Mary's Cuddle Facilitation and Communication Coaching
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Writings, Musings, Observations, Philosophy, Blog, Essays


Contemplating Money

Why I do what I do

Authenticity

Sometimes I feel Rebellious

Males vs. Females, an observation

Snuggle Fest Proposal

Beyond Cuddle Party - Cuddle Party rules in real life


Contemplating Money 4/22/2017
I am often contemplating money these days. I wish I could offer everything I do at no charge, but I could not support myself if I did that. So I compromise.

My group events are run by donation and I take creative exchange as well. That means that if you want to attend any of my group events, you can decide how much you want to, or are able to contribute. I don't monitor the donations, so I have no idea who has paid or how much. If you can support this community by providing a venue or a service, that is a great alternative to money donation.

**If you are called to be with us, money or lack of it is never a reason to stay away.**

I keep finding people telling me they can't come because money is tight. That always makes me frustrated and sad to hear that, because I don't know how to say it any plainer than I already have.

I do ask for a membership fee on my Meetups (Utah Cuddle Club and Nourishing Connections). If that is a problem for you, I just need some communication to demonstrate your energetic investment in the community and I will waive the fee.

I am required to charge the going rate as a Cuddlist so that I don't undercut my professional colleagues. However, I offer a free half hour intake to discuss the session, meet you and talk about what I can offer while we get comfortable. This face to face free time is something I offer to anyone who wants to meet me to talk about my events and what I offer. Free hug and chat is definitely not something most Cuddlers offer. I also have discounts available if you want to help set up booking referrals, host space, or book multiple hours or multiple sessions. First hour for a new client is discounted to $60.

I know from any one person's point of view, it may seem like I don't do much. However, Free Hugs and meeting anyone who wants to chat takes up energy. Sometimes I am messaging for several weeks before I actually can arrange to meet and I get lots of cancellations. Finding and arranging venues, treats and lugging those mats can be annoying at times. People tell me that my work won't be valued unless I require payment, but I really don't want to be like that.

Investing in the cuddle community is work for me in terms of time and energy and actual money outlay. I am definitely not getting rich working in this field. I am still in the red compared to what I have put into it and it continues to be a slow bleed putting out more than I receive back. At the end of the day, I don't do this work for money. I do it for two reasons.

1. I genuinely want to help, facilitate and empower people to be their best and highest and happiest authentic self.
2. I want to be part of a community of joyful, happy, empowered people and share that mutual support.

However, I cannot fulfill those two goals on my own, so I have to request support. Your full presence is always the first line of support I ask for. I can't facilitate connection if you are not here.
So support us whatever way feels most authentic to you - even if it is just to offer me a hug or to help take the mats out to the car. I, and everyone else in the community who benefits from these activities, really appreciate it. Thank you.
Please share your thoughts with me.

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Why I do What I do 10/27/2016
So, why do I do the things I do? Two reasons. First of all, I actually really and truly do want to help people become comfortable in their essence, able to be confident showing their true self to the world without worrying what others think. I want people to know how to create their own safety and environment of respect with everyone they come in contact with.

I am not biased or trying to promote an agenda about what that true self should be, I just want people to be happy and empowered. I may share a little more of the type of activities my true self enjoys, but if it is not for you, I have no problem with that. I will be happy that you know what is for you and that you are taking care of yourself.

Secondly, I want to be around people that are empowered and confident and happy and not fake or pretending or miserable. This is my selfish motive. I am constantly looking for this kind of community and I consciously want to help grow people to this so they can be my friends, my support and fellow travelers to spread the positive message on to others.

That's all. I really am that transparent.

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Authenticity 10/25/2016

This was written just after I had announced Snuggle Fest and I was feeling fragile because of a response of misuderstanding.

Let's get together and celebrate creating space to be accepted as our authentic selves. I know my last message may have worried some of you. I want to let you know that even though my own journey has led me to other events outside of Cuddle Party which I do want to offer to the larger community, when you come to Cuddle Party, you know what you are getting: a safe space to be your true self and be accepted as such in a completely non-sexual, clothed environment of safety, acceptance, and culture of consent and peace. When you see the words cuddle party, you know that we will have a welcome circle and go over the rules. Everyone who stays must agree to those rules or they will be ejected. The Welcome Circle format with the exercises and rules was developed by professionals in multiple body work, social work and psychological disciplines and has been well vetted over the last dozen years or more all over the world. It was designed to create safety for highest number of people. I love Cuddle Party. I also like other things and I am capable of wearing multiple hats.

