Sunday, February 21, 2010

Free Hugs, Or: The Importance of Affection

The other night I was at a friend's apartment. Lawrence, a mutual friend, joined us for drinks. Lawrence told me about attending a 'cuddle party' in Toronto. He went on to describe the concept of a 'cuddle party' and detailed his experiences attending one. His story was hilarious and depressing in equal measure. I thought to myself, "Are there really people who are so bereft of human contact that an event like a cuddle party is necessary ?"

I mean, isn't cuddling what polymorphously perverse high school students do in between classes ? At least that's the impression I've had since reading The New Yorker article 'The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School.' You can find the feature here on the New Yorker's website.

On the cuddle party organization's website the event is touted as, "a playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection." The cuddle party website provides helpful information on how to become a cuddle party facilitator, and for the novice, a list of 'Cuddle Party Rules.' One cuddle party facilitator from Toronto wrote in her online profile, "(A hole in my life) was the lack of affectionate touch in my life and the lack of authentic connections." Imagine living in a city of 5 million plus and not being able to find affectionate touch or connection in life.

In some ways this entry is a companion to my last post about Valentine's Day. If Toronto has a reputation for being cold, unfriendly, unwelcoming and generally a hard place to find love in, then what about the truly 'big' cities of the world ? New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo — the list goes on. How many people go through their daily routines, day in, day out, without having someone to love when they go home ?

It's hard to overstate the importance of human connection in life. Having people who love you and are comfortable touching you (and being touched) is absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy mental state. A hug is on one hand a very simple, and yet profoundly meaningful act. I believe the psychological benefits of a hug can be profound and lasting. A hug given with affection can make the most cynical among us smile and provide a momentary respite from life's problems.

So give someone you know a hug. Because a life without affection is an empty life indeed.

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