Earned my Professional Cuddler Certificate!

After completing my Cuddlist training online in May, I flew to Denver, Colorado to have an approval session in July, which involved a mock Cuddlist client screening and cuddle session. My evaluator, Kassandra Brown, played the role of a client and challenged my ability to spot potential incompatibilities, sensitivities, and pushing of boundaries. She evaluated my communication, boundary-setting and holding, consent, and cuddling techniques. She evaluated not just my natural cuddling style, but how well I cuddled the client the way she wanted to be held and touched; for example, my natural inclination is to stroke or squeeze, but she asked for stillness of my hand on hers, which required me to deny my natural impulses and prioritize her comfort.

After the approval session, I got really useful feedback from both my evaluator and Madelon Guinazzo, the cofounder of Cuddlist, during my finalization call. After that video call, Madelon awarded me the Cuddlist Certified credential, which is now reflected in my Cuddlist profile. I should also mention that certification included a criminal background check.

I must say I was more nervous going into this certification exam than any I’ve ever taken — and I’ve taken several interpreting certification exams! I can think of various reasons for this:

  • Before I took an interpreting exam, I took two years of American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting courses, and these courses had been around long before I took them, whereas I studied cuddling formally for only two months, and the course I took had only existed for six years before I tested.
  • The ASL/English interpreting field had professionalized thirty years before I became an interpreter, whereas the cuddling industry had professionalized only about six years before I became a cuddler.
  • The interpreting exams had required me to interpret either in front of a panel of examiners or in front of a video camera, whereas the cuddling exam was an intimate verbal and physical interaction with one person.
  • The interpreting exams had required me to answer hypothetical ethical dilemmas, whereas the cuddling exam required me to respond in situ to challenges during a role-play. It wasn’t a matter of “if this happened, I would…” but rather of speaking and behaving interactively as if these things were really happening— which, in the role play, they were!
  • The cuddling exam evaluated me on a very personal level, including how I smelled, how I held, how I touched, and how I responded physically and verbally to touch. It was about as intimate as it gets with one’s clothes on!
  • Another element I almost forgot to mention — though this is critical! — is that women routinely experience verbal oppression and unwanted touch from men, and this requires me to be extra careful about how I speak to and touch a woman. In the ASL/English interpreting field, interpreters have to be sensitive to the oppression (a.k.a. audism) Deaf people face from hearing people on a daily basis, but there is a real demand for male interpreters for male Deaf clients in this female-dominated profession. There is less of a demand for male cuddlers, though one does exist, and a market is still being created for this.

The reason I put certification before professional practice was because this field is unregulated, so a professional cuddler who is uncertified could easily be an unprofessional person charging money and doing harm. I want to do no harm, to be therapeutic, and to uphold the kind of standards that will move myself and this profession toward credibility. (Note: this is not to diminish the wonderful work of true professional cuddlers who have not yet pursued formal training or certification.)

One of my goals is to work with medical and mental health professionals whose own ethical practices are on the line when it comes to partnering with other providers; for this reason I want to be seen as a colleague who is as serious about patient care as they are.

Certification is only the beginning. I have a challenging road ahead of me since there is currently very little demand for male cuddlers, and there are not even many female cuddlers who make a living doing this. Luckily, I already have an established career doing something I love and have no desire to stop doing. I did not get into professional cuddling for the money or as a career replacement; I did it to add to what I do, vary what I do, and do yet another thing I’m passionate about.

Earned my Court Interpreter Certificate!

Certification is important to me because it requires me to improve my skills so I can give better service to consumers.

I just found out I earned the Texas Board for Evaluation of Interpreters Court Interpreter Certificate (BEI CIC)! This is a very stringent test of ASL/English interpreting skill in legal / judicial / law enforcement contexts. It took two attempts, almost three years apart, for me to pass. The first time it took seven months to find out I didn’t pass; the second time it took three months to find out I passed. There was a whole year during COVID-19 quarantine when they were not administering the test, so when the BEI started administering the test again, I jumped on the chance to take it. I needed it to keep doing legal interpreting in my home state of Arizona!