I am not doing this in a vacuum. I have taken it upon myself to attend trainings and get certified and I am also a professional and serious about holding space for you in an environment of complete safety. There is a large movement behind me offering me support and backup which you can also access at cuddleparty.com

I know cuddle party can push the boundaries of some of us and still seems to be more than some people can handle and it has never been my intention to push you or try to get you to any other events you do not want to attend. I am invested in living the rules of Cuddle Party in my daily life and I will never attempt make you do anything you do not want to do. I want everyone to find their comfort level and safe space.

I am also not going to apologize for myself or who I am. I will not pretend to be other than what I am just the same as I encourage you to be who you are. I will be authentic with you and I will tell you the truth about myself and my philosophy on life and relationships any time you want to ask. I know that my opinions are not the same as the majority of people. I will share with you other things I may be doing, but they are not affiliated with Cuddle Party, they are affiliated with me. I completely believe in asking for what I want and finding only those people who are 100% yes to explore those other topics with me.
Cuddle Party is the common ground where we can all meet together and agree that we need human connection to make life sweet.

Now, when adults get together in a safe space some of these other topics do come up in personal conversation (which may include myself) during open connection time. If you are at a Cuddle Party and the people around you are discussing things that make you uncomfortable, it is safe for you to speak up for yourself.

I remember the first time this happened to me when I was at a Cuddle Party. Someone was sharing about a workshop he had attended and I felt the topic was overly sexual and his description was slightly graphic for me at the time. My face became flushed and I felt like if that is the kind of thing these people are in to, this may not be the place for me. My first urge was to remove myself. I am really glad I followed my second urge which was to just make my discomfort known and request a change in the conversation. It did make me uncomfortable at the time, so I told him I didn't want to talk about that any more. The conversation turned to other things very naturally and I was completely comfortable again after that switch. I know that my role has probably reversed in this scenario now due to my own personal growth journey. If you are not comfortable, you can tell me or whoever you are talking with and get back to topics you are comfortable with.

Above all, Cuddle Party is about safety and creating an environment for you to learn and explore whatever you are ready for. It is a place for us to be our true selves in safety.

We also need to understand that even though everyone is accepted and hopefully feels welcome at Cuddle Party, not everyone is going to be attracted to or feel a connection with my true self. The people that are, will gravitate toward me, and those that are not will gravitate away. That is life. If you don't shine your true light, your true friends won't be able to find you. I know some of you probably feel that you would rather gravitate away from me, perhaps because of my ideas or activities outside of Cuddle Party, and I accept that. I only feel sad that if this is the case, you are depriving yourself of the opportunities available to you at Cuddle Party because of me. I hope you will talk to me if this is the case for you so we can get to a place where you are comfortable with me holding space for you to be authentic. If you do have an issue with the way I host Cuddle Party, please discuss it with me. You also can talk to the people at cuddleparty.com if you think I am not presenting or holding appropriate Cuddle Parties. I strongly invite you to speak to me first if you have this feeling.

I enjoy having a diverse pool of friends that don't agree on everything. What we do agree on is that we respect each other and enjoy each other's company. Cuddle Party is about having fun, relaxing and being safe in our true selves so we can ask for what we need.

Touch and connection is a physical need and learning how to ask for it is a vital skill that we give you space to learn how to navigate in a safe non-sexual environment of consent.

There is no transformation or underground subversion going on from me. I am what you see and I just want to hug the world and see everyone comfortable in their true self. Cuddle Party is always what it has been and will continue to be so under my care.

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My Rebellious side 11/23/2016

I am feeling a bit rebellious and in an I don't care kind of mood. I know I have hinted this before, but I have been to some clothing optional events and I have enjoyed them very much. I remember when this would have shocked me to hear this from a friend of mine, so if you are feeling shocked, I can relate.
I am hosting a clothing optional event (Snuggle Fest) in December and it was a factor in me losing the friendship of someone I cared for.

