Last week a new business opened in Richmond, VA. While at a birthday dinner, someone brought up Cuddle RVA, which I promptly renamed the Cuddle Factory. The Cuddle Factory is . . . I can't even put it into words. They offer cuddle services. Like, they will hold you and hug you for money.
Me: So basically they're a massage parlor or on-site escort service. Within the law's boundaries, of course.
Of course I had to try this place out. I'll do anything for a story. Except just kidding. No, I am not doling out $60/hour to be cradled by a stranger; we have Tinder for that. And I actually hate being touched. Here's Sara trying to hug me back in 2013.
But I did do some investigating from the safety of the Internet. The first thing I learned is that the Cuddle Factory is real. Where is Westboro Baptist Church when you need them?
Also, imagine my distress when I realized it was located in the middle of my neighborhood. If you're from Richmond, you may recognize that 1805 Monument Avenue is within the boundaries of the area known as the Fan.
No one told me I pay rent in the Red Light District.
The website features a slideshow to demonstrate what is cuddling. Except in the captions, it thanks the models Karim and Kaytren. You mean, you couldn't find actual cuddlers to pose for this? I wonder why . . . .
Mary and Bobby founded the Cuddle Factory. Sara suspected their names might be fake due to their genericness. "Bobby is known to all his friends and family as an expert hugger" (from the website). Then there's Barb, a "loving mother of a school-age child." That poor child when his friends find out what his mom does. Street corners have more street cred.
The Cuddle Factory's contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now this is a respectable name - and probably the guise that they rent their salon under. It sounds like they will sell bonds or some financial fancy stuff that is over my head. But nah, they sell hugs. Da fuxx!
Let me highlight some snippets from the Q&A on their website. All emphases are by me, and italics are my reaction.
Q: What is "professional cuddling"? A: Just what is sounds like, yet so much more.
Q: What can the Cuddler and I do? A: Almost any non-sexual thing you can think of. So festishes? Sessions may include whatever makes the client happy and relaxed, such as spooning in bed, talking over tea, reading to each other while snuggling on the sofa, even “movie night”. Why is movie night in quotes? What type of movies are we talking?
Q: What should I wear? A: That's up to you, but you should definitely opt for comfortable clothes, like sweats or pajamas. Enough said.
Q: What if I become “excited”? A: That's a possibility, with two warm bodies being close together. The correct course of action is to change positions to where it won't be noticeable and 'wait it out.'
Q: What forms of payment do you accept? A: The Holding Company prefers debit/credit cards, but we also accept cash and Paypal. Oh, you accept PayPAL?
Q: Can I use my insurance? A: . . . We recommend against trying to write it off on your taxes. I wonder why.
I will give it to the Cuddle Factory; they also advertise that sessions are videotaped and they don't give happy endings. (My hypothesis is that these rules will "go away" once they're an "established" business entity.)
Let me know in the comments if you would ever pay for a cuddle session or am I just an irreverent jerk for questioning all things Cuddle Factory.
Update as of November 17, 2015:
The Cuddle Factory seems to have closed shop.