the Snuggle Buddiez certification process, which requires online training and five practice snuggling sessions. They are now what Lindsay calls “alternative touch therapy specialists.’’
Magically, a handful of clients appeared.
“Mostly, it’s really busy businessmen,’’ Lindsay says. “Like, people that focus on their career and have been divorced and things like that, and don’t really want to start a relationship. But they need that physical touch and that platonic kind of nurturing and understanding.’’
Just be aware, boys: There are rules.
Bear hugs? Cool. Bare hugs? Not cool.
“Both parties have to remain clothed the entire session,’’ Lindsay says.
Advance meet-and-greets are required, too. “I let my snugglists choose their clientele, because I don’t think they’re going to be effective if they’re not comfortable with the client,’’ she explains.
Speaking of comfort level: “Most of our females are open to snuggling with other females,’’ Lindsay says. “We don’t have any same-sex male snugglists right now. But we’re going to be getting some.’’
Let the hand-holding begin. For up to 10 hours! (One-hour minimum, 30-minute increments.) It can be in the privacy of your home, at a motel or in a public spot such as a movie theater. But the majority of action has taken place at Snuggle Buddiez headquarters at 6477 W. Fairview Ave. There’s a snuggle studio decorated like a comfy living room.
“Most people prefer to come there for sessions,’’ Lindsay says, “because then it’s more like a neutral space and kind of like a retreat. The only time that we’ve really gone to a client’s home is if they have severe social anxiety or PTSD or depression to where it’s really hard for them to leave their home.’’
Particular about your hair petting? Shop through the bios and photos at thesnugglebuddiez.com. Some of the snugglists and “snugglists in training’’ have massage therapy or holistic healing backgrounds. Snapchat-style photo filters also appear to be popular snugglist tools. Two of the women have teddy bear ears or kitty whiskers. Meow.
Despite the cold shoulder from Boise women so far, most of the male cuddlers look determinedly enthused. Snuggle Buddiez guys have made themselves useful by accompanying female snugglists to practice sessions, Lindsay says.
“I think that it’s a different mind frame for a woman to order a snugglist,’’ she says. “In all reality, it should be the safest, most secure way to get platonic snuggles. But I think it’s hard for women to wrap their head around snuggling with a stranger – unless they’re drunk and leaving downtown at 2 a.m., of course. But I think it’s hard to open up that trust to snuggle with a male.’’
My bet is that 34-year-old snugglist “Ryan F’’ could break the barrier, based on his compelling website testimonial: “ `If I had to choose between Ryan and my childhood stuffed bear Button Eye Joe, it’d be Ryan hands down. …’ – Ryan’s former roommate.’’
Either way, Lindsay thinks it’s only a matter of time for the Snuggle Buddiez bros. She plans to ask her snugglists to create YouTube channels to familiarize themselves to potential clients.
“If Brad Pitt was to start up a service for snuggling at $80 an hour, he would booked out for years,’’ she says, “because people are familiar with him.’’
In the meantime, Lindsay plans to keep training new touch therapists. She believes that the opportunities are nearly endless.
“We’re going to start targeting certain groups,’’ Lindsay says. “The service really helps with people with different issues. For instance, we’re going to be looking for people that are recovering from addictions – just because when you’re in a recovery program, you’re not going to start relationships. I’m also trying to bring on elderly snugglists.’’
That’s the thing about paid cuddling. It never gets old, right?
Image: From the Snuggle Buddiez website