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HOLMBERG: Will professional cuddling catch on in the old Capital of the Confederacy?

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Posted at 12:44 AM, Dec 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-12 11:54:09-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Mary Tucker raises goats at her hideaway home in suburban Chesterfield County, which is where I first interviewed her several years ago.  She uses them to make boutique goat-milk soaps and other skin care products.

She’s also a performance artist.

And now, Mary Tucker wants to be a professional cuddler here in the Richmond area. She believes she was born to hug  and wants to open a cuddle salon – “The Holding Company“ – in a town that in previous generations has been somewhat resistant to embracing the unusual.

The need to hold and be held is  real and pressing, she told me as we prepared to cuddle Thursday evening to demonstrate the therapy for our viewers.

“We are offering people a very basic human need, which is physical touch. It is closeness and comfort, which this day and age we’re getting less and less of. Rather than having phone calls, we send text messages. Rather than going to visit with people, we send emails.”

People have a crushing need to hold and be held, and having a cat or dog may not be enough.

Japan saw its first “cuddle café” two years ago.

The Cuddle Up To Me salon in Portland, Oregon has been smothered in business.

Mary believes Richmond is hip enough to reach out to this new industry, one that her research indicates doesn’t require any special permitting, but does demand cuddlers and cuddlees to be completely upfront.

“These are not sexual services in any way,” Mary emphasized. Her planned salon, like the successful ones, will be video-surveilled to keep hanky-panky from occurring. “You couldn’t touch anywhere that a modest two-piece would cover.  Also no kissing and the lowest level of acceptable clothing would be a sleeveless shirt and fingertip-length shorts.”

Cuddles cost $1 a minute, $60  an hour. She’s willing to talk, cuddle movie nights and even sleepovers.

Mary’s boyfriend, also a performance artist, is all about her project and plans to be a cuddler too at “The Holding Company.”  He gave me a big hug as I arrived for my cuddling demonstration.

Watch my video report of my hour of cuddling to see what it’s like.

You can find out more about cuddling and her business, here.