I am not ashamed of who I am. I am radiant and self confident and independent and I will shout it from the mountain tops. I am not ashamed of my body, even though, or maybe because, it may not fit the conventional norms of beauty in our culture. I often don't want to wear a shirt, which is annoying right now since it is winter and I get cold. (Comic relief)

We all have bodies and it is vitally important to learn how to be comfortable in our own skin and normalize. When the only time we see naked bodies is in a sexual context then of course, nakedness has a sexual connotation. It does not have to be that way. I also want to say that sex is not inherently a bad thing either. We are all sexual beings and we also need to learn to navigate that area of our lives with confidence and without shame.

Now, I am not asking you for anything, other than if you want to be my friend, I would like you to know and understand all of me and this is a part.

I would never encourage or ask anyone to do anything that is not consistent with their own code of morality. What I DO ask is that you examine yourself and make sure that it is YOUR OWN CODE OF MORALITY and not someone else's that you are trying to conform to.

We all build our lives on assumptions and teachings we had when we were 12. I am not 12 anymore and what worked for me then is no longer my truth. If you want help to examine your assumptions and make them conscious choices (even when you choose to keep those assumptions I will be glad they are conscious choices for you now), I do encourage examination in the strongest terms possible and I am available to help you with that.

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Males vs. Females, an observation on point of view 11/2016

Men walk into a room and everyone in that room is someone who can possibly give them what they are looking for - a date, business contact, whatever; until they prove through shared experience that they are not.

Women walk into a room and no one is a possibility until they prove through shared experience that they might be.

This has caused many misunderstandings and missed connections. The worst is that just about when a woman may be letting you in to the possible category, is the same time the man thinks he has waited too long and moves you in to the not possible category.

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Snuggle Fest Proposal 10/24/2016

Hi friends and fellow cuddlers! I hope you are having an awesome week full of all the hugs and cuddles you desire.

I have a proposal for you. I have hesitated to do a mass invite about this, but I hope the positive results will outweigh the negative for our cuddling community.

First of all, I want to say that I love Cuddle Party and spreading the messages of consent, acceptance, connection and healthy relationship agreements. I will continue to facilitate Cuddle Parties and promote healthy touch, consent and body positivity for a very long time to come.

If Cuddle Party is everything you ever wanted and/ or still causes you some worry or trepidation, then I invite you stop reading now, this is not for you.

Intention
My intention is to provide safe spaces for people at all levels in their own journey or understanding of their own comfort level to explore their personal boundaries, navigate consent and practice making healthy agreements. For some people, Cuddle Party is that safe space and provides plenty of room for experimentation. For others, Cuddle Party seems a bit confining. I want to propose a new event for those that may be ready for something else.

SNUGGLE FEST is NOT Cuddle Party
I need to be very clear that this new event, which I will call Snuggle Fest, is NOT Cuddle Party since I am proposing to not follow all the rules of Cuddle Party. I need your help with this as well. Cuddle Party DOES NOT ALLOW for modifications or optional rule following. From now on, I will refer to my proposed event as Snuggle Fest. I have chosen not to post it on the Cuddle Meetup for this reason.

My fear is that those people who are already worried about attending Cuddle Party may hear of this new event and think that it represents Cuddle Party. Please help me to ensure this does not happen.

Proposal
I propose a Snuggle Fest Meetup where we will have a Welcome Circle to discuss the rules and become comfortable with each other in community by doing a few communication exercises and getting to know each other. The format will be the same as Cuddle Party with one exception.

Rule One: This is a non-sexual event. Clothing is optional. Please wear shorts or bring a sarong or towel.

Rule Two: You do not have to do anything you don't want to do. So while others may choose to disrobe, you may attend fully clothed. You do not have to cuddle or touch any one. For example, my own comfort level is to wear shorts, so I will plan for that. If it doesn't feel right, I will not remove any clothing.

Rule Three: You must ask and receive a verbal yes before touching anyone.

All other rules and Welcome Circle/Closing Circle format are borrowed from Cuddle Party.


I love cuddling and full skin contact cuddling is even more amazing and oxytocin producing, so I wanted to offer a safe space for us to explore this as well. When the only time we see naked bodies is in a sexual context, we confuse nakedness with sex. It is important to be able to know that a body is just a body and you have control over your own actions. When bodies are normalized, confusion is lessened.

