There was a time when parents would allow their children to go out into the world and rely on good old-fashioned faith that they'd return. Now, the social media era has changed everything. We're horrifyingly connected. It's rare to make a move without someone, somewhere, knowing everything about what you've been doing over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or any other hip social media platform- du jour. "Pick your poison," the Internet seems to say.
The real poison is the truth that despite the fact that we have more ways than ever to connect with each other, we've never been more starved for REAL human connection.
A while ago, I heard about professional cuddlers (hold tight now, readers, because this is actually a thing). There was a story online about a woman in Japan who made a living CUDDLING people. There's no sex, no weird fetishes, just two human beings sharing the intimate human experience of gently holding one another. The experience came at a reasonable price, but after garnering enough clients, a professional cuddler like this woman can make a killing. (Raise your hand if you're seriously starting to question the career path you've chosen for yourself after reading that).
At first, I thought the notion of a professional cuddler was one part laughable and two parts revolting. But why am I revolted? Why is there this shame around the idea that we might need a stranger to confide in when some things are too scary to confide to people closer to you. Is it because they might not listen, they might try to help you? Isn't that why smart people go to therapists for their problems?
Then after a while, it really got me thinking.
After mulling the idea over and over in my head, the question I arrived at was this: is our thirst for human connection so great that this kind of profession is necessary? And if that's the case, what kind of world does that leave for us?
It's surprisingly easy to become scared of strangers and to watch your social circle shrink.
It's a weird idea. There may have been a time when something like this was completely far-fetched, but in a world where people are afraid to look each other in the eye, I personally don't think twice.
The recent headlines in the news have reminded us about how horrible the world can be. We are afraid of our neighbours, we question our friends and we fly into a full fit of anxiety whenever a stranger shows up on our doorstep. In the end, we become so fed up with the stress that we lock the door and hunker down at our computer to tweet about it. It's surprisingly easy to become scared of strangers and to watch your social circle shrink.
To my shock (and delight), the cuddling profession has spread its wings and flown worldwide, inspiring people such as Michael Gray Kimber and Elias Campbell of Toronto to create a Vimeo series called Just Cuddle. The story follows a woman (played by a very intriguing Winter Tekenos-Levy) as she experiences the highs and lows of being a professional cuddler. The results are not what you would expect. Hilarious, but often heart-wrenching, each episode takes a personal look into the lives of people who go in for a cuddle, but come back with a more human experience. You leave the episodes feeling like you have gotten to know someone, which is not an easy task in less than 15 minutes per episode.
One of the big standing themes of Just Cuddle is what you learn about yourself when you let strangers into your life. I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that opening your home to another human being that's going to hold you for about a half hour or so is pretty nerve-racking. The beauty of this gem of a webseries is that sometimes, the only danger is the idea of allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Who knew that human connection wasn't so bad after all?
We have better tools than we ever had, but we can't allow tools to be a replacement for the foundation of our human experience.
I know that it's easy to be scared by everything you read in the news. There are a lot of really awful things happening in the world right now, and in a lot of ways it seems like it's not getting better. Fear, though an important mechanism for survival, is also something that can stop you from having a real human experience. There ARE good people in this world. You just have to be open to them.
As strange as it may sound to you, a professional cuddler specializes in this kind of thing. In Just Cuddle, we get down to the real nitty-gritty of what kind of crises can be a part of someone's everyday experience (there's one episode with a young dying woman that is especially illustrative of this). People are going through horrible things and often there's nothing you can do but be there for them.
OK, so what's the real point here? Should we stop everything we're doing and seek help from a professional cuddler? Well, no, not necessarily. But we can learn a thing or two from them. No matter what, we can't allow fear to get in the way of letting people into our lives. We have better tools than we ever had, but we can't allow tools to be a replacement for the foundation of our human experience. At a certain age it's no longer easy to find friends. You have to go looking for them.
I can say honestly that as I get older it can be harder to confide. It's hard to let people get close because you have secrets that you think might disqualify people from wanting to get to know you. You have reasons to believe that there is something wrong with you. In Just Cuddle, the characters share secrets they fear disqualify them from the human race and they find themselves in the loving arms of a person who isn't judging, but is just glad they got the chance to know them. In the end, I think that something that we are all hungry for.
Do yourself a favour and watch Just Cuddle. You'll feel like I did. You'll feel like you found a new friend.
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