We live in an age of nutrition labels. Everything is bottled, tagged, and explained in thoroughly researched articles and books. It drives me crazy enough when they take over food and strip away the nature in it molecule by molecule, but when they set in on the human person too, I can hardly see straight. I thought about this in particular when some friends first told me about this up-and-coming trend, a trend that’s growing particularly among young singles in urban areas. Are you ready for this? They’re called “cuddle parties.” (Also known on some websites as “snuggle” parties, but it’s the same idea.) You can read about them here: http://www.cuddleparty.com/
Surely there’s a better, more natural way to come into contact with your fellow human beings. With all our knowledge about health and wellness and the whole psychosomatic human person, we can be so narrow in our focus. Sure, non-sexual physical touch is important for our well-being, but if you have to wander into a party full of strangers all draped across one another in order to find it, maybe you’re missing a large part of the point. Maybe, in fact, you’re missing the whole point. Isn’t it all about community? Touch should spring naturally from knowledge of the other person; you’re not supposed to sequester it like a daily dose of vitamin D. Certainly physical touch, whether sexual or not, should never be used as a therapeutic pick-me-up. I don’t hug my friends in order to get my touch quota in for the week, so I can be sure I’m at my optimum level of well-being. It’s a gift I give to someone I know and love, and a gift I receive from them.
Still, these cuddle party people have hit on a real lack in this single life–part and parcel of the whole “alone” bit is a decided lack of physical contact with other people. I mean I shake hands occasionally, and dole out and receive the occasional hug, but I can go literally for days without touching another human being. And that is a problem. It manifests itself differently in different people, of course, but it’s a problem across the board nonetheless. For those of us who tend to be slightly more aloof, the lack of contact makes us more stand-offish and closed in on ourselves. For the more outgoing, the lack of contact can be really depressing.
Don’t worry: this post is not to be read as a suggestion to start hosting cuddle parties in the D.C. area. Far from it. Rather, I wonder what specific actions we Christian single adults can and should take (or what actions some already are taking) to deal with this specific lacking in our lives, without stripping physical touch of its real meaning. In what places and settings does healthy physical contact come up naturally? Is this a problem that can be addressed, or is the lack of touch just part and parcel of the modern phenomenon of singleness? I’m no expert–I have no answers, I can only pose the question. But I’d be interested in what others have to say.