A professional cuddler’s shift from “I would never…” to “I might if…”

Over the past year, I have discussed hundreds of topics with other cuddlers, especially on CuddleComfort.com. What I have seen, especially among professional cuddlers, is that those who have never done a certain thing with a cuddle buddy have a tendency to say “I would never do that,” yet those who have done that exact thing say, “I have done it and it has worked.”

I believe that those who speak from experience and have tried certain approaches and succeeded know that those choices can be ethical and effective, and those who say “I would never…” are suffering from a lack of imagination. I have learned through studying demand-control schema for the past 16 years, and participating in and leading case supervision with other ASL/English interpreters for the past 8 years, that whether a certain action is “good” and “works” depends on mitigating and militating circumstances. When practitioners come together and discuss their work with an open mind, we discover that things we thought we would never do can, in reality, make perfect sense to do when conditions are favorable. For example, as a man in a committed, monogamous relationship, I might say “I would never share a bed overnight with a cuddle client,” but if a person whose life partner recently died can’t sleep at night I might do an overnight session with that client, and I think my partner would understand that I was helping someone in need. This has not happened yet, but my training in self-reflection and ethical decision making allows me to use my imagination to say “I might do that if…” instead of “I would never.”

Robyn Dean & Bob Pollard, who created the demand-control schema (2001) from Robert Karasek’s job demand control model (1979), teach that in all situations there is a spectrum of controls, or choices or actions, from conservative (tending toward inaction) to liberal (tending toward action). At the far ends of the spectrum are controls that are so egregious that they are ineffective and unethical, but in the middle there is a whole range of controls that are effective and ethical. To apply this to cuddling, there are actions (or inactions) outside the ethical and effective range that are too conservative, such as having a session and refusing to touch a perfectly respectful client, and that are too liberal, such as doing sexual favors. Yet there are so many choices that can work and be good in ways you might not imagine unless you are in that particular situation. It is up to each person to obey rules and laws yet keep an open mind to the myriad ways they can operate within those rules and laws that can work and be good.

Some girls are tomboys. This boy was a marygirl.

I coined a phrase for my own gender identity when I was five years old. I used to like dolls, tea sets, and playing pat-a-cake with girls instead of playing with boys. I liked talking about my thoughts and feelings more than most boys. I was slightly effeminate — sometimes more than others. A girl I was playing and talking with one day in a far corner of the playground at school asked me why I was that way. This is what I said:

“You know how some girls are tomboys? Well I guess you could call me a marygirl.”

Like many tomboys I outgrew that and became more typical of my physical gender; i.e., more masculine, but I’m proud of my ability at that age to give voice to how I felt, and even to normalize it. Other boys called me a sissy when I skipped down the halls singing, but I rejected that label and the pain that came with it, and declared my identity with a label of my own.

Were you / are you a marygirl? Is your son / nephew / grandson a marygirl? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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.