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Hugs R Us: Turning friendly gesture into lucrative business

Posted on December 3, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Craig Funston

You will not believe one of the latest ventures I just read about. While it may be a new venture, it’s not a new practice. It’s an old habit that has been turned into a business. Lovers do it, grandmas do it, old friends do it. Even forest-anarchists do it.

It’s a word that starts with an “h” and ends with a “g,” and it involves “you” (a terrific play on words, Maurice).

If you said h-u-g, you get to snuggle with a stranger– that entrepreneurial young woman in Portland, Oregon, who—get this—cuddles with other people for a living. Most of us hug for free—she hugs for a fee.

Based on her rates and her projected customers, she could make thousands of dollars a month Not a bad haul at all. That’s almost as much as a hockey player, only they hug just when they score a goal.

That is a bizarre amount, and while probably won’t get it on a regular basis, it just goes to show you what a little ingenuity and initiative can get you. The figure was based on the phone calls, texts, and emails that she got. Her rate is a dollar a minute dollars per hour, multiplied by the number of enquiries.

I am responding to this news at different levels, fodder for the rest of this column.

First, I am thrilled to see something different, in terms of a new business. Not frozen sweets, not another fast food outlet, not yet another clothing store. Not part of a chain, not a joint-venture, not a re-making of an old venture.

In other words, no booze, no chews, no hues.

The closest vocation would be a massage therapist, chiropractor, or reflexologist…sort of. However, I think each of these professionals would be up in arms with me lumping their skills in with this practice.

“Up in arms” is a tempting bait for a quip, but I refrain.

Hugs are a commodity that do not involve inventory, shelf life, or back orders—though I’m tempted to (once again) get quippy about the words “back order.”

Second, I am worried that something so innocuous could turn into something vile. Two bodies, tightly wound together, one bed—do the math. Will it happen? I can’t judge, but humans tend to gravitate towards depravity, not towards piety, you know.

Everything appears public and under those ubiquitous surveillance cameras, so let’s cross our fingers. I am thinking of the type of customer that continuous cuddling may may attract on occasion. I am not thinking of the proprietor herself.

Third, and this is the kicker, why do we have to put hugs in a box, so to speak, and commercialize them? Is there actually a price tag for hugging? Hugging at what cost (pun intended)? I think the very fact that turning hugs into a business venture is clearly an indication of a greater, bigger, and deeper problem in our culture.

I certainly don’t hug like I should—but I do send a lot of emails. But that’s absurd, thinking that something cold and electronic can take the place of something warm and personal. No matter how many exclamation marks one uses in one’s text, emails are not the same as a hug.

We may think that homeless kids, widowed mothers, and disaffected teenagers all need hugs. Very true, but so does that successful businessman, that competent female teacher, that macho rancher. Even a county-famous columnist could do with a hug or two.

Hugs are the cheapest, quickest, and happiest way to express love, affirmation, and connection, all in one simple squeeze. Granted, there are hugs and then there are hugs. The most appropriate in my view between guys and gals are the side-by-side ones. I think being sensitive as to hugging is good; touching in sensitive areas is not good. Today we would call that “inappropriate touching.”

This American hug shop is a clever idea, but it reveals how far we have fallen in terms of appropriate intimacy. Husbands don’t hug wives (mea culpa) like they should; parents don’t hug kids like they should. Good-byes are often limited to a fairly warm handshake or a simple wave of the hand.

Hugs are close-up and personal; hugs send the message that one person wants to be close to another, without the ghastly inappropriateness that some touching can produce. Like any other form of touching, we need to be careful how, when, where, who, and why.

But there’s no question about the what: Arms are made for hugging, not fighting.

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