Getting hip to cuddle parties

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Stacy Innerst, Post-Gazette

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Been to a cuddle party lately? Neither has The Morning File. In fact, we hadn't even known of its existence until yesterday. Which brings home a harsh reality about Pittsburgh: We either miss out on trends (economic growth, young people, ravioli-scented vodka) or there's a 10-year lag in the trend finding us. But what sounds like a bad thing can come in handy -- like being behind the curve on cuddle parties, although it should be pointed out that we are up to speed on Tupperware parties. Cuddle parties were invented last year not in California but in New York City and made their way to Canada and Great Britain, tight countries that always seem to need a good hug. It's basically an orgy without sex, so don't expect to run into Hef or Caligula at one of these things. Participants are encouraged to cuddle, touch, caress and massage any number of people but must keep things from heating up too much, if you catch our drift, so no nudity, hands under clothes or French kisses.

OK, start cuddling

A few weeks back, an ad for a Cuddle Party Facilitator appeared on Yahoo: $40,000 for part-time work in an unspecified city. (Could it be Pittsburgh? First the Scientologists, now the Cuddlers.) The cuddling movement was started by REiD Mihalko -- no typo, he's a reckless capitalizer -- and Marcia Baczynski, who sign off with, "Cuddley yours, REiD and Marcia, Head Cuddle Monsters." The goals, according to to create safe, non-sexual space to explore intimacy on both a personal and professional level; to leave participants feeling touched, open, valued and nurtured; to generate an environment where women and men communicate more authentically; to help people be more open to others.

Ich bein ein cuddler

Ruth Elkins covers Germany for the Independent of London: "The word on the street has it that Berlin is now so cool it is 'Europe's New York'. It's even starting to adopt Manhattan-style social activities. The latest craze is to attend a 'kuschel party', Berlin's version of the New York 'cuddle party', born last year. Taking place in mattress-filled lofts and meditation centers, they are billed as the best medicine for the modern stressed-out soul. Cuddling strangers apparently releases hormones that make you happier and have the added benefit of supporting your immune system. From my recent limited experience of this, I can only say the Berlin 'kuschel party' scene doesn't seem to differ much from a regular orgy, despite banning nudity, alcohol, drugs and full sex. But with Berlin still the lonely hearts capital of Europe, it's no surprise that a 'kuschel' event seems to pop up each week." Didn't Ruth say, "doesn't seem to differ much from a regular orgy" rather off-handedly?

Take us to a cuddle party

From the AP

We go LIVE to Noah Tarnow of the entertainment-minded Time Out New York: "The potential creep factor for an event such as this is high, so when I arrived at Mihalko's apartment, clad in plaid flannel, I was relieved to find 17 blessedly normal people. Granted, they had that crunchy-granola, crystal-chakra vibe, and the herbal tea and New Age music flowed freely, but no one was physically deformed or hygienically challenged. The cuddling itself was more pleasing than freaky, mostly because everyone realized how silly it was. Leonardo, a hair designer, found himself with four women on his lap, shoulders rubbed and legs massaged all around. Gina, who'd earlier declared, 'I don't want to cuddle with anyone unless I know them really well,' relented into a five-way non-genital stroke fest. And my own cuddle web entailed receiving a spinal rub from Jan, as I gave Lakota a full-on foot massage. None of this was absolutely chaste (there was some heavy girl-on-girl smooching toward the end). If Mihalko expands the concept as he hopes -- 'One day we'll fill Madison Square Garden,' -- he's bound to attract horndogs hell-bent on stealing third base. But on this day at least, the Cuddle Party succeeded." (

Flip-flop flap

We apologize for ignoring the tale of the Northwestern University women's lacrosse players who wore flip-flops to meet the president. To make up for our oversight, here's insight from Jane Shilling in yesterday's The Times of London:

"Girls, girls, is it even decent to bare your toes in front of the supreme leader of the Western world? True, the days are long gone when one would have felt the need to wear dainty little gloves to a White House reception. But toes are another matter, aren't they? Isn't there something, well, rather intimate about toes? Aren't they still firmly on the index of body parts -- along with belly buttons and bum cleavages -- that you just don't flaunt in front of the President of the United States? . . . But as I write this, it occurs to me that respect is a two-way process between rulers and ruled. We are all familiar with the stories of our own dear Queen drinking the contents of her finger bowl so as to put at his ease some visiting potentate who had committed just such a gaffe. If the President of the United States was the Southern gentleman he is supposed to be, he should surely have cast off his dark dress shoes and socks -- and called at once for his staff to bring him his finest pair of presidential flip-flops."

An Oscar

"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances."

-- Oscar Wilde

Improper attire

Arkansas judges are tougher than the White House on the dress issue. Once a man testified in a battery case in Rogers, Ark., wearing a shirt that asked: "Wanna raise some hell?" And on the back: "Hell yeah!" The judge found him in contempt, The Associated Press reported; the decision was upheld and the man was sentenced to 24 hours in jail. We wonder what he would have gotten for wearing flip-flops.

In defense of loud motorcycles

With regard to the Tuesday Morning File item on motorcycles as a civic noise polluter: It should be noted that people put aftermarket exhausts on their motorcycles for a number of reasons ?- to increase performance, because they like the sound better and to add a layer of protection. This last is my reason for preferring a loud exhaust on my motorcycle.

Unfortunately, the standards for getting a license to drive a car are minimal, and there is no "continuing education" or required yearly classes. Because of this, most car drivers are not qualified to handle the responsibility they have been given, and because of lack of enforcement (a result of depleted police resources), they do not take this responsibility seriously.

Every day, I see people changing lanes without signaling, driving while talking on a cell phone and making illegal left turns from the right hand lane and left turns from the right hand lane -? all of which are illegal in Pennsylvania. I also rarely see people turning to check the blind spots in the side and rear view mirrors, and many times you can tell that drivers are not even using their mirrors at all. The result can be a fender-bender and some inconvenience if you are driving a car. If you are a motorcyclist, however, it can be much more serious.

As a motorcycle driver, you are not in a steel cage, with a safety belt, airbags and impact crumple zones to protect you. When a driver makes an error, you are the one who suffers, not the bad driver. So if you are upset at the loud exhaust on the motorcycle next to you at a stoplight, look in your own mirror (if you have them adjusted correctly and can) and you will see why my exhaust is loud.

Mike Longwell,
McKees Rocks

If you've been throwing cuddle parties without letting us know, contact us at , , 412-263-1112 or Portfolio, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.


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