Let's Get Physical
It was an unseasonably cold Friday night as I walked down Sepulveda Blvd. I held my bags close and turned into the back alley behind some print shop where a staircase led to that candlelit room of strangers convened in a circle-obscured in a haze of incense-while looking at the door, waiting for me and my late ass. Yes, patiently sitting upstairs at the Bodymind Institute was one of the most insidious rolls in L.A.’s underbelly: a Cuddle Party. Indeed, this was going to be some hardcore shit.
Yet, my previous image of the Moroccan opium den fuckfest quickly dissolved as I passed the piles of magazines entitled Aura or something, and bulletin boards covered with clipart yoga fliers and a fringe of phone numbers. The main room was not filled with orgy-goers in bathrobes, smoking pipes and drinking old-fashioneds. Rather, it was a large circle of mismatched pillows resting on four, Target-esque comforters-much more kindergarten than kinky. People were milling about wearing oversized T-shirts and PJ pants, even having juice and cookies. It looked a lot more like a blood drive than a snuggle-saurus attack.
Cuddle parties have been the darling of local news channels and “indie” media ever since their invention by New York workshop facilitators Marcia Baczynski and Reid MiHalko. Wanting to create a place where “non-sexual touching” was acceptable without the imminent threat of boning, they started the cuddle party phenomenon as this fuck-free zone. Oh yeah, and to help people communicate, or something.
After I changed into my pajamas, the “welcome circle” began. My attire included my female roommate’s pajamas, covered with clouds, moons, and super sparkly stars, an argyle sock and a tan sock (both odiferous reruns, by the way) all accompanied by an old shirt that said “suicide medicine.” Not so much a comment on the duality of man as his lack of detergent.
I joined the encircled clan for the opening welcome before we got down to cuddle business. There were about 30 people in the circle, most of various sexes, ages, and waistlines. We all looked at each other nervously as the moderator began to speak softly about some rules. It was hard to hear all of them, especially because it was about a minute into his deal that I realized I had already broken one of them long before I had gotten there. I was drunk.
Hey, it’s not my fault they scheduled the cuddlefest on Saint-Patty’s day, but I can’t say the same about the amount of Guinness and corned beef’n'cabbage I ingested at 2 p.m. Sorry, cuddlebunnies, tonight is going to be a stinker!
It was a little bit of a surreal blur as the moderator softly and gently explained the rules of (non) engagement…for the next 40 minutes. I dazed in and out of consciousness, catching only a few of the rules as they floated past my increasingly reddening face. No sex, no dry humping, PJ’s stay on, “No means no.” As I looked around the room, I counted the number of men vs. women over and over, coming to an even 12 of each every time. But for some reason, there appeared to be many more middle-aged men than nubile young vixens. It was probably like one of those magic eye things at the mall.
But in the midst of pondering the ratio of dicks to chicks, the word “erection” buzzed in my ear. I immediately looked at my crotch, where I thought the phrase originated, only to realize that the moderator-and self proclaimed cuddle party lifeguard-was bringing up (har har) the issue of “visible sexual arousal.”
“Just think of it as sexual energy just popping up to say ‘hi!’ he said as I started imagining the possibilities of a wood-sporting populace: men jousting with their wee-wees, the inevitable “light-saber-Luke-I-am-your-father” ding-dong fights. Perhaps a cock pushup or two. Just as I wondered how I’d explain these snail-trails that were going to show up on my roomie’s PJs, the cuddle fuck began!
Almost immediately, a woman clad in matching leopard jammers rolled on top of me, like that boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Arc. I was stunned and I was pinned.
In my daze I didn’t realize that my sparkly star/moon jam-a-ramas had been pulled clean off! Not only was I unintentionally breaking a cuddle commandment, I was nearly revealing my frightened pee-pee, hiding in my unwashed Fruit of the Looms. With a quick log roll, I maneuvered to the middle, where I latched onto the first lady I could see.
“Can I write the Canterbury Tales on your back?” I asked. Reluctantly, she said yes and I began using my index finger to script out the first few lines. After at least four passages, I forgot the rest and began to do long division, which did involve a few remainders. I don’t think she noticed, because every one of her appendages was being massaged and/or prodded by dudes as I was trying to see how many times nine went into 405 (it’s 45).
As if this wasn’t awkward enough, there was a Taiwanese news crew filming the entire event, while the female anchor (in matching pinky PJs) carried a ’70s style foam microphone in which she narrated to an Asian audience what the fuck was going on. With the news anchor “interviewing” people in cuddle puddles, a tantra teacher fondling a reiki master, and some divorcees who may have been violating the moratorium on dry humping (and possibly each other), I couldn’t take it any more. I left-a changed man with changed pants-and I went back to the bar. After all that, I’ve decided drinking is a much safer activity.