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Put a fork in all this spooning


September 16, 2004|Dog Davis | Special to The Times

I was born to be a Cuddle monster. At least that's what I thought.

L.A's first Cuddle Party promised three hours of nonsexual touch therapy, where adults in pajamas could return to their childlike roots of joyful hugging and discovery. I thought, three hours of hugging women? Genius! Where do I sign up?

It was held in a high-rise apartment in the Miracle Mile. My first disappointment was that Reid Mihalko, the creator, would not be present. He was hosting a Cuddle Party in New York that night. In the six months since his first party -- described as "affectionate play events for adults, designed to provide a space to explore and enjoy touch, nurturing and communication" -- Mihalko had made quite a name for himself.

The L.A. party was hosted by Mihalko's partner, Marcia Baczynski. She was energetic, eager to hug and dressed casually, so I quickly forgot my disappointment.

The invitation said to bring something nonalcoholic to drink. Given that this was to have a rediscovering-my-inner-child vibe, I brought little juice boxes. Needless to say, they were a hit.

When everyone showed up, we formed a welcome circle, where Marcia, who served as the "lifeguard" for this event, gave us an overview and read the rules. She seemed very proud of a rule forbidding specific types of grinding.

Communication was the key. No one's allowed to hug (or kiss) anyone unless they ask and get a verbal "yes." Then we practiced accepting rejection; we asked for hugs and people said no. Given my track record with women, this came very easily.

Finally the cuddling commenced -- and never in my life have I felt less like cuddling. I simply didn't want to do it. Was I experiencing some sort of hugging performance anxiety?

Maybe it was the heat -- a muggy summer night isn't exactly conducive to spooning.

Or maybe it was the gender imbalance. Despite their efforts at a 50-50 male-female ratio, there were eight men and five women participating.

Personally, I've got no problem with men cuddling each other, but I didn't plunk down 30 bucks at the door to hug some dude.

The women, bless them, tried to be accommodating, many being caressed by two or three guys at once. Marcia was sandwiched on the floor. Because most of her body was already being cuddled, she asked if I wanted to massage her head. Who could resist? I'm only human.

The night went on and most everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I awkwardly hugged a woman, but I never could get into it. Instead, I mostly sat along the periphery and followed the conversation, which was engaging if you wanted highlights from Burning Man.

When a couple of people got so comfortable they started kissing each other, I felt oddly jealous. How could these people be so much more relaxed? And why was no one clamoring to kiss me? I downed a juice box and crushed it with my fist. It was the most satisfying moment of my evening.

Near the end, Marcia snuggled up to me and asked if I was having a good time. Despite it all, I had to admit I was. I was having a breakthrough. An epiphany.

I realized, deep down, I'm not a touchy-feely person. I was happy to accept this. And I also realized that while many people could really benefit from the Cuddle Party experience, the next time I pay $30 for an evening of touch with women I don't know, it better come with a stiff drink and a lap dance.

Dog Davis can be reached at

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