Yes, it is possible to cuddle naked without it being sexual. With your help, we can create a safe space for us to come and try it.

For the women reading this who may feel that there can be no safety with naked men in the room, I can tell you from personal experience that there are many, many gentlemen in this world who would be mortified to think they might cause you discomfort. I am 100% positive that our community of cuddly men and women will help ensure the safety of all of us. I want to help show you that you can create and maintain your own safety as well. If there is a problem, I will handle it (with the assistance of some of our known cuddly gentlemen if necessary) in order to maintain safety, comfort, acceptance and relaxation for all of us. Anyone who does not follow the rules or disrupts our feeling of peace, community and acceptance will be invited to leave in the strongest possible terms.

This is not a meeting of strangers, necessarily. Some of us have known each other for a long time time now, and some of us have yet to meet, but will become great friends, and some of us are of the same tribe just looking for opportunities to be with each other.

Logistics
If this sounds interesting to you, please email me at MaryCuddler@gmail.com. I will develop an email list and let you know when Snuggle Fest may happen based on your responses. I do not plan to advertise this through the Cuddle Meetup again, so this is your one chance to get on my Snuggle Fest emailing list. You may let your friends know and invite them to email me to get on my list as well. Please write me a few sentences about why you would like to attend Snuggle Fest and what you think you would get out of it.

I have created a Facebook Group you can join as well - I haven't done this before, so I'm not sure how well it will work. Be sure to send me your email address whether you join the Facebook group or not.

Happy Cuddling!

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Cuddle Party rules in real life Sept 2015

Life Lessons from Cuddle Party Ė a communication workshop.
What Cuddle Party rules are teaching me about communication in real life.
Mary Sorensen Cuddle Party Facilitator #0099
September 2015

I discovered Cuddle Party less than a year ago. From the evening of my first party, I felt fully invested in the message Cuddle Party is promoting. I completed the facilitator training less than 6 months after that first party so I could become part of the movement to help people through cuddling. Too bad we donít use smiley faces in essays. I may just do it anyway. ?

The Cuddle Party rules are highly relevant and applicable to all of our life interactions and relationships. I often tell new comers that the communication tools and ideas are going to be more valuable to them in their life than the actual cuddling Ė although the cuddling can be an awesome experience and is definitely worthwhile. I decided to write this essay to share some of my thoughts and explain some of the take away lessons of Cuddle Party. I have interpreted the rules a little differently here from the way they are presented in the Welcome Circle so we may discuss their applicability to life in general.

Rule #1 This is a non-sexual event. Keep your clothes on.
In our over-sexualized society, many in our culture are scared to seek connection for fear we will be perceived as seeking sex. There are two things wrong with that attitude.

First, Iíve learned that there are many forms and degrees of intimacy that can be explored without entering the sexual field. The entire spectrum of intimacy is available to us, and it is vast. It does not have to be an all or nothing prospect when we seek to connect with other human beings. The connection we make when we look into the eyes of the store clerk as we pay for the groceries to the connection we make with a child who needs a hug or with our best friend when we lay our head in their lap while talking or just holding our dear motherís hand are all forms of intimacy and sharing. It is possible to be intimate with someone across the room using eye contact, facial expression, and the bond of mutual experience. There are many levels and areas to be explored that have nothing to do with sex. If you have decided not to have sex, for whatever reason is true for you, that should not restrict you from sharing an authentic connection with other human beings. You can still have meaningful connections with other human beings anywhere along that vast spectrum of intimacy that feels right for you.

Secondly, it should not be wrong to seek sex or be seen as a sexual being. It is not a bad thing to admit we have a natural need. It is only bad if this need is allowed to damage ourselves or others. We can seek sex in a healthy and mutually beneficial way using boundary negotiation and truth. As human animals, the need for sex is built in to us and denying it is tantamount to saying our natural self is not worthy of what it is asking for and genuinely needs. The more we deny our natural selves, the more unhealthy our mental state can become. Cuddle Party is an exercise in getting some of the connection we need without sex, but the communication ideas introduced can be used in our outside life to negotiate boundaries within any relationship.