The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) is the licensing body for ASL/English interpreters in the state of Arizona, and in order for one to get a license, one must be certified by either the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) or the BEI. That’s just for a general license. For the Legal A license, which is required for an interpreter to work alone in all legal settings, one must hold either the RID Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L, which was placed under moratorium in 2016) or the BEI CIC. One used to be able to take the SC:L test at any nearby testing location, but the BEI CIC test can only be taken in Austin, TX, which makes taking the test a business trip, including flight, hotel, and rental car— quite expensive! It’s worth it to me, though, because I love legal interpreting, have been doing it for six years now, and needed the BEI CIC to keep doing it. I do get paid more for legal interpreting, and am more in demand because I can be assigned to do legal jobs, so the expense of becoming certified is a worthwhile cost of doing business. Above all, certification is important to me because it requires me to improve my skills so I can give better service to consumers.

This is my sixth interpreting certificate. I earned the California Association of the Deaf Certificate of Competence Level IV – Advanced (CAD IV) in 1991, the National Association of the Deaf Certificate of Competence Level IV – Advanced (NAD IV) in 1998, the RID Certificate of Interpretation (CI) in 1998, the RID Certificate of Transliteration (CT) in 1999, the NAD-RID National Interpreter Certificate (NIC) Master in 2010, and now the BEI CIC in 2021.

I’m now a trained professional cuddler!

I’ve been learning about cuddling ever since I started feeling touch-deprived while quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic. I joined a website for people who love to cuddle (see my profile on CuddleComfort.com) and learned a lot from participating in forum discussions and corresponding with other members. Finally, after being vaccinated I began cuddling people I met through the site!

Next I completed a professional training program and earned my Cuddlist Trained certificate. You can now book a cuddle with me via my profile on Cuddlist.com!

I highly recommend the training. It’s all about boundaries, consent, and creating a safe space for therapeutic touch. If you are interested in becoming a professional cuddler, you can save 10% on the training by using my discount code DANIELG (must enter in ALL CAPS).

A good deed to feel good about

Self-esteem is built by doing esteemable acts.

Author unknown

I’m writing about this not to brag but to share something positive. I flew out of town on business today, and I had an aisle seat I as usually do. When I sat down, the woman in the middle seat to my right was talking to her elderly mother in the middle seat across the aisle. So that she and her mother could keep each other company more easily – and honestly also so that she wouldn’t have to talk over me (my motives were not entirely altruistic) — I suggested that perhaps whoever had the aisle seat next to her mother could take my aisle seat, and I could take her middle seat so she could sit next to her mother. The man who originally had the aisle seat next to her mother was just as happy to take my aisle seat, so it all worked out. As I got up to leave the plane, she said “I wrote you a little thank-you note” and handed it to me. It read:

Thank you, Kindest of Strangers! My mom and I haven’t ventured out and about in more than a year. She was motivated to travel today to my daughters wedding. Thank you for caring about her comfort on this trip. All the best to you on your trip.

Safe travels,

Darla

It was a little thing for me, but it made a big difference to these two women on their very special day. I was taught in the Cub Scouts to do one good deed every day, or “Do a good turn daily” (Scouts slogan). I’ve tried to live up to this if not for others, then for myself— not to boast but just to feel okay about who I am. I’ll never forget what someone once told a group I was in: “Self-esteem is built by doing esteemable acts.” (The English major in me knows that esteemable should probably be estimable, but esteemable goes with esteem, so there you have it.) A person like me who has struggled with self-esteem his whole life understands that doing good deeds is like forgiving: it helps the giver as much as — or more than — it helps the recipient.

Again, I’m not bragging. I’m writing about this because doing this one little thing made more of a difference than I could have imagined to the people I showed kindness to, and because that kindness was repaid so graciously, and those thanks felt so good. So, next time you have a chance to do a good deed, do it! It might just make your day as much as it makes someone else’s.