Lila: In my conscious memory, I have never looked at a child and thought, “Oh, I wish I had one.” Ever.
Tiger: I never had that until like, (sigh) like the last six months.
Tiger: Now I see it. Now I’m like, “Oh no. Oh no. Oh nooooo!” Like, one of our housemate’s friends came over with her kids, and I was looking at them I was just like “Wow.” They were also very well-behaved, too. So that’s, but, I I … I’ve always been really repul— repulsed by children. I didn’t really grow up around, you know, I didn’t have brothers or sisters so I think that was another thing is that when I would be around kids, I really didn’t know what to do with them. I babysat a couple times, but I would just sit around and watch movies with them. And eat pizza. There really wasn’t a lot of interaction, but I—
Lila: I was always most comfortable with adults.
Tiger: Same. ‘Cause I grew up around adults. They were who I was socialized with.
Lila: But I was really picky about which adults got to touch me and my mom regularly reminds me of how I refused to sit on people’s laps unless I wanted to sit on their laps. Which I think is totally fair and I, I wanna celebrate that little me that drew boundaries and said, “I don’t want to touch this person; I don’t want to let this person touch me.” You know, but my mom says it like it’s indicative of my … fussiness or something, my, my particularness … when I think I was probably going on intuition, and probably protected myself from several situations. But that has persisted throughout my life, that I’m so particular. I love to touch. I love to hug, I love to massage and squeeze and caress and stroke hair … I— I’m so tactile, but I’m extremely particular about who I’m tactile with. And when. And I’m amazed, and really impressed that you can do this work that you do as a professional cuddler, because I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. Even though I do have skills of touch.
Tiger: It’s a very particular, a very specific, profile that a person needs to have for this kind of work.
Tiger: Doing this work has made me more … more certain about what was in my pleasure and what was not, and where my lines were, where my boundaries were, and not feeling as ashamed— it’s my job to, just as much to be compassionate towards them, it’s also my job to make sure that I’m taken care of, because if I’m not, I cannot show up and be present for these people, so, if I’m doing something that’s uncomfortable — whether or not they notice — it’s there, it’s in the space and I, and I’ve cancelled sessions because I was too tired or I didn’t feel like I could energetically show up for a client, so, if— the same thing happens if something happens in the session that doesn’t feel good for me. I can’t persist … in, in that way. So, I feel like saying something has become— it strengthened me to be able to speak up when something is not in my pleasure or doesn’t work for me.
In the second half of this episode, I lie down with my housemate Tiger. We discuss how to become a professional cuddler, boundaries, touch medicine, and scent.
Tiger goes by many names, but we’ll only use two of them here. Tiger is a Cuddlist. Her cuddling name is Ellen. She’s also a reiki practitioner, a trained yoga instructor, a comedian — known as “The Comedy Witch,”— and a cats fanatic (the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical theatre kind of cat). In lieu of performing in the actual musical,
Tiger cosplays regularly as feline, and soon plans to host Cat Cuddling events at Hacienda Studio, in which the cats are actually humans in cat costume because, and I quote, “you could cuddle real cats, but they’re unreliable.”
She writes and performs funny songs, and last year I saw her in an original hour-long one-ish-woman show entitled Kiss Me, I’m Jew-witch. She sang about celebrity sex dreams and her period. Her parents were there. It was pretty amazing.
Tiger is the closest thing I have at this point, to a sister. We have deep talks in the kitchen, during which we usually quote the title of her yet-to-be written inspirational memoir, “Breakthrough Junkie.” She scrapes me up off the floor when I need it and texts me that there are Puffins in her cabinet for a late-night snack, when I don’t.
I love her. I hope you will.
Come lie down with us.
Links to Things:
Ellen’s Cuddlist profile, where you can book her for a pro cuddling session
The Comedy Witch / Ellen Snuggles, her Instagram, replete with cosplay (sometimes as Prince, sometimes as a cat, and at other times, Sweeney Todd)
Cuddlist, the place to find pro cuddlers / learn how to become one
Monique Darling, Cuddle Party facilitator
Show Notes (feel free to share quotes/resources on social media, and please link to iTunes, this website, or my Patreon!):
website link: https://horizontalwithlila.com/
Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/horizontalwithlila
Tiger: And my mom was like, “Well, I don’t understand. You’re either gay, or you’re straight. You can’t be both. Maybe you’re just confused or experimenting.”