Keep your clothes on. For me, this topic needs an essay all to itself. Many people equate nudity or immodesty with sexuality. This is another thing our American culture has screwed up. Because our culture is the way that it is, I do subscribe to modesty and dressing appropriately for the occasion. Every culture has rules and definitions of what is taboo behavior. If we do not wish to follow those rules, we need to surround ourselves with people who agree to different cultural norms. However, I do wish more people understood that a body is just a body and seeing any part of it should not trigger sexual thoughts. In the meantime, we all tacitly agree to keep our clothes on.

#2 You donít have to do anything you donít want to do, ever.
It is amazing to me that people need to have this stated explicitly and be given permission for this to be internalized in their life. This is a fundamental concept of becoming a strong individual and leading the life you want. Somehow giving a person permission allows them to have this power in their life. I give you permission now to never again do anything you donít want to. There are consequences to your choices which you will have to live with, but you always have a choice.

You often hear the line ďI had no choiceĒ used in dramas and tragedies. The fact is, there is always a choice. What is really going on is that an assumption or a choice has already been made and based on that assumption, future choices become proscribed. Often people donít even realize they have made the previous choice or assumption. I have become a crusader for identifying these underlying assumptions and choices we have made or been taught which no longer serve us positively. Something that may have been true or worked for us in the past may not serve us now.

For instance, you may be asked to do things at your job that you would rather not do. You may think- I have no choice, I have to do this, it is my job. The fact is, you have previously decided to do whatever is asked of you in exchange for compensation. The choice has already been made but it can be re-evaluated as you respond to the present moment. You do not have to live eternally by the way you thought it would be when you agreed to the exchange (See #6). You do always have the choice to negotiate with your boss or to not do it and find another job.

This works for relationships too. You may decide that the effort or compromise in a relationship is not worth what you get out of it. That is when it is time to end the relationship. Staying together at all costs is held up as the ideal to be reached, but it is not ideal if you are constantly asked to do what you do not want to do and feel that the return is not worth it, or even worse, is causing you damage.

Remember that you do not have to do anything you do not want to do, ever. You choose your own life.


#3 Ask permission and wait to hear the answer. Respect the answer.
We need to treat others with the respect we wish to have for ourselves. We do not demand things from people. We ask and then we wait to genuinely hear and respect the answer. When we ask, it is important to leave space for the answer and not assume agreement from our partner. It is even worse to act without asking at all.

There is an assumption built in to this; it is ok to answer with your true answer. In fact, it is required. When we trust and know that our boundaries are safe with the individual we are connecting with, it is a safe space to ask and also to answer appropriately. The asker must trust that the one being asked will only answer yes when they have reached their 100% yes. This agreement and understanding creates a safe space so the questions can be asked and answered with equal respect.

A corollary to this is that it is always ok to ask for what you want when you give space to hear the response and all parties know and understand that the answer will be respected. This is another thing people seem to need permission for. It is ok to ask. It can be freeing and a great relief to be with people who understand that it is all right to ask, because the person you are asking will only agree if they are fully on board and want to participate. If they are not, they will say no. This is a trust that our American culture is not good with. Often people are afraid to ask because they think it will be seen as an inappropriate question or a demand. If you donít ask, you will never know the answer.

We agree to create and honor a safe space for both asking and answering.


#4 If yes, say yes. If no, say no.
This goes along with #2 Ė donít do anything you donít want to do. The simplest things are usually not easy. This IS very simple. Say no if you want to say no. Donít overthink it. This is my favorite rule as well because it gives you permission to do what you want to do. If you want to say yes, please say yes.

Many people are stuck in caregiver mode. They are so accustomed to always being the giver, they think they donít deserve to receive, that they are not worthy of being selfish on occasion. I endorse your freedom to be selfish and receive when you need it or even when you just want it. You must take care of yourself and fill your own tank so you have something to give others when the time comes. If you constantly give without ever receiving, you will eventually burn out and that will be a negative experience for all involved.


#5 Maybe? Say no.
We often say maybe when we mean no. This is imprecise communication and has led to many misunderstandings. You may intend no, but if you say maybe, others will hear yes. If you keep the door open with a maybe, even though you meant no; others will keep coming back to you to again and again for the yes. Be firm when you mean no. No is a complete sentence and does not require explanation, embarrassment or shame.

