From first exams to research papers, it’s been a stressful week.
Anyone else need a hug?
No problem. All you have to do is pick up your phone and dial Samantha Hess. Don’t worry – she’s a professional cuddler.
This 29 year-old entrepreneur is the founder of CuddleUpToMe.com, a business based in Portland, Oregon.
“Let’s hold hands and cuddle up on the couch, or listen to some soft music while we curl up in your bed — I am happy to be the big spoon or the little spoon.”
If you go to her website above, this is one of the first lines you’ll come across. Comforting or creepy? Believe it or not, it’s a completely innocent business.
According to Business Insider, Back in 2012, Hess had a “light bulb moment” when she saw a man in a local market holding a “Free Hugs” sign receiving far less affection than a man standing next to him with a sign reading “Deluxe Hugs, $2.”
Just having gotten out of a 13-year relationship, Hess realized, although she didn’t want a relationship, she wanted to feel acceptance and love from a safe and socially acceptable source.
A few months later, she launched her website. Within weeks, her story spread to more than 40 televisions stations nationwide. Below is a segment from Buzz 60 featuring Hess’s story.
In the past, Hess has worked as a variety of jobs in areas including retail, communications, restaurants, and personal training. Hess says she is making far more money in her current position than ever before in her life.
Hess charges $1 per minute and may be booked for 15 minutes to 5 hours to spoon, hug or snuggle. By booking up to five sessions a day (which she frequently does), five days a week, Hess can potentially make up to $7,200 a month. That’s more than enough for her to support herself, she says.
You might be wondering how she keeps herself safe during her job. Well, she schedules a mandatory meeting with each client at a neutral location scheduling the actual cuddle session. In addition, all customers must sign a waiver that explains her policies: “The cuddle sessions are NOT to be interpreted as sexual”; “both parties will remain fully clothed”; and “cleanliness and adequate hygiene are required by both parties.” She emphasizes that it is okay to touch her where it is okay to touch a child.
What makes Hess’s services so desirable? What, biologically, about cuddling makes you feel so darn good inside? There are nine main benefits of snuggling up that might surprise you.
First of all, cuddling releases oxytocin, a hormone that plays a key role in the neurological basis of intimacy, into the bloodstream. Oxytocin has actually been referred to as the “cuddle hormone!”
Because of this surge of oxytocin, cuddling strengthens your immune system by boosting hormones that help fight infection. Oxytocin release also relieves pain. Talk about the power of touch, right?
On a less scientific note, cuddling improves relationships. Even if you’re not looking to be best buds with Samantha Hess, her service can remind clients how meaningful and effective touch can be. They can then apply this knowledge and skill to relationships of high importance to them.
A good snuggle every now and then also reduces social anxiety. Oxytocin simply delivers a more optimistic outlook, leading people to more trust in one another.
Most importantly (for our purposes here, anyway) oxytocin is super effective in relieving stress. It’s also known as the “anti-stress” hormone because it works to counter the negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol. Plus, at this point, you’re feeling more connected with your partner, you’re feeling confident in social situations, your immune system is stronger – that eliminates some major sources of stress!
Additionally –oxytocin to the rescue again – cuddling lowers your risk of heart disease. All the benefits listed above add together to mean less stress, less anxiety, lower blood pressure, which all contribute to a lower risk of heart disease!
Basically, your body craves touch like it craves water. If you’re like me, however, showing affection isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It requires trust and practice and a sense of security that sometimes is hard to attain. It seems, however, that the benefits are well worth the strife.
One of Hess’s clients, Stephen, said of his experience, “After meeting Samantha Hess, I feel so much better. Our cuddle time gave me a different outlook on life. I had no idea what I was missing. I am a big fan now and look forward to our next session. She is encouraging, kind and sincere.”
Now, while I’m certain that Ms. Hess is experienced and well trained for her job, she has no magical powers that make her cuddling skills superhuman. So even if you’re not willing to go to Portland for to pay for an hour session, there are 40,000 of us here at Penn State! Be wise in your decision, but find a cuddle buddy for yourself! Cuddling can be completely innocent, if not misinterpreted. Its benefits are too strong to ignore. Samantha Hess makes profit from this innate human need to be touched. While her business may seem bizarre, the implications are so important for the anxiety-ridden sector of the population!
More to come next week about Hess’s journey, CuddleUpToMe.com, as well as information about a unique opportunity to get involved!