Lila: Spaketh society.
monogamish (adjective) = a term coined by Dan Savage to refer to a mostly monogamous relationship style that includes occasional dalliances with other lovers
[6:20] Would Tiger like to cohabitate?
[6:54] Lila’s feelings about having children.
[10:05] What kind of boundaries are required to be a professional cuddler?
[12:34] What are the training requirements to become a professional Cuddlist?
Tiger: There’s a thing called The Three-Minute Game, where, for three minutes, you … so you get to share things that you would like someone to do you and if that person’s a yes, then for three minutes, you get to receive that. Or if your desire is— you want to touch somebody’s hair, you want to touch their feet, then, you know, that’s something that you get to do, but the idea is that you take turns each having three minutes of getting to enjoy something that you desire and both parties have consented to it.
[15:15] Consent, asking for what you desire, and learning to deal with rejection in a Cuddle Party or cuddling session scenario. The “No” game.
[16:20] Lila’s tendency when confronted with a situation she “is a ‘no’ to.”
[16:41] What happened at Elena’s first Cuddle Party?
[17:57] Elena’s second Cuddle Party experience, facilitated by Monique Darling
“No is a complete sentence.” – Monique Darling
[20:30] How to get tango dances / How to avoid tango dances.
[21:24] The cabaceo, a face-saving custom for asking someone to dance at a milonga (a tango dance). And just as an added bonus, Tango and Chaos is a fascinating tango blog by a foreigner married to an insider. It’s not fancy graphic design, but it’s incredibly informative and has a great sense of humor.
Lila: I’m trying to get better at it, but rejecting people, I find so … anathema to me. I can more easily do it if I have a counter-offer that I’m comfortable with. You know, “May I do this thing?” “No, but you could … do that thing.”
Tiger: Right, ‘cause you feel like you’re not completely rejecting them. You’re offering something else.
Lila: Yeah. Yeah. But it’s my body! And I should be able to do with it what feels right to me. And I shouldn’t be touching people that I don’t want to touch. It’s not fair to me; it’s not being fair to myself.
[23:42] Since Tiger is picky about who touches her, how did she get better at saying “no”?
[26:30] How is Tiger able to be affectionate and intimate with people that she wouldn’t be otherwise?
[28:00] What happens if a client doesn’t smell right to Tiger?
[31:20] What draws Tiger to cuddling as a profession?
Tiger: So I have a background in yoga and meditation and I’m a newly attuned reiki master, and I’ve been called to the healing arts for a long time. And I really, I really enjoy and take pleasure in helping people and making them feel better, even if it’s just, make them feel less stress after a yoga class or a reiki session and … or, in like, an astrology reading you know, that they can leave kind of laughing a little bit and, you know, having a bit of warm perspective and— those are things I like to offer. I like to offer that as a comic, as well. I enjoy making people laugh, I enjoy making people feel good. I like giving backrubs and I think … it’s funny, I’m also a particular affectionate person because I can be extremely affectionate, but selectively affectionate—
Lila: I know because I don’t think we hugged for two years! (laughter)
Tiger: Yeah, I feel like, to me … it’s almost as if, affection or touch, for me— I mean, I remember holding you in my lap and stroking your hair while you cried once. And to me, touch is medicine. Touch is— I think maybe that’s why I kind of bottle it up and why I’m not throwing it around all over the place. […] I see how the power of touch can heal others and so I kind of save it up for when people really need that hug. […] The best way I can describe it is it’s like this little bottle of medicine that you keep on a shelf and when someone’s coughing I go, “Oh, I know just the thing!”
[37:25] On the yearning for mothering.
sexiled (noun) = the state of being barred from a room, typically one’s college bedroom, because others are having sex there
[41:09] How Tiger’s mom soothed her nightmares.
Tiger: Mothering is important and I feel like— we, I feel, especially men, and that’s the thing, most of my clients are men. I feel like men are taught that they need to be strong, and they need to deal with their problems on their own and be self-sufficient and independent.
Lila: Still! In 2017! I feel so— I know I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. How have we not gotten past this, this, these constrictive gender prescriptions?
Tiger: There’s still a lot of work to be done and I feel like I offer a discreet, safe space for them … to experience that softer side of themselves and to talk if they need to, to cry if they need to, to be little spoon if they need to— I love being big spoon for people who are usually the big spoon. They really need it.
[43:19] What is scooping?
[44:17] Tiger tells Lila a story about becoming Reiki Cat.