Saying no when you are thinking maybe gives you closure and time to think and ponder what you may want to negotiate so you can get to your 100% yes. Many times we are encouraged to take chances without being totally on board with the idea. Risk taking can have a positive outcome, but if you are not at 100% yes for taking the chance or the opportunity, you will not be fully invested and you will not enjoy the benefits of the risk. It will probably be a negative experience for you because you were not fully invested.


#6 You are encouraged to change your mind.
Many times we make a choice and then we are expected to abide by that choice for the rest of the night, the next several years or our entire lives. I am a large proponent of mindfulness and being present in the moment. To be fully present, you need to be able to respond to circumstances the way they are now; not how you thought they would be five minutes or five years ago when you originally agreed. People change over time and our interactions will necessarily change over time as well.

This is another thing people seem to need permission for. Once again, I give you permission to change your mind at any time. Remember, there may be consequences, but you can handle them. The important thing is to authentically be yourself.


#7 Respect your agreements with others. Communicate.
It is very important to communicate your boundaries and respect your agreements with all the people in your life. If circumstances have changed (see #6), you should honor your agreements until you have an opportunity to re-negotiate them together. Truth is the one thing I insist on in all my interactions.

We have been taught that we should have relationships that look a certain way, but there is no one way that works for every individual or every relationship. You must find what works for you and the one you are interacting with. Monogamous marriage may actually be the ideal for some and a complete disaster for others. I believe that as long as truth is present, and no one is being hurt or damaged, whatever works to keep happiness between you and all the people in your life is right.


#8 Ask for help
Asking for help is another thing people seem to need permission or validation for. I give you permission and I remind you that you may must ask for help when you need it or even when you are just tired of doing it all yourself and want it. You will be surprised how many people in your life will be willing to help and support you if you just ask. Think of all the people in your life, perhaps even just casual acquaintances, who you would help if they asked it of you. Iím sure you would be glad to help them. They will feel the same about helping you. Even something that may seem trivial, like sewing on a button, can really turn the corner from a bad day to a good one for someone when they are reaching a breaking point.

Many of us find some self-worth by helping others. So when you ask for help, you are actually helping the one you asked to feel needed, wanted, and giving them purpose by being able to help you. It is someone elseís turn. Itís ok to get help even if you CAN handle it yourself; you donít have to.


#9 Tears and laughter are welcome and a part of natural life.
Often our culture teaches us to tamp down and sit on our feelings. It is important to realize that is not healthy. Surround yourself with safe people and find safe spaces where you can express your tears and laughter. A simple hug can help create a feeling of release in people that are accustomed to keeping everything bottled up. This release is necessary Ė we cannot go on indefinitely when we are wound so tightly.

Part B of this rule is that arousal is natural and we donít have to do anything about it. We agree not to act on it at Cuddle Party. It is just that simple and it really is that easy.


#10 Respect others privacy.
Donít gossip, donít talk about others behind their back. You never know who may be listening and ready to judge someone. This one is easy. It is still a lesson to be learned for some, though.


#11 Keep your space tidy.
Generally, clean up your space; including your physical, mental and emotional spaces. Get your space in order and your life will be so much more comfortable and more enjoyable for you and all of those around you.


#12 Ė Unofficial Utah Cuddle Party rule: HAVE FUN
Life should be fun. Find some whimsy. Find the people who make you laugh and keep them around you as much as possible. Smile. Enjoy yourself. Do you really need permission for this one too?


I believe these life lessons are important for every individual to learn. These concepts and ideas for communication and self-realization are the biggest part of why I am passionate about spreading the Cuddle Party format. Cuddle Party is an excellent format for practicing these communication principles in a controlled, safe space using the medium of touch. I have been amazed and gratified to be present when someone realizes one of these principles and puts it in to practice. The light goes on in their eyes when they can see how these concepts may be taken into their larger life and used to shape and create the person they really want to be. These ideas can positively affect every interaction they have. It is wonderful to be part of the movement that can bring this understanding to so many people.

I hope you will try Cuddle Party soon, even if touching is not something you feel a need for. The type of people that are drawn to Cuddle Party always offer acceptance, fascinating conversation, and positive energy to those around them. I hope that description fits you as well and you will join us to offer mutual support to each other.

The communication tools, concepts, and ideas we learn at Cuddle Party will serve you well in every part of your life.

Hugs from me, always.

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